There are times when what is true and good is clear to see, and the Service of Installation on Sunday the 19th was such a time for us.
Three challenging years after we began our journey together, filled with disruptions too many to count and with strains too general to measure, we at last made an official start as pastor and congregation.
None of us would have chosen to start this way, and yet here we are, called to walk together, making promises for what we cannot see in advance–this is the heart of the installation liturgy:
Pr. Craig: I am willing, and I promise to serve this church faithfully, preaching and teaching the word of God, administering the sacraments, and fulfilling the pastoral office, according to the faith and order of the United Church of Christ.
Windsor UCC Members: We, the members of Windsor United Church of Christ, receive Craig as our pastor and teacher, promising to labor with him in the ministry of the gospel and give him due honor and support. >>>Rev. Wayne Shannon, Service of Installation<<<
I believe we have been called together for a purpose, convinced that the hardships we faced inside and outside the church prepare us for the road ahead.
With the Holy Spirit to guide us, gathered as a church in Christ’s name, we will walk this road together.
In the past month, I have given my full attention to meeting the target Council set for reopening our sanctuary for in-person worship: April 18th. Thanks to the help of many, I gladly report that we will meet this target, though not as we had expected or planned.
This article summarizes plans and decisions for reopening. This summary served as an outline for my Zoom presentation on Sunday, March 28th. Further details will come as we progress toward reopening and then adjust as we go.
We all know the approach we are taking won’t please everyone in our congregation, but I believe that working together to create a safe worship environment is how we as people of faith serve God in these challenging times.
With God’s help, your cooperation, and mutual sacrifices, our congregation will emerge from this pandemic stronger and more united.
NOTES ON REOPENING
Number of Worshippers: As more of our members are vaccinated, the number of members ready to join us for in-person worship has grown. Thirty-five (pink) of the 84 members who planned to return to in-person worship after they had been vaccinated have been vaccinated, bringing the total number of members ready to attend in-person worship to 135.
Given our current capacity limit, two worship services are needed.
Capacity Limits: We are unsure how many worshippers can be seated in sanctuary with social distancing. One hundred chairs are set up. The total number of worshippers in the sanctuary will depend on the size of family units, as three chairs between each family unit is required. Capacity also depends on ushers maximizing seating.
Additional seating in the Narthex may be needed as capacity limits increase, as determined by our Medical Advisory Team.
Ten percent of capacity will be reserved for our guests.
Worship Service Times: Worship service times will be 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Questions about these times tend to rise from expectations that by default we would worship at the pre-pandemic times of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. There are several reasons for these worship times:
Ushers and greeters will need extra time to prepare for worshippers to enter and be seated.
Extra time is needed between services for ushers and greeters to sanitize frequent-touch, hard-surface areas.
Extra time is needed for 9:00 a.m. worshippers to visit outside of the building and depart from the parking lot to open spaces for 11:00 a.m. worshippers.
Intermediate Technology and What to Expect: The new sound and video system has been ordered. The expected installation date is the week of April 18th. We will devote our resources to setting up the new system rather than also setting up an intermediate system. As a result, as we begin in-person worship, we will continue to livestream worship using an iPad. This decision will affect the way we conduct worship in ways we will discover as we go.
Also, as we launch our new system, there are sure to be glitches and problems to solve we cannot see in advance.
Online Registration for In-person Worship: Worshippers will sign up for weekly in-person worship using an online system.
Phone and email support will be provided for those for whom technology is a barrier to participation.
The registration system will be open to the congregation for a trial run after Easter.
Online registration is required to attend in-person worship.
A process is in place in case of cancellation.
A process is in place in case capacity limits are reached, enabling those who are unable to attend because of limits to be first in line to attend in-person worship the next week.
Help and explanation documents will be available before registration begins.
There are sure to be adjustments needed as we go.
Serving in Worship: In-person worship depends upon support of safe worship through active participation of our members. The following roles for serving in worship are needed, totaling 17-20 per service, 25-27 per week:
Online Registration Support: 3 per week. (may not attend)
In our annual meeting, I updated the congregation on progress toward installing a sound and video system. There has been a lot of interest in these systems, including offers of contributions to “get the ball rolling.” After worship on March 7th, we will hold a zoom meeting to offer details and to answer questions. This report offers basic information to help with our discussions, and offers a proposal for congregational support.
