Dear Colleagues:

Yesterday I worshiped with Dover UCC and was pleased to see a good turnout of members, all who practiced social distancing alongside support of one another in prayer and presence. Many of our clergy in PCC serve churches. Some, in addition, are on front lines as chaplains and direct care-givers, and some are both. Wherever you are serving I know that you are faithfully attending to your flocks, residents and clients as well as remaining calm in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Our role is important. Spiritual tumult in the face of an epidemic can demonstrate irrationality, fear, and despair. However, such a time can also be one of deep mutual care, connection, and faithfulness. As Martin Luther wrote in 1527 in the face of the Black Death, “ Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together…so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another .”

The Covid-19 situation continues to be fluid and shifts from day to day. The national UCC has sent all employees home to work remotely and national staff is no longer allowed to travel. Some UCC Conferences have imposed similar travel restrictions on staff and strongly recommended the closing of all churches. As you may have heard, our Lutheran and Episcopalian colleagues in Pennsylvania have mandated a stop to worship in their churches. Their polity allows them to make such determinations and enforce such protocols.

As your Transitional Conference Minister I can make recommendations to you based on my own best judgments, informed by trusted sources. You must do the same in each of your settings. The cases in PA remain low at the moment, but that number will change. At this point Nora and I are recommending that our churches follow the most recent CDC recommendations of no meetings of groups larger than 50. This will impact some of our churches, but not all. If your worship attendance tops 50 every week, please give consideration to suspending worship at least through March 29 th . If you worship with less than 50 people, you may wish to suspend your worship depending on your population. Let me be clear, however – for some communities the gathering of 10-15 people for worship feels absolutely essential at this time. If you discern that your community needs to meet, that is your decision. Please practice social distancing and extreme care. We have received a “Letter to Religious Leaders and Faith Communities” from an epidemiologist at University of Pennsylvania (daughter-in-law of Rev. Dr. Kay Rader) with her analysis and suggestions. It can be found here.

Also be aware that the CDC guidelines can be over-ridden by local health advisories. For example, in some states, groups of no larger than 25 are recommended. Keep on top of the State of PA updates. If the state recommendations change and these are stricter than the CDC, follow them .

Here is some further information from your staff so you can know where things stand right now.

1.      Our office will remain open and Paul will continue to be here working for as long as possible. Our office is a good environment and not in close proximity with others. Paul has agreed to continue this arrangement for as long as he is comfortable and healthy. If and when the time comes for the office to fully close, we will let you know. The Church Center (where our office is located) is not closing at this time.

2.      Nora, Zoë and I will be working remotely . We will conduct meetings via Zoom. Please be in touch with us via phone, text or email if you are in need – or in particular, if you do not receive updates about upcoming meetings that you are supposed to attend via zoom.

3.      The Confirmation retreat at Hartman Center scheduled for March 27-29 will be postponed . Zoe is working to determine when that retreat might be rescheduled. Given the closing of schools and today’s recommendation form the CDC, we feel this is the responsible course of action.

4.      Our MEF scheduled for this coming Wednesday has been moved to May 20 th . More information has been sent out from Nora.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns, and insights.
I have scheduled four Zoom calls on two different dates in the next 2 weeks for any who are interested, so that we may have a chance to pray and talk together. Each meeting is scheduled for 90 minutes but you may stay for as long or as short a time as you wish . Find the links here or email Paul for them.
Here are the dates:
Thursday March 19 at 9:00 AM and 6:30 PM
Wednesday March 25 at 10:00 AM and 6:30 PM

In these times of high anxiety, irritability, and fear, remember Paul’s words to the church in Philippi, “ Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near .”
In Peace,