by Pastor Doug Kings

As I did last year, I am offering my annual report to the congregation as my Reflections this week. Not surprisingly, the primary topic is our continuing to live with the pandemic. However, our goal is not to let our lives be determined by this but by our calling to faith, hope, and love.

I begin my annual report by expressing my appreciation for all of you, especially for your patience and support during the twists and turns of our life together this past year, the second year of living with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last year at this time we were about to resume in-person worship in the sanctuary, which we which we did successfully for the rest of the year. We did so after having significantly enhanced the air cleaning capacity of our HVAC systems and with a commitment to safe public health practices, as we could best determine them. Today we are in the midst of yet another pandemic wave but thankfully we have thus far been able to avoid an outbreak spread within the congregation.

The basic reality of the past two years remains, however, which is uncertainty. Are we about to move from the pandemic to the endemic stage of Covid-19? Or will a new variant cause another flare up? And what are the implications of either scenario? After two years of experience with this disease, we know better than to pretend we know, or that anyone knows, the answers.

As Christians, however, we know that uncertainty is inevitable and that we do not respond to it with anxiety, frustration, or anger but with what Paul identifies as the fundamentals of our life in Christ: faith, hope and love, and that “the greatest of these is love.”

Compassion of our members for one another and for the community has continued throughout this challenging time. Even as we may have disagreed about one pandemic policy or practice or another, our care for each other, especially for those among us who are more vulnerable, has always been our primary concern. I especially thank our council for their steadfastness in upholding this principle these past two years.

Looking ahead, we know we will continue to minister to and with a uniquely diverse community, composed of a relatively small year-round resident membership and a larger number of part-time residents, snowbirds, and vacationers.

One of the silver-linings of our pandemic experience has been the strengthening of our ties with our non-resident community. Through our streamed online worship services and Zoom discussion groups, many are now interacting with the congregation not just when there are here in Florida but also when they are back home. In response, we have been gratified by verbal expressions of appreciation and by financial gifts in support of our ministry.

Uncertainty can often lead to hesitation, but this is where we must let faith be our guide. Individually and as a congregation, we need to live out of our identity and sense of purpose. We shouldn’t hold back with a “wait and see” attitude but live in the Now, doing whatever seems right and good.

While our thinking always guides us, we need to follow the lead of our hearts, where the Spirit dwells and moves us. It is easy to succumb to what Martin Luther Kings Jr. called “the paralysis of analysis.” The way ahead is unclear and likely will remain so for some time. So, as Paul says, “we walk by faith, and not by sight.”

In closing, then, I can simply repeat the conclusion of my report last year:

We can be confident that God’s love for us will continue and that if we continue to live in that love and share it wherever possible, our lives individually and collectively will continue to be blessed. I have no doubt that this pandemic will have yet unseen consequences for our congregation and for the church-at-large. But upheaval has been a regular experience of the church and of Christ’s followers over the centuries. Through them all, the Spirit has held the people of God in faith and compassion. I have no doubt that will be true for us, as well.

Blessings in your life and ministry.