The Joy of Connecting In Person! (July 2021)

By Randy Brandt
Pastor, Connect

How wonderful and uplifting it felt! In April our family left our house for the evening to visit friends for dessert and conversation. It was the first time in 13 months we sat down with others (beyond a few close family members). We were all vaccinated, so we left our masks off.

Of course, we had sent text messages, talked on the phone, and enjoyed video visits a few times over the previous year. But nothing compares to the joy of being with people in person! The conversation is easier, the eye contact is powerful, and the touch of a hand is healing.

Connecting with genuine care, sharing joyful smiles, and listening with acceptance are experiences of God’s love found in our relationships. I have a hard time imagining what my faith would be like without connections with people who know my name. And thus, this last year of COVID has been more challenging and stressful for me than I want to admit.

My hope is that we are now in a new season where we can experience God’s gift of joy by connecting in person.

How do you best connect with others? I realize people have different needs for relationships, so Shepherd of the Valley strives to have a variety of fun and accessible occasions for people of all ages, backgrounds, and comfort levels.

Remember Easter Sunday’s glorious weather and the grand worship outside? Hundreds of people with glowing smiles were gathered in the company of others to worship our Lord. My heart tells me it is time for more life-giving gatherings! Like the old 1967 song by the Youngbloods, I want to sing, “Come on people now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together. Try to love one another right now.”

How about another parking lot party? We’ve had a number of fabulous September Block Parties in the past, and those have served as inspiration for our monthly “Summer Nights Out.” Each night will be a casual opportunity to stop by, chat with others, play a variety of games, listen to music, and purchase food from a food truck. Find details on page 15.

Do you prefer to have a purpose when connecting with others? Sometimes my connections with others seem deeper when we’re volunteering together to benefit others. You could help over 900 area school children in our School Supply Drive organizing supplies and loading backpacks with others. Or join SOTV’s annual Habitat for Humanity week in Saint Paul the first week of August: no experience necessary as you work with others to make a life-changing impact for a family in need. Or you can serve on a dedicated committee to call a new pastor or help our church explore the possibility of becoming a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) church. All of these options are available this summer; details are included in this newsletter.

Intergenerational: kids, families, young and old together! I am one who loves to be in the presence of all ages. The energy and personalities of little ones, the wisdom and caring of the older ones, the connections with all ages is revitalizing! Experience the gifts of children by being part of Vacation Bible School in July, bringing your family to the playground on Sunday mornings, or exploring with others by joining The Great Faith Odyssey 2 this month.

As always, I hope to see you in worship. I know that there are different comfort levels for being back out in public or sitting in a sanctuary with others. Make wise decisions that are appropriate for you and your family. I pray that as more people get vaccinated and COVID infections continue to diminish in our neighborhoods, it will be easier for people to come to worship in person – to feel the goodness of God as you greet others, sing, pray together, and experience the joy of connecting in person!