PENNSYLVANIA SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE
OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
Emanuel United Church of Christ
An Open and Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ

2628 Fillmore Street, Philadelphia, PA  19137
"A Warm, Welcoming Church in the Heart of Bridesburg"
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Dear Friends -

In the second year after their arrival at the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their people, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upwards, to have the oversight of the work on the house of the Lord. ......And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away. Ezra 3:8-13


Return from Exile

This passage from the book of Ezra describes the beginning of work to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem following the end of the exile in Babylon. Decades earlier, the Babylonians had invaded Jerusalem, burned and destroyed its temple, and the leadership and elite citizens of Judah - priests, craftsmen, professionals, and the wealthy - to Babylon. The poorer citizens, those who worked the land, were allowed to remain in Judah. When Babylon was conquered by King Cyrus of Persia, Cyrus allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. While they may have hoped for a “happily-ever-after” ending, there were complications. The rebuilding was seen as a threat by the surrounding tribes. At various points the work slowed to a near halt. Those returnees who were old enough to remember the first Temple found the new Temple less than impressive by comparison. The prophet Haggai scolded those who were rebuilding, “Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3) Despite these complications, the Temple was eventually rebuilt.

Many congregations, including our own, are now returning from a kind of exile. We will be reopening for on-site worship on June 13, while continuing to livestream the service on Facebook and cross-post on Youtube. While re-opening to public worship has been a long-awaited dream, the reality may be complicated. Some of our members, for reasons of health or distance, will continue to worship online – and that’s fine! Those who do come to worship will note changes. Masks and distancing will still be in place, at least for a time. Services may be shorter than in the past to limit exposure. Members and friends who are feeling sick on any given Sunday morning will be encouraged to worship from home that week. Those who worshiped with us before the pandemic look forward to seeing longtime church friends and re-establishing connections. At the same time, a number of persons who had not worshiped with us before the pandemic may join in worship, and will be learning new names and faces. Please offer them a warm Emanuel Church welcome!

Patience and a generous spirit will be key to navigating this time of re-opening. There will inevitably be mistakes and glitches as we reopen. The safety guidelines themselves will change over time, and what is required early on may become optional or unnecessary at a later point. We will need to bear with one another as we learn to worship together in person once again. But as the returning exiles in Jerusalem eventually re-established their community life, we too will eventually settle into whatever “new normal” awaits us as we continue to pray for an end to the pandemic.



Blessings – Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave





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