Update for Extraordinary Times - 5/26
Beloved Epworth Community, Fear can bring out the worst in humans and sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Since the beginning of the pandemic in the US, there have been 1700 recorded incidents, with 58% of those happening in New York and California. We can counter this fear and hate with our voices, our own actions of solidarity and care, and education for ourselves and others. Until the end of May, KQED has a five-part series on the history of Asian Americans in the US. I hope you will not only watch this series, but also take a positive action to stand with our Asian American siblings and neighbors. I want to thank Amelia Chua for bringing this series to my attention. I am also grieving today the loss of George Floyd’s life, an unarmed African American man who died from a police officer kneeling on his neck, though he posed no threat. This occurred in South Minneapolis, about four blocks from where Elizabeth and I lived 1998-99. While we are all attempting to avoid the loss of life associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the crisis of unarmed African Americans, particularly men, dying at the hands of police continues. Lord have mercy. As we near the midpoint of our third month under stay at home orders, we know that many in our community are experiencing financial hardship. I want to remind you that we have a fund available to help. If you or someone you know has a need, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with name, contact information and need or call me at the church 510-524-2921, x103, and I’ll get right back to you. All requests will be held in confidence. Speaking of finances, while March income held steady at Epworth, April has seen a decrease in both giving ($21,000 under budget) and building use ($6000 under budget.) Though there is not much we can do about the loss of income due to building use, I want to encourage you to bring your pledge up to date or make a special gift to Epworth if you are in a position to do so. You can also set up a regular gift of any amount on autopay through your bank or through our website. Thank you so much for your generosity and support of Epworth in this time especially. In the coming weeks, our Do No Harm team will be sharing with you the plans and protocols we are putting in place to return to our building. I miss you all and look forward to seeing you again as soon as we can safely do so. Take good care, and know that you are loved. Grace and peace, Pastor Kristin
This week NPR One featured a story this week of “Hotel Corona,” a hotel in Jerusalem where nearly 200 Israelis and Palestinians are recovering from COVID-19. The segment featured a young Bedouin woman who recounted the ways the many residents- Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, are building community in the midst of the pandemic. Check it out here: https://www.npr.org/2020/05/13/855237010/hotel-corona
The current crisis is creating opportunities in the midst of the madness. Do you see community forming in surprising ways where you are?
Last week Dianne Rush Woods delivered the first round of homemade masks to the San Pablo Hotel, a senior living complex which is part of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. The masks were lovingly crafted by the Brostrom-Schafer family and were the first installment of Epworth’s donation to the facility. Another delivery will be made next week.
Epworth’s COVID-19 Relief Fund is available to meet needs arising from the coronavirus crisis. Perhaps you know of a family that needs help with groceries or gas; or paying a telephone bill. Maybe there’s a larger need that you’re aware of that will support a transformational change (e.g., deposit for permanent housing for someone who is housing insecure.). Funds are not limited to our congregation but to our networks of neighbors and community.
In addition to cash grants, gift cards for groceries and gas will be made available. If you or someone you know is in financial need as a result of COVID-19, please send an email to email@example.com. Requests will be kept confidential within the committee.
Let’s make use of these funds and bless somebody with a little help in this challenging time.
Thank you for the many ways you keep building community and bearing witness as the days and weeks wear on. Keep singing.
Beloved Epworth Community,
Each week our district superintendent Staci Current gathers the Bay District pastors to check in and collaborate. Last week, I was grateful to share that for the most part, Epworth continues with all of the same ministries. We are just doing them differently and online. And we’ve added a few. Weekly online communion will continue as long as we are sheltering in place, and our response teams continue to respond to the new needs of the crisis.
On that note, the Stay in Love with God team has concluded its phase one work. Everyone in the church directory has been contacted at least twice by this team (if we somehow missed you please complete this form to make sure we have full contact information for you.) They’ve been praying for folks and connecting folks. Some of the members are concluding their work at the end of this phase, and so the team could use 2-3 more folks. If you’d like to join this vital connection, please let Susan Jardin know.
Thanks for being such a wonderful community, Epworth.
