Precautions we are taking at Epworth related to Coronavirus
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!...I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. Psalm 130:1-2, 5
Beloved Epworth Community, This strange and challenging time continues. The lack of a consistent schedule disorients us and the lack of a coherent understanding of what is happening disturbs us. We cry for God, we listen for God, wait for God, and we hope in God. And in the chaos and cacophony swirling around us, God keeps showing up bringing help, peace and solace. God is showing up in the miracle that we were actually able to pull off a fully online worship service on Sunday! I loved seeing you check in, hearing your prayer requests, laughing at your jokes and doing that weekly thing we do together—remembering who and whose we are. We are God’s beloveds. We belong to God and to each other. And we have big love to share with the world. Huge thank yous to Kiana Jardin who stepped up as video editor, and Merrie Bunt who handled all aspects of getting the finished offering to you. We’ve heard your feedback and are working on incorporating hymns. There are technical and copyright challenges, but we believe we’ve got that worked out for this week. We’ll also be hearing from our choir via the amazing cd they released to honor Music Minister Jerry Asheim. Tune in again this Sunday via our Facebook page at Epworth UMC - Berkeley or through our website, epworthberkeley.org. God is showing up through the work of our response teams. Laura Jokela of the “Do Good” team writes: “We have an email account set up to communicate with each other about our needs in this challenging time: firstname.lastname@example.org Please write us a note to let us know if you:
Can run quick errands, do full shopping trips, have spare technology, or have technology knowledge that you could share by phone.
Are looking to volunteer, or looking for a volunteer.
Are looking for work, or looking for someone to work.
Have ideas of how we can support the greater community, especially those in greatest need and those working to help them.
Any combination of the above!
We will keep track of what you offer and contact you when there are matches. I know very well how hard it can be to ask for help, but also how amazing it is for relationships. When I finally reached out for help during my brain recovery, I found an overwhelming sense of peace as the community surrounded me with love and support. Please email if there is anything that could make this time more pleasant for you, if there is any way we can ease the burdens you face at this time.” Laura and the other members of the team are waiting to hear from you! On Thursday in This Week at Epworth, I’ll share more about what the "Stay in Love with God" Team is working on, but for now, know that you can email email@example.com for prayer and other spiritual needs and one of our pastors or a member of the team will be in touch as soon as possible.
Finally, we know that this crisis is creating new needs for direct financial support that will only increase. On Sunday, our church council designated our special Easter Offering as a fund to respond directly to these needs. Thank you for being there for each other and for our community. Thank you for your ongoing prayers for all those in needs, suffering and those responding directly to this crisis. Thank you for your consciousness that this crisis hits those without safety nets in deeper ways than those who have sufficient material resources. Thank you for being a visible manifestation of how God keeps showing up. Grace and peace, Pastor Kristin
3/17 -Update for Extraordinary Times
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
For God will hide me in God’s shelter
in the day of trouble;
God will conceal me under the cover of God’s tent;
God will set me high on a rock.
Beloved Epworth Community,
Grace and peace to each of you. Just when we were moving forward into the new reality of online worship, working from home, and social distancing, things have changed again. We now are living with a “shelter in place” order until at least April 7. For those of us who are very extroverted, for those of us who already live alone, for all of us used to going out when we want to get what we need, this directive challenges ways we have live and keep ourselves healthy and connected.
But, the verses from Psalm 27 above remind us that God is our shelter. I was talking to an Epworth member this morning who shared with me that her way through the beginning of this challenging time was to meditate on what those words, “shelter in place” really mean. Where do we find shelter? What is our place? How are these things related? As we slow down from the busy pace of life, I hope you are finding new insights into your place and the grace that surrounds you as shelter.
Thanks to those who tuned into our Facebook live broadcast on Sunday. We hoped to fine tune that medium as we moved forward, but this week we will need to make another adjustment. Please look for subsequent communication later this week on worship for this week. It will still be online in some form with Pastor Brian bring the message, but may be through our own epworthberkeley.org webpage. We expect each Sunday will be followed by an email on Monday with a video link, podcast link and sermon script in case you miss the Sunday morning broadcast.
If you haven’t connected with either the “Do Good” or “Stay in Love with God” response team, you may sign up here to do so. Already our “Do Good” team got the word out last night that the Alameda County Food Bank and Berkeley Food Network needed urgent volunteers before the shelter in place order descended. Thanks to all who helped with that effort! Both teams will meet later this week by video and audio conference call.
Youth, please stay tuned for an email from Orion Lacey about a Google classroom and other online activities. Similarly, Susan Jardin is sharing resources with parents and children. If you are in need of pastoral care for any reason, please call the main Epworth line 510-524-2921. There you may leave a message with your contact information which will immediately be forwarded to a pastor who will get back to you as soon as possible.
