Dear Members and Friends of Faith,
What a year the last few days have been – – it’s been a flurry of announcements, changes, news that is concerning and maybe also frustrating. This COVID-19 pandemic has gotten closer to all of us.
And yet, we remain the people of Faith – what a reminder it is that in our name as the people of God we are called to continue to have faith in the midst of a chaotic time. We are a particular group of people to be sure, but let’s remember that our building is not the church, “we are the church together” as the hymn goes.
Several years ago Pastor Virginia challenged the church to extend its ministry beyond the building – and out of that effort new ministries sprang up – the coffee ministry, the nursing home ministry, connections to the food bank under the theme: “The church has left the building.” I am sure that she could not have envisaged a time like this – because, now we will be tested to be the church that leaves the building entirely in the upcoming weeks.
Last night the Session met, and with regret, made the call to temporarily cancel in-person worship and all other face-to-face activities of the church until at least May 10th. We will practice what I choose to call “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing.” We will not be coming into close physical contact with one another, but we keep connected with one another. The church has left the building, but we are not “canceling church.”
So, how are we going to be the church over the next weeks:
• Alternative worship opportunities online: We will continue to publish a sermon/reflection each Sunday along with prayers. By this coming Sunday, we hope to also post a YouTube reflection as well. These will come to you in the form of links in email addresses for those who have them, and a physical mailing of the hardcopy sermon for those who don’t. We also plan to provide shorter messages of hope with a special phone number to call – messages of 60-90 seconds when we need a lift through this wilderness time.
• Sunday school: is canceled until further notice. Our Christian Education Committee will explore resourcing parents with materials that can be easily used at home.
• Classes and Committees, other gatherings: All in-person gatherings are canceled until further notice. We are aware that some groups are fewer than 10 people, but we are holding to having no groups meet. We DO have a new conference call capability called Zoom available to committee chairs and group leaders. This has features that allow folks who only have a telephone to participate, as well as those with broadband and computers. Contact Pastor Renee if you would like to schedule a call and be trained.
• Public events: are canceled at this time, including Dixieland Devotionals
• Communications: We will be communicating via email to everyone who has it, and sending out US mail to households without it. Our monthly newsletter Walking in Faith will go weekly. In addition, our Facebook page will have increased posts to our website postings, including links to our alternative worship offerings.
• Connecting: Our Elders and Deacons will be checking in with members via phone or email so that we make sure that we know what is going on with folks. Some in our community may experience financial hardship, and the Session has created a Pastor’s Emergency Fund to help those members in need. Just call Pastor Renee and everything will be held in confidence. Some of our folks stand ready to help with grocery shopping and obtaining medications. Please let us know your needs!
• Office closed except by appointment: Effective immediately, our office is closed to everyone except by appointment. Call ahead! This is the only feasible way for us to keep operations running smoothly while protecting the staff.
• Giving: We hope that those who have the means continue their giving at this time so that Faith remains strong. We have financial reserves, but of course, we would seek to use them as little as possible.
You who are the beloved children of God, let us lean into our faith at this time. We are still the church together, even as we leave the building for a time.
Blessings and light,
Renée Marie Rico