Love and blessings,
Beloved Epworth Community,
Conversations about reopening and loosening of guidelines for staying at home have begun and to that end the “Do No Harm” team has been considering what this means for Epworth. Last Sunday we met and after sharing information and data, discerned that it was in the best interest of Epworth to follow the most conservative guidance from four potential sources: state, county, city and our annual conference/district. We know that many Epworthians are in vulnerable groups, and there is clear data that our common practices at church such as singing, hugging, shaking hands and being in close proximity to each other are vectors of the virus.
So we will continue virtual worship for the foreseeable future. If you’d like to be a part of the service, as a reader, pray-er, our musician, please let us know! We may be able to return to small group gatherings more quickly than worship, but as you will recall, there was significant damage to the Fellowship Hall, office and upstairs hallway due to a broken fitting in the men’s bathroom. The needed repairs to these spaces figure into our discernment about reopening as well. The good news is that we have turned a bid into our insurance and are hopeful that it will be approved quickly and repair can begin soon.
May we continue to be close in spirit. Be well,
People often say, “May you live in interesting times!” but no one ever wishes another to live in “extraordinary times.” And yet here we are. These times continue and we carry on, counting our blessings along the way. At Epworth we look for ways to keep being the church while we are isolated. Modeled after John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules:
Do No Harm
Stay in Love with God
Our teams by the same names continue to meet regularly to seek opportunities for service and witness.
Additionally, Epworth has established a COVID-19 Relief Fund Working Group. Funded by the generosity of the Easter offering, the relief fund is meant to meet needs that arise as the result of the current coronavirus crisis. The working group has established the following criteria under which requests will be considered:
How critical and/or urgent is the need?
Is there another resource for the need, even within the resources of Epworth?
Can the Epworth contribution make a meaningful difference for this need?
Is this a one-time need?
Grants will be made up to $500, but this amount may be appealed particularly if the request would result in the ability to generate more income, move to self-sufficiency or support a transformational change (e.g., deposit for permanent housing for someone who is housing insecure.)
If you or someone you know has a financial need as a result of COVID-19, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests should be made to email@example.com and will be kept confidential within the committee. Persons making request should expect to hear back from the working group within 7 days. If the request is more urgent, please note that in the request and the working group will make every attempt to respond ASAP.
We continue together in worship and prayer, in service and witness. As the apostle Paul wrote, “since God has given us this ministry, we do not lose heart.” And since God has given us this community, we rejoice in our blessings. Carry on, friends. The best is yet to come.
Beloved Epworth Community, Our “shelter in place” order in the Bay Area has now been extended until the end of May. We are looking at another month of online worship, zoom meetings and small groups, and a different way of reaching out and connecting. Thanks to all of you for the ways that you have been incredibly flexible creative and persevering. I know for myself, there has been so much grace during this time, both extended to me and the rest of your staff, and I’ve felt a measure of relief from the pressure I usually put on myself. Getting through these days and remaining focused on the love and care of God is all that is required. The amazing thing is that when we remain focused on the love and care of God, we have the hope and energy to reach out with the same love and care to others. Our Easter offering to set up a COVID-19 relief fund was more than double our Easter offering last year. To date, we have collected $8,580. This fund will be administered by the pastors and 2-3 representatives from the staff-parish relations committee and the finance committee. If you or someone you know has an immediate financial need as a result of COVID-19, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All requests will be kept confidential. Each month there is a distribution from the fund, church council will receive a brief report with the purpose and amount, but no identifying details. You can still give to this fund through our website, via text message (text 833-276-7680 with the dollar amount you wish to give and the word Easter, e.g. 25 Easter.) or by mailing a check to the church with “Easter” in the memo line. If you and your children and youth had anticipated being part of this summer’s Epworth Peace Arts camps, please expect a communication this week about our plans. We hope we don’t have to cancel these special times for learning and fun, we are seeking input in the contingencies we’re putting in place. We’ve decided to make a final call on