Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” 2 Corinthians 13:12

It was the 21st day of October 1989. The next day I would be installed at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland. Felicia was nursing four-month-old Kelsi as I shared bedtime stories with our two-year-old Jenna. A thousand things were on my mind that evening; the arrival of the Assistant to the Bishop, friends who were traveling to support us, trying to remember the names of Call Committee members, the reality of life in a new community, but there was one critical decision yet to be made.

Hugs or handshakes? How would I greet the members of my new family? It may seem inconsequential, but it was about setting a tone for our life together. After worship I would be greeting people at the door and in the coffee hour; would I extend a hand to shake or offer a hug of Christian affection? I determined that the go-to option would be the hug. Offer a hug and be ready to extend a hand if an embrace seemed awkward or uncomfortable to the worshipper.

Many have told me, through the years, that Sunday morning is the only time all week that they are hugged.

For 30 years we hugged. Hugging became a part of our TLC DNA; and then along came Covid19, and for 13 months we did not see each other, much less hug. When we returned to worship in April 2021 we did so carefully, social distancing, no coffee hour, fist pumping and elbow bumps took the place of hugs. It was good to be back home; it was good to be together. Over time, as more people were vaccinated, we began to draw closer, we longed to be closer, masks disappeared. We started shaking hands, we started eating cookies again, and we started hugging again.

A month ago, we realized that though we were ready to be done with Covid19, Covid19 was not done with us. As a sign of our unity, as a symbol of our shared commitment to defeating this virus and out of love of neighbor, we started wearing our masks again. Now for a short season, hopefully, it is time to suspend our hugs and go back to fist pumps and elbow bumps. The risk in hugging is minimal but the risk is no less real. Some feel uncomfortable coming to worship or the coffee hour. Love demands caution and sensitivity.

Join me this Sunday for Labor Day Worship. The music will be beautiful, the sanctuary is dressed in new paraments, the sermon will be marginal, communion will be served, and God will be present with us.

I feel so honored to share this journey with you. Together we are strong; together we can make a difference. Mine is the Church where everybody’s welcome.

One day closer,
Pastor Jim