Pastor Matthew Finney
Pastor Matthew Finney was unanimously installed at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Sassamansville on Aug. 7 as the 21st pastor. Before receiving the call at St. Paul’s, Pastor Finney served a two-point parish in Western Pennsylvania known as Holy Shepherd Lutheran Parish which was a combination of Holy Trinity Parish in Lanse and Shepherd of the Hills Parish in Karthaus.
Pastor Finney brings many gifts to St. Paul’s. He received his master of divinity at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2010. He also has a master of science degree in 2003 from North Carolina State University and a bachelor of science degree in 2000 from Purdue University both in agricultural science.
As I write this we are getting ready to resume worship inside our building. When things shut down suddenly in mid-March no one knew how different the next few months would be. From where we stand right now I don’t think anyone knows what the next 6 months will look like either. At this time the case counts in Montgomery County have declined to the level where we can think about resuming indoor worship safely. As we do, know that our worship service will be different for some time. As with everywhere else we are asking everyone to wear a face covering and practice physical distancing with those outside their own household. Also we ask that anyone who is feeling sick or has recently been exposed to someone with a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis refrain from attending in-person worship. We will continue to offer online worship videos through our Facebook page for those who cannot attend or do not feel comfortable attending worship. Also there will be significant changes to the service itself during this time. The most drastic is that we will not be singing during indoor worship. This is following guidance from the CDC and denominational resources. The act of singing causes a much greater volume of air to be pushed out of the lungs and if a person is asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic it greatly increases the level of exposure to others in the room even with a face covering present. We will also be distributing communion in one kind (bread) only. In addition, the congregation will remain seated in their place and I will bring communion to each person receiving it.
If the time comes again where it is for the best for the community to refrain from gathering inside our building for worship, we will do just that. We had several weeks of “parking lot church” which was a new experience for me and a good, safer, way to gather as a worshiping community. If we need to return to such an arrangement in the coming months we can.
We cannot know what the immediate future holds but we do know that no matter the circumstances the Church will continue to follow our God given calling and mission. When the world around us is in turmoil it is time for the Church to step into the gap. No matter what happens, the Church will remain as Christ’s body and witness in the world. That is God’s promise.
The ways we pursue our God given mission, however, will look differently for some time. Some things that we do might change permanently. That is good. This is a chance for not only this congregation but the whole Church to think about how we carry out that God given mission to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. The old default mode for many congregations, “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” is gone. We are being forced to rethink foundational things like worship and Christian education. Even when this time of pandemic passes the reasoning of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is gone because, for a time we couldn’t do it that way. I pray that we come out on the other side of this with a renewed focus on how we pursue our mission in this world. Right now we have no choice but to re-think things, but the day is coming where we will have that choice again. Let’s keep our focus on how to carry out our mission in the world we live in, not in the world we wish we lived in.
The Church will survive this. We will continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that needs good news. The way we do that will change, by necessity, for the time being. We can see this time as an inconvenience to endure or we can use this time as an opportunity to renew our focus and recommit to the mission that God has given us.
In Christ, Pr. Matt