The Spire - March 2021

A monthly column by Senior
Minister J. Douglas Patterson
From the Desk of the
Music Director
by James Varner
From the President's Pen
Easter, Eagles, and Better Days
by Jon Colburn

Dear Friends,


Shortly after I came to Smithfield I befriended one of the parking garage attendants right across the street. His name was Steve and he was a biking enthusiast. He invited me to go with him to ride a bike trail in West Virginia, which was a converted railroad bed. I agreed, so when the day came we loaded up the bikes and took off on the adventure. It was a beautiful day and a most pleasant ride until, however, we came to a tunnel. It was a long tunnel with a huge curve in the middle. As we rode along and got into that curve the light behind us began to fade until, finally, we were in pitch blackness. Not having flashlights the only way we could navigate was to get off the bikes and walk them, feeling our way along with one hand on the damp wall. It was an eerie, anxious feeling. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we rounded the curve and started to see the light coming in from the other end. It was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and I was very happy to see it! We could finally take our hands off the wall and, eventually, we were able to remount the bikes and ride into the light.

Our journey through this pandemic is like that. One year ago we started through this tunnel, not knowing how long it was or where it would end. The light behind us faded until we found ourselves in unknowing darkness, feeling our way along the frightening damp rocks of illness, death, and isolation. But, finally, a light is beginning to shine at the end of the tunnel and we are moving towards it. We’re not able to get back on the bikes just yet, but at least we can see.

After careful and prayerful consideration our church council has decided that it’s not yet the right time to get back on the bike. We will not be gathering corporately for worship on Easter, and a date for the beginning of in-house worship has not been set. I agree with, and support that decision. At the time of this writing only about 12% of the population have been immunized. And while our governor has lifted or eased some limits on public gatherings, those don’t go into effect until Easter Sunday. We have been most cautious to this point, and will continue to be. We will not take any unnecessary risks with the health of our parishioners. I do believe, however, that the time is coming soon when we will be able to gather in worship and fellowship. You will be given ample notification, I can assure you of that.

In the meantime, I encourage you to worship with us virtually each week on our YouTube channel (found under “Smithfield United Church of Christ”), support our mission and ministry financially, and pray fervently! Finally, let us affirm together that Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!




Rev. J. Douglas Patterson

Warmest and loving greetings! I just got my first shot today, March 5. To me it is a clear example of divine energy working through the species in response to the existential threat of the pandemic, and it is received as a GIFT! The result of millions working together to achieve this stupendous result. God is VERY much still speaking — loud and clear.

May we be as motivated in channeling divine energy in speaking the language of love to one and other. This is also God still speaking. Loving kindness, the gold standard of relational energy — may it be ever more evident. My personal prayer and intention: as we move forward beyond the pandemic, may we carry the joy of lessons learned and continued hope! May the Peace of Christ be with you.

Recently, David and I attended a Boy Scout Court of Honor where our own Samuel Senkowicz received his Eagle Scout award. Eagle Scout is the highest rank a Boy Scout can earn, the Girl Scout equivalent is the Gold Award. Smithfield was well represented at the ceremony. Pastors Patterson, Cherian, and Barlow were there, with Liddy providing an Eagle referenced invocation. The afternoon was a perfect socially distanced ceremony which included time honored traditions interlaced with   today’s realities, with familiar good humor thrown in, all taking place outside.

With memories of all that day’s warm feelings of comradery and shared purpose, I prepared for the March Council Meeting. Doug and I have been talking about when we might return to corporate worship. Could it be for Easter? What would we need to do to keep us safe? Could we make it all happen in less than a month? This discussion was the lead agenda item. I expressed my deep concerns about getting together in person for Easter worship. Our demographic puts folks at risk. How many of us are fully vaccinated? How many of us would through caution to the wind and show up? Doug expressed his concerns as well. Council Members shared their thoughts and with unanimity Council decided not to celebrate Easter together in our sanctuary this year.

It was a hard decision, not because the science does not support it, but rather we all long for the day when we no longer see in the Zoom meeting dimly but see each other face to face. 

Yes, we are preparing for Easter and the promise of resurrection. Yet, Liddy’s words at Sam’s Court of Honor, when she spoke of Eagles, are in my head and in my heart as the end of the pandemic is in sight, but not yet here: 


“Yet those who wait for the Lord

Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,

They will run and not get tired,

They will walk and not become weary.”

(Isaiah 40:31)


Wishing you a blessed Easter.