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Returning to In-Person Worship in July

July 20, 2021 Update:

Beloved Epworth Community,

Last year as the pandemic began, we added a Tuesday email called “Update for Extraordinary Times” to the weekly emails you receive from Epworth. The purpose was to communicate in a focused and timely way how we were responding to the advent of the coronavirus. When George Floyd was murdered in May of last year and there was groundswell of calls for racial justice, information about our racial justice response was added to the scope of “Update for Extraordinary Times.”

While we are still in a lingering pandemic and by no means have we achieved racial justice, this will be the last Tuesday email we’ll be sending with this focused purpose. I’ll still be communicating about these important issues, but this will primarily be folded into Thursday’s, “This Week at Epworth.” The Thursday email gives highlights for Sunday’s worship as well as covering the breadth of what’s happening in Epworth’s ministries.

I’m grateful to the Pastor/Staff/Parish Relations Committee for granting me a month of renewal leave which will begin on July 27. We have a terrific line up of guest preachers during that time:

  • August 1: Rev. Debbie Weatherspoon

  • August 8: Akesa Fakava

  • August 15: Dr. Randall Miller

  • August 22: Rev. Angela Brown

I have great respect for each of these colleagues and I know you will be blessed to hear them. While I’m away, Rev. Carletta Aston will be the pastor on call. I’m so grateful to the many who will be covering my many duties while I refuel for the fall and year to come. I’ll be back in the office on August 27.

I’ve loved being back in the sanctuary with many of you, and we will continue to worship in person as well as online. In light of rising COVID-19 case counts in our area, and recent recommendations by Bay Area counties and the City of Berkeley to return to indoor masking, masks are now required at all times, regardless of vaccination status, throughout our building, except for worship leaders who must be vaccinated and maintain social distance.

The Do No Harm committee met on Sunday and will continue to meet every other week, monitoring variants and any new information. For 16 months, this team has faithfully discerned through consensus decision making safety protocols that adhere to the most conservative guidance--whether from church, city, state or national health officials--in tandem with Epworth's core values of inclusion and justice.


Thank you for your great support in working as a body who strives for Beloved Community in all ways as we watch over each other in love.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Kristin


July 13, 2021 Update:

Beloved Epworth Community,

I’m so thrilled to be back in the sanctuary for worship! You may have noticed that I’ve been doing a round of thank yous at the end of the service just before the benediction. I like how it imparts a little Tonight Show vibe to our worship! But seriously, the depth of gratitude I feel at being able to worship with others in the sanctuary, and the skill and commitment being given by our broad worship team, is immense. We will continue to worship in person and through a livestream feed for the foreseeable future. In some ways, this is like planning two simultaneous services, and I’m so grateful for Merrie Bunt and Paul Nasman who have established our livestream system and the many who have helped them, and our worship music leaders, Rev. Jerry Asheim and Judy Kriege and the musicians who’ve also stepped into new protocols for mics, marks, and distancing.

And, there are many beyond just our core worship team that also create Epworth’s moving worship experience. Thank you to our ushers for helping the congregation be seated with the required social distancing between groups, having masks and sanitizer available, and navigating these unchartered waters. Thank you to each of you for working with our ushers in carrying out the protocols set by the Do No Harm team, and for pre-registering your attendance. But, if you are not able to do pre-register your attendance, please don’t let that keep you away! Also, thank you to hospitality angels, Dana Buntrock and LeRoy Howard, followed by Connie Adachi, Judy Kriege and Jeff and Cathryn Bruno, have generously hosted Coffee on the Lawn.

As we move gradually into reopening the Epworth building, the church office is now open from 10-3 on Tuesdays and either Thursday or Friday. If you have a particular need in the building, please call or email in advance to make sure someone can receive you. There is also an opportunity to serve the Epworth community and provide meaningful expressions of welcome and inclusion as a volunteer church host. Please reach out to Merrie Bunt to get involved. Throughout the month of July, Susan Jardin is leading camps for elementary school children and middle school youth, so even though the office has limited hours right now, there is still quite a bit happening in the building!

Our Do No Harm team is continuing to meet and assess how re-opening is going, adjust protocols as we can, and stay abreast of new developments with variants and guidance. Thank you for your support of this ongoing work.

Finally, I want to reiterate that it is still very important for everyone who is able to get vaccinated. For those who have not been vaccinated, you can find help and locations here to start that process.