whether or not we can run our camps on June 1. Please let us know if you are interested in the camps but don’t receive an email this week. Last week I began offering virtual communion on Wednesdays at 7:30. Just like communion in the sanctuary, everyone is welcome. I am really enjoying this intimate and dialogical way of sharing the sacrament. We believe that communion is a means of grace, a time that through the elements God’s presence is manifest. I’ll begin with sharing informally, invite your response then we’ll proceed to communion. I hope you’ll come—use this link to enter: Join Zoom Meeting - https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83427095029 Call-in Number: +1 669 900 9128 Meeting ID: 834 2709 5029 Finally, though much of our focus is on the extraordinary crisis precipitated by the coronavirus, the ongoing crisis of fatal police shootings of African Americans continues. Our sister church San Leandro First United Methodist Church and their pastor Rev. Myrna Bernadel Huey are on the front lines of responding to the tragic and avoidable death of Steven Taylor at a Walmart last Thursday. Please keep Mr. Tyler’s family and all those affected in his untimely passing in your prayers. We will keep you posted on other actions of response. May the God who is with us in the crises of extraordinary times and ordinary times work through us, Pastor Kristin
As we begin another extraordinary week, I hope that you’re well and staying safe. This weekly email is meant to share some of the ways that Epworth is staying connected during these days of separation. If there are ways you’re finding to do good, let us know! Your story may inspire others. The church is alive and Christ is risen, in word, and in thought, and in deed. Stay hunkered down but keep looking up; keep breathing in and keep reaching out. God is good.
Easter "Shine on Us" video to be rebroadcast
It was wonderful to see so many of your faces during Easter Online Worship. Special thanks to Sally Nasman for bringing this compilation together. In case you missed it, or want to see it again, we'll be rebroadcasting this video set to the Epworth Choir's recording of "Shine on Us."
Tune in Wednesday 4/15 at 11 a.m. here:
A HELPING HAND – A LEGACY HONORED
Mary Gaddis Scholarship Fund Closed Out
by Judy Cayot
Many of you know my life-partner of 23 years, Mary Gaddis, was a steamfitter and teacher. She taught construction skills to women at Laney College and through our non-profit, Women Empowering Women, and to high school students at Kennedy High School in Richmond. Her intention was to provide those at an economic or academic disadvantage with skills that would lead to good paying jobs in the trades. She loved working with her hands and she loved teaching.
When Mary died in 2006, I created a scholarship fund in her name held by Epworth. From that fund we gave small scholarships to students in the Construction Tech program at Kennedy as they moved into an apprenticeship or college. When that no longer was a viable way to distribute the funds, the remainder sat unused for several years until I heard about a relatively new local organization, Rising Sun Center for Opportunity, that was teaching construction skills to low income men and women – with much the same vision as we had in the 1980s.
In each of the last three years, Epworth – through the Mary Gaddis Scholarship Fund – has given a substantial gift ($2000-3000/year) to Rising Sun’s program, “Women Building the Bay.” Our funds have paid for each student in the Spring class to receive a tool belt and basic tools as a graduation gift. I was privileged to attend two of those graduations.
This year, because of COVID-19, the classes and their April 24th graduation are on hold. All 28 of the women enrolled are low income, some previously incarcerated, some with children to support. Rising Sun has set up a “Women Building the Bay Financial Relief Fund” to provide for these women as they wait out the shelter-in-place order. When I received the news I decided, in consultation with Pastor Kristin, that the remainder of the Mary Gaddis fund, just under $600, should go to this cause. Our Treasurer, Kit Schweizer, has made the donation on behalf of Epworth. In addition, I made a personal donation to the Relief Fund. A very specific way to help others in this unsettling time.
If you would like to know more about Rising Sun Center for Opportunity, or the Women Building the Bay Financial Relief Fund, you can go to their website at: https://risingsunopp.org/
Be well, stay safe, give what and where you can – even a virtual hug is a gift!
Blessings, Judy Cayot
PS – If you want to know more about Mary, check out her bio on the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network: https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/mary-gaddis
In her weekly meditation, Bishop Carcaño reminded us that in addition to this being our Holy Week, it is also a holy time for our Jewish and Muslim siblings. As we are, they too are separated from loved ones during this special season. One of the greatest risks that concerns me is the prospect of separation turning into isolation. A phone call or email can make a difference. Maybe reach out to the folks who share your usual pew. And, if you’re feeling lonely, remember there’s a whole community of people who love you.
