Message from the Rev. Thomas Hart – June 11, 2020

First, thank you for the prayers and input for the Session.  It is a gift to be part of this engaged and loving congregation.  I certainly felt that support Tuesday evening as I met with our Session and I am certain they did as well.  Our Session is an amazing group, with each member bringing their best to our common work.

As I wrote earlier, a central focus of our meeting was looking at the health and well-being of the church and determining what steps we next take.  Tuesday night our discussion moved from general questions about criteria and protocols to an evaluation of what essential functions merit shifts in our current suspension of in-person activities.  The Session understands its central role is to look after the health and wellbeing of our congregation and community with particular attention to the most vulnerable.  With that in mind we unanimously support a continuation of the general suspension of the church’s in-person activities.  Likewise, we renew our commitment to further and strengthen our existing programs.  In the end this centers in five areas:  worship, education, outreach, social support, and community support groups.

Beginning Sunday, June 21 we will be holding weekly streamed worship services from the church.  This project has been in the works for many weeks and I am extremely excited about what we are doing and the ways we will be involving a wide range of members and groups in this new effort.  This will take a great amount of energy and time and be a high priority for our leadership.  More information on this will be forth coming.

In the near future our education offerings will be expanded.  We are preparing a mid-week, evening, online class that will look at the realities of racial inequality in our society and steps we as a church and individuals can take to address those realities.  This class is being put together at the request of our denomination’s leadership and will utilize material they are developing.

Outreach continues in numerous ways, the least of which is not our congregation’s financial support of our community partners.  In addition, our members are personally involved in outreach efforts through community service, quilting, card making and similar activities.  We will continue to encourage and promote these activities and seek to inform you of opportunities for your involvement.

Social isolation is a difficult reality for many in our community and many of you are involved in practical activities to address it.  Through calls, emails, notes, meals and appropriate visits we are making a difference.  We encourage you to continue to take the lead in your own efforts to connect with each other even if it is as simple as making one phone call each day to one member with whom you’d like to chat.  While we are not scheduling the use of the church for activities at this time, we hope we all will find creative ways to support our common need for social interaction.

The single exception to our in-person suspension is in the support of our wider community’s support groups such as recovery and emotional care.  We are working on specific protocol that will allow partner support groups to safely use our building in what we see as extremely important and essential in-person work.

The Session and I are aware that some will find our decisions disappointing, believing we should take further steps to open up the church.  We each look forward to that.  Please know we have heard you and continue to welcome your ideas and input.  Please know as well that we are in a fluid situation and prayerfully making the decisions we feel called to.  This is a very difficult time and these decisions are taxing.  I wish I knew where this will all lead and yet in the uncertainty I know two things:  God is with us, and we were called to be the church for times such as this.

Grace and peace, Tom