Psalm 126 - A Harvest of Joy When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.
Dear Congregation of God,
75 days ago, on Saturday, March 14th, we decided to close our church to in-person worship and meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, almost three months later, we are able to discuss reopening our church to in-person worship. Pandemic management is not a thing any pastor I know has received training to deal with. We are, as they say, building the airplane while we are flying it. My prayer is that, during these past months, you have been able to find space for the Lord in your lives, and that the presence of Christ has been apparent to you in small ways, and perhaps in large ways as well. We have been lucky in the MidCoast area and appear to have dodged the worst of the wave that has swept across the nation with this virus. Our hope in reopening is to make sure that the low exposure and virus count stays low, not only in our church, but in our community. To that end, we, the Council and with input from others, have created a plan for reopening our church on June 7th, at 10AM. Before we lay out what that plan is, I want you to know that church will be different for a while. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things in our world, and one of them is how we will do church in person for the foreseeable future. Please know that any or all of the protocols and plans we have below may change based on the situation in Maine.
Per CDC and Maine Phase 1 protocols
No more than 50 people can gather indoors
This means that no more than 46 people can come to worship when it is indoors
Scott, Rick, Ed, and myself count towards the 50
Family groups and couples can sit together, otherwise 6 feet physical distance between people
We will have the pews roped off.
Everyone coming into the church must be masked.
This is not a political statement; it is a safety provision for the sake of others. The mask is for other people, not for you.
Singing will be limited to soloists, or softly behind mask.
Churches were primary viral spread events at the beginning of the pandemic, and they still can be. One of the primary sources of that spread, it has been discovered, is singing.
We will be working through this, since this is a foundational practice for all Christians everywhere.
Children must stay with their family unit.
In the past, children have had a lot of free reign in the church. We can no longer allow this since the pandemic is still ongoing.
There will be no passing of the peace, no coffee hour, no hand-shaking and hugs with Ed or myself, and no gatherings following the service.
If you feel sick in any way, if you have returned from out of state, if you have been around someone who has tested positive in the last 2 weeks, please stay home!
A significant percentage of people can have no symptoms, even though they have the virus. Further, the larger population of our church falls into high-risk categories for the virus.
Do not crowd the entrance to the church. Respect the 6 foot rule, even when coming into church.
Allow ushers to show you to your seat
When the weather is nice, for the summer, we will try to do church outdoors in the natural ampitheater at the front of the church.
Please bring your own chair, if you wish. We will also have folding chairs available for people.
All of the General protocols above still apply when outside.
Please bring your own communion (BYOC!).
A piece of bread, cracker, or flat bread, and a container with juice or wine, depending on your preference
For those who forget, we will have pre-filled communion cups available.
Communion is one of the sacraments of the church. We are making adaptations for an extreme event. BYOC will end whenever we are able to make sure communion is a safe practice for everybody.
Offering will be collected in a basket or container at the back of the church.
If you are able, please sign up to direct deposit your pledge
We will have everything printed in the bulletins so that people are not handling the Bibles and hymnals in the pews
Please take your bulletin home with you, or place it in the recycling bin in the back of the church
Many churches are doing different things and opening at different times throughout the community and the United States. Rockland Congregational Church places great value on the body of the church being present bodily as the church, and that is why we are opening now. The leadership of the church is opening with the best advice from the Maine CDC, conversations with doctors and nurses, and with prayerful consideration. We fully expect all of you will use your very best judgment in considering all these changes. Some of these should be familiar to you when we have had severe flu outbreaks. Others are new protocols. Also know that none of these changes are set in stone. We are open to discussion and changes, wherever the Spirit and consensus dictates. There will certainly be other changes as our lives with COVID-19 changes in the larger world. Until there are exceptional treatments, a vaccine, and general immunity, we will be living with these changes for a while. In the meantime, however, we are the church of the Lord, whether at home or in the building at 180 Limerock Street. To that end, we will
Continue with ZOOM and Facebook Live for those who do not wish to attend
We will post the recorded service on the website and on YouTube