TopCovenant News
Presbyterian Church  USA
United Church of Christ 
September 2020
In This Issue
Pastor Letter
Farewell Reception for Rev. Adam
New Churh Tour Video
Columbarium Update
Congo Mission Network
News from the Pews
Under the Mango Tree
Council Report
September Birthdays
September Calendar
About This Issue
Quick Links
Church of the Covenant
COTC Events

Covenant's Summer Garden in 2014
Pastor Letter  
By Rev. Rob Mark, Pastor
Dear Church,
May the peace of Christ be with you as we once again enter another September. We truly rely on that peace as we grapple with the headlines over just the last week in August:
  • Climate induced fires rage in California and one of the strongest hurricanes recorded (Laura) devastates the South
  • COVID cases surpass 25 million globally
  • Students and teachers everywhere confounded on whether to return in person or not to school
  • Unarmed Jacob Blake is shot seven times in the back by a white police officer in front of his children in Kenosha
  • A 17-year old, illegally armed white supremacist kills 2 protesters in Kenosha... more death in Portland
There is no question, 2020 has already been an intense year, and as we approach the uncertainties of this fall with a high stakes national election, pandemic, and the unresolved plague of police brutality and structural racism - not to mention the continued challenge of missing gathering together weekly in-person - the words "How Long O Lord?" begin to fall flat. But precisely at times like these, I invite us to open ourselves to additional headlines that rarely fill our newsfeeds:  
  • God keeps count of our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8)
  • Jesus invites us into solidarity and love with neighbor and enemy (Matthew 5:44)
  • The Spirit is present with us always, everywhere - as our guide, advocate, and protector (John 16)
  • Thousands continue to rally, protest, organize, march, advocate, pray and rise up in opposition to our country's original sin of structural racism and BIPOC displacement
  • Monarchs emerge from chrysalises changed, freshwater flows through our taps, trees selflessly give us oxygen
  • Church of the Covenant's food pantry continues to feed
  • Women's Lunch Place continues to provide dignity and hope
  • A gifted candidate will come before our congregation on Sunday Sept. 6 in hopes of becoming our next called Associate Pastor... (for more important info, click here.)
Friends, our invitation this September is to look deep. Look deep around us and within us for the hopes and truths emerging even in the face of uncertainty and trials. There is no place where God is not. And in God's presence, we are called forth. I doubt many of us have ever entered a fall quite like this - but I am so deeply thankful that we get to enter it in solidarity with each other. Together, we can spur each other on to continue to seek the Spirit. Together we can:
  • Gather for a few safe and socially distanced midweek evening prayers
  • Continue to check in on each other pastorally
  • Learn more about the biblical roots of Jubilee in a series Sept 13-27 as we continue to live into our Missional Plan
  • Join our weekly bible study or join an upcoming book study on racial justice
  • Envision a creative alterative to an in-person retreat
  • Celebrate recent creative and historic church services: 3 Churches, One Love , and Solidarity with Dulce Nombre de Jesus 
  • Give thanks to God for Rev. Adam's year-long ministry among us, and gives thanks and pray for the excitement of who comes next!
And this fall, this year, and always, may the shielding of Christ keep us: "Christ behind me, Christ beside me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ within me. Amen."  
In that shielding, and in God's love,
Rev. Adam's Farewell Reception:  
One Deacon's Perspective
By Anita Gram, Deacons Moderator 
How do you say good-bye during a pandemic to someone who helped guide us through it? Rev. Adam graciously extended his time as Interim Pastor at Covenant, but is now leaving to accept a new call. The usual reception hosted by Deacons in Bates Hall was out of the question; even his commissioning was to be done via Zoom on August 16.
Prior to Rev. Rob's time off, he had the idea of a surprise reception. But how to get everyone involved remotely--that was up to Deacons. We hatched a plan to get everyone in the congregation to contribute one word for a word cloud describing Rev. Adam and what we appreciated about him. For weeks I had the pleasure of opening my email and finding very brief emails with one or two words: Kind, Caring, Great Singing, Awesome Sermons, Loves our Children, Monday Prayer, Calm in the Midst of a Storm, and Zoom Whiz, just to mention a few. Eventually, they were all combined to make a word cloud in the shape of a bird using an online program at, shown below. 
