|Presbyterian Church USA
United Church of Christ
This photo of the Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Boston Public Garden seems perfect for May. They show our pandemic life with the masks and sign, in the midst of spring daffodils, and mother duck with ducklings to honor Mother's Day. - Photo by Lindsay Tigar.
Rev. Rob Mark, Pastor
Time has been a strange thing lately. A week seems a lifetime as we pray to get beyond this current pandemic, and remain locked down and kept away from loved ones, beloved activities, and breaking bread together. And still, a month flies by. April's showers bring us yet again to May's....flowers?
One month ago, we were still in Lent.
Two months ago, we were still gathering together physically each Sunday morning in worship.
Three months ago, our prayers related to the coronavirus were fixed on Wuhan.
Four months ago, the hopes of 2020 vision loomed.
So much has changed.
One day ago, Massachusetts saw the highest number of deaths related to COVID-19 yet jump to 252, bringing the total to 3562. Each of these beloved reflections of God, a profound loss and heartache. For each loss, we pray the Spirit's close hovering and comforting. While our governor has stated the curve has been flattened, and the faithful commitment to physical distancing has been working, we know more losses are before us here, and in the wider world.
But this past month has also seen incredible hope and beauty. Along with the flowering tulips and daffodils, we give incredible thanks to God for the incredible beauty of two new lives blessing our community: Hannah Ann Miller Waters born to Ellice Miller and Joe Waters on 4/23 - and Cora Everly Gnall on 4/19 - grandchild to Betsy and Tim Groves, daughter to their daughter Jeanie, and recently, COTC's former Childcare Provider Rebecca Ramer's birth of twins.
And finally, this past month, creative opportunities for us to be together have also been born: creative worship on Sunday mornings that allow us to worship God and connect with each other while staying safely physically distanced; weekly opportunities for our Children & Youth to also gather, learn together, and experience God's grace; Monday evening weekly prayer and fellowship calls for our 20s40s group; Wednesday weekly bible studies; Wednesday weekly Easter Evening prayers - to name a few.
Friends, the road to Emmaus story invites us to take a wider and deeper look around us to see all the grace and beauty the Spirit is inviting us into, even in times such as these. May we look and may we love.
I end with a prayer we've prayed at our Easter Evening prayers by Saint Catherine of Siena ("Doctor of the Church" 1347-1380):
Power of the eternal Now, help us.
Wisdom of the Christ-Child, enlighten the eye of our understanding.
Tender mercy of the Holy Spirit, unite our heart to you.
Eternal God, restore wellness to the sick, and life to the dead.
Give us a voice, your own voice, to cry to you for mercy for the world.
You, light, give us light.
You, wisdom, give us wisdom.
You, supreme strength, strengthen us. Amen.
GBIO Launches COVID-19 Campaign
by Anne Crane
Charlie Baker isn
't able to get out and mingle much these days. For that matter, none of us can do much mingling, but if you're the Governor of Massachusetts and you're making consequential decisions every day, you need to know how your decisions are affecting the people in your state.
This is the message that Governor Baker conveyed to a group of clergy people who met with him recently to discuss the need for mortgage/rent relief, more affordable/accessible health care and the need to release more people from our prisons and jails in this time of COVID-19. The Governor asked GBIO to help him and other state leaders get stories from people on the ground who are trying to cope with the restrictions and limitations that have been imposed on us all because of the virus and people whose health has been directly impacted.
This week 134 GBIO delegates, including the team from Covenant, met on Zoom to discuss a campaign to engage in 2000
"How are you?" conversations within our faith communities. We at COTC have already begun calling members of the church community to begin these discussions. If you haven't yet received a call, you can expect to hear from one of us soon, and we hope that you will share how COVID-19 is affecting you and your family and also any thoughts, ideas or resources you might have to help our political leaders as they move into an uncertain future.
On Thursday, April 30, a GBIO delegation also met with Attorney General Maura Healy, at her request, to discuss issues related to the coronavirus. It was a productive meeting, and she listened to the concerns expressed.
The Covenant GBIO delegates are Kathryn Berry, Holly Humphries, Tim Groves, Tom Reid, Faith Perry and Anne Crane.
Covenant & Earth Day Boston 2020 Report
By Evelyn Kimber for Climate Jubilee Team
After an artful re-direction of Earth Day Boston 2020 from an outdoor festival to a virtual event, the 50th Anniversary celebration of Earth Day was a success, with 4.2K views on Facebook!
