UPDATE 07/03/2020 – POSTPONE Return to worship
In light of the recent surge in COVID-19 infections in San Antonio and the surrounding area, your Executive Council met last night to reconsider opening for worship in mid-July.
Studying new orders from both state and city leaders, and on advice from our synod, the council decided to not reopen at this time and to continue online worship, Bible study, and fellowship through July.
As we move forward, a measurement of 14-day decline in COVID-19 cases will be used to consider returning to in-person activity. Your leadership will keep you informed when we are able to safely return together physically. Until that time, please keep Abiding Presence, San Antonio, and our world in your prayers. God is with us as we stay home, wear face masks, and practice safe social distancing.
Praying for each of you,
UPDATE 06/10/2020 – RETURN TO WORSHIP
We are happy to announce that the people of Abiding Presence will return to gathered worship on the weekend of July 11/12.
For the past many weeks a Return to Worship Planning Committee has been studying guidelines for community gatherings. To get a feel for our congregation’s readiness to return, you received a survey. Thank you for the wonderful response: 241 people shared their thoughts via the survey. Those responses and recommendations from the planning committee were presented to your Executive Council last night. I am excited to tell you that your leadership reached the decision to return to in person worship unanimously.
We will resume our normal worship service schedule: Saturday at 5:30, Sunday at 8:30 and 11:00. Worship will look and feel quite different with the Phase 1 guidelines. In the coming weeks you will learn how we will gather, what to expect and what cleaning and safety protocols will be in place. You’ll receive emails and videos to explain guidelines for distancing, use of face masks, making your offering, sharing the peace, and receiving communion along with procedures for making reservations. There will also be opportunities to serve on our Worship Support Team as we all work together to return to worship safely.
Abiding Presence will continue to offer online worship each weekend for those who are not ready to return. The online experience will change, too, as we transition to recording a live worship service.
I invite you to pray for your leadership as they continue to listen to God’s voice in making decisions and providing direction. I invite you to pray for your staff as they continue to go above and beyond job descriptions and expectations to bring worship, learning, and community to you every day. I invite you to pray for each other as we seek God and serve others in new ways.
I look forward to seeing you all in the days ahead.
God is with us!
This weekend is Holy Trinity, a wonderful festival in the church where we recognize and celebrate the relational nature of Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. We also recognize and celebrate our own relationships with each other and the Triune God. As we prepare our hearts and minds for this worship experience, there are a few things you should know.
A few weeks ago, your leadership was approached by Bishop Sue Briner of the Southwestern Texas Synod with an opportunity. She wanted to provide a worship service for all congregations in this large synod on Holy Trinity Sunday, with a sermon by our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, giving pastors and staff an opportunity to worship instead of lead.
Abiding Presence was chosen to host this worship experience. What an honor! The entire congregation is living into our mission, serving others by providing a vehicle for all congregation in Southwest Texas, to seek God. Thanks be to God for your willingness to host this synod worship experience.
When planning began, we were expecting a normal service with different voices from the ELCA to lead us in liturgy, song, and word. But, with recent events in our country, the ELCA has provided a new liturgy and Bishop Eaton has recorded a new sermon.
This weekend you will hear words like; George Floyd, racism, white privilege, white supremacy, and names of others who have been harmed or died in the recent weeks. I wanted you to be prepared for this as this is not something that I normally preach or say from the pulpit. I am usually not as bold or brave as our Presiding Bishop, because I am afraid. Afraid of offending, or excluding, or hurting feelings to those who have differing theological and political opinions.
It may be uncomfortable for some, others may find moments of lamenting, and still others a call for action. The Good news is God made each and all of us in God’s image. This is the same relational God who calls us into relationships with each other regardless of race, color, social or political status, and fear. So, as I share this with you, know I am faced with my own discomfort, my own fear, my own shame and desire to stay silent.