Finally, I regret to let you know that when we arrived at the church building on Sunday morning to work out the technological details for the livestreamed worship, we discovered a water line in the upstairs bathroom had broken, flooding the upstairs hall, fellowship hall, and parts of the kitchen and church office. Huge thanks to those who came in and helped mop, wet vac, wipe water, and move furniture. We are working with our insurance company and general contractor Wick Pancoast to get repairs underway, though of course this is impeded by shelter in place. The good news is that the building was already largely shut down. We will keep you posted on this.
In ordinary times, you usually received one communication a week from Epworth. You can now expect to receive at least three: Monday’s links to video, podcast and sermon, Tuesday’s update for extraordinary times, and Thursday’s This Week at Epworth.
As you shelter in place, please know you are in my prayers. I hope that in this rhythm, you will find God showing up as shelter, and know that your place is with the family of God.
Grace and peace,
3/14 Update 1 p.m. - No In-Person Worship Sunday 3/15
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. –Isaiah 43:19
Beloved Epworth Community,
Grace and peace to you. If we had ever forgotten that we live in an ever changing world, the rate of new information related to COVID-19 has certainly reminded us. New guidance was published last night from the Berkeley Health Officer asking all groups to limit to 10 or less gatherings of persons who are age 60 and above. In consideration of this and that it would be difficult for us to meet this threshold by proceeding with an in-person worship, worship tomorrow will be held online. Please go to our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/EpworthBerkeley/ at 10am for worship. Additionally, our podcast will be available on our website shortly after Sunday.
Though this will be a new way of connecting and worshipping for us, let us not forget that God is always in front us, preparing the way with grace in response to the changes present in our human world.
I want to thank again our crisis response team for sharing with me in discernment as new information becomes available. I also want to invite all of you into some form of direct response through Epworth.
The general rules of Methodism are:
Do no harm
Do all the good you can
Stay in love with God.
To that end, in addition to our current crisis response team, we’ll be launching two additional teams. The team already working is going to be re-named the “Do No Harm Team.”
1. Do all the good you can Team. This team will look at what we can do in the community and for our community to respond to needs that arise or intensify because of this crisis? I already know Berkeley Food Network needs volunteers. Others not connected may need food delivered. People might quite literally be out of toilet paper. What resources do we have in our Epworth community that could be offered? How can we be a part of and share stories of resilience, bravery and beauty? Pastor Brian and Orion Lacey will staff this team.
2. Stay in love with God Team. This team will work to pray with people, connect people, potentially offering a daily email liturgy or prayer. We’ll organize calling so that hopefully everyone has a "touch" about once a week. We’ll think about ways that our tremendous music resources can be a source of spiritual healing and transcendence. Jerry Asheim and Susan Jardin will staff this team.
These teams would meet mostly by conference call, virtual meetings (Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangout or Skype), email, and phone. They are envisioned to be temporary in nature. Please consider where you’d like to connect and serve, and sign up through this link: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70A0449A9AA29A2F94-epworth1
We are in a new time, and some may be experiencing it as a wilderness or desert. Let’s remember the witness of our faith, and respond to those in need with empathy and compassion. God calls us out of our immediate anxieties through service and love. And in this eternal transcendence, God is always doing a new thing.
Be well and stay well,
"But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." --Isaiah 40:31
Beloved Epworth Community,
As a community of faith, our way of life is to walk together through the highs and lows of life, seeking to follow God’s will together, going fearlessly forward in faith. Now we are walking through the uncertainties related to the coronavirus. May we support one another on this journey, looking for those on the path who are in need.
Last night I met with our COVID-19 Crisis Response Team to consider additional precautions we need to take as a church community. The group includes myself, our director of building operations and communications, members of our Trustees, lay leaders, and members of Epworth with expertise in biochemical and public health. After extensive discernment, we reached consensus on the following plans:
Unless we receive word from our Bishop or state/municipal officials between now and then, worship will continue as planned this Sunday, March 15. The choir will not sing as one large group, but we will have spirited music. There will be no coffee time before or after worship.
Worship on March 22 and March 29 will be online. We are working out the technical details of that now. You will receive subsequent communications with information about how to connect to online worship. Even though we may be physically separated, we believe the Holy Spirit intervenes for us and connects us across distance.
Barring any exponential escalation of persons testing positive for COVID-19 or other new and relevant information, we will resume worship together in the sanctuary on April 5 and proceed through Holy Week as planned.
When we worship together in the sanctuary, we’ll continue bowing for passing the peace through Easter and hand sanitizer will be available at strategic locations around the church. Additionally, we will be adding extra cleaning of the church and we are adjusting how we will collect the offering.
When we worship online, our service will be similar to what we experience now. We hope to include a way that prayers can still be lifted up when we pray together. You are encouraged to give through our online donation page.
All outside building use and group meetings are suspended until April 1. This includes recovery groups, scouts and meetings of those who rent space in the Epworth building.
