I am sure that you are all aware by now that Governor Evers has issued an emergency order prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 people or more. We stand at a critical moment in the spread of this infectious disease, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has strongly urged that all people vigilantly practice social distancing and/or full isolation for those who are contagious or especially vulnerable. What this means for Plymouth, and all churches, is that regular worship and all church activities are suspended until further notice.
I wish I could tell you how long this order will be in effect, but I simply cannot. What I can say is that it could last for a period of weeks or even months until the virus is contained, and that this is something that we need to take very seriously.
So with that in mind, the physical church office will be closed for the duration; however, Mary will continue to work from her home where all church phone calls are being forwarded, and all emails can be received. Additionally, she has arranged to have the church mail delivered to her address so that she can continue to sort and distribute as required. If you are someone who receives mail, i.e. bills, checks etc., Mary will put the mail in your inbox and notify you that it is there for you. If you need to contact the church for any reason, Mary will be available during her regular office hours. If you need to reach me, you can call me anytime, day or night for any pastoral needs, or if you just simply need to talk. I am, and will always be available, so please don’t hesitate to call me for any reason.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been in constant contact with the conference office and other clergy as we explore ways of keeping our congregations connected. We are actively exploring how we can connect differently - online and beyond - to bring our community together in meaningful ways that foster hope and reassurance.
Beginning this Sunday, March 22 at 10 am, I will be live-streaming through Facebook, worship services that will included prayers, scripture readings, a sermon, and Holy Communion. Yes, that’s right, Holy Communion. Please prepare in advance a piece of bread, or whatever you have on hand, for every member of your household, along with juice, wine, or any beverage of your choice. What you prepare is up to you as all sustenance is from God, of God and therefore Holy. I have never done a live-stream through Facebook, but it seems fairly straight forward. There may be connectivity issues, and the quality might be poor; I don’t know, we’ll just have to see. Much will depend on your bandwidth (and mine). But we will learn and we will improve.
I will continue to update this blog regularly as things unfold. The thing to remember is that social distancing doesn't mean spiritual distancing. Our faith has never required a building to thrive, and this pandemic will be no different. The Holy Spirit can and will bring us together spiritually even when life events keep us apart physically.
In the words of our conference minister Franz Rigert:
Today, despite the uncertainty and unprecedented disruptions of life, I find myself inspired by the notion that in times of great distress our "better angels" inevitably rise up. Yes, we have seen fear and panic. The emptying of shelves suggests protective tendencies, and even a few shabby souls have tried to capitalize on the devastation of the Coronavirus. Yet, I believe a spirit of sharing and caring is descending upon our nation, even in the midst of our social distancing. This is the essence of the Church, and now is the time to exemplify the extraordinary love of God planted deep within each of us.
And finally, I share with you this ancient Celtic prayer, with hopes that you will trust in God, take good care of yourself, and live out the love of Jesus in these challenging days.
Grace and peace,
You are God
You are the peace of all things calm You are the place to hide from harm You are the light that shines in dark You are the heart's eternal spark You are the door that's open wide You are the guest who waits inside You are the stranger at the door You are the calling of the poor You are my Lord and with me still You are my love, keep me from ill You are the light, the truth, the way You are my Saviour this very day.