We have been re-opening the church building bit by bit over the last few weeks. We are worshiping both in the sanctuary and in our homes. Several of the smaller groups have met.We are making plans for VBS following health recommendations and in August, several of the ministry and community groups will again begin to meet at Grace. Some of our groups—particularly music ensembles — will not meet for a while.It’s good to have activity in the building again, but we are doing so in phases and using the guidance of the CDC, ELCA, and our insurance company. We shut down the building very abruptly, but are opening in phases.

I look at the COVID dashboard for Minnehaha/Lincoln Counties each day and we are fortunate that the virus transmission is remaining steady in our area. I continue to pray, as I hope you do, that treatments continue to get refined, a vaccine will be found, and that those who are sick find healing, and that those who mourn hold on to hope. While we have not had huge numbers of cases, we do have people who have been greatly impacted by this virus. May God sustain them. Hopefully our numbers stay low, but know that your church leadership is ready to adapt to any changing circumstances.

I want to thank our church leadership for their thoughtful, non-anxious guiding through these days and months.We are blessed to have them in their roles. Jeff Eckhoff, Christine Verba, and all the council members are gifts to us all.

I think that for many in our greater community, there is much grief. The signs — denial, anger, depression, and some acceptance — can be seen in how we react to changing circumstances and the restrictions that are in place.This grief is very normal.Our world has changed. We all wish it were as it was, but it’s not. We are tired; we are lonely. I would encourage you to acknowledge the grief you may feel. Name it, but then seek God’s healing power and presence. Remember that we are people of hope.We trust that God is with us throughout all the changes and chances of life. God makes all things new. Our world may never quite be what it was. We all have an awareness of how fast life can change. But we can look for the good and the new that God is bringing forth even in theses COVID days. We can take hold of the things we have found to be most important — relationships, family, time together. We have been reminded of what is most dear to us. May we live so those things stay central to our lives even as we are coming back to more normal circumstances. Let us treat one another and our neighbors with kindness and love, living grace with one another as we walk through our grief and live into our hope. And in all of this, may we know the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. May we be the presence of Christ in some way to someone each day.

Blessings on your August!

Pastor Siri