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Letter from Session to the Congregation

May 29, 2020

Dear members and friends of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church,

What a challenging time this has been for us all! Over the last three months, we’ve had to make drastic changes in how we worship, learn, support one another, and work for justice in the surrounding community – basically everything that makes us who we are as a congregation. However, one thing remains the same: our decisions are rooted in and guided by love, particularly love for the most vulnerable. 

You may have wondered during this time, “How long, O Lord?” or perhaps, “How long, O Session?” We know some of you have wished for more definitive communication from the Session about when and how we will gather in person again. Love is guiding us in the decision-making process, and is part of the reason we are taking our time to come to firm conclusions. We want to love the congregation by having as much good information as possible about how to keep all of you safe, particularly those who are vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Many of you gave your feedback about our future gatherings in a recent survey. We are very thankful for your time and thoughtfulness. Your comments provided us great input for our latest discussions. A more thorough report of the results will be available soon, but what we can tell you now is that most of you do not feel comfortable gathering in person even with precautions. You definitely miss seeing each other! You miss choir and congregational singing. You miss Communion. You miss the warmth of the sanctuary and the texture of life in person. But you are feeling cautious about returning to these things even while you miss them. Your Pastor and Session members feel the same!

The Session met on Wednesday, May 27 to review the survey and discuss how to go forward in worship and gathering. At this time, we do not feel that it is safe to gather in person. Current recommendations do not allow for more than ten people in one place, even with masks and social distancing. We do not have the cleaning capacity to fully disinfect the building before and after each use. Our sanctuary does not lend itself logistically to the kind of spacing and air flow that would be helpful in gathering more safely. We are led to love one another by keeping each other safe – by remaining physically separate.

Until the circumstances change enough for us to revisit this decision, we will be holding all worship services and gatherings online.

So, how long, O Session? What will lead us to revisit this decision and move toward gathering in person again? When it is more loving to gather in person than to keep physical distance, we will do so. Practically speaking, that means we are looking at recommendations for groups of 50-100 people in closed, indoor spaces. We don’t know when that will be safe, but we are being attentive to the best science we can access.

In the meantime, we have heard your feedback and are moving to enhance the ways we worship, learn, support one another, and work for justice in the surrounding community – the things that make us who we are as a congregation. We are improving the sound on the online worship services so they are as accessible as possible to all. We will be celebrating virtual Communion together online on June 7; we will ask everyone to have whatever form of bread and juice they prefer on hand, make the prayer and Words of Institution part of the recorded service, and invite those who are able to commune together on Zoom immediately following the end of the Youtube broadcast (which finishes latest of our three options). The Worship Committee is preparing for a joyful Pride Month even while in-person Pride activities have been cancelled. Your Education and Spiritual Nurture, Congregational Engagement, and Justice Seeking Committees are creating new opportunities to learn, connect socially, and serve the community even while we stay home. 

It isn’t the same, and we won’t pretend it is. We yearn to see your faces in 3D, to hear your voices without a Zoom-imposed delay. But rooted in and guided by love, we will continue to protect the vulnerable and keep each other safe. 

If you have any questions or concerns, both the Pastor and your Session members are available for conversation. Please do not hesitate to reach out. 

Together in the love of Christ,

Pastor Stacey Midge and the ruling elders of the Session of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church:

Eric Burgmann

Margaret Champion

Judy Cunningham

Amy Grady

Jeana Lawson

Floy Ann Marsh

Marlene Muse

Sequoia Powers-Griffin

David Simon

Susan Thomas

Peter Tuff

 

Words from the Woods

I’ve never been one to let the grass grow under my feet, and for me that has been the hardest part of the stay-at-home orders. I cancelled a hiking trip to Utah with my mom and gave up the idea of attending my niece’s graduation. I won’t be going to Baltimore for General Assembly, and the conference I hoped to attend in Spain in September has been postponed. No music festivals or concerts this summer. Staying close to home (and mostly in my home) hasn’t been all bad, but it was starting to feel a bit like Groundhog’s Day. I hate that movie. So this week I moved my Zoom portal to the woods for a change of routine and scenery.

Yes, I needed some rest after a couple of months of climbing the steep learning curve of video editing and scrambling to keep up with an entirely new way of gathering the church. But mostly I needed a joyful disruption from that scramble. I needed to go somewhere farther than the orbit around my apartment, do something different, get a little creative space to envision what’s next, as we begin to think about what it will look like to move toward gathering in person again.

If you’ve noticed you haven’t heard much from MAPC leadership about opening up the church, that’s because we’ve been moving slowly. Much of our membership falls into vulnerable categories. We are committed to gathering in person only when we can do so as safely as possible. We are also committed to maintaining a positive online presence for those who don’t yet feel safe being physically together.

Your committees – primarily Operations and Worship, as well as the Deacons – are reviewing questions that need to be answered before we can open. The Session is overseeing the whole process, using the best research and recommendations from experts to determine when we will gather and, when we do, how we will make sure our greetings, seating, music, communion, offering, and more are done as safely as possible. Since it is not currently advisable for groups of more than 10 to gather, we are taking our time and being thorough. For the rest of May, you can plan on our gatherings taking place online only. The Session will continue to keep you updated as we make plans to move forward.

