Beloved Epworth Family
Advent blessings of love and joy as we transition from the second to third weeks of Advent. I hope you have been finding ways to lift up each week’s focus word (hope, love, joy, and peace.) In this message, I’ll share important information about changes to our plans due to the new restrictions in place in Alameda County and Berkeley. Yet, our celebration of the coming of Immanuel this season will continue and I’m excited to highlight that as well.
All in-person events, which included the Candlelight Witness, Living Nativity, Labyrinth Walks and Christmas Eve Journey to the Manger, have been cancelled. We were sad to do this, but the Do No Harm team has met and it’s clear that in keeping with the order and to care for all of our neighbors as well as our own community, this is very necessary. Further, the church building remains closed. For essential activities, only one person at a time is allowed in the building. Entering the building should be rare, should only occur through the Hopkins entrance, and all who enter must sign in and out. Any presence in any part of the building must be approved in advance and documented on the Epworth google calendar.
At the same time, our rich congregational life continues online and through other forms of connection. Labyrinth walks will be done virtually, 5pm on Christmas Eve will change to virtual worship service, and we hope to be able to do the Journey to the Manger on January 10 as an Epiphany observance. Throughout Advent, we’ll continue with Sunday morning worship online, small groups, Monday prayer group, our Blue Christmas service on December 21, and communion online every Wednesday evening. The 11pm Christmas Eve service will feature an original poem from Charley Lerrigo and other special elements.
This Sunday we’ll continue with our Advent “I Believe” series as we lift up “Joy!” I’m excited to share with you something that’s been bringing me joy lately, as we consider what joy means in these challenging times. We’ll hear the choir singing one of our favorites along with other inspiring music. Don’t forget that I’m leading a film series with discussion every Sunday morning at 9am on Zoom. You can find this week’s film, a documentary on the wonderful group Sweet Honey and the Rock, as well as the other films in the series and the Zoom link here.
Blessings to you, and may the Joy of Advent be with now and always,
Beloved Epworth Family,
Among my favorite anthems of our Epworth choir is the beautiful and powerful, “I Believe.” I suspect that you cherish this piece like I do. The lyrics are taken from a short poem found written on the wall of a Cologne, Germany basement where Jews had hidden during the Holocaust. In proclaiming, “I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining, I believe in love even when I don’t feel it, and I believe in God even when God is silent,” it underscores the power of faith that carries us through dark and difficult times.
This hymn will guide our Advent this year. We might sing our own verse, “I believe in the coming of the Christ child even when I’m not in the sanctuary or church building!” We will miss some of the ways we have experienced our well-loved traditions, but we will still have Advent and Christmas! Some of our cherished traditions are being adjusted, and new events this year may become new traditions.
And really, what a blessing this is. Each year, we challenge ourselves to experience the birth of Jesus anew. With a new ritual of candle witness for the first three Sunday evenings in Advent, a living nativity on the church lawn, and journey to the manger on Christmas Eve, I pray that the miracle of the incarnation—Christ out of chaos—will be real to you in new ways this season. I encourage you to peruse this brochure and experience this season afresh with your community of faith.
May the peace, hope, joy, and love of the season come into each day and into your heart.
Rev. Kristin Stoneking