Rev. Rob Mark and Church of the Covenant got special recognition and appreciation for support and participation from the event's main organizer at the conclusion of the three-hour live event. Covenant was a co-sponsor, and Rev. Rob gave a presentation at the opening of the event. Listen to Rob's talk (3 minutes) here.
Evelyn Kimber was on the Earth Day Boston organizing team, with affiliations to Covenant and the Boston Vegetarian Society, who had a speaker on Our Plate is Our Fate: How Our Food Choices Can Save the Planet. The national Earth Day Network put an emphasis on this issue with the theme Fight Climate Change with Diet Change, asserting "the power of plant-based foods - for people and the planet."
Along with Rev. Rob Mark, other headliners were Senator Ed Markey, Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell, and Rev. Mariama White-Hammond.
The event of speakers, musicians, a live tree planting, and a plant-based cooking demo are streaming online. Listen to it here. (Because of a glitch, the opening talks were lost to history; the video begins an hour into the event. Rev. Rob's opening talk is here.)
News from the Virtual Pews
Compiled by Linda Pursley
We bought a house!
Caitlin Vest and Austin Burns
Liz Vizza has joyous news that daughter Sophie has been offered a scientist position at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, where her husband is a scientist. Always such a tricky thing when both members of a couple are working to get an academic position. All are thrilled - including their dog, who loves to have them together in the same house! Liz wrote that after years in Minnesota and California, she is ecstatic indeed to have them in Massachusetts!
Kay Carleton writes, "I've finished a sweater for myself and am starting on a scarf for my daughter. (She picked the rather fancy pattern!) Also making masks for the staff here. Enjoying our garden when I'm allowed to go outside." (Columnist's Note: The Cambridge Homes where Kay lives schedules residents to use the garden in order to maintain social distancing.)
Tim and Betsy Groves write:
Cora Everly Gnall made her debut on April 19 at Brigham and Women's Hospital. The proud parents,
Jeanie and Pete are thrilled and the grandparents are walking on air! Cora is named for Betsy's mother. Not sure when we will get to see her, but for now, we are ecstatic to know that she is here. Pictured is Cora at six days old.
Joe Waters and
Ellice Miller welcomed
Hannah Ann Miller Waters on April 23. Ann is after Ellice's grandmother, who Ellice describes as "a stubborn, loud, funny, caring individual." She goes on to suggest that Hannah is already demonstrating the first two traits. She weighed in at 7 lbs. and 3 oz., at 18.5 inches. Joe suggests that she must be ready for travel and adventure since she arrived early and not on plan. They both look forward to introducing her to COTC, "with joy, grace, and gratitude for her healthy arrival!"
Linda and Nathan are also announcing an addition to the Pursley family. On Patriots Day they drove to an animal rescue in Maine to meet and adopt Hachi, a 7 year-old Cockapoo whose prior guardian had died. They are delighted to have "pet energy" in the house again after losing Spice, their beloved cat of 16 years, a couple of months ago.
share this update: We want to share our new address with our Covenant family. We are living at 116 Liberty St. New Bedford, MA 02740. We are about 1 mile from Caitlin's office and 1.5 miles from Austin's church. Caitlin started a new position as a clinical team lead at Child & Family Services (just a fancy word for more work) at the non-profit mental health agency where she has worked for three years. Austin is leading hymns via Zoom these days in his role as music minister at Pilgrim UCC. As you can see, everyone's favorite feature of our new home is the sun porch! We have a guest room so please don't hesitate to reach out for a place to stay if you are in the area! Below,
puts out the welcome mat.
Under the Mango Tree
By Mocky Day
Note: This column will be a monthly sharing of stories from our sister church community, Dulce Nombre de Jesus, in northwest Nicaragua.
While we are staying physically apart from each other here in Boston, we know that the conditions of living in Nicaragua today are much less disrupted by the Covid-19 virus. We stay in touch with those in the village and with Entre Culturas members Eduardo Valdez and Luis Agguire, who accompany both communities. We get regular updates from the village and from Eduardo through a WhatsApp communication group. And on many Sundays, our other beloved members of Entre Culturas, Memo Rodriguez and Amanda Jones Rodriguez, join us at Covenant for virtual worship. Several of our members of the Nicaragua Companions group had a wonderful Zoom visit with Memo and Amanda this week to see how they are doing at their current home in Damascus, Maryland, and to learn more about what updates they get from friends and family currently in Nicaragua.
We know that at this time our brothers and sisters in Dulce Nombre are practicing careful hygiene and other methods to keep themselves safe from any possible infection and that at this time there has been no sign of this virus in the village. They await the essential rains in May so that they may continue to plant the crops that feed them.
