We never imagined everything it would mean when we promptly declared, that Thursday afternoon after consulting with our Health Ministry team, that we would be doing church differently. We immediately closed down the building and opened up the video camera for worship and so much more…
I am in awe of the resilience, creativity, and commitment of this congregation. (In the upcoming Annual Report, you will be able to read a more thorough report of the life of this church, of the before and after, and the readiness for whatever is to come, of all of the many ministry teams.) The Holy Spirit is not daunted by a powerful and terrifying virus.
First and foremost, we have tried ardently to minister to all of our bewildered, anxious, grieving, persevering, hopeful souls in this crisis. How? By livestreaming worship from our sanctuary every Sunday morning, and a Taizé service from our chapel every Wednesday evening. Ironically, worship “attendance” has more than doubled. By our thick web of “care calls” – Mayflower Befrienders and members who are clergy, 36 of them, are calling 418 households every week, just to check in, stay connected, and ask for how they can hold you in prayer throughout the week. By Prayerways, done by our behind-the-scenes Mayflower monastics, overflowing with prayer requests. By eight new Befrienders, who are waiting to be trained and added to the squad. By caring members who are at the ready to help congregants who are food insecure due to job loss or anxiety around procuring food.
We continue to meet! Oh my, do we ever! Via Zoom, of course. Older children, from 6th grade through Youth Group, meet in a weekly Zoom meeting, sharing honestly, having lots of fun, and continuing to bond. The Centering Prayer group meets twice a week. The three Adult Faith Formation groups meet every Sunday. Attendance in some is at an all-time high. (All of these groups are ready to welcome newcomers! Just let me know you are interested and I’ll connect you.) A few Lenten small groups that managed to pivot to Zoom are continuing to meet, including the Young Adult group. Leadership Team meets daily, Worship Planning group meets weekly, Council is meeting bi-weekly, Nominating and Stewardship and Earthwise and MIT and most of the other justice and congregational care groups meet monthly, Building Our Dreams bi-monthly…. You get the idea. Very little has fallen off or slowed down.
And then there is this: much of our justice work, our organizing, has intensified and sped up. Never waste a crisis. We are inspired by the Social Gospel movement, and how out of the Great Depression came a tremendous strengthening of the social safety net, a leveling off of the extreme division of wealth, and a huge infrastructure project that put people back to work. Our Action Alert list is growing rapidly, currently at 224. A carefully crafted and strategic action alert is sent out almost weekly now from one of our Faith-Based partners. We assume a high response rate from this church. And other creative organizing strategies are inducing us to act.
Yes, we’re continuing to do the work of the Church, real work, vital work, sustainable work. It is our good fortune and great privilege to have this good work to do in these hard times.
But we’re also holding on to one another, through “air hugs,” and virtually…; holding on, reaching out, holding fast so no one falls away in despair…; holding on, opening our circle to new people…; holding on to our elders and those who are less tech-savvy…; holding on to one another through the inevitable stages of grief and boredom…; holding on to one another into this unknown future…; holding on as we dream of gradually opening our building in different ways, not too soon, but some day…; holding on as we gather with gloves and face masks, still keeping our distance…; holding on until that day when the choir can be what it is meant to be, a blend of voices singing one song…; holding on until our congregation is together again, with our faces, our voices, our bodies, our expressions, the way we move, our unique choreography, until we are together again as one body, one congregation, offering one another God’s peace, with a handshake or a hug, breathing as one.
We’re holding on to this hope…