Dear People’s people,

These are challenging times–and each of us face our own particular challenges. Some of us are directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through our work in healthcare, because people we love are sick or have died, or because we are especially vulnerable and are taking precautions. Some of us are struggling with the stay-at-home orders, whether it’s because we live alone and are feeling isolated, we are struggling to care for children with schools and daycare closed, or we are cut off from community and connection in other ways. Some struggle to work from home while the essential workers among us are challenged to keep doing their important jobs while protecting themselves from the virus. Many of us are living with grief. We are grieving deaths and can’t gather as we typically would. We also grieve cancelled plans and changed expectations and a loss of our sense of control. We live with fear for the future and the uncertainty that anything will ever be ‘normal’ (whatever that means) again. I encourage you all to find the time and space to name and honor the challenges your facing – to truly feel your feelings, name the uncertainties and the losses, and be present to your emotional and spiritual state. Know that I am available as a conversation partner, if that’s helpful.

In these days, we are figuring out how to be church in a new way, from gathering on Zoom for worship, chalice circles, meetings and religious education to figuring out how to be a democratically-run institution when we can’t be physically present to each other. We know that some of what we planned to accomplish together this spring and summer won’t happen–0or won’t happen on the timeline we anticipated. Traditions are being altered to fit our new reality. I am grateful for the creativity, patience, and flexibility we are bringing to these challenges. We are People of Love, People of Hope, People of Change in ways we never expected.

There are a few lines of poetry that a minister mentor taught me that I’ve been returning to a lot in these days. They are from ‘Auguries of Innocence’ by William Blake:

‘Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine’

These times are hard for most of us–and I know that many of us are also finding joy in the midst of woe. For some, The Great Pause is, in part, a welcome change. The woe can be overwhelming. Catching moment of joy, in music, in nature, in relationships, in creativity, in the slower pace of live that so many of us have now can help us find strength to endure. I know, for me, seeking joy can seem frivolous. I am trying to prioritize joy and I hope you can as well. The joy doesn’t make the hardship disappear, of course, but it can make it more bearable.

Looking ahead, we don’t know and we can’t know when we will be again gathering together in person in large numbers. Know that I and your church leadership are keeping our plans for the summer and beyond flexible, so we can follow the guidance of state and local leaders about when and how it is safe to gather. As a religious tradition, ‘the guidance of reason and the results of science’ are among our sources of wisdom and we will be heeding them as we make choices about future gatherings – and we trust that everyone, individually, will make the choices that are best for them.

Thank you for all the ways you are taking care of yourselves, the people you love, and our wider community in these days. Please reach out to me if there are ways I can support you.

Holding all of you in my heart,
Rev. Rachel

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