From Damascus, Maryland, here is a report on what we have learned from Memo and Amanda about Nicaragua.
This is the hottest time of year in Nicaragua, experiencing temperatures up to 113 degrees. This spell precedes the coming of the rains, which are expected to be plentiful come May.
Nicaragua has the most relaxed approach to the pandemic of any of the Central American countries; business as usual, public schools open (although parents and children are not penalized if the parents decide to keep their children home from school.) Most private schools, however, have opted for online learning from home. They all seem to be doing alright for now.
Nicaragua is self-sufficient with regard to food production, and the borders have been closed by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south, thus there is not much movement from outside the country. But many of the Nicaraguans who were working in Costa Rica are coming home to Nicaragua, because they are out of work. They are not coming through official border points where they would be checked for the virus, and this movement concerns Memo. There is low international travel generally. (Other epidemics such as Ebola, Zika, and SARS had very little effect in Nicaragua.)
Nicaragua reports a very low incidence of COVID-19, reporting 10 cases and 2 deaths since the first diagnosis on March 18. Memo's sense is that the healthcare system is working well there. Since the 80's there have been health promoters assigned to cover every region of the country. Currently, they are going house to house disseminating information on the virus and recommending precautions, making weekly rounds. People know their nurses and local clinics. Donations of testing equipment and medical supplies have come in from Taiwan and South Korea. Testing is free, and they have a universal healthcare system. There are health checks at the border crossings.
There is good access to radio, TV, and social media, so folks are aware of what is going on in the world and some are wearing masks and self isolating. There is also fear and distrust, especially since the political upheaval of 2018. Both pro-government and opposition media sources are giving very divergent predictions, from 'everything is under control' to dire predictions of tens of thousands dying.
At the same time, Memo says there is concern that government leadership and transparent communication are lacking, that there is under-reporting due to lack of testing or proper diagnosing, that the worst is yet to come.
Memo and Amanda, with daughters Sophia and Julia, are doing well in Maryland. Luis and Eduardo, the Managua-based members of Entre Culturas, are being very careful. They cancelled a Holy Week gathering between Dulce Nombre and sister community, Catorce, in Managua and decided not to travel to the communities in the campo for the time being.
So we wish everyone good health, and we will stay in close touch with our sisters and brothers via letters, phone, WhatsApp, and Zoom, and keep them close in our hearts.
By Anne Crane
The Covenant Council held our second monthly meeting by Zoom on April 14 and talked about how the current COVID-19 crisis is affecting how we work together and support each other as a community. Revs. Rob and Adam talked about the particular challenges of organizing virtual worship and communion services. It was agreed that the process has worked well on the whole, despite occasional technical glitches, and that our worship services have drawn participants from across the country and around the world.
The main items of business discussed related to how we work and worship together and take care of each other during this uncertain period. Council members approved three motions by email on April 4 and 8:
- To authorize celebrating communion on Easter, April 12, 2020, during our live-streaming "electronic worship service."
- To pay a weekly cantor $75 per service as/when needed for hymn singing for the duration of the time we continue to hold online electronic-based worship in lieu of our usual face-to-face gatherings in our sanctuary.
- To approve that the Church, through Treasurer Faith Perry, apply to the Small Business Administration for a government-backed Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) loan for approximately $42,000 through Eastern Bank to support staff salaries.
The Personnel and Worship and Music Committees submitted three additional motions that were passed during the April 14 meeting:
- To affirm our responsibility to continue paying all staff members their regular compensation during this period until the church's operations return to normal, regardless of whether they are called in to work, and not charge their leave quota. If any staff member needs to be quarantined or isolated subsequently, an automatic extension of sick leave will be granted.
- To approve not having worship services in the building until further notice, as guided by the Mayor's directive.
- To approve having on line communion service during the period that we cannot have worship services in the building.
In addition, Council gratefully voted to accept an anonymous, substantial designated gift to upgrade our ability to video and live-stream our ongoing worship services both during this pandemic (as determined by staff and Council is safe/ prudent), and beyond for the purposes of creative outreach into the future. Council will convene a small research team to investigate options for implementation.
Note: If your May birthday does not appear on this list, please notify Hillary in the church office so we can include you next year!
most up-to-date church calendar.
About This Issue
May 2020 Covenant News
Editor and Graphics: Evelyn Kimber
Template: Harry Forsdick
Deadline for the June 2020 Covenant News is Monday, May 25. Please email your submissions to Evelyn Kimber at