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:
Floy Ann Marsh