Dear Church Family and Friends:
Like one of my colleagues recently said, “I’ve never pastored through a pandemic before, I’m doing the best I can.” And indeed, the church staff and I are attempting to make good decisions and to be good stewards of our beloved community’s health and well-being. While there are so many questions and so much uncertainty, the one thing I am clear about is that I want each of you to be safe and well and I will do whatever I can to personally make sure that happens.
Some of the decisions I, along with the staff, have made, come from my own observations and experiences. I was to go to Duke University this next week and present a paper at a national conference which has been cancelled. My daughter’s college in NYC has canceled classes and sent everyone home, probably for the rest of this semester. And when the NCAA announced it was cancelling March Madness, it was time to pay attention!
From everything I have heard, the very best thing for all of us to do, besides wash our hands, is to engage in social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today. That means keeping as many people, especially those in the vulnerable categories, home as much as possible, starting now.
I have to admit that I have had some concern about overreacting, or wondering if I should let other people take steps first, but once again as someone has said, “In two to four weeks, when the entire world is in lockdown, when the few precious days of social distancing you will have enabled will have saved lives, people won’t criticize you anymore. They will thank you for making the right decision.” And it is my hope that is true (not the world lockdown part, but that good decision-making helped to keep people safe and healthy).
I also know that we have an active, engaged congregation filled with those who have “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out), or as Ron Morgan said, “FOLOD” (Fear of Letting Others Down). This may persuade some of you to override personal self-care and come out even when you shouldn’t, so we are going to help make that decision for you.
We have cancelled many of our activities, programs, and events this next week, including Sunday School for the children on Sunday morning. Other cancelled programs are below.
Our Handbell Choir was to go to a statewide festival this weekend and we cancelled their participation.
Realizing that in such challenging and difficult times people often need the steadiness and hope of their faith, we will still hold Sunday morning worship at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. (Spanish language at 10:00 a.m.) and Wednesday evening Lenten Vespers. HOWEVER, we encourage any of you who are vulnerable or uncertain about coming out, to please stay home and join us online by going to gablesucc.org/live or to our Facebook page.
You may still participate by downloading the bulletin, singing along, and praying the prayers. In fact, you can text your personal prayer concerns or joys to me (305.968.6482), or e-mail them (Laurieh@gablesucc.org) and I will include them in the pastoral prayer. There will be opportunities to wish everyone worshipping with you online a good morning and to share your greetings and welcome. And yes, you can even share your offering by using the church app (if you have downloaded it; and, if not, please do so by going to the App Store/Google Play), going to gablesucc.org/give or texting “GABLESUCC” to 77977 and giving.
We will also continue with Wednesday evening Vespers at 6:30 p.m., and these too will be online if you choose to stay home.
For those worshipping with us, we will not be passing the peace on Sunday morning, but we will welcome one another with warm smiles and hands over our hearts. We will not pass the offering plate, but we will invite you to come forward and place your gift in the plates along with dropping your “Lenting” go cards in the water. We will not have communion, but we will be “commun”ity to one another as we share our presence and our living faith together.
For those who wish to still be with us on Sunday but want to practice social distancing, you are invited to worship in Havighorst Lounge where chairs will be set apart and you can watch on the large screen television.
And yes, there will still be the “Connection Café.” We may stop everything else, but there will always be cookies and coffee. (I believe the apocalypse could come, and this church would still have cookies and coffee!) However, the cookies are individually wrapped and the coffee poured fresh by one person.
And there will be even more changes, some we haven’t even thought about yet. All of them made in the hope of keeping everyone healthy.
Finally, please know the church is here for you. If you need anything, our Called to Care Team is poised and ready to care and pray for you, our pastors stand ready to help, and Lisa LeSueur, our Minister for Congregational and Staff Care and Coordinator of our WISE program, is here to assist, especially around issues of mental health and wellbeing.
We will continue to keep you updated as the situation develops. I ask for your continued prayers as many in our wider communities face very real threats and anxiety related to this virus. Let’s walk gently with one another, and find ways to seek the common good.
Stay up to date with information about church events and helpful resources by visiting gablesucc.org/coronavirus or the GablesUCC app.