Acts 4:20 says, “we cannot keep quiet about what we have seen and heard.” So as we live in the present reality of a world dealing with a pandemic and a country dealing with political and racial divisions, we as church are called to bear witness to God’s presence in all these things. That God is working through us to recognize, repent, reconcile, and rebuild relationships that mirror the divine relationship of the Trinity made known in Agape love.
If you have concerns or comments, please feel free to reach out and contact me at anytime at email@example.com or 210-494-8884.
You are the abiding presence of Christ in the world and together we are seeking God and serving others in new ways.
Peace be with you,
This video introduces a survey you will receive by email on May 28th. Please complete this short survey regarding your readiness to return to in person worship at Abiding Presence. Results of the survey will be shared with the Executive Council and congregation mid June and will be instrumental in decisions regarding a return date and important protocols. Abiding Presence will most likely continue to worship together online through the end of June.
Click here for video link
There is much in the news about Texas reopening – even churches reopening for gathered worship. Abiding Presence will continue to worship on line until at least the end of May. Watch Pastor Steve’s message for more information.
Click here for video link
All worship and learning will continue online through the end of May.
Click here for video link
Grace and peace. We miss you!
As the state of Texas begins to open, there have been questions about Abiding Presence opening to in-person worship. Nothing would be better than to see your smiling face, shake your hand, and give you a hug. The reality, however, is that for the health of all we must continue to practice safe distancing. Which means, Abiding Presence will continue to worship and study online through the month of May.
Your staff is working diligently to provide inspirational worship experiences, educational material, and updates using online platforms. We have a YouTube channel where our worship and learning videos can be found. Look for us at YouTube.com/c/abidingpresence. If you subscribe and click the bell, you will receive an email notification each time we release a new video.
Your leadership continues to monitor federal, state, and local guidelines and recommendations. We are also in close contact with our Synod leadership as we discern the next steps for this congregation. We have started planning for the logistics of gathering – in a new way. How will we seat at 25% capacity – 6 feet apart? Where will we send potential overflow? How many volunteers will it take to usher people to designated seating and clean between services? Is there a safe means for sharing communion? There is much to consider, and we promise to keep you informed.
Until we can return safely, know that we hold you in prayer, and want to know how you are. Call, email, or text us at any time, with any need. Send us your prayer requests through our website.
You are the abiding presence of Christ in the world and together we are seeking God and serving others in new ways. Take care of each other!
Meals are an important part of the fellowship here at Abiding Presence. We miss sharing this time with you – you probably miss it, too. So grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk fellowship. All are welcome.
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In the season of Easter we express “Thanksgiving for Baptism,” rather than a confession. Hear Pastor Steve’s reflection on remembering our baptism.
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Pastor shares a message about confession and forgiveness
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This past month we have transitioned to online video worship, zoom bible studies, and congregational updates on YouTube. We will continue to worship and study this way through Sunday May 5th and most likely through May. It has been different, sometimes a little uncomfortable, but God is with us as we remain a strong community of faith. We will keep you updated in the days ahead as we monitor and determine our response to local, state, and national recommendations.
Your council and leadership have also decided to postpone our 40th anniversary celebration until we can safely return to celebrate.
When we started planning our 40th anniversary, we studied how the number 40 was used in the Bible. Each time, it symbolized a time of transition from one way of walking or relating to God to a new way of living with and responding to God. This propelled the theme, Journey of Transformation, for the 40 days of Lent. But did you know that the word quarantine in Latin means forty.
- Noah was in quarantine on the arc with his family until it was safe to walk with God on dry land.
- Moses and the Israelites were in quarantine in the wilderness learning how to respond to God in new ways in the promise land.
- Jesus was in quarantine while tempted in the wilderness and emerged to begin teaching a new way for all of us to live with God in new ways.
- And, Jesus was with the disciples in their own quarantine after he was resurrected, empowering them to spread the Good News in new ways.
We are approaching our 40-day mark in our own quarantine. God is working through us in this time of transition as we learn how to be a community of faith in new ways. If scripture teaches us anything, it is that God will be with us as we emerge from quarantine as a new creation.
