My Dear St. Francis Family,
Grace and peace to you in this uncertin moment. You are all very much on my mind and in my prayers. In this letter I will cover the latest information about our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and then offer a reflection on dealing with fear in hard times.
The most important development here at St. Francis by the Sea (and across the whole Diocese of Maine) is that
all public worship has been suspended
until further notice
That said, we are joining St. Brenden’s – Deer Isle and Trinity – Castine to
Sundays at 10 on the St. Francis Facebook page
. (There will also be a link to YouTube on our website so you can watch any time). The three of us (with a skeleton crew of Lectors and Acolytes from each church) will rotate preaching and celebrating at St. Francis. This expansion of our sense of community on the peninsula and island is welcome in this troubling time. This plan will also provide coverage for the three parishes if any of the clergy get sick.
Regarding the rest of our response, this is the latest on the three areas we are working on:
- Slowing the spread:
- In addition to worship being suspended, the building will be closed to outside groups with the exception of AA.
- All meetings will become virtual, starting with Vestry this afternoon
2. Serving Blue Hill
- Sue Grindle and the Outreach Committee are working hard to determine needs. We will be on a call with Healthy Peninsula Thursday to see if we can help them
- I am speaking with the pastor at First Congregational, the Rev. Deborah Jenks, and we are working on getting a faithful voice into the community, perhaps a column in the Weekly Packet or something on WERU. One idea is the local churches hold an ecumenical Easter service that is broadcast to the community. Stay tuned for details.
3.Serving each other
- Shopping Ministry is coming together! Milissa LaLonde, our intrepid Senior Warden will be the coordinator. If you need something essential from outside, groceries, prescriptions and the like, get in touch with her: home 469-2155, cell 385-5019(voice and text) or email email@example.com She will take your order and dispatch someone to the store. We will discuss how payment works tonight at vestry. Our first shopping is happening today. If you are interested in being a shopper, let Milissa know.
- Phone Tree is being developed. The purpose is to check in (are you ok, do you need anything), pass on any news, and just a time to chat. Expect a call. Soon.
- Our beloved administrator, Barbara Brady, will be working from home starting today. She will be checking voicemail regularly and will be on email.
- Pastoral care. I have been directed to suspend all unessential in-person meetings. If there is a pastoral emergency, such as a death, I will be there, that is my place as your priest, but other concerns will be dealt with over the phone or with FaceTime or Skype.
** A note to folks thinking of coming to Blue Hill early this year.
I totally understand it. I recently arrived here from an urban center and I am very glad to be here as opposed to there. However, there is talk at the hospital and among town officials about discouraging folks from returning right now. This is a real moral dilemma. In some ways, it is better here. It is not as crowded, the community is tight and caring, and there is plenty of open space to be in. What I am being told, though, is that in the long term it is no safer here when it comes to avoiding infection. It might take longer to get here, but it will get here. More importantly, and you probably know this better than a newcomer like me, the rural medical system here is unlikely to be able to handle the people here already let alone a return to summer population levels.
It might be better here than where you right now; but it is not going to stay that way for long. Please pray long and hard on it before you make a big decision. “...speak to your heart in silence upon your bed,” as the psalmist says (see my reflection below for more on that).
If you have already come back: God Bless you. If you are coming back: God Bless you. If you are staying put and hunkering down: again, God Bless you. And God Bless us, everyone.
If you need anything, I am always available. For voice and texts, I am at 207.412.8807, or for email:
. You are in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.
Reflection on Thursday of the 3
Week of Lent
I was saying Compline with my daughters last night, a Lenten practice we have, and a verse from Psalm 4 struck me in a way that it never has before:
“Many are saying, ‘Oh, that we might see better times!’ *
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.”
I am not sure what sort of times they were having when Psalm 4 was written, but we are in some uncertain times ourselves right now, more uncertain than in my lifetime. The writer lamented their situation, they were honest about how hard it was, how scared they were, and they didn’t languish there. The author knew where to turn: God.
The way of God is the way of faith. Having faith doesn’t mean that you believe that everything will be ok. For many it is not, will not be ok. The physical, mental, financial and social well-being of most of us are in question in ways most of us are very unaccustomed to right now.
“Tremble, then, and do not sin; *
speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.”
It is ok to be scared right now. I am certainly having my moments of fear for my children, my parents and in-laws, for you all, this congregation I am just getting to know and love. Be it for the world, for those you love, for you own well-being, even your life, fear is not an unfaithful response to scary things.
“Know that the Lord does wonders for the faithful; *
when I call upon the Lord He will hear me...
Offer the appointed sacrifices *
and put your trust in the Lord.”
As I said in my sermon on Sunday, faith in God in this moment doesn’t mean that it will be ok, not that “God is my hand sanitizer if I only believe enough.” Putting our trust in God is not expressing confidence or even expecting this cup to pass us by. Putting our trust in God in moments like this is accepting what is. It is doing everything we can, like using the hand sanitizer that God’s gift of memory, reason and skill gave us the power to create. It is maintaining social distance, staying at home, caring for yourself and the vulnerable around us, doing all of that and knowing that that is all we can do. Faith in God means approaching the inevitable without fearful loathing, without denial and panic, but with patience and courage, because if we have done what can be done, what else can we do? In Christian language, that is what we mean “God’s will be done.”
When we can do that, really accept what is happening, not rail against the inevitable, it will be like...
“You have put gladness in my heart, * more than when grain ad wine and oil increase.
I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; * for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
I do not know many of you yet, but there is a real sense of love and compassion and caring here, one that I haven’t seen so clearly in a church community before. That is a strength that will carry us all.