Beloved members and friends of First Unitarian Church,
You have been in my heart and my thoughts throughout this difficult week. I think of you as you care for your children who are home from school, daycare and college. I think of you as you stay in your homes, worried about the transmission of COVID-19. I think of you as you go to jobs which require your presence, and as you figure out working from home. I am thinking of those of you who have been laid off or are worried about your job security. I am thinking of you if you are sick and monitoring your symptoms. I am especially thinking of our medical personnel and first responders who are caring for those who fall ill. I love all of you and carry you in my heart.
I also know you love one another. I have seen so much evidence of your mutual care and compassion. You are calling each other to check in. You are meeting for well-distanced walks. You are texting and getting your children together online. You are reaching out to one another with messages of support and love. You are looking for ways to serve our larger community.
These connections and eagerness to care for your fellow human beings are what make up the spirit of our church. As long as we carry our covenant of love, spirit, unity, worship and service with us, grounded in the holy and seeking to help our fellow people, we are the church. We are the church in this time of distance, and we will celebrate as the church when we are able to gather together again in person.
For the time being, we must change some of the ways we live our lives as a congregation. Many updates went out in yesterday's newsletter. Here, I want to highlight how to join our worship service on Sundays. We will be sharing a worship service on Facebook Live at 10:30 every Sunday morning.
Go to our online event Online Worship Service to join our worship service at 10:30 a.m. this Sunday. You do not need a Facebook account to watch the service. We hope to video-record the service as well and make it available on our website.
Do you want to share a prayer during our service? You can fill out a prayer card online and I will read it during our service. You also have the option to keep your prayer request private and only I will see it. Go to the Worship page on our website to submit a prayer.
The Worcester community is pulling together to make sure our most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly and the homeless, make it through this crisis. Worcester Together brings together the City of Worcester, the United Way of Central Massachusetts, and the Greater Worcester Charitable Foundation. The GWCF will fund long-term recovery and the United Way is handling immediate needs. You can go to the city's website to learn more and donate if you are able. There may be volunteer opportunities in the future, from calling seniors for check-ins to delivering essential supplies to those who can't leave their homes. Local clergy are staying in touch with city leaders and I will share more as I know it. If you learn of responses in your towns surrounding Worcester, please send them to me and I'll share them in a future memo.
The Minister's Discretionary Fund of First Unitarian Church is available to help our members facing financial crisis. Our resources cannot match those of the city and the state, but may be able to help someone in a moment of true need. If I can help you with a gift from the Minister's Discretionary Fund, please be in touch. If you would like to donate to this fund, you can give through PayPal and indicate "Minister's Discretionary Fund" or MDF in the note field.
Finally, volunteers at First Unitarian Church will be working to reach out to all our members over the coming weeks, to establish lines of connection and find out if there are any pastoral needs we can help meet. If you want to let me know that you are connected already to our digital ministries or otherwise doing all right during this crisis, and that you do not need or want a phone call, you can e-mail me at .
We do not know how long the emergency response to COVID-19 will last. We can only hope that our compliance with difficult instructions to physically distance ourselves will protect our hospitals and those most at risk from severe illness and death. But the spirit of the church is alive during these times. It is alive in the patience and love you show one another in your families. It is alive in your care for one another. It is alive in our faith and connection to the spirit of love which holds us all. Ground yourself in that love and in the life of the spirit which is our comfort and our home.
Rev. Sarah Stewart