Friends,
 
In this rapidly changing world, we are adapting and holding - adapting to what is new, while holding on to what is true. Monday afternoon, President Trump and the CDC released further guidelines for "flattening the curve" by recommending we limit the size of gatherings to ten people or less. Governor Baker has eliminated dine-in options at restaurants and bars, discouraged playdates, and encouraged at least six feet of distance from others in public.
 
So what are the truths we need to hold onto? First, we are called to love our neighbors. This means we will take whatever steps we can to protect the vulnerable among us and prevent overburdening our healthcare system. Second, we want to be good citizens of the state and country we live in. We will respect our leaders and honor their recommendations wherever possible. Third, we recognize we were built for community as men and women created in the image of the triune God. T his last point means we need to get creative about our Community Groups!
 
For those groups larger than ten, or anyone uncomfortable meeting, we are encouraging groups to use an excellent video-conferencing system called Zoom. We tested out multiple systems including (in our preferred order) Zoom, Skype, Cisco Webex, House Party, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime. After weighing in several factors - like simplicity, user visibility during the call, and accessibility across operating systems - we think Zoom may be the best choice at this time. Zoom has graciously suspended the 40 minute call limit for their free version and each meeting can accommodate up to 100 participants.
 
We really like this system, because it is simple, intuitive, and works so well across iOS, Android, and desktop/laptop. Here is what you need to do:
  1. Optional: Create a Zoom Account. This step is not required. Zoom will request your work email address; just enter whichever email you prefer. Don't get nervous if there's a slight delay in receiving your confirmation email; Zoom is experiencing higher volume than normal. If 20 or 25 minutes pass, you might also want to check your spam folder.
  2. Download the Zoom app onto any devices you might like to use. The desktop, phone, and tablet experiences are all quite good.
  3. Look for an email from your CG Leader that includes a link to your meeting.
  4. Spend the first part of your first online group session experiencing this new medium for your meeting. Don't feel guilty about a shorter Bible study! Any new system takes time and you KNOW someone in your group will need help turning their camera on. :-)
 
A few things of note:
  • If you are having audio issues, you may want to plug in earbuds that have a built in microphone. It enhances audio quality on both ends of the call.
  • Technology always has a learning curve – be patient with yourself and with others as we adjust.
  • Background noise can be tuned out in person, but becomes a lot more distracting in a video conference. Find a quiet spot if possible.
  • You may find it best to spend more time with your mic on MUTE than with everyone's audio open at the same time. It's only a simple click when you'd like to chime in or offer a thought.
  • Technology isn’t perfect. Sometimes good things can be glitchy. There may be times it is frustrating. We pray towards the day we can gather in person, even as we give thanks for the tools available to us today.
 
Your Community Group leaders will be reaching out to you soon. Stay tuned and start getting ready for your first online group meetings!
 
In Christ,
Pastor Don
Assistant Pastor for Discipleship & Enfolding