In the meantime, I hope you will continue to participate in worship and other gatherings online, and pick up the phone or drop an email to each other from time to time. And although not everyone can run off to the woods, I pray you will each find a way to break up the monotony and isolation of this time and do something that brings you a joyful disruption.

Seeking Christian Education Program Director

Christian Education Program Coordinator
Preschool-Grade 6

In conjunction with the MAPC Progressive Education Community and accountable to the Pastor, the Program Coordinator for Christian Education will implement educational programming for children from preschool through grade 6. Primary responsibilities will be in implementing Godly Play, the Montessori-based curriculum used with younger children (preschool through grade 3) through leading classes as well as supporting volunteer teachers and/or helpers. The Program Coordinator will also assist in the development and implementation of programs for children in grades 4-6.

Specific responsibilities will include

  • Program leadership for younger children (preschool through grade 3) using the Godly Play curriculum
    • Lead Godly Play class on Sunday mornings (during worship)
    • Organize and maintain Godly Play materials
    • Maintain roster of trained volunteer teacher to serve as substitutes
    • Schedule and manage volunteers
    • Participate in training volunteers as needed
  • Program support for older children (grades 4-6)
    • In collaboration with Pastor, Progressive Education Community members, and other church members, plan Christian Education programming for children grades 4 – 6
    • Train and support volunteer teachers/mentors
  • Be present on Sundays 9am – 1pm
  • Evaluate programs annually

Qualifications

  • Commitment to the spiritual development of young children within a progressive theological framework
  • Experience working with young children in an educational setting
  • Familiarity with Godly Play curriculum  and formal training as a Christian Educator preferred

Time commitment for this position is approximately 7 hours per week during the school year (September – May) and will include about 4 hours on Sundays and meetings and coordination time with the Pastor and Progressive Education Community at other times.

Suggested compensation (for Personnel Committee’s review): $5,040 annually

$20.00 X 7 hours per week X 36 weeks (September through May, with some holidays excluded, e.g. Christmas/winter break)

 

Seeking Resident Caretaker

MAPC is seeking a new Resident Caretaker!

Overall Job Description

The Resident Caretaker lives on-site in a two-bedroom apartment with utilities included. This position requires consistent presence on Sundays from 8am-1pm and varied availability for special events on evenings and weekends. The Resident Caretaker provides daily on-site supervision of the building including:

  • Managing access and securing of facility for church services, committee meetings, special events, and designated group activities.
  • Facilitating access for outside contract services and caring for the general safety and appearance of the property.
  • Acting as a point of contact for space sharers and emergency services.

The salary for this position is $200/month.

Qualifications

Successful applicants will be dependable and organized, and have excellent communication skills and the ability to work with staff, congregation members, and visitors in a courteous and respectful manner. The Resident Caretaker must be able to climb one flight of stairs to the apartment and lift up to 25 lbs.

Reporting

The Resident Caretaker reports directly to the Pastor as head of staff. Additional coordination and feedback will come from the Administrator and the Building and Grounds Committee.  

Specific Job Duties

Provide consistent attendance and punctuality on Sundays from 8:00am-1:00pm and during special events to accomplish the following:

  • Open and close building in accordance with the schedule and in communication with staff, specifically the Pastor and Administrative Manager, and church members and committees.
  • Attend Building and Grounds Committee (B&G) meetings monthly, and staff meetings as necessary.
  • Complete seasonally appropriate care for the grounds (mowing, raking, shoveling).

    General Tasks
  1. Engage with space sharers and respond to needs.
  2. Arrange access for maintenance contractors (e.g., mowing and lawn services, cleaning, routine building maintenance).
  3. Be available for emergencies on site or by cell phone to respond to police and fire reports.  
  4. Respond to any alarms set off in the building per training. 
  5. Order and maintain inventory of needed supplies.

Additionally, provide adequate notice of personal and vacation leave time to Pastor and Administrator and arrange substitute caretaker to complete job functions.

Please send a letter of interest to [email protected] to apply.

 

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

As I looked around this morning, I realized that I absolutely must clean my office. I have to admit to you, that’s not something that happens very often. I can handle a certain amount of messiness in my life. It’s not that I necessarily like the clutter, but I have priorities other than cleaning. Clutter and mess also just don’t really bother me most of the time.  

That said, sometimes there comes a point where the clutter is just too much for even me to handle. The papers on my desk are out of control. I’m starting to lose track of where things are. This is about the point of messiness when my mind stops functioning properly. Suddenly, things go from organized chaos to just plain chaos, and it’s like this switch flips in my brain and I can’t think of anything else until I have gotten rid of this mess that I don’t even notice most of the time.  

Today the switch flipped.  And tomorrow, scheduled into my calendar, which is far more neat and organized than my office, is a time for cleaning – for going through papers, putting away books, getting everything back into its proper place.   

