Important message from Pastor Rae
Hello Hedding Family,
We are living in unprecedented times, it seems. Our nation is going into a state of emergency today. Our state is working hard to provide guidance to all of our organizations in terms of groups of people gathering. Our local governments are working with health and community organizations to decide on best practices. I have been on the phone and in virtual meetings all morning and plans are being put into place for our ministries. I wish I could talk to each one of you about this in person, but that is not possible – nor would it be a good idea.
As you have all probably heard, we should all be washing our hands a lot and distancing ourselves from one another as much as possible. COVID-19 (which I’m sure we are all sick of hearing about already, but at least we’re not sick with it) is a dangerous threat in our world right now. I do not want to overreact nor underreact to this pandemic. I pray that we will all prayerfully navigate this worldwide phenomenon with both wisdom and faith. Wisdom to protect ourselves and others from contracting and spreading this virus, and faith that in life and in death, we belong to God and God is with us through everything. When anxiety begins to creep into your heart, as it does for all of us from time to time, remember that Jesus calmed even the wind and the waves. Peace. Be still. Take a breath and know that you are a beloved child of God.
Here is how our church community is going to respond to the current crisis:
- We are going to strongly encourage social distancing. Please stay at home as much as possible.
- We are canceling live worship gatherings until the end of March. This means Sunday morning worship. I know that this is hard and sad and maybe even feel extreme, but I don’t even want to think about risking any of your beautiful lives by encouraging you to gather together in large groups during this time. I will be working with church leaders to find ways to bring you worship virtually (facebook live, youtube, emailed devotionals, etc.) let’s get creative and see what the Holy Spirit can do even when we can’t gather together in person! It is possible that we will have to extend the timeframe for this plan.
- We are not going to have in person meetings. Church leadership will talk about our planned meetings and get the word out about postponing or meeting virtually during this time.
- Staff will work from home as much as possible. Renny is in a high risk category as are Kelly’s daughters. Much of what they do can be done from home, although it will certainly keep us from being as hospitable as we would like to be. I will come to Barre as needed and I don’t quite know what that will look like yet. Remember that this is a short-term emergency situation.
- We want to keep vital ministries going. People rely on us for food. Therefore:
- Our Food Shelf will function differently for the next 10-12 weeks (or until health officials tell us otherwise). Instead of people coming into the church, folks will come to the front door and check in. They will receive a prefilled box of food depending upon family size.
- Our Financial Assistance Program will be phone and email based. We don’t want Renny, as stated above, in contact with so many people so he will be working as much as possible from home, only coming in from time to time to check phone messages and file paperwork. Checks can be sent via mail, information can be sent by text, etc.
- The Overflow Shelter will continue as usual and as per the policy of the Good Samaritan Haven. They have just updated their infectious disease policy and I invite you to read more about it in today’s Times Argus.
- The Friday Night Community Dinner is going to undergo the biggest changes. Tonight we are going to encourage people to come in to get food, eat, and depart as rapidly as possible. Beginning next week, area churches are combining efforts to open a community feeding center at the former Enough Ministries location on Summer Street. Breakfast, lunch, and dinners, as they are usually provided by our individual churches, will be served at that location. We are trying to gather resources to make it possible to have volunteers cook and prepare food inside the building while guests stay outside the building. There is a food service window on the outside of the building and we are hoping to find a large mess-hall type tent to have guests eat under. Volunteers will be needed to help put this space into action as soon as possible over the next several days as well as to help prepare and serve the food. We are hoping that this will allow these vital meals to continue without interruption for some of our most vulnerable citizens.
- We are going to put our faith in God and trust in God’s goodness and resources.
- Please stay in touch with one another as Beloved Community. A phone call, an email, facebook, and text messages can help all of us from feeling too isolated. Please especially remember to reach out to community members who live alone. Pray together over the phone, share news, laugh and tell stories. Keep church leaders updated if anyone is ill or needs extra prayer.
- Please pray daily for our leaders – national, state, and local – that they would have wisdom, integrity, and strength for the challenges yet to come.
- Please pray for the most vulnerable – the elderly, the infirm, those with compromised immune system, the homeless, the poor, those who can’t afford to stay home from work even when they are sick – that God and God’s community would provide sustenance, health, and comfort during this time.
- Please pray for the sick – those who already have this disease or other diseases – that they would be made well.
- Please pray for the healthy – that they would have the wisdom to stay home and help keep others safe, that during this time all would find opportunities to reconnect with their loved ones who they are quarantined with or via telephone or internet.
- Consider using this prayer which has gone viral:
- Prayer for a Pandemic
- May we who are merely inconvenienced
- Remember those whose lives are at stake.
- May we who have no risk factors
- Remember those most vulnerable.
- May we who have the luxury of working from home
- Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
- May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
- Remember those who have no options
- May we who have to cancel our trips
- Remember those that have no safe place to go.
- May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
- Remember those who have no margin at all.
- May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
- Remember those who have no home.
- As fear grips our country
- Let us choose love.
- During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
- Let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.
Blessings on you all. Know that you are all in my prayers. We will weather this storm with wisdom and faith.
Peace. Be still. Stay home. Wash your hands.