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Kristin


July 8, 2021 update:

Beloved Epworth Community,

And just like that, worship has resumed in the sanctuary! What a wonderful and joyous reunion, even if it did not proceed exactly as we might have expected. Thanks to all who gave generously of your time and talent to prepare and lead, and to all who gathered in person and online as we enter this next chapter. A special thank you to the Pastor-Staff-Parish Relations Committee for their call to end the fully online chapter with a gift to ministry staff. If you’d would like to contribute to that gift, you can do so here.

This Sunday, we'll continue with our series, "Emerge," reflecting on the feeling of being exposed and vulnerable as we come out into this new chapter. The time of emergence or transition is actually a very tenuous moment. What we know from research on periods of war and trauma is that to get through the period of crisis, people focus on just doing the next necessary thing. This can be essential for survival, but it can also result in a lot of unprocessed grief and other difficult feelings. How do we take care of ourselves and others when we are all in this same boat?

We’ll look at 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, and think about the ways that people react differently to coming out of loss. In the scripture, King David is dancing at the return of the ark of the covenant, but not everyone feels the same way.

Please continue to pre-register your attendance to make preparations and seating smoother. Given our attendance numbers and the need for distancing, we will need to utilize the balcony. If you are mobile and have good sight and hearing, please consider sitting in the balcony. It is open seating, though masking and distancing are still required in the sanctuary.

As we emerge into this new time with pent up feelings related to loss, questioning, or even anxiety, I urge you to reach out to me if you feel spiritual accompaniment would be helpful for you or someone you know at this time. In particular, our Stephen Ministers are available to provide support, companioning and spiritual guidance in times of transition or loss. I just met with our Stephen Ministry team last night and continue to be deeply grateful that we have this resource in our church. Just sitting with them last night was a blessing to me.

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Kristin


June 29, 2021 update:

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.” For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.

~Psalm 122:1-2, 6-9

Beloved Epworth Community,

The day has finally come when we will be returning to worship in the sanctuary. I am thrilled to be at this place! At the same time, I know some are not ready to come back quite yet in person and will continue to worship online. I trust that we will be held together by the power of the holy spirit during this time of hybrid worship.

In this column, I want to give you the answers to the questions that have come up about what both in person and online worship will look like, as well as address questions about singing in depth.

At this point of transition, I want to say a huge thank you to our Do No Harm team who has worked with me since the beginning of the pandemic to research, discuss and discern the best choices for our congregation. Thank you Michael Martin, Becky Wheat, Judy Cayot, Melani Gantes, LeRoy Howard, John Murphy, and Merrie Bunt.

Please pre-register your attendance here to assist with the planning.

Music and singing

Epworth is a singing, musical congregation. It is one of our strengths and joys. Not being able to sing or make music together has been one of the hardest parts about being separated due to the pandemic. As we return to the sanctuary, we will be able to make music together. Our Do No Harm team has sought to balance our need and desire to sing together with health and safety concerns.

Dr. Marcia McFee, worship and liturgy scholar whose worship series we have used at Epworth sums it up well: “Music is a gift from God given to all creation. It is a means of connecting with God and with one another, and of unifying our thoughts and understanding, our heartbeats and breath.

Whether by singing, playing, moving, or listening, music is an integral part of the majority of Christians’ worship life. Praising the Lord is a scriptural mandate (see Psalm 150) and singing is a primary way most Christians have “praised the Lord” together.

However, we still face this disconcerting fact: The coronavirus is spread through breathing.”

As we return to the sanctuary, our music and singing will be led by small groups of individuals who have been vaccinated. The best available guidance is that it is safe for vaccinated music leaders to lead without masks and with 12 feet of distance. We look forward to the day when the choir can resume in full force.

In order to limit the time spent inside the sanctuary during which singing is occurring, we’ll sing just the second and third hymns together behind masks. Congregants may participate in the first hymn through clapping, instruments or other movements. We know that kids under 12 don’t have the choice to be vaccinated or not at this point, so this arrangement gives them the opportunity to be in Godly Play during congregational singing.

In this interim time, I invite you to consider what other modes of expression connect you to transcendent realms and help you hear the voice of God? Is it silence, just being in a space with others who are worshipping, hearing the scripture, seeing the lived-out faithfulness of your siblings in faith?