Epworth groups may continue, but are strongly cautioned to observe all recommended practices (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html). Our team weighed the health and well-being that persons receive from meeting and gathering against the risk of contracting COVID-19. Alternatively, you are encouraged to take advantage of our Zoom account to hold virtual meetings.
EVERYONE is asked to stay home if you are not feeling well. Please do not come to church if you have travelled abroad within the last two weeks, and observe recommended hand washing and sanitizing practices. Strive to maintain a radius around yourself of six feet between you and the next closest person. This is roughly the distance between you and another person with both of your arms stretched out straight.
Please know that this was a difficult decision to make. Worshipping together is a spiritual discipline, and gives our lives rhythm, meaning and joy. We came to this conclusion out of a deep desire to care for the most vulnerable among us. We also know that this crisis hits harder on those who do not have the choice whether or not to go to work physically and are forced to make difficult choices about healthcare due to a lack of adequate coverage. I urge you to use some of the additional space that not commuting or traveling provides to take a proactive step to advocate for health care and employment safeguards for all persons.
As we care for those immediately associated with Epworth through these decisions, I hope we’ll continue to remember that the world is our parish. May we remember that we are the body of Christ and make the church manifest wherever we are, acting in ways that increase love, justice and compassion in all places.
Grace and peace to you,
Beloved Epworth Community,
Blessings of peace to you in this time of heightened anxiety. Please know that you are held in prayer and in love, particularly during this time of response to coronavirus (COVID-19). I’m writing to update you on what we are doing at Epworth to care for our community both inside and outside the church.
Last week when the number of emails and plans to address concerns related to the virus were more than I could respond to alone, I assembled a team of our lay leaders (Michael Martin, Judy Cayot and Becky Wheat) along with Trustees Chair LeRoy Howard and Director of Building Operations Merrie Bunt to consider our next steps. These persons now are acting as an ad hoc response team, and are joined by Melani Gantes, John Murphy and Dana Buntrock. Within this team are persons with experience in medical science, biochemical engineering, facilities, public health, the law, and education. I’m grateful for their willingness to serve and guide our response as things develop.
If you are a part of an Epworth group or committee and would like to meet using video conferencing rather than meeting in person, you are invited to use Epworth’s Zoom account. Please contact Merrie Bunt for the login information. Also, if you are wondering if your group or activity is still on, check the calendar for schedule changes.
I want to reiterate that if you are not feeling well, you are encouraged to stay home. We post the week’s sermon on the Epworth website, and you can also access our wonderful podcast here. If you are in need of pastoral care, please contact the church office. Know that you are loved and cherished.
May God’s grace and peace cover you during this time,
Beloved Epworth Community,
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Creator God. I’m writing to update you on precautions we are taking at Epworth in light of recent developments with the coronavirus (COVID-19). We want to care for our congregation in all respects, including the physical well-being of our community.
Last Sunday, we took communion using pre-cut bread and individual cups. Our servers hand-sanitized before beginning distribution of the elements and gave each communicant a piece of the bread. We will continue this style of communion through Lent, and our servers will also use small tongs for serving as an extra measure. Our Environmental Crisis Response team is ensuring that next month we will use environmentally friendly cups. Throughout Lent, we’ll continue to pass the peace by bowing as we did last Sunday.
We have a limited supply of hand sanitizer which we are prioritizing in placing in the nursery and Godly Play rooms; if you have a bottle you are willing to share with the congregation that would be greatly appreciated.
Though this Sunday is normally a potluck Sunday, our coffee team will simply be making coffee, tea and offering plates of prepared foods. If you do not feel comfortable partaking of a shared plate, please refrain from doing so. Procedures for sanitizing the kitchen and for those doing the serving will be posted in the kitchen (update: procedures are available here [docx]). Going forward, we may decide to focus just on coffee and tea, or just on sharing conversation during the fellowship time, depending on recommendations. We will keep you posted.
As some of you may have heard, a person with COVID-19 has been identified in Berkeley. That person had self-quarantined after a trip to Italy so concerns about community spread have been mitigated. Because this is our area, I continue to be in conversation with staff and lay leaders as new information becomes available. We are taking reasonable and rational precautions.
The California-Nevada Annual Conference Disaster Response has published a helpful resource on preparedness for homes and families and can be accessed here: http://calnev-email.brtapp.com/viewinsite/50aa6bbb6b56f327a1a3a5b5ae78d193
The uncertainty of this outbreak is creating anxiety in our workplaces, schools,
and day-to-day activities. Yet we remain certain of God’s steadfast presence and careful attention to all that is happening. Please join in praying for those who are affected by this illness, as well as their caregivers and those who are working around the clock to minimize the impact of this virus.
In Psalm 46, we are reminded that it is God who is our refuge and strength, and our ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, let us not fear, but with confidence use this opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus through our prayers and our care for others.
Grace and peace to you,