Soon we had the other elements of a surprise reception. Our own rosi olmstead made a big collection of origami, which she and Marnie assembled into a colorful basket, finished with a rainbow-colored, heart-shaped helium balloon. Deacon Healan Gaston volunteered to get a surprise cake, make signs, and bring her children, Sam and Joseph, to the reception. Tom Reid and David McKinney represented the 20s-40s, made signs, and served as videographers. Holly Humphreys and I brought signs, a gift certificate from the Deacons to the Andover Book Shop, and the framed word cloud. We all gathered at a playground a few blocks from Rev. Adam's new church manse in time to watch the service and decorate our cars with streamers for the surprise reception.
When the time came, pre-arranged with Rev. Rob, we drove our cars, streamers blowing, to the parking lot between Rev. Adam's new church and the manse. Holly made a chalk sign on the asphalt as we gathered in a circle around the door, physically distanced and with masks on, of course. At the end of the Zoom service, Rev. Rob told him to look outside: Rev. Adam stepped out his front door and into a small but mighty COTC reception!
Everyone has their own highlights for a party. Seeing Rev. Adam in his comfy slippers was fun for Sam & Joseph. I personally will remember for a long time the pleasure of opening those emails every day with such positive words, leading up to the word cloud. As I said at the presentation, the words added up to a description of just the kind of pastor that everyone would like to have during a pandemic! Ballard Vale Community Church is fortunate to have Rev. Adam Isbitsky, just as we were blessed to have him ministering with Rev. Rob during these challenging times!
New Video Makes Our Simone Devito  
a Movie Star
By Lucy Williams for the Building Committee   
Funded by the Covenant Boston Preservation Project, we have just posted a virtual tour of the sanctuary starring Simone Devito, our Open Sanctuary Coordinator since 2014. View it here. It is also posted on the Covenant website home page, and on the "Visiting the Sanctuary" page.  
So while we are not able to have our sanctuary open on a regular basis to the public, people can get a 6 minute 44 second mini-tour online. They can also pre-arrange a tour through Bill Brown, Building Manager, maintaining proper safety and health precautions.
Columbariuim Update 
By Elizabeth Vizza    
In 2018 a survey was conducted to assess the congregation's opinions about development of a columbarium at Covenant. The survey received 29 responses, 19 of which were supportive of further investigation, 8 undecided, and 2 not supportive. In the interests of furthering the conversation, at this year's Annual Meeting the congregation was asked if the church should explore the feasibility and costs of columbarium development, and a majority of those present supported a study.
Design Study and Proposal
Thanks to funds from a parishioner through the Memorials Committee, the Building Committee engaged SSV Architects (Principal Lynn Spencer has been working with COTC since 2009 when she led the development of our Building Condition Assessment) to study options for columbarium space that could be architecturally integrated into the church. After initial assessment of space in the Josephine Black room and in the choir loft of the sanctuary, a scheme was developed that incorporates niche space into the north wall of the Berkeley Street narthex and accessed from the sanctuary. The design shows 84 niches inserted into the exit door space from the sanctuary into the narthex (this is the door that is opposite the stairs to Bates Hall), allowing the doors to be closed to conceal the niches when they are not being viewed by a loved one. Niche fronts are proposed to be slate, and details of the surround are designed to reflect the church's architecture. The rear of the columbarium in the narthex would be finished with bullnose rail and wood beadboard wainscot to match the existing walls in the space.
Costs and Funding
A rough cost estimate for the development is $38,000 which includes a contingency. Funds to pay for the columbarium would come from pre-sale of niches. Conversation with other churches who have active burial in their building or adjacent to it has helped clarify administrative, legal, and financial matters. If Covenant moves forward with this development, it is proposed that niches be sold for $2000 to church members, and $3000 to non-church members, which is at the low end of the market. Old North Church's columbarium design was the inspiration for the one proposed for Covenant, and you can read more about theirs and see images here . They have a simple Purchase and Sale Agreement that they execute when a niche is purchased.
