Pastoral Letter on Suspending Services and Gatherings 3/15/20

Dear Church Family,

The United Church of Strafford will not be holding worship services in the church starting this Sunday, March 15th, until at least April 19th.  I feel deep sadness announcing this, but also deep respect and admiration for the wisdom, thoughtfulness and compassion of the Church Council.  It was a well-informed, carefully weighed decision, with strong feelings about what a church is called to be in a time of crisis.

We feel that one of the most important ways we can serve right now is by encouraging people to stay home as much as possible, because this is the only proven strategy to limit a pandemic’s reach.

We may not be gathering in person, but we will use both on line and old fashioned ways of reaching out.  We will let you know within a matter of hours how you can participate on line in worship, supportive community and meetings starting this Sunday and in the weeks ahead.

This is by no means an abdication of our calling to follow the Golden Rule, the love of our neighbor as our self and the Christ-like compassion that includes not only the most vulnerable but all people and all the earth.

We intend to rise as a congregation to the extreme challenge of this moment to help serve the town of Strafford and come through the crisis as a closer, more resilient beloved community.

This is a profoundly unsettling and upsetting time.  Grief, anxiety, depression, anger, compulsive thinking or news-following, loneliness, sickness—these are all things that the church exists to help us process in a way that transforms suffering into wisdom and that brings us gifts of comfort and light that we can use to help others who are struggling.

The church leadership has asked that I not meet face to face with people for pastoral care in order to prevent inadvertently spreading the virus, but I am available by email, phone, skype or other video conversation formats. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you would like to talk or if you would like some spiritual tools to help you through this time or if you simply would like some company for the journey.  It would break my heart to think that you were not getting the support from me that you need!

We may be suspending worship services, but now is a time for us to be of greater service to our neighbors and the world.

For instance, our Deacons are part of a movement in town to help shop or provide meals for people who are sick or housebound.  Mission Committee Chair, Danette Harris, is helping the Sharon Food Shelf deliver food to homes in Strafford so that people do not have to travel.  (You can reach Danette at danette.a.harris@gmail.com or 765-4312.)  Coburns Store continues to host the food shelf in Strafford.

This is also a time when we need to speak and act prophetically to defend the poor and marginalized who will suffer most, and to remedy economic inequity, racism, xenophobia and many other forms of prejudice that this crisis may worsen.

We also need to redouble our efforts to address the climate crisis and stop nuclear and fossil fuel pollution and all the strains human civilization puts on the environment.  As this zoonotic pandemic painfully demonstrates, human health depends on the health of other creatures, and the health of creatures depends on the health of the earth.  Pandemics will increase in frequency and severity until we heal what we have harmed and learn to live sustainably in harmony with nature.

In the meantime, we need to develop ways of being resilient and self-sufficient as generations of Straffordites were before us.

This pandemic and its social and economic upheaval are an unfolding, uncharted situation.  We are all figuring this out as we go along.  Please keep an eye on messages from the church as new developments evolve.

Thank you for all you are doing to take care of yourself and to support and care for those around you!

I will end with one of our regular benedictions:

Jesus said,  “You ought always to pray and not to faint.”  Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger women and men.  Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; but for powers equal to your tasks.  Then, the doing of your work will not be the miracle so much as you will be the miracle.  Every day you will wonder at the gifts and richness of life that have come to you by the grace of God.  Go—use your gifts to serve God and neighbor, and may God bless you and keep you, this day and forever more.  Amen.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Tom Kinder
802-765-2710
unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com

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