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Put your own mask on first

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“Pray to God, but row towards shore!”

This was the saying beneath the drawing of a row boat out in the middle of a large body of water on a wall at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor. I have often thought about this little bit of advice. Am I just sitting waiting for God to rescue me or am I rowing in the right direction?

Of course it is always good spiritual practice to pray to God. But do we know when God answers? I seldom get the “Wow! That was an answer to my prayer!” type of moment.

It usually is more of coming to see what has been in front of me all along. Maybe something I’ve overlooked or ignored until “there it is”

Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. But first we need to love our self. Do we? COVID-19 is sneaky. Traits that are part of who we are as human beings -- being social, congregating, hugging, sharing food -- all have become things to avoid.

Do we love ourselves enough to stay home, wear a mask and social distance? Oddly enough, in times of COVID-19, these are the exact same things we need to do to love our neighbor.


Just a few facts

November 1st there were 300+ novel coronavirus cases a day in San Diego.

November 12th there were 600+ and if projections hold by November 23 there will be 1200 per day. Every 11 days the number of cases per day doubles.

By New Year’s Day, if nothing changes, there will be 10,000 cases a day in San Diego and our health care system will be struggling under the strain. I am not telling you anything that is not public knowledge.

Like each of you, I long to be with you. To me it feels like I just came home after being away for several years. I want to catch up, hear your stories, pray with you, embrace you, break bread with you.

And I want you and me to be here next year. The last thing I want is for this community to become a hot spot because we have a lot of members who are over 65 years old and are in high risk categories. We need to take care of ourselves and each other.

When we pray for this community, Clairemont Lutheran Church / Iglesia Luterana Clairemont, to be protected from this pandemic, I believe God hears our prayers. Did you hear God’s response?

     Stay home when possible.

     Keep our distance from one another.

     Wear your mask.

     Stay in your bubble.

     Take care of each other.

God knows that we long to be together, to break bread together and to help others in need. We can help each other through this
time of isolation. And come Pentecost, we
will celebrate that Clairemont Lutheran
Church /Igelsia Luterana Clairemont
survived COVID-19.

A view of COVID-19 from a church secretary

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Each Monday morning upon arriving at work I check emails and phone messages. Then I head into the sanctuary and narthex area to clean up left over worship programs and other items left after church Sunday.

I also make sure the sign in lists from Sunday have phone numbers and the names are correct in case I need to submit them to the County if requested. I then delete the reservation list and date the list for the following Sunday. There are a few people that have made “standing” reservations (I feel like a hostess at a restaurant sometimes!) for each Sunday so they don’t have to call each week so I make sure to add them back on the list.

Since we are minimizing contact with volunteers because most of them are over 70 years old I have to do many things that were done by volunteers. Pastor Jon and myself, or Pam Allen and Pastor Jon will count the offering each week and take it to the bank. When it is time to do the Clarion, Eddie, myself, and Pam are the ones to fold, seal, and then label them for mailing. Pastor Jon has dropped it off at the Post Office on Midway a few times or I take them.

To prepare the bulletin now is all done online. Pastor Jon selects the lessons and hymns and emails the rough draft to me. Once I have all the information from Dr. Steve as well I get busy formatting the bulletin. I have to type the words to the hymns in the program as most of them have not been used before in the old “Celebration of Joy” worship. Once I am done with my job I send it back to everyone to proof read and find my many typos. (I used to think I was a pretty good typist!!)

Once I print them, and get started on the slides for worship. This is done in a new program to me, Photoshop. Eddie trained me to do them, but I am not fast yet so this takes me a few hours to get them all correct and into the file format he needs so he can load it into the live stream program.

Sunday mornings have certainly changed. We had to come up with a safe plan and follow CDC and county guidelines. First in, last out in this case. Sometimes people are not happy where we seat them, or some people don’t want to wear the mask. When we started gathering in person again it was brought to my attention that I was still singing and my droplets were going into the air. I can’t sing well with my mask on, so I bought a face shield but it muffled my voice singing, so I devised a way to place it on the microphone so it prevents the spreading of my germs. I sing each Sunday which I really enjoy, but I know that everyone LOVES when Katy sings, as she is a much better singer than I am, but she doesn’t feel safe being inside with others at this time.

While we have allowed some in person gatherings and meetings again after reaching the “Red Tier” it is still the responsibility of the church to ensure everyone stays healthy. I have seen the toll it takes on the pastors to not be able to be with people as they are suffering, or celebrating. I have seen and felt the hurt when we find out someone passed away and we can’t have a memorial here.

I hear the sadness in their voices when something that used to be so simple has turned into a process to make sure we do our part to “care for our neighbors”. Taking communion to our shut-in members is something they miss, as do our Eucharistic Ministers. I hear the frustration in everyone’s voices when we can’t worship like we used to, or we can’t serve snacks or coffee on the patio like we used to, or when I have to shoo people off the patio because they aren’t staying six feet apart.

This pandemic has taken its toll on me too! Deanna’s housemate tested positive for the virus and had symptoms. Deanna had come over to my house before we knew about it and we didn’t stay masked because she is my daughter, my family, no need to keep our masks on right? Well once we found out, Deanna couldn’t go to work for 14 days, and I had to leave the office and go get tested as well. I couldn’t see my grandchildren. All the things I do during the week in the office were put on hold until I got the results of my test. Otha, my husband, couldn’t go to work until his test came back negative. Luckily our tests all came back negative, but it taught me a valuable lesson. I need to keep my mask on in the office, and anywhere I go. I have to protect others around me, as well as myself.

Please consider these points I have made. We wear masks to protect others, we have to create bubbles with our families, and protect them. We may see the same person each week, but do you know every person that they were around?

While we have been very lucky here at CLC/ILC to not be the subject of a “community outbreak”, we have had persons close to our members of our congregation test positive for the virus, including some who have become ill and displayed symptoms related to the virus.

Please know that we as your church staff and those in leadership have done our very best to return to worship, to offer communion, to be available, as needed, and as much as we can, during these difficult times. Thank you for your patience and und understanding.

*This was written while in the red tier and we are now back in the purple tier, which prohibits in person gatherings.

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