Next Steps
We are going to have a congregational meeting after church on October 11 to discuss the proposal, hear questions and concerns, and decide on whether to proceed with this development.
Congo Mission Network to Host  
Virtual Conference Using Belhar Confessions 
By Anne Crane
Last October at the annual meeting of the PCUSA's Congo Mission Network, when I was asked to be a co-convener for this year's meeting, I agreed. Meyers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC had offered to host the meeting, and I knew that these folks had a strong team and would be a pleasure to work with. Had I known what 2020 would bring, I might have given this request a second thought! Early this year we began planning a conference that would last for the usual two and a half days and would focus on engaging more young people in the Congo and the U. S. But the rapid spread of the corona virus forced us to reimagine the whole event as a virtual gathering, like so many other groups. We soon realized that a virtual conference had the potential for engaging more participants than usual in the DRC and the US, and it would allow us to address different topics related to the work with our Presbyterian partners in the Congo in greater depth than we normally could.
As we began to move forward with a plan to focus on how COVID-19 was affecting partners in the DRC and the US, George Floyd's brutal murder on May 25 forced us to change course again. We agreed that we must address the long legacy of white supremacy and racism in our church if we want to maintain an authentic relationship with our Congolese partners. The Confession of Belhar will guide us in this endeavor.
This confession was adopted in 1986 by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa in response to apartheid, the brutal system of rule based on the false notion of white supremacy. In 2016 the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. adopted it as part of our Book of Confessions. A letter accompanying the proposal to adopt Belhar stated,  
"The Presbyterian Church (U. S. A.) is again facing a critical time in its history. We are rent apart by division and schism, we have yet to directly confront and confess the racism that has been a significant force in our own history, and we have shown a failure of resolve to make courageous stands for justice. We believe that the Confession of Belhar, a profound statement on unity, reconciliation, and justice in the church, comes to us as a word from God for this particular time and place for the PC(USA)."
The events of the past few months have made it clear that we as a church are facing a challenge that demands honest soul searching, confession and action to bring about real change. The theme of the Congo Mission Network's annual meeting this year is "Unity, Justice and Reconciliation in the U. S. and the Congo: Christian Faith in the Time of COVID-19." With this theme and the Belhar Confession as our guide, we will explore with our partners in the Congo how we can live out the demands of our faith as we continue to work together in the ministries we have always supported: health care, education, development and, of course, strengthening the church community.
The opening event, which will take place on September 16, will be a live streamed pre-taped worship service that will be posted at The Rev. Denise Anderson, Coordinator for Racial and Intercultural Justice of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016), will deliver the sermon. The Rev. Anderson has been hailed as a leader in keeping the issues of structural racism and white supremacy in front of the church. She is a longtime activist for racial and social justice through her sermons, her PCUSA roles, and her writing for such publications as Christian Century, Presbyterian Outlook, Huffington Post, and Presbyterian News Service, and her blog.
Following the opening, there will be five more sessions over the period of the next six months. Each session will involve presenters and participants from the Congo and the U. S., and each will include both pre-recorded presentations and a time for real time conversations via Zoom across nine time zones. The dates are as follows.
  1. September 16 - Opening Session and Worship
  2. October 3 and 10 - Health Care in the Time of COVID-19 (Pre-recorded presentations will be posted on the 3rd, and Zoom conversations will take place on the 10th.)
  3. November 6 and 13 - Theological Reflection on the Legacy of Racism and Ethnic Conflict
  4. January 9 and 16 - Primary and Secondary Education
  5. February 6 and 13 - Post Secondary Education
  6. March 6 and 13 - Community Development
Stay tuned for the specific times for each session. I'll keep you posted!
News from the Remote Pews
Compiled by Linda Pursley
Ed and Charlene James celebrated 55 years of marriage on August 21 at their little cottage by a stream in Wayne, Maine.   
Under the Mango Tree
By Karen Henry for Nica Companions

Note: This column will be a monthly sharing of stories from our sister church community, Dulce Nombre de Jesus, in northwest Nicaragua.
