Dear friends in Christ,
We would all agree that “social distancing” is completely contrary to the undergirding principle of “church.” As the body of Christ, we are all about being connected, body, mind, and spirit. Well, it should come as no surprise that, for the safely and welfare of all, the “being-connected-in-body” part will cease to be an option for a while.
Yesterday, March 17th, we received the following from Franz Rigert, our conference minister:
“As you are well aware, we stand at a critical moment in the spread of this infectious disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention strongly urges that all people vigilantly practice social distancing, and they recommend full isolation for those who are contagious or especially vulnerable. Yesterday, the Trump administration issued new guidelines that ask us to avoid all gatherings of more than 10 people. In consultation with colleagues in the national setting of the UCC and our Conference Staff, we are now recommending congregations suspend all in-person worship services and all in-person small group gatherings, such as bible studies, committee meetings, confirmation classes, community meals and social events. I know how very challenging and discouraging this is as we approach Holy Week, but I ask your cooperation for your own safety, for the sake of the faith community you cherish, and for the well-being of our entire nation.”
At the moment, we do not know how long this recess will last. I would submit, however, that though the physical gatherings are being restricted for the time being, the mind, spirit, and I would add, voice, are still very much alive and available to us that we might support one another, pray for/with one another, talk with one another, and that we might continue to be a blessing to one another. God’s grace is still amazing! !
I am happy to report that we are already ahead of some churches with the AV equipment we have in our sanctuary as well as the technology that is available to us via our church website: plymouthucc.church. There are sermons available going back to 2017. All you have to do is go on the site and click on the sermon link and then the appropriate date and experience Sunday scriptures and sermons. God willing, our goal is to continue making weekly services available on our website. We were disappointed to have to cancel our guest speaker from “Exploit No More,” so this Sunday will be the one exception.
In the meantime, however, I would suggest that you view the sermon I preached on March 15 to a sparse but faithful group of Plymouth people. The message that day was intended to prepare us for the inevitable hiatus from communal worship.
Moving forward, it is my hope (with some tech support) to prepare and record a weekly message, to offer prayers, and to even share music (possibly with the help of a handful of our church musicians). Again, our hope is to have these available asap on our website (if not on Sundays, certainly by Monday). For those who are unable to access the internet, we will try to make a CD available. We will also be more intentional about posting things on our FB page. Please “like” if you have not already. We will also be exploring live streaming options.
In short, church life will continue, but in new ways and utilizing technology that is available to us. We are taking steps to set up programs and networks for church meetings to happen so that our ongoing administrative work may continue. Stephanie and I will still have office hours (both at church and from our homes). Please know that you can call the church or email us anytime (763-6890), firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. We want to especially encourage you to share any and all prayer concerns.
I will continue to serve you to the best of my abilities. It is my intent to “call” on people in non-traditional ways. I would encourage you to reach out as well. We all know who our most vulnerable are and they will need our ongoing support. If you don’t have a current copy of our church “yellow pages” please let Stephanie know and she can see that you get one.
It is clear that we are sailing uncharted waters. Please remain confident and assured that God will continue to be our navigator and to rely on the teachings of our faith as our compass. Furthermore, we have a gifted crew here to provide the people-power and leadership to assist us on the journey – come what may. As God’s people, we are never alone.
The song that should be on our lips and hearts is the one that we close our LOGOS gatherings with:
Safe home, safe home, I pray you safe home To your friends and your family. Safe home, safe home, I pray you safe home As you pray safe home for me, for me, As you pray safe home for me. (Don Eaton)
I look forward to the new day when I can safely say, as I do each month in my Epistle column, see ya’ in church.
With my deepest regards,