Dear Crawford Family and Friends:
During the last ten weeks, as we have navigated a new way of being in response to a global pandemic, we have been caring for one another by staying home, staying safe and staying healthy. This has meant dramatic shifts in how we build, form and nurture community and connections. On-line worship has provided creative experiences with United Methodist communities around the globe and inspiring gifts from our very talented staff and church members. Together we have risen to new challenges. Together we have shared hopes and fears. Together we spread the good news of Love. Together we remind each other that we are never alone.
On Monday, 18 May, Governor Baker announced the reopening of our state in three phases. The first of these include Places of Worship as long as these mandatory, minimum safety standards are kept. When we open the church building, we would be required to wear masks, only limited numbers of people could gather, celebration of Holy Communion would be prevented, and regular disinfecting would be necessary.
The New England Annual Conference sent word at the beginning of May that “we will refrain from meeting in person for worship, retreats, Bible Study, and any other in-person church-related gathering through at least Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2020.” They also remind us that “returning to offices and church buildings will be gradual, in phases, and not advisable for those in highest risk groups for some time.”
Our District Superintendent, We Chang, counseled us on the severe restrictions regarding what we need to do in order to maintain safety for in-person worship including social distancing, mask wearing, no singing, etc. Key areas will need to be addressed before reopening like practical procedures and policies, finances, budget adjustments, contingency plans, enhanced cleaning programs, and Sunday morning logistics. We could, in fact, do harm if we do not put practices in place to promote the safety and wellbeing of the congregation, staff, and clergy.
In light of these realities, it does not make sense for us to reopen our church building at this time. Following the “Three General Rules” of The United Methodist Church, which are Do No Harm. Do Good. Stay in Love with God, we are working to ensure that members of the Crawford family continue to be as safe and healthy as possible. With this as our goal, our Sunday worship, Christian Education classes, Fellowship groups, and committee meetings will continue to occur virtually until we have a plan in place for safely regathering.
Here are some reasons why we are moving forward in this way. At Crawford, we sing. We hug. We visit with each other. We love coffee hour and fellowship. No-contact worship and fellowship in the church building doesn’t reflect who we are as Crawford.
As the last few months have shown, we are committed to caring for all people including older adults, children and the immunocompromised who are valuable parts of our society and our family of faith. As a colleague said this week, minimum standards do not maximize the safety of the whole. Through this time we have proven that the church is more than a building. Having experienced this, we will continue to creatively imagine new ways to be church…responsibly.
As one who likes to move quickly and decisively, especially when there is a crisis, at this time, wisdom is in moving carefully, thoughtfully and intentionally. Working with the members of the Trustees and Church Council as well as our Lay Leader and Lay Member to Conference, we will strive to create a safe, comprehensive and responsible plan to re-enter our building. As we are working on this and with on-line worship planned through June, our community has the space to build a plan that honors the whole community.
As we wait together, we can still connect, support, encourage and pray for one another in a variety of ways — in on-line worship on Sundays at 10:00 am on Zoom or streaming on our YouTube Channel, in morning prayer on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:00 am, in Adult Study on Sunday mornings at 9:00 am or Middle School Youth Group on Wednesday nights at 7:00 pm. We do this also by sending cards, making calls, sharing food, checking in on one another and continuing to give to support God’s mission and ministries shared through our Crawford community.
Friends, we are in this together.
In gratitude and with great hope,
Hope Luckie Pam Reeve Frank Leathers Colin Simson
Minister Church Council Chair Board of Trustees Chair Lay Member to Conference