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Rev. Casey's Letters to Members

IMPORTANT LETTER TO MEMBERS

Posted: March 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

I wanted to touch base with you about this new normal that we are living through these days. I hoped to share this information with you in person on Sunday, March 15, but things changed, so I come to you instead through this letter.

These are extraordinary times and many of us are feeling anxious and concerned, especially as the recommendations regarding how to deal with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) change rapidly. Every congregation is trying to determine what the best practices should be regarding when or whether to meet and how to keep people in their churches healthy.

Pauline, our Moderator, and I have been doing this here at First Congregational UCC, basing our discussions and decisions on the recommendations of the CDC and the NIH, as well as the directives of Gov. DeWine and his Director of Health, Dr. Amy Acton.

That is why we decided to cancel our worship service on March 15, 2020. And we are going to cancel church for the next two weeks (March 22 and March 29), as well. We will decide if we should cancel any further worship services as we get closer to April. I encourage you to have your own devotional time on Sunday morning. And please don’t forget to mail in your offering (P.O. Box 66). Remember, the bills continue to come in to the church even when we can’t gather together in person.

Whatever you do, my friends, DON’T PANIC. Yes, this is a scary time, but remember that we are all in this together. As a church community, we support one another, even if it is from 6 feet away, or over a phone line, or the internet.

And remember, God is with us in the midst of this pandemic, giving us comfort and strength to face this day and every day.

Remember to be kind to yourself and to others. Keep everyone in your prayers, especially our health care workers. Be reasonable, thoughtful, responsible and mindful of your actions. Follow what the experts are telling us to do to keep us safe and healthy. Reach out to your neighbors. If someone is in quarantine, ask them if you can walk their dog, or buy groceries for them, or pick up their mail for them.

God bless, Rev. Casey


Dear Members and Friends of First Congregational UCC May 25

Posted: June 1, 2020

  May 25, 2020

Dear Members and Friends of First Congregational UCC:

 

As promised, here is the letter I promised to send to confirm the definite date when we gather together for in-person worship and communicate new information to you before we do so.

So much has changed, yet so much remains the same since my last letter to you. We are still on track to gather together for our first in-person worship service on May 31, but, of course, with all the precautions I’ve already communicated to you. This new way of worshiping will be our new reality for the foreseeable future.

New recommendations for conducting worship continue to be produced, even as we are moving forward. They deal with a variety of topics, but I want to mention one of them that we have to incorporate in our worship. The experts are telling all churches that congregational singing can’t be a part of our worship service right now because droplets can remain suspended in the air for 2-3 hours and can be projected, especially when singing, farther than 6 feet even with the use of cloth masks.

Pauline and I discussed this recommendation and decided that because singing is such an important part of worship in any church, including ours, this would be a hard thing to do. So, we compromised and decided that we would sing one verse of a hymn at both the beginning and the end of the service. We feel that the size of our congregation may allow for us to do this BUT, and this is why I am including this information here: everyone still has to wear a mask even when singing. Just so you know, I am going to ask Peggy to play something between the sermon and the Joys and Concerns. Feel free to hum along if you know the song she plays.

You know, once we get into our new routine it won’t be as daunting as it seems now. And I won’t need to communicate so much information to you. But, even during this time of so much change and so much to absorb and pass on to make sure that you and I are safe, God still is in heaven, still loves us and calls us to continue to be and do the best we can right now. And the Holy Spirit (the Kokua for those of you who read my sermon from May 17th) continues to surround all of us with love to strengthen and guide us and help us to reach out to others even when we’d rather be a turtle and pull back into our shells. NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM GOD, not even a virus, however dangerous and deadly it is. I hope that this fact has and will continue to give you courage as we face the present and the future together; it does me.

I hope to see you in church on May 31. “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome there” with a mask and 6 feet away!

Blessings, Rev. Casey


My 1st Sunday Message April 5, 2020

Posted: April 13, 2020

My 1st Sunday Message April 5, 2020

A message from your pastor:

Hello everyone from the safety of my home to the safety of yours. To say that we live in strange times is to state the obvious but is also to recognize the truth of the situation in which we find ourselves these days because of a virus. All of us are learning new ways to live and to do our work. We ministers are having to learn new ways to “do church,” including whether or not our congregation can worship together online or if we have to worship apart, creating community through shared ritual and routine and memory. (We are having to do it this last way.) I mentioned ways to do this in my Note for the April newsletter. I hope you have your bell, candle and Bible ready to use on 4/5, Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday. The day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem humbly, but the crowd cheered because they thought their military Savior had finally come to vanquish the enemy, Rome, once and for all. They were hopeful. The excitement of that day gave way to a last supper and betrayal, a mock trial and, finally, death. We know the rest of the story, but let’s stay and sit with that truth for a while. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of the 11 disciples, Jesus’ mother, and all the other people who had been following Jesus and learning from him and thought he was THE Messiah. And, who, on that Friday afternoon, saw their hopes disappear as Jesus took his last breath.

