March 12: Worship across the distance

Dear friends in Christ,

These are highly unusual times, and my sense is that we are all beginning to really feel the pressure of what the World Health Organization is now calling a global pandemic. On Tuesday, Contra Costa Health services issued new guidelines for social distancing, specifically advising that there should not be gatherings of more than 50 people for the next two weeks. And, as you may have heard, last night Bishop Marc made the request that all churches in the Diocese of California cancel all public worship services for the month of March. This is obviously a bold and intense step to take, and one that I know he did not take lightly. He and others in diocesan leadership are working very closely with public health experts; he based this decision on the very best information currently available with the goal of caring well for the vulnerable and doing our part to limit the spread of the coronavirus. I am grateful for his leadership and I respect what I know was a very difficult decision to make.

And. There’s always an and. Last night your vestry met and we spent much of our time discussing this temporary change and imagining the way forward together. We reminded ourselves of why we gather as church in the first place. We brainstormed what our options are now. And I left that meeting feeling seriously hopeful — excited, even — for what will be unfolding here as Church of the Resurrection. As I drove home, a snippet of Paul’s letter to the Romans came to mind, when he writes, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) This proclamation of a Love that crosses all boundaries applies here and now, too. This decision to cancel public worship may be disappointing, challenging, lonely, and more. And. This love of God knows no bounds, and we are connected through it. We continue being church together, even when we cannot be physically present at the church building together.

Our path forward will continue to evolve in the coming weeks as we learn more, both about how to keep folks safe and healthy, and also as we discover new ways to connect, worship, reflect and care for one another remotely. For now, here are the changes we will be implementing.

- Following Bishop Marc’s request, we will not hold Sunday worship services in person at church these next three Sundays. Instead, we will be streaming a Morning Prayer service on Facebook Live this Sunday at 10:15 am and making the recording available on YouTube as well.
- We will be postponing our Adult Formation series on “Speaking Christian,” new date TBD.
- We will be postponing our Celebration of New Ministry that was scheduled for March 21st, new date TBD.
- We will be canceling our in-person gathering of our Lenten Program, Soup + Story, and I’ll be working to set up a digital version of it for us to connect, hopefully through Zoom or something similar, still on Tuesday Evenings in Lent.
- We are still collecting food for the Monument Crisis Center, though we will postpone the neighborhood scavenger hunt for food donations. Please bring groceries to church during the week.
- 12 Step Meetings will continue to gather at the church, but we are taking precautions to facilitate smaller groups and have them use larger spaces.
- Peter Pan preschool remains open, and the preschool Director and I are carefully monitoring health guidelines for schools.

The main goal through these changes is to honor the need to put more physical space between us, as this seems to be the best way to prevent the further spread of the virus. And, I recognize that we still have real needs for connection, for prayer, and for time spent in our sacred space. The sanctuary will remain open for personal prayer during weekdays between 9 and 5, though we will not be gathering at specific times. If you come and I am available, I would be glad to pray with you. Our labyrinth is also a truly excellent option in the midst of a pandemic: you may come at any time to walk and pray, and don’t have to touch anything at all to use it!

Finally, we will work to stay connected with one another in various ways. The vestry will begin a phone tree today, calling all our members to check in and share this news. Please check in on one another, as well. Pray for each other, pray for those who are sick or otherwise affected by the virus, and creatively offer each other love and care, as I know you continually do.

Know that you are all in my prayers as well, and that we will find a good and holy way through these strange times, together. More information will be coming soon with new ways we’ll be connecting. In the meantime, take a deep breath, say some prayers, and wash your hands!

Peace to you all,