Updates from Pastor Aaron

Updates from Pastor Aaron

June 30, 2020

Dear Church,

I’m excited to let you know more specifics about our plans to gather again for worship starting on July 12!

I realize that many of you aren’t ready to gather again in larger groups.  If that’s you, I’m happy to say that we’ll continue to offer an online option.  We’ll livestream at 10am on our Youtube Channel.  You can watch live, or watch the recording later.

For those of you who are ready to gather again, here are the details. Please take a moment to read these carefully.

Face Mask

Everyone over two years old will need to wear a face covering. Please bring your own.  We’ll have some masks here if you forget.

Cleaning Procedures

The Sanctuary will be thoroughly cleaned before each Sunday, and we’ll clean high-touch surfaces between services.  We’ll have hand sanitizer available at the entrances.

Service Changes

Service times: There will be three service times to choose from: 8:30am, 10:00am and 11:30am.  The 8:30 service is tailored for the more vulnerable in our congregation. There will be no congregational singing in the 8:30 service, and everyone in that service will need to wear a face covering.  So if you plan to attend with kids under two, please register for the 10am or 11:30am services. We’ll have masked congregational singing at the later services, but less than we usually do.

Service registration: We’ll need everyone to register for the service they’d like to attend (link below).  City guidance recommends that we cap our services at 50 people for now.  In order to make sure we stay at 50 per service, we’ll need to keep track by having everyone register.  We are offering three services of about 30-40 minutes in length due to the limited capacity.

Children’s Programming:  We can’t offer any children’s programming/childcare yet due to city guidance; families/households will need to sit together.

Communion:  Communion, when it’s served, will be prepared in sanitary conditions and each element will be placed in individual cups.

Order of worship: We’ll make a digital version of the order of worship available on the website so that you can use your phone or a tablet for the liturgy.  We’ll have a limited number of printed orders available for anyone who’s not able to access the order with a device. 

Social Distancing: We won’t pass collection plates or shake hands at the passing of the peace.

That’s a lot of detail!  We’ll make sure that when you arrive there will be folks to check you in and let you know details about how to get to your seat, using the bathrooms, or about nursing a child or changing a diaper on site.  Like I wrote you last, my hope is the unfamiliarity and strangeness of some of this will fade as we worship together and see one another.  Please join me in praying for that!

I want to say a big thank you to our Re-Opening Team, who have worked hard to get us to this place, and who will continue to work hard to make July 12 work as best as we can make it work.  I’m grateful for their service to our church, and I hope when you see them you’ll say thanks, too.

Here’s the link to register for services: https://covenantchicago.churchcenter.com/registrations

With expectation,

Pastor Aaron, with the Re-Opening Team

Dr. Lamont Black, PhD.

Larissa Bossemeyer

Rich Lane

Dr. Marie Overbeck, MD

Dr. Sue Routson, MD

Annaliese Spalink, LCSW

Paul van der Bijl

Lydia Van Zalen

Ryan von Drehle

June 17, 2020

Dear Church,

The headline on my newspaper yesterday was “City Takes Steps Forward,” and it carried the word of the soon-to-be cautious reopening of one of our city’s shared treasures: the lakefront.  I love the lakefront as much as the next Chicagoan, but I admit my mind drifted pretty quickly from that headline to one of our own congregation’s shared treasures: worship together.

Our re-opening team has been hard at work, using guidance from the state and city, and from other churches and organizations like ours, to prepare for worshipping together again.  I’m glad to say that we have a date we’re aiming for: July 12.

As I wrote to you in May, when we come together again it won’t look like it did before.  This is true in all parts of our life right now, so it’s no surprise, but I think it helps to say it so that we can all prepare for it. Hopefully, when we come together again, the feeling of strangeness will fade quickly as the more familiar rhythm of worship takes its place.  That’s my prayer, and I hope it’s yours, too.

In all our preparations, we’re trying our best to be wise and to love both the vulnerable and the more cautious among us.  I’m sure some of you might wish we’d do things differently!  The diversity of opinion in our congregation is one of the things that makes it beautiful to me.  The way to both guard and cherish that beautiful diversity is to seek the love and accord that comes as we count others as more significant than ourselves, and look towards their interests (Philippians 2.1-4).  Our coming together will be a great chance to practice that love for one another.

We’re still trying to figure out exactly what July 12 will look like, and in order for us to do that, we need to hear from you.  The re-opening team has prepared a survey, and we hope each of you will take a couple of minutes to fill it out.  It contains a little more detail about the kinds of things we’re thinking about.  I hope you’ll fill it out as soon as you can.  You can do that here.

I look forward to sharing more with all of you as plans become more concrete.

