March 18, 2020
First things first: A few housekeeping notes. 

To begin, in an effort to continue doing our part to help “flatten the curve,” we have made the decision to  close the church office  and encourage staff to work primarily from home. This decision goes into effect today. Please note that the office will be open from 10A-2P every Monday with a few staff members present to receive anyone who needs to drop-off giving or handle other business. 

We have also canceled the  Day of Service  that was scheduled for Saturday, March 28. In the coming days we will make decisions regarding other church activities and Sunday worship, which are currently canceled through March 27. In addition to this weekly update email, make sure to also check your inbox and  sspres.org  every Sunday where we will post a  video   devotion and worship materials

Now to the important part. Many of you have been asking, “ How can I serve?”  On the one hand, that is a difficult question to answer. This moment feels very different than a hurricane or other disaster. We can’t see the threat, we don’t know when it will be over, and it’s hard to say with any certainty what is safe to do and what is not. There are no trees that have been felled or yards to cleanup or houses to muck out. 

On the other hand, as I pointed out in Sunday’s video devotional, there is a very real need for one-on-one connection in this time of dis-connection. As such, I want to give you five safe and practical ways we can all serve in these days:

  1. Call your neighbor. I got a text last night from the parents of Mary Ellis Shiver (six years old) in our congregation. She spent her Tuesday making signs – see above – to put up on neighbors’ doors offering to help with anything – anything (food, toys, furniture…). Toys and furniture may not be what we all need right now, but she certainly has the right spirit! Who are the people in your neighborhood to the left, right, front, and behind you? Have you left any notes on their doorsteps lately?
  2. Donate food. All of us are and will feel the effects of this pandemic. Some in our community – particularly hourly wage workers and lower income families – are going to feel the effect more quickly and acutely than others. This week, I have been in contact with Sabra Slade, director of Sparrow’s Nest, in Brunswick. They have already seen a serious uptick in demand and are soliciting donations of specific items to help keep their pantry stocked. The list is provided below. Consider adding one or two of these items to your cart each time you shop in the coming weeks. You can take donations directly to Sparrow’s Nest (2911 Altama Ave, Brunswick) or drop donations off in the community missions box on the veranda anytime and we will deliver in bulk.  
  3. Run errands. Not everyone feels safe to be out and about right now – especially those who are older or with pre-existing conditions. As such, we have setup what we are calling “Neighborhood Care Coordinators.” These church members will regularly check in on other members in the weeks to come. As needs arise, they will help lineup picking up groceries, medications, etc. If you would like to be added to the list of those willing to run errands, please send your name and info to Molly Macaulay (mmmpr@bellsouth.net).
  4. Send a note. Never underestimate the power of a handwritten note. Who are some people in your life and in our church that would appreciate being thought of? One person I can think of is, Barbara Cowden. We had to postpone her 100th birthday party, which was scheduled to happen at the church this Saturday. What would it look like for her to get 100 cards on her birthday instead? Are there others – friends or strangers – who might benefit from a kind word in their mailbox?
  5. Pray for one another. Last but certainly not least, let us not underestimate the power and importance of prayer. We are going to begin including a slightly more detailed list each week in the newsletter of those in and connected to our church who solicit the prayers of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s pray for one another as well as for those in our community and beyond who are working to bring about healing in this time of sickness. 

May God bless and keep each of you. "See” you Sunday. Pajamas are fine.

Peace,
Alan
Joys and Concerns
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Musical Notes

I think that if we knew what was around every corner, that our anxiety level would be too high for us to have any quality of life. I’m grateful for that built in protection in our creation that prevents us from seeing the future. Right now, it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen. There are so many factors in the equation that even educated guesses are elusive. What we do know is that preventive measures can help lessen the effects of anything happening, whether it be the virus or any other disease or illness. Do you have a plan to prepare ahead? Studying music trains you to prepare, look ahead, and create muscle memory. As musicians, we are used to this brain activity. As a piano and voice teacher, I know that preparing breath for the voice and fingering for the instrument is crucial for success through the phrase and following phrases. Practice preparing breath or hand position creates muscle memory that allows a musician to sing or play accurately. This requires hours, days, and weeks of work if not more. As a listener, you don’t notice all of this prep until a glaring mistake is made, just like it will seem like nothing is going on when the pandemic doesn’t spread as far and wide. I’ve been paying more attention to how many times I touch my face – it’s really difficult to be that self-aware when you haven’t been paying attention to that. A habit takes about six weeks to learn or to break according to scientists.  

For this Sunday, I had chosen hymns 451 Open My Eyes, That I May See and 450 Be Thou My Vision. You can go to http://www.hymnary.org create a log in and have access to all kinds of hymnals and hymns. You’ll be asked to select which hymnal you would like to add to your collection – select Glory to God – Presbyterian Hymnal You can look at them on your computer and click on the little speaker and hear them played. You can even sing along! For those of you that used to be Baptist, you can add Baptist Hymnal 2008 or BH2008 to get to songs like “Victory in Jesus” etc. If hymnary doesn’t work for you, then perhaps just googling the hymn would work. I found a great YouTube of that song with a group singing. I think it was the Gaither Family – those are great. Time to get technically aware – there’s a lot of resources on the web that will help us all stay connected. Each week, I will recommend hymns to go with the devotionals presented – just keep up to date with your newsletter and the website.  

While working from home, I plan to be in touch by email and phone with choir members, do some future planning (we have a new sanctuary taking shape – a celebration will be in order when we return to church and when we get into our newly renovated sanctuary), talk with people interested in the history of the church to gather information for our 75 th anniversary, do some organizing of the choir room and my office while I can, meet “virtually” with other staff members, and provide music for the online services.  

Meanwhile, keep the faith and the people in your prayers. Remember, Those Who Sing, Pray Twice!  

Love & Gratitude, 
Rhonda
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