October Pastor's message

Dear members and friends of St. John’s:

“Has St. John’s Church UCC (previously Evangelical and Reformed) Church ever been used as a public polling place?

This is the question I posed to three experts who are familiar with the history of our church. One was Charles Dudley, who was a member of the 175th Anniversary Committee. You may recall that he gave an excellent presentation on our church bells.

Another was Elaine Gard, who did such a wonderful job as the Chairperson of that Committee. My queries would not have been complete without a call to Sandy Johnson, who is one of our archivists, along with Cindy Dunn.

Though any one of them could write a history book, they could not recall an instance of voting going on at St. John’s, except for that which was related to the church. I do recall that soon after I arrived as pastor, and was invited to be a board member of the South Newark Civic Association, there was some talk of having elections in Hermann Hall.

One I wish I could have reached out to was Jerry Satterfield. The Lord called him home, while this dear member and friend was helping to plan our anniversary. Jerry and I would meet regularly for breakfast, and he’d tell great stories. He would have been an excellent resource, because of his regular contributions to the Newark Advocate on the history of our city and surrounding communities.

My lead question leads to another one. “With separation of church and state, are our houses of worship appropriate places for persons to exercise their right to vote? I found an answer on churchlawcenter.com

Because they are conveniently located within communities, churches are often selected to serve as polling places during elections. But they need to take care to avoid crossing lines that might be unlawful under federal or state voting laws (like distributing literature to people standing in line, or displaying anything that could be construed as favoring any particular candidate).

With so many candidates to consider, and issues to debate, one thing we can all agree on is the importance of citizens having a safe and accessible place to cast their ballots.

Historically, churches have been considered to be a shelter where a person can feel, “safe and secure from all alarms!” At St. John’s, this is symbolized by the ceiling in our sanctuary that looks like the hull of a ship, and the stained glass window with the cross of Jesus, standing tall upon a rock. Both of these are sure to withstand the stormy seas that seem to be crashing up against us these days.

On Tuesday, November 3rd, Election Day, the church council and I want to invite you to a place that is set apart from all the noise and distractions - your church home.

We will open the sanctuary to any member, friend or guest who seeks a quiet place, a sacred space for prayer and contemplation, before or after casting his or her vote.

And I will be available throughout the day to sit with you and listen to your hopes and dreams, your doubts and fears, and offer an election day prayer for you and your loved ones.

You can be sure that Jesus will be a part of the conversation. There is no social distancing from him. When we open our doors from 9-5, your Lord and Savior will be there to greet you and to help you feel at home in his home.

We all have our worries and uncertainties about what might or might not happen on election day. But I am quite certain that no matter the results, we will continue to learn and grow as a church family, and to set a good example by sharing the love of Christ with others.

(For) We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

In Christ’s love,

Rev. Mark

Guidelines for the Reintroduction of Indoor Worship
at St. John’s United Church of Christ

Adopted at a meeting of the Church and Ministry Committee on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

  • A social distance of at least six feet will be maintained at all times. Families and friends who have come to church together, may sit together maintaining that same distance from other worshippers.
  • Every other pew will be roped off.
  • Wearing face masks is highly recommended. (Now Required)
  • Bulletins will be available on PDF and at both entrances. There will be plates set out for offerings. Hymnals and Bibles may not be used.
  • Ushers will be available for assistance, to light/extinguish candles and ring bells. They will be required to wear masks and gloves.
  • Access to the church is ONLY through the south entrance (wooden doors). Doors will be locked during the worship service.
  • The elevator entrance will be open. The elevator may be used, one person at a time. A family member or friend may ride along. Masks are required.
  • The fellowship room is closed except for access from the elevator. The ramps will also be closed.
  • The two restrooms off the hall to the sanctuary will be available for use. The restrooms below, near Hermann Hall, may also be used.
  • Doors will be propped open before and after the service to limit touch.
  • Worshippers will be dismissed by pews.
  • There will be no nursery during any of our worship services.
  • Rev. Mark Katrick