Worship Through Christmas, our online worship services included images, prayers, scriptures, and muli-media. When we return to in person worship in our sanctuary, I intend to use our screens in our building the way we used our screens during the pandemic, projecting all parts of the service so we can pray and read and sing together. I would like to supplement children’s time and the sermon with mutli-media.
We have selected a company that can install an audio-video system so what we project on our screens in worship will simultaneously be streamed online for those who cannot be physically present with us in our building.
Member Care As we have learned through the pandemic, our shut-ins have enjoyed the advent of online worship. I have received many grateful messages from elder members such as Dorothy Dahl, 92, grateful for the connection online worship offers them. Some of our members recovering from surgical procedures have found online worship a welcome source of peace and hope during their convalescence. Members traveling or away on vacation have been glad to join us online from their remote locations.
Our reopening survey helps us to see many of our cherished members who have special health concerns will not return to in person worship until safety protocols are no longer advisable, and will rely on our online services until it is safe for them to return.
Outreach From August to December, we added one new member through our online worship, and three guests have been regularly attending, actively participating, and contributing financially.Online worship is the digital front door of the church; guests will visit our webpage, sample our services online, skim a written sermon, before they decide to visit us in person.
Cost In August, our Finance and Stewardship Ministry recommended that Council designate the $10,000 gift Betty Gene Diener bequeathed to the congregation as a fitting way to honor her generous commitment to the life of our congregation. Council approved this recommendation. Proposals to install a system were solicited from four audio-video companies, and one was selected: WI Audio Video.
Video System: We have been live streaming services to Facebook using an iPad without words or images. Installing a video system would allow us to livestream words and images and also to make our services available on multiple platforms, not only on Facebook. We cannot continue to use our current method of livestreaming when we return to in person worship without choosing to focus on members who worship with us on-line at the expense of those who worship in person, or focusing on those in person at the expense of those who worship online.
Sound System: As we have recently experienced, our analogue sound system does not allow the kinds of controls needed to share audio from our sanctuary with our congregation and guests online. A digital sound board and new microphones would allow us to share the sound of our musicians and vocals online.
Contingency: It is wise to plan for contingency costs for complex projects such as this. For example, a digital sound system can be controlled through a tablet such as an iPad. We may find that to add systems will require that we physically alter our current sound booth. We may need to increase the speed of our internet service. Should this project go forward, an amount to meet contingency costs should be included, with a plan for how unspent funds would be allocated.
Diener Memorial Fund
Conclusion Installing an audio video system is an act of compassionate care for our shut-ins and members with health concerns who will be the last to rejoin us for in person worship and is necessary for growth in the future. I encourage Council and the congregation to initiate a fundraising campaign to install an audio video system giving our members an opportunity to care for the least among us and invest in our future together.
Last Sunday, January 24th, we hosted a zoom meeting to talk about our Annual Meeting this Sunday, January 31st. The two items on the agenda for our Annual Meeting–Committee nominations and our 2021 Budget–were of less interest than questions about when and how we will return to worship
The question of “when” will be answered by the congregation’s response to the survey we recently sent you (if you did not receive a survey, please contact the office: firstname.lastname@example.org; 608-846-5731). This survey helps us answer two important questions. First, under what conditions will our members return to worship; second, who is willing to help us reopen our building for worship. Once we have answers to these questions, then our work really begins.
We will need to create a sustainable system to train and schedule our members to serve God by opening our building for worship. We will also need to create a system for people to sign up to join us in worship in safe numbers, making sure that everyone has a chance to attend once before anyone attends twice, and also reserving spaces for guests to join us. This process will also serve as contact tracing.
In addition, we will need to plan for how we will continue to reach members and friends online who will return on a longer timeline, and also continue to reach our shut-ins who have enjoyed the advent of online worship. I am committed to these members and to reaching out to others online. I hope the congregation will resolve to ensure that our return to in person will not come at the expense of those who are unable, for whatever reason, to join us for worship in our building.
