The weather has finally cooperated enough for farmers to get into the fields and begin to get the crop into the ground. That means that many folks in Marvell are busily scurrying around, providing all of the logistic support farmers need during this busy time. I have also noticed a sense of relief in the community that the vital work of growing food and providing cotton for the world’s textile mills is ramping up. The waiting is over, and it’s go time for the agricultural community.

At the parsonage, kids are still attending classes, moms and dads are doing their best to serve as educators, and we are all trying not to get on one another’s last nerve. My siblings have called more, and we all agree that we miss one another. Even though we are all anxious to have more freedom, there is also a good deal of caution.

The whole idea of “wait and see” goes back to the origins of COVID-19. When cases first began to pop up in China, the globe took note, but mostly looked on and marched on. As Europe began to be affected and most notably, when Italy’s casualty numbers spiked, we were all shocked. Even when it became apparent that it was inevitable that the United States was going to be affected, we cautiously waited to see when, where, and how many cases appeared. Not until Case 0 in Jefferson County did this illness intrude on our reality here in Arkansas.  

Right now, everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats, anxiously waiting to see what this week brings. Arkansas is taking tentative steps towards the Phase One Reopening of our state. Over the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that people are getting out a bit more and having small gatherings that we have not seen lately. As we are beginning to look toward the implications of reopening, and that likely doesn’t conjure up warm fuzzy feelings.

There seems to be a pervading sense of uncertainty because there is so much that we don’t know or won’t know until things begin to move more freely again. My extensive research has shown that so far, Arkansas is very fortunate to have such low rates of infection and casualty levels. Many surrounding states, notably Texas and Louisiana, are seeing astronomically high rates of infection and casualties.

I bet that you are feeling like a pupil in Charlie Brown’s classroom right now. The teacher is talking, but all you hear is “wah, wah, wah.” It might surprise you to know that I’m tired of writing about COVID-19. Truly I am. So much is at stake right now, it is ultra important that we stay focused and stay the course. Just because we are tired of this, doesn’t mean that the illness is going to relent and allow us to return to business as usual. Just as the farmers need to get their crop in, people in the community need to return to work. All we can do is wait and see how the Phase One Reopening impacts our state, county, and town. As much as we all long for a return to normal, it is apparent that normal is going to be something far different than it was before.

Governor Hutchinson announced guidelines for houses of worship today in his press release. Bishop Mueller also made a statement regarding guidelines for Arkansas United Methodist Church. There was already a directive in place from the Conference that stated no in-person worship services until after May 17. There is much work to be done before we will be ready to reopen. Thankfully we have the benefit of being able to see what effect the reopening of Arkansas has on Phillips County in terms of new cases of COVID-19. Our Relaunch Team will look at health and safety recommendations, applicable guidelines, the needs of our congregation, and our overarching mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

The church has been dealing with uncertainty for two millennia. For the first five hundred years, the church was subject to persecution at various times and locations. Christianity will endure because God’s people endure. Perseverance in the face of adversity is part of our DNA. As we approach Pentecost, consider that the Spirit gave birth to the church that began with 120 people gathered in an upper room. Then and now, worship can happen in living rooms, patios, cars, and offices.  Worship is not so much about the where and when, but who we worship. God will get us through this together. There will be something amazing and beautiful on the other side of this, just you wait and see.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Pastor Kenny