Dear First Parishers,
In the span of just a couple of days, I received information from the president of the UUA, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray and from Governor Baker of Massachusetts about reopening our congregations for in-person worship. While both sets of recommendations emphasize safety and social distancing, their timelines are very different. Governor Baker has given permission for houses of worship to open in the next week while Rev. Frederick-Gray and the UUA strongly urge us not to hold in-person services at this time and to plan on virtual operations through May 2021.
Reading through the state’s requirements, I felt daunted by the necessary work we would have to do to for in-person worship. Frankly, it is not worth the effort and cost to open our sanctuary for the five remaining services in our regular church year, which finishes on June 21st. Given this, the Worship Committee and I agreed that our summer services, starting June 28th, will be virtual. While we may be able to have some level of in-person attendance at some point over the summer, we need to keep our services welcoming and accessible to as many people as possible, and right now, that means online. Meanwhile, the Standing Committee’s COVID Task Force and I will work with the Safety Committee, the Standing Committee, and staff to come up with a clear and thought-out plan for being in religious community both virtually and in person over the coming year.
One of the things I appreciated in Rev. Frederick-Gray’s letter was grounding the UUA’s response in our Unitarian Universalist faith and ethics. We are covenantal religion which means our faith is in right relationship rather than right belief. Our values are based in truth, reason and learning. Thus, our return to in-person worship and community needs to be grounded in reason and right relationship as well: we act with care and compassion for the health and wellbeing of one another, most particularly, those at high risk for severe cases of COVID, following the guidance of medicine and science. Links to both Rev. Frederick-Gray’s letter and the state’s recommendations can be found at the bottom of this post.
I would like to end on a note of gratefulness. Our Sunday services have been well attended, over one hundred households each week! It is wonderful to have people with us from all over the country as well as locally. We have been joined by old friends who moved away and new individuals and families in the community. Our musicians, photographers, storytellers, chalice lighters, and artists have infused our worship with creativity, inspiration and beauty. And I have been deeply moved by everyone’s continued commitment to find our way together through this difficult and even traumatic time. Grounded in our covenants, I believe that we will find our way through with compassion, generosity, courage, and gratitude as our guiding values.
Rev. EllenJoin the "Virtual Choir"
What I miss most about in-person Church is hearing the congregation singing hymns. I’ve always been moved by your beautiful mix of voices. And I’ve always cherished your enthusiasm and joy as you join your voices into that amazing ensemble.
Well, there are other ways to sing together in this time when we can’t yet make music together live again. I can email you a recording of a hymn (Let’s start with Spirit of Life) and you can record your voice at home and send it to me to mix with other voices. It’s an easy process; you’ll just need your computer, headphones and one other device.
Email me (Steve) at [email protected] and I can send you the accompaniment and simple step by step instructions.its really fun. We can combine as many voices as we want, and I can mix them together so it sounds just like we are singing live, in the Sanctuary.
No pressure, I know many of you are busier than ever. But it will be so wonderful to hear everyone together again.
First Parish ChelmsfordHealing ConversationsIn keeping with the commitment in our First Parish covenant to care and be present to one another in our joys and sorrows, Rev. Ellen and the Pastoral Care Team offer this grief and loss group on the second and fourth Mondays of the month for virtual check-ins via Zoom to nurture and hold a sacred space to share stories, experiences, and emotions around love, loss and grief in a spirit of mutual care and deep listening. This is an ongoing group that folks in our First Parish community can join during the year, while maintaining it as a confidential and supportive space. The Zoom session will last only as long as needed for people to check in and get support if needed.
If you are interested on joining, please contact Rev. Ellen