We miss you, and we know that you miss gathering here to sing, pray, praise, and enjoy fellowship. We will return to this in the future, and I imagine it will feel different from our time in quarantine. But one thing I know for sure, is that the God of Noah, Moses, Jesus, and the apostles, is the same God who is with us now as we wander in this uncomfortable place of isolation and separation and is the same God who promises to be with us as we emerge a new creation.
- Thank you for staying home and six feet apart from each other – you are serving others.
- Thank you for wearing masks in public and washing your hands – you are serving others.
- Thank you for worshipping and studying online and sharing these experiences – you are serving others.
- Thank you for offering prayer and sharing your gifts online – you are serving others.
You are the Abiding Presence of Christ in the world and together we are seeking God and serving others in new ways.
Pastor Steve shares news about how we continue living into our mission statement: Seek God. Serve others.
Click here for video link
UPDATE 04-08-2020 How we are observing Holy Week
Pastor Steve shares news about how Abiding Presence will observe Holy Week – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. Listen for what you can expect and how you can participate.
Click here for video link
UPDATE 04-01-2020 (Response to questions about Holy Communion)
Click here for video link to Pastor Steve’s statement about Communion
Grace and Peace to you Abiding Presence,
We are a community of faith in a new way. This global pandemic has disrupted our usual worship practice and there have been some concerns about communion. I want to address these and share with you why we are refraining from have “virtual communion.”
Each weekend we hear these words prior to coming forward to receive Holy Communion. “These are the gifts of God for the people of God. All is made ready, and all are welcome at this Lord’s Table.” When we proclaim “all are welcome” we express the open nature of this table. Anyone who comes to worship is free to receive, regardless of age, race, social status, sex, and even belief. What a gift this congregation offers to God’s people who gather around this table.
As we learn how to be a community of faith in a new way, people are gathering around phones, tablets, computers and TV screens to worship with others. Some of you can purchase wine and bread or crackers and grape juice, wanting these elements to be virtually blessed and consecrated through a video worship experience. Honestly, there is nothing theologically wrong with doing this. However, we run a risk of omitting some from a virtual table.
Our current reality has all of us home bound. Some live alone. Communion by its very nature is communal. Some physically cannot leave, others fearful of crowds, and some are too ill to be in public making even obtaining communion resources a hurdle or an obstacle. Others may not have the internet or devices to even worship with us. Meaning we very well may not be welcoming all to virtual communion.
The Good News is that Jesus is with us at every meal, not just the one we celebrate at Abiding Presence. Those words, “do so in remembrance” are meant for more than just unleavened wafers and wine. As often as we eat and drink, we remember our Lord’s life, death and resurrection making every meal a sacred event. Truly a gift of any table.
As we fast from communion in this difficult time, we are fed by the Word of God. Jesus is truly present in the reading, hearing, proclaiming and sharing of the Word. The Word of God fills us, nourishes us, and is the means of grace in our time apart. By grace we have been saved, not by any work we perform, or anything we do, and this includes taking communion as well.
Until we can safely return to worship together, we will continue to use the “Service of the Word” found in our ELW hymnal. In its introduction it states, “Gathered by the Holy Spirit, we hear and proclaim the saving word of God for all the world. We give thanks for that saving word and all the gifts of God, who then sends us to share the good news we have received and to care for those in need.”
Let us continue to care for those in need by staying home, staying 6 feet apart when you are out, and washing your hands regularly. Let us care for others by sharing God’s word electronically. Share each post, video, and worship experience so others may be fed by God’s word through you. Let us care for others by fasting from our usual communion practices until this community of faith can return to communally celebrate a foretaste of the feast to come, surrounding this Lord’s Table where all are welcome.
You are the Abiding Presence of Christ in the world, and together we are all learning what it means to be a community of faith, seeking God and serving others in new ways.