Our online bulletin will continue to be available and may be accessed through your phone or at home on computer. When you enter the building, there will be a QR code (similar to what many restaurants are doing for menus) that will immediately pull up the worship guide. A few paper copies will be available in the narthex if needed.


Electronic giving through our website donation page or via text are still the encouraged methods of giving. In the sanctuary, there will be a covered offering box in the narthex for non-digital offering. Plates will not be passed.

Coffee hour

Limited hospitality will be available the first Sunday back with purchased coffee and food prepared by a masked and vaccinated coffee team. As more coffee teams feel comfortable returning to this ministry of hospitality, this may be a regular feature.

Nursery, Godly Play and Youth Group

Youth group will re-commence on July 11 (not July 4th as previously communicated.) Children will be dismissed to Godly Play after the children’s time, and nursery care will be available from 9:45 until the conclusion of worship.

Masks and distancing

For now we’ll be proceeding with masks for all except worship leaders while they are leading and distancing in the pews. Do No Harm is hopeful that masks may become optional by the fall. We also may be able to create a “safe zone” where distancing is used and another zone for folks who are comfortable not distancing. We are monitoring the Delta variant and its presence in the Bay Area closely.

Livestreaming Worship

The worship service will be live-streamed and we’ve been working hard to offer you a high-quality experience for worship. You can participate in the livestream worship through Facebook, YouTube or our website. Thanks to Paul Nasman, Merrie Bunt, Tom McClure, and Ethan Toven-Lindsey for their wisdom and labor in bringing this new capability.

If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to one of the Do No Harm team members, knowing that we are all proceeding with faith and the best of our abilities.

What is clear is that God has seen us through and God will continue to be with us. Blessings and peace to you.

Pastor Kristin


June 15, 2021 update:

In a desert land She found them, in a barren and howling waste. She shielded them and cared for them; she guarded them as the apple of her eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.

~Deuteronomy 32:11-12

As of June 15, the state of California has been declared “open.” In the last fifteen months, we may have become comfortable with a slower and more limited pace of life, or at least in some ways accustomed to our “nests.” But the world moves, and I find the words above from Deuteronomy particularly apt in this moment. God, the Mother Eagle, stirs us out of the nest but still carries us on her wings. In this message, I will share where Epworth is with the many different aspects of re-opening our building and in-person ministries. There are also some key ways that you can serve as we return that are detailed below.

There are many different emotions that arise with re-openings. Some of us can’t wait to be fully back, others are feeling a lot of anxiety, and others are somewhere in between. Many of us discovered new truths and new habits during the pandemic that we want to hang on to. I hope you will be gentle with yourself as we return, reaching out when you are in need of help in any way. I’m confident that through it all, God, the Mother Eagle will shelter and care for us.


Sunday, July 4th, Independence Day, will be our first day back in the sanctuary for worship. Thank you to the Do No Harm team, staff and many volunteers who have been preparing for this day. I’m so excited to see you!

Please pre-register your attendance here to assist with the planning.

Worship Safety Protocols

  • When you arrive, please remember to wear a mask.

  • The sanctuary doors will be the only entrance that is open.

  • Please consider arriving a bit early and entering before 10am to give our ushers time to accommodate you.

  • As you enter, you can sanitize your hands and pick up your digital bulletin (more on that later.)

  • Ushers will seat you with distance between household groups.

  • Worship leaders will not be wearing masks; they have been vaccinated and will maintain 12 feet of distance.

Nursery Care, Children & Youth

Nursery care will be available from 9:45am until the conclusion of worship. After the children’s message, children and youth will be invited to head to Godly Play or youth group.


Much thought has gone into how we will “make a joyful noise to the Lord.” Our first hymn will be led by worship leaders and will lend itself to participation through clapping, actions, stomping and other movement. The second and third hymns can be sung congregationally behind masks.

Tithes & Offerings

We’ll continue with our electronic methods for giving through text and through our website during the offering.

Livestreaming Worship

For those who are not yet ready to return to in-person worship, that is ok! The worship service will be live-streamed and we’ve been working hard to offer you a high-quality experience for worship. It will not be like the pre-produced video that airs live at 10am on Sundays, but rather the same service those in the sanctuary are experiencing.

To support our new live-streamed worship, we are looking for a Livestream Producer. This very part-time job (about 5 hours a week) is a great way to make a meaningful contribution to Epworth’s worship life. Could this be you or someone you know? Take a look at the job description here.

Prayer, health and inclusion have guided each decision.