One of the most often asked questions is why we are not yet open while other churches are already open. One answer is that we respect science and follow the advice of experts who have warned against gathering and say that singing is dangerous.
Another answer to the question is that we currently lack capacity and organization to open our building. It is hard to see from the perspective of this pandemic, but the congregation went through a significant transition in the process of calling me to serve as Pastor. We are getting our start in a hard time, and we do not yet have processes in place to make decisions, enlist help, and get moving. In truth, the informal and personal nature of the congregation, one of its greatest strengths and assets, leaves the congregation ill-prepared for the time we are living through. We now need to build a sustainable structure for today and tomorrow.
I hope we will all put our energy and passion into creating formal structures and organizations that will sustain us as we move forward together. When we open our doors, we will all be glad to be back in our church home, and I pray we will be ready to welcome the new people who will join us after this hard time.
God has given us so much, and we are coming through this pandemic with few losses compared to other congregations. I hope you will join me in asking how God is calling us to serve through the ministry of our congregation. Peace, Pr. Craig
Pastor’s Annual Report to the Congregation Windsor United Church of Christ, 2020
When I first saw this lovely building and talked with the Search Committee about what God might have in store for us, I was convinced that 2020 was going to be a very good year indeed.
We made plans for the weekend of March 22nd–time for our families to meet, time to sit together and to share a meal, time for questions and answers, time to get to know one another–but then the pandemic disrupted our plans and not for the last time.
We rescheduled for the weekend after Easter, April 19th, planning to meet outdoors so at least we could be together in the same place at the same time. Alas, COVID-19 disrupted these plans as well. Undeterred, the Search Committee arranged for us to meet online and the congregation worked together to conduct a vote on-line.
It’s startling how faith works, isn’t it? How God’s timing defies our plans and how the Holy Spirit calls us into unexpected and uncharted territory. It was an amazing thing for God to call us together in 2020. We are all wondering what God has in store for us in 2021.
We hope and pray the vaccine will reach us so we can safely congregate again (and for the first time :-). When this time finally comes, it will be time to celebrate. There will be babies to baptize, loved ones to mourn, a Sunday School to reopen, new people to welcome, and new opportunities to serve God by taking care of our neighbors.
I continue to be amazed by the strength and resilience of the congregation. These hard times have not shaken our belief that our congregation is a light in dark times, nor diminished our commitment to minister in Christ’s name.
I would like to especially thank Roger Stoltenberg, Chair of the Search Committee, and Terry Anderson, our Moderator, for their tireless and faithful work; Aaron Lissowe for his technological skills and generous support of the worship life of the congregation; and our staff, Barb Varner for her brightness and know-how, and David Schipper for his nurture of the music ministries of the congregation. Thank you also to the members of the Search Committee and their families for the extraordinary effort that went into bringing us together during these unprecedented times: KJ Busse, Denny Dobson, McKenna Kelsey, Karen Meylor-Miller, Jon Rouse, Matt Sutherland, and Kit Thomsen.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil –Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
This week I learned from Facebook that two of our members have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. As health care workers both are in the 1a category, first in line to be vaccinated.
This is glad news. We are all grateful for our healthcare workers, and we understand that we wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash hands not only to keep ourselves, families, and friends safe, but to protect healthcare workers and the capacity of our hospitals.
This glad news also suggests that this time of isolation will end in 2021. Most people I talk with hope the vaccine will reach us by middle to late spring, in time for children to return to school in fall.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, says Ecclesiastes. We are learning through this season of pandemic how very hard it is to trust ourselves to God’s time–we desperately want to this season to end, our desperation making us vulnerable to the illusion that we are in control of time, or that we need not live in time with others, or share with them our mutual, human vulnerability to time.
And yet we are also likely to miss the resolution of the problem of time; God wants us to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we live and take pleasure in food and wine and companionship, for our lives are not merely about toil and sacrifice and waiting for a better time.
Surely, 2021 will be a better year; we all pray that it will be. But no matter how time is shaped by vaccine distribution, one thing I know for sure: when this time comes at last, we will experience what God intends for us; it will be time to celebrate, and we will experience pleasure unlike any other time in our lives.
