Update on Re-opening

Update on Re-opening

A message from Pastor Kathleen O’Keefe Reed and Church Council president Lindsay Sanneman:

Beloved People of UniLu,

This week Governor Baker announced a phased reopening plan for Massachusetts, and houses of worship were included in the first phase of allowed activity with a set of associated safety standards. In anticipation of changing recommendations at the state level, the UniLu Church Council and the Preparedness Task Force (PTF) have discussed what this might mean for our community and how we might proceed in response to such changes.

Last Sunday evening, we held a Zoom gathering to discuss both some of these points as well some broader updates from various UniLu committees. In case you missed the gathering, recordings of the financial, “We Are Called” and PTF updates can be found in the UniLu website Members’ Area.

Over the last few weeks, the PTF has weighed the recommendations from the New England Synod, communications from Bishop James Hazelwood, considerations from ELCA churchwide, information from the Harvard Square clergy, medical expertise from within the PTF, and the response of the Massachusetts Council of Churches to Governor Baker’s plan. The common and consistent message that has emerged is succinctly stated by Bishop Hazelwood: “There is wisdom in proceeding slowly.”

One hallmark of our virtual gatherings, whether in Zoom worship, Coffee Half Hour, virtual Bible studies, or one-to-one phone calls is deeply shared grief. We lament the loss of physical presence which is so integral to our Lutheran understanding of divine love that longs to be embodied—singing, praying, passing the peace, giving the consoling hug or the celebratory high-five, breaking the bread of the Eucharist, sharing the pastries of coffee hour. God’s work, our hands! Even so, the risk of spreading COVID-19, a virus that can travel on the very breath we exhale, remains high when we are gathered in an enclosed space. Therefore, we will not be returning to worship at 66 Winthrop Street in the immediate future.

In the coming weeks, the PTF and Council will continue to weigh options for returning to physical gatherings and develop a plan that aims to respect the needs and safety of those in our congregation as well as those who use our building. We are in an information-gathering and brainstorming phase right now, and we are open to ideas, thoughts, and recommendations from the congregation as we develop a plan. The Holy Spirit is nothing if not creative! We promise to keep channels of communication with the congregation open as plans develop. In the meantime, we look forward to continuing to learn what it means to be church virtually.

Confident in the love of God that ultimately knows no power of separation,

Lindsay Sanneman, Church Council President
Kathleen O’Keefe Reed, Pastor

Articles to check out:

May 19 Letter from Bishop Hazelwood (PDF) – followed by his video to accompany the letter, “Five Considerations in Re-opening.”

Bishop Hazelwood’s video conversation with Bishop Guy Erwin about communion. The Rev. Guy Erwin is the bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and an alumnus of UniLu.

Christian Century article by Peter Marty, “Churches Obsessed with Their Right to Reopen Are Missing the Point