Ramadan, the holiest month in Muslim calendar, began last Thursday evening at sundown. During Ramadan, Muslims fast each day from sunrise to sunset. This is one of the five pillars, or essential practices, of Islam. The word “Islam” means surrender, and to be a Muslim is to surrender one’s life to God. Certainly, the practice of Ramadan brings that connection and commitment to God alive through both personal and community ritual. Just as I have found the rituals and traditions of my Unitarian Universalist faith to be more important and meaningful right now, I imagine that the practice of fasting for Ramadan amidst this pandemic has a deeper and more poignant meaning for many Muslims, as they must reconsider how to practice a community ritual in isolation and social distancing. I send my thoughts and prayers to our Muslim sisters and brothers at this difficult and holy time.
We have now held seven Sunday worship services via live streaming. And it looks like this will be our way of gathering through at least the end of the regular church year. For the first couple of Sundays, I could only think about what needed to be taken care of for that particular day or week. Thanks to Jennifer and all her help with the online technology, I have become more comfortable with what is required to prepare a Sunday service. Now, I am starting to think a little bit beyond the next Sunday to how we will manage worship and congregational life with continued social distancing. Even when some of the restrictions are lifted, it is clear that some people will still be at risk in public places. And there is always the possibility that another wave of the virus may come through and we will have to return to where we are now. To start preparing for these realities, the Standing Committee started a COVID Task Force. This group is looking at the overall picture of how the COVID pandemic has impacted our congregational life and will communicate with different committees and ministries in the church to ensure that we can respond safely, compassionately and effectively to all the changes coming at us. Gail Burati, Tom Coffey, Michelle Hillman, Dolores, Steve and I are on this task force.
I recruited another task force to support our move to live streaming worship. Jennifer has been handling the technical preparation and support for our worship services but (very sadly!) she will be finishing her internship with us in June. Even if the social restrictions are lifted, live streaming worship will be a permanent reality for us and I will need a team to work with me on this. If you are interested in being part of this team, please let me know!
Finally, as I said on Sunday, First Parishers have been very generous with donations to the minister’s discretionary fund and with grocery gift cards. If in these uncertain times, you need help purchasing groceries or need one time help to cover the cost of housing or unexpected medical bills or the like, please let me know.
-- Rev. Ellen