By the time we get to read this column in Covenant News, Covenant will have celebrated our Sunday, August 30 worship service including scriptural reflection from our sisters and brothers in Dulce Nombre. Covenant's Climate Jubilee Committee asked our Nica Companions group to request help from Dulce Nombre and from Entre Culturas, our accompanying group in Nicaragua as we deepen our church's priority on Climate Justice. We realize that we can learn much from Dulce Nombre's perspective and work together with them in these two regions to protect our Earth.
Dulce Nombre selected one of the passages we gave them for August 30 -- Leviticus 25:23-24. We hope many, many of us will share these reflections, either on our live Zoom Worship or recorded on our website.
Here are some photos from their church building with socially-distanced worship. Also included are a couple of photos of members who will be reflecting on this scripture on video.

 Mildren with daughter
In addition to sharing with us their perspectives on Climate Justice, our sisters and brothers have also shared the painful loss of Don Rafael Valdez, father of our beloved Eduardo Valdez, a leader in Entre Culturas.
Don Rafael's service (both photos
Don Rafael has for over 40 years been a pillar of his church community San Pablo Apóstol in the Catorce neighborhood of Managua. Our delegations have been welcomed warmly by this church community, a leader in the practice of Liberation Theology. This church is also an urban sister community for Dulce Nombre de Jesus. Amanda and Memo of Entre Culturas have shared with us photos of the Celebration Service of Don Rafael's life. Below is a photo from Covenant's 2017 delegation to visit San Pablo Apóstol.
              Mariana with youth
San Pablo welcomes Covenant in 2017

Council Report
By Sharon Wright
Council Meeting of August 18, 2020
Council received and reviewed the Independent Accountant's Review of the Financial Statements of Church of the Covenant as of December 31, 2018. A motion to accept the 2018 financial review by R.A. Hall & Company, LLC, along with conveying our gratitude to Faith Perry for seeing this through was passed.
Email votes taken by Council:
  • On June 7 Council approved the COTC Local Church Profile with a few edits. Motion passed.
  • On June 12 upon request by the M&A committee, Council authorized a special offering in which M&A sent out an appeal to the whole congregation mailing list, encouraging people to send checks to Covenant which will be passed along to "Violence in Boston" and "The Food Project."  Motion passed.
  • Pastor Rob reported that there has been a sustained high level of engaging worship this summer, as well as in weekly Bible Study and mid-week prayers.
  • The Climate Jubilee Team requested Council to authorize Covenant's joining the Congregation Climate Justice Voter Challenge, an initiative of the Environmental Ministries Team (EMT) of the UCC's Southern New England Conference. The point is to get congregations to commit to working on getting 75% of our folks to sign the Creation Care Voter Pledge (Old South has already joined the challenge...).  There is a time-sensitive nature to this since we want to encourage voting in the Primary on September 1. The motion passed.
  • Associate Pastoral Nominating Team requested the flexibility to change the current settled, ¾ time associate pastor position, and break it into two distinct positions: A half-time (20-22 hours/week) Associate Pastor for a designated term of 2 years, with a compensation of between $28,000-$30,000/year + benefits as specified by denominational policies; and a CYCE Coordinator (10 hours/week) to work exclusively with children, youth and families, with a salary compensation of $13-15,000/year + benefits as relevant according to Personnel policy. Motion passed to support the request that the proposal be brought to the congregation for a vote.
September Birthdays
2      Joseph Jewett
5      Dorothy Frank
13    Evelyn Loving Azuma
19     Diane Lauber-Dougherty, Joan Tighe
22     Rachel Kirby
23     Barbara Darling
25     Kenny Bitner
Note: If your September birthday does not appear on this list, please notify Hillary in the church office so we can include you next year!    
September 2020 Calendar

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About This Issue
September 2020 Covenant News

Editor and Graphics: Evelyn Kimber 
Template: Harry Forsdick
Deadline for the October 2020 Covenant News is Thursday, September 24. Please email your submissions to Evelyn Kimber at .