COVID-19 and Church Closure
A message from Reverend Tim Seery
March 12, 2020
Dear CCLJ Family,
Last week I preached about thorough and thoughtful hand washing as a Lenten practice. I asked that while you wash your hands you give thanks for experiences of your hands, the lives they’ve lived, and the miracles they’ve participated in. Then, never did I think that my hands would write you this message just a few days later.
We live in a world where news develops in a minute-by-minute fashion. As such, many of you have reached out over the past week asking more about what we are doing at a church in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Many of you have mentioned that due to your individual health situations or due to the guidelines and requests of the facilities in which you live, that you would be stepping away from in-person worship for the time being. This is of course something that we highly endorse and respect.
Last night our President addressed the country and highlighted the grave concern with which we must face this virus. As of tomorrow travel between the US and Continental Europe will be temporarily halted for 30 days, the NBA has canceled their season, all of our local universities have decided to not resume in-person classes after their spring recesses, and gatherings of over 250 persons are now prohibited in California. Your staff has been discussing appropriate measures to take in light of these developments.
Today, I attended a meeting with our UCC Associate Conference Minister, Rev. Rudy Van Gran as well as the pastors of several local UCC congregations. Our desire is to act in close concert with each other in a way that respects the individual needs of our respective faith communities. We were told very clearly that this virus is extremely dangerous for those over 70 and gravely dangerous for anyone over 80. The mortality rate is over 15% for those 80 and over. While we are not a community of over 250, we are a community of advanced age. It is advised by our UCC conference as well as medical professionals that persons should not be within 6 feet of other worshipers. Given that the average age of most of our UCC churches is in this range of deep concern we were told that we needed to cease all in person worship, meetings, and church functions for the next 3, if not 4 weeks. This means that our next worship service at CCLJ could possibly be Easter. This was something that our Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ is imploring us to do and we your clergy and staff are obligated to follow not only in respect to the covenant that binds us together as a denomination but for your own health and safety.
As always, things can change quickly. Therefore we will be in touch with you if any changes are warranted. Your co-moderators (one of which is a nurse) and staff have consulted with each other and believe this is (at minimum) the best course of action given the circumstances.
Rev. Van Gran wanted me to highlight to you that your church leaders will still be at work during this time, now more than ever. Our renters will continue to rent the church at their own discretion, however we will not have any official church gatherings until further notice. Nina, Bronwyn and I will meet to put together weekly “take home worship kits.” These will be delivered to everyone by email and others by regular mail. If you do not have an updated email address with us, now would be a great time to let us know how to reach you. This includes Sunday March 15, March 22, March 29 and possibly April 5. I will record a message for you, Nina will record piano music, Bronwyn will offer recorded solos, and I will send poetry, art, prayers, and other things to reflect on at home throughout the week. While not all churches are choosing to offer this worship opportunity, I think this is important to keep us spiritually grounded and at peace during these turbulent times. I will be at work on figuring out how to best deliver a worship experience to you in the comfort of your own homes. As such, Bronwyn, Nina and I will continue to work throughout the week to record, package, and put together these worship experiences for you.
We will stay in close contact with you during this time. Not only through worship kits but through regular correspondences. We will post notices on our doors, on our social media pages, and our website.
And lastly, even though we might not be meeting in person, the work of the church still continues per normal. This means that while our in-person worship stops, no virus can end the real work of the church. This is why it is important that we continue to “pass the offering plate” just like we would do in person. However, we will do this via the mail and virtually. Please continue to support our ministry as you would if we worshiped together in person. We will cover this further in the worship kits.
Please be patient with us. This is totally new and as far as I know we are the only UCC church in San Diego offering this new "at home"worship product. I plan to contact our publicist and write for the local newspapers to let the community know that we are really using this crisis to learn “what it means to be the church in 2020” especially when we are being asked to do church in a way that is totally new for us. Yes, we can grow during these times. Why? Because we are willing to do and be church in ways that contemporary times demand of us.
Join me on this journey. Stay healthy. Be careful. May it be so.
Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on life's journey, you are welcome here!