All was done. All was over. The religious and political leaders sighed in relief that their pain in the side was gone and they thought they had won; his followers would just fade into the background and disappear.

Maybe that’s what you’re feeling right now. Like you’ve disappeared. Like all the hopes and dreams you’ve had have, at the very least, been put on hold. Life feels weird. It’s hard to get a new routine in place. Your kids don’t want to sit down and do their homework. The neighbor’s house you’re used to going to for cards or a cup of tea or coffee is now closed to you. You wear a mask and or gloves out in public when you go grocery shopping...and still you feel scared.

Where is God you find yourself wondering? There are too many unknowns right now, you think and maybe say out loud, to be sure of much of anything. I understand. And that’s where faith comes in. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (NRSV) Say it to yourself until you believe it.

Remember, though, that faith isn’t intellectually believing something; faith is lived out. The poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, was once asked by a friend how he could believe. He responded with two words: “give alms.” In other words, faith and the closeness of God, is experienced in charity, in giving to others, in thinking of others, in ARKs (Acts of Random Kindness).

So, get creative. How can you do something for someone else?

God did not abandon Jesus any time in his life, let alone when he hung on a cross, and God has not abandoned us, either. Instead, God is right here in the midst of what we are going through to give us courage and strength to face this time, to face the unknown.

So, keep the faith. And be kind to others as you let others be kind to you. We are all in this together and together we will get through.

Until next week, blessings and love to all of you, Rev. Casey


2nd letter to members and friends

Posted: March 28, 2020

March 22, 2020

Dear Members and Friends:

 

Things have changed rapidly since my letter to you. On Thursday of last week, we received an email from our Conference Minister telling us that Governor DeWine (on the advice of Dr. Amy Acton) has requested that all churches across Ohio (no matter their affiliation) not hold in-person worship services for the next 8 weeks in order to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Gov. DeWine said he could not order us to do so because of the separation of Church and State, but he strongly asked each of us to do so.

 

Pauline and I discussed the request and felt that we needed to do it. It would be our contribution to the effort to save lives, including maybe our own and those with whom we come in contact. For that reason, we will not be having church until May 17 (6 more weeks than originally planned). We know how much you miss not being able to see your church family every week; we wholeheartedly understand that feeling because we feel it, too. But, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution and do what our leaders and doctors are asking us to do and be safe?

 

We are reminded of the stories we’ve heard about life during World War II, when everyone (including some of you) stepped up to do their part to help because the country was at war and the stakes were high. Well, we, too, are at war, just within our own borders and the stakes are high in this fight, too. And the enemy, if you will, is a virus that spreads pretty easily when we are in close contact with one another.

 

When next we gather, we will celebrate Easter. Celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord is one of the highlights of the Christian calendar and it just needs to be celebrated together. We will bring back the Alleluia banner, flower the cross, sing like we’ve never sung before (just think, we might be able to leave the doors open if it’s nice outside and let the world join in our joy at being free once more to come together), and we will end the morning by having my annual Easter Egg Hunt. Until we meet, please look to my newsletter notes about how you can worship at home.

 

Both of us remind you to continue sending in your offering. Natalie will check the mail two days a week and deposit any checks you send within a week. As usual, Natalie will be available by telephone since she has the church’s phone roll over to her phone. As always, I am available to you 24/7 by cell phone (319/651-8313) or email (Revccain@gmail.com). You may text me, or FaceTime me, too, if that suits you better. Pauline can be reached at her home phone 419/588-2170, cell phone 419/677-5707, or email malone2170@gmail.com.

 

We will get through this together, with God walking beside us all the way. Let us take care of each other and, most especially, the vulnerable among us. Reach out and touch someone by mail, a phone call, an email, a smile (from 6 feet away). Pray and do what the experts are telling us to do. Stay well, keep the faith. And keep in touch.

 

Blessings,

Rev. Casey                                                                   Pauline Malone

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