We lose an hour of sleep tonight, so don't forget to change your clocks and see you in church for worship at 10am! Though, I suppose I will still be delighted to see you at 11am too... just in time for coffee hour. And there will be plenty of food for lunch too, after our event today.
Nearly 40 of us gathered for our retreat today and it was a very creative and generative time - wondering about the future of First Church and the many things that churches today are doing to remain vital in their local contexts. A team of nine people volunteered to continue this work, and to lead us through it. More on this later.
Tomorrow, we continue our worship with and through the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. I invite you to reconnect with your experience Jesus Christ.
I invite everyone to take on the spiritual practice of attending church every Sunday this Lent, either at First Church or at another place of worship. Take this time for yourself and deepen your spiritual journey as we turn towards Easter and Resurrection Sunday.
We will continue developing our practices for safe and healthy church, and no touching during peace passing or at the very least with elbows and not handshaking or hugs.
See below some more information, including a list of things I read in an email from the senior minister of Old South Church, Rev. Dr. Nancy Taylor.
God help us all
I would like to ask you to think of our older members. Do you have their phone number? Can you check in with them from time to time? What are their concerns and fears as they watch the news? Can you make some cross-generational connections in the next weeks that can strengthen us now and support us later?
On Sunday we began our first Sunday of greeting and blessing each other with elbow bumps and bows - no hand shakes or hugs! We will be reviewing all our practices and will suggest further measures especially if there is cluster of infections in our area. Currently, there are none. We are in a region that is at low risk. Right now, these measures will help protect us against the flu and common cold.
Soon, we will also have access to Zoom video and phone conference call technology that will allow us to meet virtually. We can hold meetings together, even if some are travelling, or can't participate in person. We can also create a phone list for people who are less comfortable with technology.
From Old South Church members who are doctors:
* Risk of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) still remains low in Boston. Very few people have been diagnosed with the virus.
* Testing has increased in the Boston area for patients who have symptoms or exposure to persons with the illness or recent travel to affected areas
* Risk of Seasonal Influenza (Flu) remains high
* The most important ways to protect yourself are to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, and continue to avoid handshaking as we are doing at OSC. The CDC does not recommend masks for healthy people.
* Importantly, if you are sick, please do not attend service
* Consider how best to minimize your risk of becoming sick
* Older adults and those with underlying health conditions (including heart and lung disease, kidney disease, and compromised immune systems) are encouraged to avoid large gatherings to minimize their risk of becoming sick
If you are sick, please consider the following:
* Stay home; don't infect others; self-quarantine
* COVID-19 symptoms are similar to common cold virus and flu
* Unless you have traveled to affected areas or had close contact with someone infected, you are more likely to have the Flu or another cold virus, than Coronavirus (COVID-19)
* Most people around the world and in the US who have become infected, have mild symptoms\
* Seek medical attention if symptoms are severe, or if you have chronic medical problems
* Call your doctor first to get advice before you go to the clinic or ER. This helps prevent you passing on your illness to others
* Wear a mask if you have symptoms
* Separate from others if you have to go out, and while at home
* Cough into your arm, not your hands
* Wash your hands often
* Clean "high touch" surfaces and objects at least daily
Our denomination, The United Church of Christ, has just communicated some important information too, with a note entitled Church and the Coronavirus. There is a dedicated page on the Disaster Resources website, and a Pandemic Preparations Checklist for church preparation. We will take the time to review all this information and employ best practices in the weeks ahead.