May 13, 2020
Rev. Estelle Margarones
It’s been two months since the Coronavirus disrupted our lives. Many of us have sought to firm up our foundations through things that bring comfort. Perhaps, for you, it’s been reading the Bible, or building, gardening, cooking, exercising. For me, it’s been prayer, walking, baking bread and re-reading disaster spiritual and emotional care training manuals.
You see, I appreciate having tools that prepare me for the unknown (and I love herb bread). I actively seek materials that share best practices as we journey through this wilderness time. I’ve recently taken several online seminars with topics such as: online church, community building across distance, spiritual caregiving in a pandemic, church reopening considerations, interim ministry through a pandemic, grief, infectious disease, and more. As Proverbs 16:16 says: How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!
Necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps you, too, have had to learn some new competencies (some with steep learning curves). The truth is that we’ve been shifted—at warp speed—into a new reality. It’s not what we expected and it’s not comfortable right now. This is a time that calls for patience, perseverance, and flexibility. Remember the words of Philippians 4:3, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
We are blessed to be able to bring you online worship each week. You may have noticed that the services are shorter, but believe it or not, they actually take longer to create. (Someday we’ll share the bloopers reel!) Feedback notes appreciation for volume control and the convenience of watching on one’s own schedule. We’re creating topical videos and Messages for All Ages which are hosted on YouTube and posted on our Facebook page. Speaking of Facebook, I update our church page daily and participate in a number of closed clergy groups. Through these various types of media, our ‘attendance’ has grown exponentially over the last two months. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)
We’re pleased to offer you new ways of being together even as we practice physical distancing. We’re holding Zoom Coffee Hours and Pastor Dan is holding Zoom Youth Groups. We’ll also offer webinars (online seminars) and other video conferences starting with A Conversation About Grief on Tuesday, May 19 at 7:00 PM. Find more info below. The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept”. (John 11:35)
Your pastors’ day to day jobs remain to inspire, care for the vulnerable, provide reassurance, facilitate communication, develop programs and protocols, preach, teach, lead, and learn. We’ve also been engaged in anticipating needs, planning for contingencies, and responding to requests from new avenues. We’ve been spending time in research; establishing competencies with new technologies; having conversations with leadership and staff; developing policies; and working on internal and external communication. In addition to pastoral care, both Pastor Dan and I are regularly touching base with congregants.
The York COVID-19 Community Response Team is comprised of local officials, agencies, and services including folks from the CDC, town offices, police, fire, EMTs, hospital, schools, social services, library, parks and rec, senior services, state representatives, etc… I am the clergy liaison to this group and I also serve on the newly formed York Health Task Force made up of mental health professionals and others who have expertise in the areas of mind, body, and spirit. My participation in these groups raises the level of awareness of faith communities and it grants me a real-time understanding of the needs and challenges we face as a community. Through these groups I’ve become aware of the many local and regional heroes who are working together and I’ve made it my practice to send cards and encouraging emails to these folks. As I walk in the village and harbor, I pray for those who live and work in the buildings I pass. You’re invited to join in this practice of ‘prayer walking’. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
As I write, I’m thinking about you, the reader affiliated with First Parish Church. I’m praying that peace may settle around you and that the Holy Spirit will energize you. I’m thinking about the high school seniors who have had an abrupt departure from the rites of passage they anticipated. I’m thinking about college students who have yet to go clean out their dorm rooms. I’m thinking about families who will be adversely affected by the lack of summer camps. I’m thinking of seasonal businesses and personal care businesses. And parents with young children. And people who are ill. And elderly folks-especially those who live alone.
Church isn’t a building; it’s a community that cares. I see Spirit nudging the whole world to work together and my heart smiles. What direction is Spirit giving you? What are your ideas about how can we support and encourage folks? Please let us know!
Everything about this pandemic is a process. Be patient and allow the unfolding.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Nothing about this pandemic is a sprint; rather, it is a marathon. May God grant you endurance.
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Together, we can bring Christ's word and work to the world.