Worship moving to not-in-person through the end of March

Summary: We will not be worshiping together in person for March 15, 22 & 29th. We will be pursuing other ways to worship, fellowship and support each other as a church family – stay tuned to this site!

Dear Church Family,

News about the declared pandemic outbreak of COVID-19 continues to evolve rapidly. The discussions we were having last week about social distancing and limiting contact during worship now seem woefully out of date based on how other communities are responding. Many of us are dealing with shifts in our daily routine, as schools are closing for two or more weeks; people are being advised to work from home as much as possible; public institutions, sports organizations, and other places are also shutting down. Grocery stores are dealing with shortages on the shelves as people gather supplies they will need in order to stay at home for much of the next few weeks, all in an effort to limit the spread of the virus and lessen the demand on our hospitals and health care system.

These are unusual circumstances in which we are living, and we are all learning as we go. Last night, the Emergency Response team met virtually and decided that in the best interests of the community, we are suspending in-person gatherings at the church through the end of March. This date will be re-evaluated as we continue to get new information and updates from local, state, and federal officials. The Emergency Response Team consists of Pastor Trina, Brenda Flynn, Caitlin Rivet, Brad Morrison, and Sue McGilvray-Rivet. Several other churches in Massachusetts and other parts of the country are making similar decisions at this time.

The central activity that we participate in together is the act of worship on Sunday morning. Beginning this Sunday, March 15th, we will offer a time of worship online at 10:30 am. We are working on ways to bring the worship service to you, and invite your participation from the comfort of your own home. Instructions about how to join this virtual gathering will be forthcoming. There will also be an option to dial in and listen over the phone. We look forward to experimenting with different ways of sharing in worship over the next three Sundays. This may also impact our plans for Holy Week and Easter, but at this time we are unsure how long the suspension of in-person meetings needs to be in place. I will also share a weekly email with updates and different spiritual disciplines that you might want to try. We will also hold virtual meetings for Bible study, book group, and meetings of church boards. This is a new way of doing things, so let us be patient with ourselves and one another as we learn and experiment with new tools.

We are contacting all outside groups who meet at our building to inform them of this decision as well. It is important to remember that we are taking this step out of an abundance of caution and to protect the needs of the most vulnerable – not only in our church, but in the wider community. And there are ways we can still care for each other even if we are not able to see one another in person. Make that phone call you’ve been meaning to make, send a card, check in on your neighbors. We are compiling a list of church members, organized by town/region, so that we can have a network available to people who may need help getting groceries, picking up a prescription, going to a doctor appointment, and so forth. If you have needs in this area, please call or email the church office or Pastor Trina and we will coordinate with you on meeting those needs. The best ways to reach me are on my cell phone: (773) 951-7820 and pastor@burlingtonpres.org.

Above all else, let us remember that God is with us, during what feels like a wilderness time in our lives. God is with us in the midst of it all and we will come through this time into a new day. In this Lenten season, it is a reminder to us to step back from the normal routines and listen for God’s still, small voice. Let us take good care of ourselves, and of one another.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Trina