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Baptismal fond with the words

COVID-19: Plans as of Thursday, March 12

Dear Beloved Children of God,

I begin with the greeting of the angels: Do not Fear! I follow with the wisdom of the prophets: Speak truth! We are in unfamiliar and rapidly changing times. People are reacting to the Covid19 Pandemic in very different ways, influenced in no small part because of differing risk factors. We are in times of competing values and propositions. From the initial verses of the Bible (see Genesis 2:18) the story of our faith proclaims the importance of connection and community. We understand ourselves to be so connected as to be one body. Our name (congregation) comes from the truth of what we do – gather.

We know those things both because our faith tells us, but so has our experience here in Stockbridge. When we gather, we have learned how the power of liturgy and ritual equips us to look the truth of this moment in the eye without fear. We practice sharing peace and abiding in the blessings of God that prepare us for the unknown of tomorrow.

We are also learning important things about Covid19: good hygiene/knowing signs are critically important on an individual level, social distancing may be critical on a collective one, and we all have a responsibility for an informed decision/response. There are two links that I want to share with you. The first deals with the goal of slowing transmission and contains some thoughtful frames toward the end (click HERE). The second is an opinion piece and lays out an argument for cancelling everything (click HERE).

I take my responsibility for our community seriously for you are my family. I take my responsibility to care for the least and most vulnerable because Jesus placed that calling on our hearts. Here is what I propose:

  • We will gather this Sunday for worship anticipating it may be the last time we can or should do so in person for a while. During this worship we will take precautions (see below) and we will engage in fear-abating honesty and ritual that offers strength for the coming days. We will sing songs and pray, I will offer a message to kids of all ages, and we will discern our path forward in staying connected.
  • We will begin live-streaming worship so that those who choose to or should stay home can be part of the worship in real ways. We will offer the chance for people to send in prayers, to indicate they are with us, sing along, and engage from home. (We will send another e-mail tomorrow offering more detail and a link to our website.)
  • We are modifying any snacks we might offer and will not hold the Lenten Study in person. We will try to organize the study electronically in the coming days.
  • We will be actively brainstorming and planning ways to stay connected in the weeks to come.
  • Here are some things to consider as you decide about your own participation:
    • Please take seriously whether or not you should come. Join us by live stream and stay home if you have any symptoms, have been in high risk situation or if you have a compromised immune system.
    • Use hand sanitizer when you enter.
    • We invite you to spread out through the sanctuary to minimize the proximity of one another. We will gather together in the sanctuary while doing our part to minimize potential risks.

We are in unfamiliar and rapidly changing times. I (and those guiding me) may not always get it right so we ask for your understanding and for you to make informed decisions about your personal needs/desires. I treasure you and our time together – gathering is critically important to who we are and how we live. I also treasure our responsibility to each other’s well-being and to the call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Should this approach change we will notify you through our emergency system and on the web. In any case we will live stream worship on Sunday.

Thank you for your love and support – know that you have mine too. Peace be with you,

Brent