Greetings Abiding Presence,
These have been some trying times. With information coming in daily, we have adopted a spirit of adaptability. We thought we would only have to refrain from physically gathering together through the end of the month. Considering the latest stay home order, your leadership has decided that our time apart will be extended to practice safe social distancing. As of today, March 25, we are announcing that Abiding Presence will continue our worship life, using video and online resources through Easter.
This was not an easy decision to make, and like you we all feel uneasy about it, but we believe in a God who provides for us in the most amazing ways. Jesus says, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:31-33
We promise to continue providing meaningful worship experiences for you to participate at home with family and online with others. We promise to provide weekly educational opportunities online to use at home with others. We promise to hold you in prayer and ask that you continue to pray for others, the staff and leadership of this place of grace.
So until we can return let us Seek God and Serve Others in new ways.
From 6 feet away,
Due to Bexar County and San Antonio area “Shelter in Place” guidelines the church office will have limited hours Monday-Thursday 8:30-5:00. Staff are on site primarily for purposes of producing digital learning and worship resources. Please call in advance if you need to come by to pick up or drop off things.
Blessings Abiding Presence family and friends,
What an amazing weekend of worship! There are over 700 views of last weekend’s worship experience on YouTube with people sharing it and having watch parties with others online. What a gift! If you have yet to worship online with us, click on our worship and ministry updates page. The staff continue to work diligently in new and innovative ways to meet the needs of this community of faith, providing meaningful worship experiences, educational offerings and service opportunities.
Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. God will be with you; will not forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” What reassuring words for us today. God is with us in new and amazing ways and ministry is still happening at Abiding Presence.
We have introduced a new ministry called Phone Caregiver. These are people who adopt a handful of families to contact weekly to help keep this community of faith engaged. Some have already signed up, more are still needed. Will you make this your ministry of service? If you would like to become a Phone Caregiver, email me. Let’s keep this church engaged.
Know that ministry is still happening. As we continue to seek God and serve others in new ways, I invite you to continue sharing your financial gifts with Abiding Presence. Many of you have been giving on line for some time. If this is new to you, here are the safe and secure methods you can begin giving in new ways.
- Mail in your offering.
- Give by Text – Text “APLC” to 73256 and follow the link in your text message to complete.
- Go to MyAPLC on this website to give a one-time gift or set up recurring gifts.
- Use your bank’s website to set up regular recurring gifts.
Let’s keep Abiding Presence strong. Ministry is still happening. Fear not, good people of Abiding Presence, it is the Lord who goes before us. God will be with us!
Seek God. Serve Others.
Grace and peace Abiding Presence family,
The prophet Isaiah reassures people longing to return to their home, their temple, their lives, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
I was mindful of these words as I announced at worship yesterday, “following recommendations of our synod and the CDC, we will not gather to worship for the remainder of the month.”
Your staff and Executive Director met today to discuss what this means for Abiding Presence. While we may not be able to physically be together, fear not, God is with us, strengthening us for the days ahead. This is an opportunity to Seek God and Serve Others in new ways.
- All worship services, meals, meetings, and ministry gatherings are canceled through March 31.
- Worship will be available online. In the next few days, you will receive instructions to participate in a new worship experience using YouTube.
- Faith formation will come to you. Lessons for all ages are being compiled right now to be delivered electronically for study through the week. I hear Mike and Chip are working on some fun video messages.
- In the coming days we will look for new ways to care for each other. We are establishing “Phone Caregivers” who adopt 5 or 6 people to check on by phone weekly. If you’d like to serve this way, click here to email me.
- We will continue to practice good stewardship. Your financial gifts are needed to continue supporting our ministries, our church and Day School employees, and our facility. Now is a great time to establish reoccurring giving online.
- The church office will be open from 8:30 am-5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The sanctuary and outdoor chapel are available for individual prayer and reflection during these times.
As we receive new guidelines we will respond accordingly. We will be in touch regularly with news and opportunities to Seek God and Serve Others in new ways. For now, join me in praying for each other, our church, our community, our leaders and country in this difficult and trying time.
Fear not, God is with us!