Beloved Epworth Community,
As I write this week’s column for the “Update for Extraordinary Times,” I’m painfully aware of the twin pandemics that prompted the addition of this weekly communication. Yesterday’s verdict in the murder trial of George Floyd offered a word of truth, of suffering seen and acknowledged. We needed this honesty, this statement of accountability, and in one case it has been given, as we heard the words, guilty, guilty, guilty, three times. While I celebrate this outcome, this moment of breath, I also pray that honesty and accountability will make way for reckoning and justice, which makes the way for healing and peace. And of course, I know and acknowledge there is much, much more work to do in the quest for an anti-racist world, for racial justice, and for beloved community.
We are also wrestling with the desire and need to re-open the church building and resume gathering, and the responsibility to care and do no harm. Thanks to all who responded to our survey that sought your input on priorities, hopes, fears and other considerations. We received 67 responses from all ages in the church. We have a wealth of thoughtful input to guide our next chapter in response to the Covid pandemic.
There are two key findings that I want to lift up at this point out of the survey data:
Your top three priorities for re-opening are in-person worship, gatherings for children and youth, and older adult activities.
The words “variants”, “slow” or “gradual” re-opening, “fear” and “concern” for safety were prevalent in the responses.
The Do No Harm team met yesterday. We celebrate that in fact, we have already found ways to facilitate in-person gatherings for children and youth. Youth Director Orion Lacey organized an in-person Easter craft day the day before Easter and will continue to offer 1-2 gatherings a month. Orion and Children’s Ministry Director Susan Jardin offered a Spring Break camp for children and youth earlier this month and are now offering a twice-weekly after school art camp. Thank you to these staff members, parents, children and youth.
As many of our older adults have received vaccinations and have a strong desire to gather, the Do No Harm team discerned that our existing older adult ministries can resume at the Epworth building the week of May 17th. Protocols will be in place to conform with the guidelines of the current Alameda county tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy, as well as any other conference, city or county guidance. Please remember that parts of the building are currently under construction as the elevator is installed, so the Chapel is unavailable as well as part of the Fellowship Hall.
Returning to in-person worship is, of course, very important for our community. Do No Harm will continue to work with staff, Trustees and the Epworth community to plan with all care. As you may know, our worshipping community has expanded during the pandemic to reach as far as Germany, Brazil and Thailand. We know some of our members will not be comfortable returning in person for some time. Prior to the pandemic, though we had a great podcast produced by Ethan Toven-Lindsay, we did not have a video version of worship. We want to take care to offer worship to our full and diverse community when we resume.
Thank you for your faithfulness and your hearts full of hope and desire for justice. As always, I am so proud to be your pastor.
Grace and peace,