God bless you in 2021 and keep you safe until we can at last be together again for the first time :-). Peace, Pr. Craig
You called and we talked soon after I came to the church in July.
You are a retired teacher, a lover of books and words. We talked about teaching and writing and you said you were keeping safe during this pandemic. We wondered when we would have the chance to meet, and agreed we just didn’t know. Meantime, you said that if there was anything you could do, any help I needed, to just let you know.
I promised I would get back in touch with you because I would surely need your help, once I got settled into a routine and got organized a bit. I explained that I write a lot, often on short deadlines, and their are tines eye kneed riding help because I tend not to have time to edit out embarrassing mistakes :-).
You said you would be glad to help. When our conversation ended I was relieved to have found a person I could call on at the last minute to help with this work.
But then forgot your name.
I know; I know: I should have written it down! Maybe I did write it down?
Anyway, I am sorry to confess that though I remember you, I can’t recall your name.
If you would kindly call again, or send me an email, I promise I will remember your name this time, because I am ready for some riding help.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. –John 14:2
I don’t know if you have noticed, but there seem to be a lot Nancys in our church.
There are in fact 19 Nancys in the church. Supposing the church to be a house of God, we might update John 14:2, “In our Father’s house, there are many Nancys,” each one individually is dwelling place for God, each and all together make the church a place of healing and hope for others.
How many Nancys can you name? And what is it about women named Nancy, anyway? Why do we have such a cluster of Nancys in our church?
Nancy was a name given by a generation in a hopeful time, a statement of belief in positivism, hard work, and honesty.
Spiritual Engagement Ministry Board: Nancys Lackey and Keller, Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively. Building and Finance: Nancy Ulrich.
Currently, Outreach and Mission Ministry Board is Nancy-less, but this is sure to change. Neither are there Nancys currently serving on our Christian Education Ministry Board, but this board has a rich tradition of Christines (Chris, Kristi), a name which may be the next generation’s answer to Nancy.
I can tell you from experience, it is good to have a Nancy or two on your side: ditto Christine. To get things done requires a commitment to detail and follow through. Without a good attitude and faith in hard work nothing worthy gets done. These good souls are not only people in whom God dwells, but who help to make us better dwelling place for others.
What do you think is the most common name in the church for men?
I don’t know for sure, but can you think of two Nancys married to Bills? How many Williams do we have?
There are 24 Williams. There are 43 Johns. I could count the number of Barbaras, Jims, Mikes, and Deannas–do you get this beautiful picture?
We don’t think of these individuals as a group; we think of them as individual people, for it is with these people as individuals that we experience the indwelling of God.
Yet if we imagine together as one all the individual Nancys and Chistines, Williams, and Johns, and Jims, and Mikes, and Deannas–then we may see how they collectively become God’s dwelling place, the home Jesus promises.
“In my Father’s House there are many dwelling places.” Indeed.
Here are the first 3 paragraphs of my sermon last Sunday. I wrote this for you to share with your friends who are hearing a lot of nonsense about the church and religion and Christians, and they are again hearing preachers quoting the bible to hurt others. You know better, but a lot of your friends don’t:
David, not yet a king, mourns the death of King Saul and his son, David’s beloved friend, Jonathan, of whom he says: …”Greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Sam. 1:26b), not a text quoted by those claiming their religion and their gospel is under attack because the Supreme Court at last made Marriage Equality the law of the land, but then cowardly and unfaithful people have long resorted to religion to justify bigotry.
If I am offending anyone, I do not apologize, for I believe that in time, when you have a child or grandchild, a niece or nephew, a dear friend or loved one who is born to love differently than you love, then your love will move you to advocate on their behalf, and though it may take you awhile, you will remember and appreciate this day, this Sunday, when many join with me in saying “Praise God for this victory on behalf of all God’s children,” and you will join me in praying that Christians like us would raise up our voices to show the world that those who take to the airways to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit do not represent the God of love we serve.
Love is love. God is love. Jesus Christ revealed God’s love, and religious people of his day killed him for it. I stand in, with, and through Christ, and I say, “Praise God for that the United States of America has dignified all love as equal.”