|Dear Friends and Members of First Churches,
Every Sunday I begin our service proclaiming God’s extravagant welcome to everyone, no matter who you are or where you are in life’s journey. Therefore, you may imagine how difficult t is to decide to cancel public worship services for the next two weeks. I had several conversations today with board members, Pastor Sarah (who is on vacation), health care experts; and I read guidelines for slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. I believe this is the compassionate and responsible thing for us to do. This move is not only about the safety of our church, but to join community-wide efforts to flatten the growth curve of people who may contract the virus.
It felt strange to make this decision today, seeing life moving quite normally in Northampton. Part of me wanted to wait and see what happens, to hold off until we have local cases of infection. But by that time, we would be behind the response curve to prevent greater suffering. This is part of our work to make God’s love and justice real in the world, and show compassionate leadership with other community organizations. It is a faithful move in a fearful time, and we take these actions with the belief that God has work for us in the face of a global pandemic.
Part of this work is to support and care for one another. We are developing a full plan of action to stay connected as a community. I will lead worship through Facebook Live on Sunday morning at 10 AM, and we will be using Zoom conferencing software to facilitate online meetings, prayer and study groups. We will have more information via email so we can keep in touch.
Our work is also to help people most effected by an outbreak, who may have few resources to cope. We are reaching out to other groups, including 12 Step groups, organizations that help get food to people, and other social services. The whole Northampton community is working together to figure out how to respond with care. We will let people know what they can do as it becomes more clear.
Whether the challenge ahead is small or great, we will meet it together, with the grace and strength of God. May God bless you and keep you.