May 2020 Updates from the COVID-19 Task Force
Dear Old South Church:
We are all experiencing anxiety and fatigue over not being able to see the future, plan ahead, or catch sight of even a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Does this tunnel ever end?
To that end, your Blue Ribbon Covid-19 Task Force met Wednesday evening. I am so very grateful for them - doctors and nurses, government officials, social worker and public health experts, all of whom know and love this church - taking time from hectic schedules to put their good heads and hearts together for us.
Here's the summary:
First, our docs and nurses promise that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is. We can't quite see it yet, but it's there! Until then, welcome to the new normal. Sit back. Settle in. Take it a day at a time.
Second, Old South Church will use the month of June to test a gentle strategy of opening for "mission critical" services and programs (related to our mission partners and work with the most vulnerable). These will be limited to ten people and governed by protocols (masks, hand-washing, social distancing, no food, sign in and sign out).
Third, also, in June, we will see more members of staff coming into their offices for a day or two a week, still social distancing, wearing masks in all spaces except their offices, no inter-office visits, no sharing of meals or cooking in common spaces, etc.
Fourth, as we balance the risks and rewards of return - of seeing each other's beautiful faces (well, the eyes anyway) and being in each other's good company - we are eager to hear from those who, for your own mental health, really need to find ways to gather, albeit governed by the protocols listed above. Let me know if you are among these. We have some ideas to present to you. Consider this a fishing invitation: to test the waters.
Fifth, as we envision being in this new normal for some time to come, we are rolling out some adjustments to our virtual content. See below.
JAZZ SOCIAL HOUR
In June we will introduce an apres Jazz Coffee House "Social Hour" Thursdays at 6:45 pm (a Zoom meet and greet). Present with us each week will be at least one of the musicians and one clergy person.
June will also see the addition of a weekly blog to offer more voices and perspectives on a wide variety of subjects. This will be found on our Face Book page.
These will be maintained, Monday through Friday at 12 noon, hosted by Katherine Schofield and Amo Ngoepe.
Every Friday Kate Nintcheu will read aloud a children's book, posted to our Facebook page.
Our HIGH TEAS will be collapsed into a weekly MID-WEEK PEEK, posted to our Facebook page on Wednesdays at 4 pm. Rotating hosts - Shawn Fielder, Mitchell Crawford and I - will present a mixture of history, teaching and fun.
All of this content is anchored by our two weekly All-Church events:
ALL-CHURCH WORSHIP on Sunday morning at 10 am to which we continue to add surprises and improvements. This is followed by a Zoom FELLOWSHIP HOUR at 11 am. I have enjoyed these very much.
JAZZ COFFEE HOUSE on Thursdays at 6 pm to which we continue to add improvements, now followed by a weekly SOCIAL HOUR at 6:45 pm (see above).
In addition to our apres Worship FELLOWSHIP HOUR we are adding a separate apres All-Church Worship NEWCOMERS MEET AND GREET for those new to Old South Church.
We hope these adjustments to our virtual content will free us to add more social content: Zoom BLOCK PARTIES and neighborhood HAPPY HOURS. At the same time we will redouble our outreach to those members of the church who are not online.
As we consider the eventual transition from remote worship and programming back to in-person, we are acutely aware that Old South is an urban church whose weekly worshippers hail from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island, as well as from across Massachusetts. Our members are comprised of unhoused persons, persons with medical conditions, and a multitude of wise, thus high risk, elders. Moreover, most of our staff and members access the church via public transportation. We are not ready to subject each other to all the risks, at least not while we are managing to gather as one church each week in meaningful worship.
Over one hundred thousand Americans have been slain by this virus; over 41 million are unemployed. In addition, in the words of past moderator, Deb Washington, the virus has 'blown the lid off' of the country's deep, desperate, and dangerous divides along the lines of race and poverty. These divides were always right beneath the surface, but there is no pretending now, no way to NOT to see these divides and their fatal consequences. Even so, we are not without power. We have a tool-kit of resources for such a time as this, among them The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:
THE SERENITY PRAYER
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
- Nancy S. Taylor