We’re hearing good things about our online worship series, and working to improve each week. I can’t help but think that the skills we’re developing now are going to serve Epworth in the future- helping us to reach a wider community with our message of God’s indefatigable love.
Our “Do Good” and “Stay in Love with God” teams are hard at work, offering congregational care and identifying opportunities to be of service, even from a distance. If you’ve been blessed by someone’s help, share your story; if you’re finding ways to do more good, let us know about it!
Two new things from the Do Good Team this week. First, you may have seen the messages inviting us to sew reusable masks for folks who need them. Kaiser Permanente put our a pattern and instructions and you can find that here:
Secondly, we’ve been made aware that many of our undocumented brothers and sisters may not be eligible for the expanded unemployment benefits. Some sites have been set up where folks can donate relief funds specifically for undocumented workers. Legal Aid at Work has compiled this resource of known relief funds: https://legalaidatwork.org/blog/relief-funds/
Remember, if you have a pastoral care need of any kind, you can leave a message at 510-524-2921 ext. 101 or email email@example.com. You can also still join both teams by signing up here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70a0449a9aa29a2f94-epworth1
These times are extraordinary, but we are the bearers of extraordinary Good News.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Beloved Epworth Community,
As we begin our third week of shelter in place, we've just received word that this period will extend at least until May 3. While this was not unexpected, the confirmation underscores the value of our community acting as a community, protecting our most vulnerable, giving as much support as possible to those on the front lines, and doing everything we can to flatten the curve of coronavirus spread. Our lives have changed but in our willingness to change, we have the opportunity to show great love.
I'm guessing you may have a little more time to watch movies these days. As we head into Holy Week, I'd like to recommend one of my favorites: Jesus of Montreal. It's in French with subtitles, and I can't officially tell you where to steam it but if you google it you will find it. It's a great retelling of the passion story (complete with 80's fashions.) Let me know if you find it and what you think.
Thanks to everyone for all of your positive feedback and appreciation on our online worship service! It was great to see folks check in from Germany, Denver, Kansas City, Florida, all around the Bay Area and beyond. The extended shelter in place allows us to keep improving. Thanks especially to Jacob Wilbur who stepped into the editor role this week, and to the indefatigable Merrie Bunt who works behind the scenes to make sure everything is uploaded on time and flowing smoothly. This week's service will include even more voices as we tell the story of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem followed by his betrayal and arrest.
Our response teams continue to meet. If you have a need for help on groceries, errands or anything else of this nature please contact the Do Good team! It is good to give and to receive! Kit Schweizer contacted the office to encourage others to ask for help when you need it. She said, "Yesterday I reached out to the team to see if anyone was going to Costco this week and would be willing to take a short list from me to add to their own shopping list. Laura found a volunteer for me, and I will be picking up my items this afternoon. I would like to thank them, share how grateful I am and encourage others to ask for help, if they have an errand they would like run."
Also from the Do Good team:
"Our 'Do Good' ministry team has been working to find ways that we can reach out to our community during these days of social distancing and sheltering-in-place. We've set up an email address where folks can request help with simple tasks (like grocery shopping) or can offer to take on those tasks. If you have a need, or want to volunteer, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org We are also checking out the good work that our neighbors are doing in and around Berkeley. Here are a few opportunities to connect/share/give, with varying degrees of engagement: https://www.epworthberkeley.org/post/new-challenges-new-opportunities-do-good Stay tuned for other ways to Do Good. And let us know what ways you're finding to "do all the good you can."
Please check out the link above, and do let the team know of any volunteering you are doing.
And thanks to our Stay in Love with God team! Folks are reporting much appreciation for the reaching out this team has been doing. Remember, if you have a pastoral care need of any kind, you can leave a message at 510-524-2921 ext. 101 or email email@example.com. You can also still join both teams by signing up here.
In the meantime, know that I am praying for you and sending you love. In everything the love of God surrounds us, guides us and sustains us.
Be well and stay well,