A Pastoral Letter regarding COVID-19
March 13, 2020
My dear family in Christ,
Your staff and Session have made the decision to suspend Sunday morning worship for a while, following this Sunday’s service. You don’t need me to say why, as I’m sure you’ve all received a dozen or so notices like this already; but as your pastor, I want to say that this is not theologically unwarranted. Jesus repeated the Hebrew scriptural commandment that we love our neighbor as ourselves, and reminded us all: “The Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath!” (It’s a great and very relevant story: see Mark 2: 23-27, and the next story, Mark 3: 1-6, is just as good!)
We will continue to assess conditions as the story of this virus plays out. But in the meantime, we love our congregation very, very much, and so we are turning our efforts to minimize harm and maximize connections. We are focusing entirely on people, relationships, and spirituality.
We are setting up as many ways as we can to stay in contact and show our love and care.
Events are cancelled. Committees, should they need to meet, can organize conference calls. Other needs should go to the church office, which will remain open for the usual hours, at least at present.
In the bulletin Sunday morning will be a list that tells much of what we want to do to stay in close contact with one another. I have attached the same list at the end of this letter, so that you can read ahead. We will have response cards available for people to sign up for various opportunities.
To take this strange season in hand with hope, it is like a Sabbath. We are so busy, normally, and so frantically trying to eat and drink of life that we have forgotten how to read a long book or enjoy a fruitful silence. May we rediscover old spiritual gifts, even as we hold one another close in prayer and heart.
I’m sure there is much I have forgotten to say. Please call me (cell 607-882-1325) with questions or the church office, 607-272-2800. Touch base often. Let us know how you are. Send us notes and videos… we’ll be doing the same.
In Christ, Your loving pastor,
HOW WILL WE STAY IN TOUCH?
Morning Prayer. Each morning at 9am Monday through Friday, we welcome you to join us for morning prayer. This brief service will take place by Zoom conference call: call the number 929-205-6099, NEW meeting ID 793-973-629#.
Evening Prayer. Each evening at 7pm Monday through Friday, we welcome you to join us for evening prayer. This brief service will take place by Zoom conference call: call the number 929-205-6099, NEW meeting ID 252-955-285#.
* * * Note: To have a great Zoom meeting, make sure you are in a very quiet place and have a good phone connection.
Prayer chain. This season in our earthly life comes with many concerns, from economic fears to health worries, businesses impacted to loneliness and anxiety. The prayer chain will hold our congregation’s concerns with one another. You can sign up by text (brief descriptions), email (more lengthy descriptions when available), or to receive a phone call. To submit prayer requests, send an email to Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Church Facebook Group. This has been created, linked to our Facebook page, as a private group. That means that while outsiders can see that the group exists, only members of the group can see what is posted or who is in it. You can ask to join the group or email email@example.com to request an invitation. (Or, check the box on our response card to let us know you would like to join in!)
We want our virtual worship services to be as participatory as possible. Every week, we want videos, audio, and images:
· music you made (video or audio)
· you reading scripture passages (video or audio)
· artwork you have created (images) or photographs you have taken (images)
· readers of our Affirmation of Faith (audio/video) or other parts of the service
· children’s responses to questions we pose each week (audio/video)
… there are so many ways to be involved! All you need is a cell phone, or a camera and computer, and you should be able to send your file!
Sending Video/Audio or images:
Our Dropbox Account is FPCIfiles@gmail.com -- call Kirianne at 607-882-1325 for the password. Log in and post your videos, audio, or images, and we will use them in creating each Sunday’s virtual worship (or other prayer services or congregational work!). Include your name (e.g. in the name of the file you make) to help our office staff.
Small Groups: Join a small group! These will develop along the lines of people’s interest and availability. Book studies, support groups, groups meeting in different ways and at different times—let us know if you’d like to take part or if you’d like to head one up!
Helping Hands Group: In the midst of a crisis, it is hard to predict what the needs may be. Is someone short of food? In need of a ride? Can’t get their prescriptions? Did something break around the house, but businesses are closed? Our Helping Hands group will be organized to respond as well as possible.
Phone Call Connections: Maybe you would like to receive a phone call from time to time. What fun! Maybe you would like to give one—lovely! Sign up in the Narthex today or on the response card in your bulletin.
Giving without an Offering: We will make online giving a possibility during these weeks, and will gratefully receive tithes and offerings sent through the mail by check as well.
OTHER OPPORTUNITIES will become available! We will reach out by email, letter and through the above groups to keep everyone informed. God bless all our work!