With love and hope,

Pastor Aaron

June 2, 2020

Dear Church,

This has been a painful, tense, and hard run of days in our beloved city and around the nation. I’ve felt angry, deeply sad, confused, inadequate, and overwhelmed. So for any of you who might feel similar things, let me remind you that God has graciously given people like you and me a place to go with these emotions: he invites us to lament. Lament is where we go to God with pain and confusion, and with all our folly and complicity, and say ‘Please, God, fix this. Fix the broken world. Fix me.’  Lament acknowledges that we don’t have all the answers, and it’s a much needed corrective against the misguided idea that we can save the world on our own.  You can use psalms 13, 60, 80, 44, 6, 71 and many others as a guide to your lament. 

We’ll have an opportunity to lament with our sister churches, Boulevard and Lincoln Square Presbyterian churches, on Wednesday night at 7pm.  We’ll gather together virtually to sing, pray and lament together.  You can find details about joining here.  We’ve also been invited to join Boulevard for an outdoor prayer service across the street from their offices on Saturday afternoon.  You can find out more about that here.

The killing of George Floyd, and the unrest that’s followed, have exposed yet again one of our nation’s oldest besetting sins: racism.  That’s not a sin unique to us, but it is one that is deeply and insidiously woven into the fabric of our common life.  The early Christians dealt with this sin early and often.  Peter had to be schooled at Jesus’ feet about looking down on the other (Acts 10).  He forgot that lesson, and had to be reminded again later in his life (Galatians 2.11-14).  God’s people have always had to reckon with their own racism; it is a dividing wall of hostility between people (Ephesians 2.11-18). 

So we are called not only to lament, but also to examine ourselves and repent.  Racism is often expressed in isolated acts, but those isolated acts spring from the tendencies, habits and prejudices I have nurtured in my own heart.  And we have to be honest: these are tendencies, habits and prejudices that we, as a nation, have nurtured together from our infancy.  We should certainly confess our overt racism, but we should also ask the Spirit to search our hearts, and to try us, and show us the grievous racism that resides inside us (Psalm 139.23-24).  And here’s the good news: our repentance is one of the means the Spirit uses to work the life of Jesus in us.  We are changed into a people who see others as Jesus did.

And if we are changed into a people who see others as Jesus did, we will also act to love others as he did. We don’t double-down on moralism and self righteousness. The world has plenty of that going on, and they’re ultimately hollow and hurtful and never lead to lasting change. We double down on humble, joyful self-giving love, fueled and sustained by the Spirit working in us (Philippians 2.1-11).  That kind of love has changed the world.  That kind of love is making all things new (Revelation 21.5).  I believe that for many of us, loving our neighbors will first mean that we listen and learn.  I know that’s true in my case.

Let me suggest one small opportunity to begin that learning and listening, or to deepen it.   This is a talk given by Tim Keller, the former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, about racism and systemic evil.  I think it’s particularly helpful in thinking through the harmful tendencies and habits of the systems of which we’re all a part.

Let’s humbly listen and learn, and let’s be in prayer together for our city.

With love and hope,

Aaron

May 20, 2020

Dear Church,

I’d like to update you on a few things and highlight a way for us to serve together.

We’ve put together a team to outline a plan for returning to worship on Sundays once we’re able to meet in groups of 50 or fewer.  It’s made up of staff, officers, and congregants with specific areas of expertise that can help with planning our return.  We’ll use guidance from the state and the city, from other churches, and from organizations that have formed to help churches consider how to come together again.   One thing that’s become increasingly clear is that our return at this stage will look quite different from how things were before the pandemic gripped our city.  I confess that when I first thought about what our coming together again on Sundays would look like, I imagined our whole family together again, continuing as we had before.  For good and necessary reasons, that won’t be the case.  It will be different.  But I trust that even as we begin to slowly come together, our joy in a common life of worship around Jesus will be undiminished.

I mention this not only to let you know that plans are being made, but more importantly, to ask you to pray for this team.  There’s lots to consider and plan for and lots to communicate and coordinate once the planning is complete.  So please pray that all of this work will be done with wisdom and love.

Breakthrough Urban Ministries, which is one of our partner ministries, has continued to welcome and feed homeless folks on the west side of the city.  A couple of our small groups, along with our Mercy Team, have contributed funds to provide catered meals for this work.  I’d like to invite our whole church to consider helping Breakthrough in this way.  I’d love for us to provide 5 catered meals, which will cost around $1500.  You can contribute to this effort by clicking here and selecting Mercy Committee from the dropdown menu.  Alternatively, you could mail a check to the church with Mercy Committee in the memo line.  Our goal is 5 meals, but whatever funds are donated to that account over the next couple of weeks will go towards meals for Breakthrough.  I look forward to reporting back just how many meals our generosity provides!  Thanks for considering it.

As ever, your staff and officers stand ready to serve you.  If you’d like to talk to one of the pastors or make an appointment with Michele in Care and Counseling, please reach out to us.  If you have a physical or financial need, please reach out to our deacons.  The staff would love to pray for you, too.  You can send your prayer requests directly to Pastor Dan.

With love and hope,

Pastor Aaron