Pastoral letter No. 2: COVID 19

Dear Church Family and Friends,

Many of us are adjusting to the “new normal” that COVID-19 has brought into our lives.  “Social distancing” (I prefer the term “physical distancing instead because the last thing we need to do is to isolate ourselves!) is the order of the day.  Those of us who are still able to work are learning to work “virtually,” using GotoMeeting, Zoom, or some other conferencing service.  In one week, we took our worship services, officer’s meetings, and Bible studies to the virtual world.  And I was able to teach my Latin class of four students in the church on Google Hangouts.

It was really encouraging to hear of how many of you tuned into the worship services last week!  I’m told the Facebook page had over 300 hits!  Now, we don’t know who they were, but the feedback we are getting has been good.  We will correct some of the issues that we had with the lighting and the glare this week.

While there is much benefit to be had from such services, we earnestly look forward to regathering for live, in-person worship, and particularly, the celebration of the sacraments.

During this time, I am very grateful for the leadership, care and the hard work of our officers.  It’s such a blessing to see each man put his gifts into action, and for us to all work together to care for our congregation.  If you need anything, please contact one of the pastors, your shepherding elder, or deacon.  We want to pray with and for you, and help you with any spiritual or material needs that you have.  Especially, please let us know if you are sick, have a specific need, are out of work, or have a reduced income from COVID-19 circumstances.  This is the time for the Body of Christ to all work together and in dependence on him, to pull through this situation, and come out of it with greater unity and maturity in Christ.

Personally, I have greatly missed seeing each one of you, and the conversations that we’re able to have by just showing up.  And I really miss my Sunday School class and the children of the church, and look forward to seeing them back soon!

Live streamed worship will take place Sunday at 11 AM and 5 PM. You can find it  here.  There is a video recording posted soon after the service here.  And our church’s sermon audio page, which has all of our recorded sermons in recent member, is here.  And here’s a link to the  Facebook page for the Bible Study on James led by Scott Baker, which will be recorded Thursday at 7 PM.

Hints with Technology

If you have a slow internet connection, you may want to try the recorded version of the service, which is posted minutes after the service.  Even if the download is slow, you can take the time to let it load and then watch it.  If this proves to be “unwatchable,” you can also listen to the recorded sermon on Sermon Audio.

Family News

The COVID-19 has had a silver lining for the Clay family.  Stuart, our youngest son, and his family came to us from New York.  We are having tremendous fun with them and really enjoying the time with our grandson, Rory!  Our daughter, Hannah, will be coming down from Boston this weekend.  Our oldest son, Sterling, and his wife are holed up in Manhattan, presumably for the duration.  We would really appreciate your prayers for Sterling and Leah during this time.

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Follow-up from Pastor Lou’s devotional last week

Last week, Pastor Lou sent out a devotional.  One of the suggestions that he made was to read, study, or review the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

If you are new to our church and unfamiliar with these documents, these are the standards that officers must subscribe to, and possibly, the best summary of Biblical teaching to be found anywhere.

Here are some helps to guide you through the Standards.

For the Confession of Faith, the church has copies of Joey Pipa’s Westminster Confession of Faith Study BookAnother helpful resource on the Confession of Faith is Chad Van Dixhoorn’s  Confessing the Faith.

The Larger Catechism is perhaps the most neglected portion of the Standards.  It is well worth your time.  J. G. Vos’s Westminster Larger Catechism is a great resource, and is very approachable.

My favorite resource on the Shorter Catechism is the Puritan Thomas Watson’s trilogy:  A Body of Divinity, The Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s PrayerThese are clear, readable, devotional, and encouraging.  If you want to start reading the Puritans, this is probably the best place to start.  You can find the ebooks for free at  monergism.com.

What I’m reading

 Those of you who know me well know that I am a big reader.  You could say that I’m a compulsive reader.  But I have a good excuse!  During most of my formal education, I was a rather indifferent student.  Then, I was called into the pastorate and after about two years, found out how little I knew, and realized I had a lot of catching up to do!  And I still feel like I’m catching up!  And when I went into teaching 13 years ago, this was compounded.

So, I actually resolved to read fewer books and spend more time with people this year!

I’ve really gotten into J. C. Ryle this year.  He was an evangelical Anglican bishop in England in the 19th century.  I’ve used his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels in preparation for my sermons on the Upper Room Discourse, and I’ve started reading the section on Matthew prior to the morning worship service.  He quickly gets the major points out of each passage and his writing is clear, direct, challenging, and brief.  As part of my morning devotions, I’m reading Holiness, which is not as brief, but is clear, direct, and challenging.

And the other book I’m reading is Ron Chernow’s GrantI got it as a Christmas present from one of my sons back in 2018.  And I’ve finally plunged into this doorstop of a tome.  If you are an American History buff or a Civil War enthusiast, this book will grab you from page one.  General Grant had his faults.  Chernow is very up-front about Grant not being a good judge of character, and doesn’t hide his drinking problem, which to his credit, he battled mightily.  As a general, he was a strategic and tactical genius, a man of great humility, and loved by his men.  Peter Drucker, the 20th century leadership and management guru, said that leadership is borne from competence and character.  General Grant possessed both of these characteristics in abundance.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

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