Eventually, one way or another, every mess we make needs to be cleaned up.

In a month or two, a lot of people will engage in the annual process of spring cleaning.  For me, the extent of that is usually switching out my winter and summer clothing, but for many people, spring cleaning is serious business.  It’s a time when they go through the house with a fine-tooth comb, scrubbing out neglected corners, shaking the dust from rugs and curtains, weeding through possessions and deciding what should be kept, what is better donated to someone who needs it more, and what can be thrown away. Or better yet, recycled.  Every spring, the mess that has been accumulated through another year’s living is straightened up, swept out, put away.  Eventually, every mess we make needs to be cleaned up.

Even though I’m not a very dedicated spring cleaner, I like to think of Lent as spring cleaning for the soul.  For forty days and forty nights, we are given an opportunity to look into the cobwebby corners of our lives, the places that get neglected and forgotten most of the time, the areas that get passed over in favor of more urgent priorities.  

People often call Lent a season of penitence, which conjures up images of self-flagellation or repeated Hail Marys and Our Fathers.  I think a fuller understanding of this season is that it is one of self-examination.  If we are brave enough to delve into ourselves, this is a time when we are invited to pull our habits off of the internal shelves, take a good, hard look at them, and consider whether they are a benefit to our lives and the lives of others.  We are invited to take the time to open those forgotten drawers and pull out those things that we’d usually rather not think about – the emotional equivalents of our 80s pleated, stone-washed, tapered leg jeans.  We’re invited to examine our motivations, our thoughts, and our actions, to blow the dust off of all that is good, and to send the garbage outside for pickup.  A lot of things can accumulate in a year of living – a lot of beautiful things, and a lot of mess.  And eventually, every mess we make needs to be cleaned up.

This is one of the reasons people give things up during Lent, or take up positive new practices: it helps them to examine what is really necessary in life.  It slows them down, makes them more mindful, helps them notice the grime on the baseboards and remember that burned out hallway light bulb they keep forgetting to change.  Removing or adding things to the daily routine we take for granted can help us be more aware of how much we depend on things that aren’t necessary, and how little time and energy we direct toward our relationships with God, other people, and creation.  It’s a tool to help us clean up the messes we sometimes make in our lives.  It’s also why we begin this season with ashes: because they represent purification, cleansing, the burning away of things in our lives that are harmful to ourselves or others.  

The cleaning metaphor aside, during this Lent, whether or not you choose to give up something or have ashes mark your forehead, I’d like to commend to you an ancient practice called the examen, which is traditionally a daily prayer of reflection and self-examination, but I think it would be appropriate for some spiritual spring-cleaning as well.  The examen gives steps in which we become aware of God’s presence, review the day – or year in this case – with gratitude, pay close attention to our own emotions and what God may be saying through them, choose something specific that has happened to pray about, and look toward tomorrow.  

Our interior lives are kind of like my office: you might be able to live with the clutter for a while, but eventually, it starts to take over.  You can wait, as I have in my office, for it to become overwhelming before you do anything about it, until the mess starts to creep into other areas of life and affect you and those around you.  Or you can take this gift of Lent that God gives us, this season of penitence and self-examination.  Eventually, one way or another, every mess we make needs to be cleaned up.  And we’re in luck: it’s spring cleaning time!   

Praying the Examen

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights.

3. Pay attention to your emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Ask what God is saying through these feelings.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may be a vivid moment or something that seems insignificant.

5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges.

Investing in a Just Future!

Investing in a Just Future!

Dear friends,

I have very exciting news to share! After a few months of working with your capital campaign team, we have a fantastic vision and a new name:

Investing in a Just Future!

Mt. Auburn is poised to claim our 150 years of ministry and move into the next phase of our life together, extending the reach of our hospitality and strengthening our stand for justice for decades to come.

Bill Bogdan, Susan Ingmire, Mary Carol Melton, Bill Muse, Susan Thomas, and I have been hard at work with our consultant, Michael Vilardo from Transforming Christian Ministries, to gather information from past and current discernment and capture one shared vision for our next stage of ministry together. We have drafted a case statement that articulates the vision, commitment, and purpose of the campaign, and we are ready to take our next steps.

In February 2018, Michael Vilardo and his team will hold confidential discussions with a few of you as individuals and couples, and with the session and deacons. Identified members will receive a letter of invitation from me in early January. An additional group meeting will be offered for anyone in the congregation who hasn’t had the chance to meet with Michael and desires to do so. This meeting will be announced and open to everyone, but capped at twenty participants (first come, first served).  We are committed to hearing all voices during this process, so in addition to these discussions, an online survey will be available for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to participate in person.

After all of this information has been gathered, Michael will prepare a report for the team to review in March to determine whether we have correctly articulated the vision of the congregation, and what our next steps will be.

Our team is very enthusiastic about the possibilities before us, and we hope you will be, too. We will be delighted to share them with you as we come into a new year, investing in a just future together.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Stacey Midge