by Rev. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister          –          March 19, 2020

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thes. 5:11)

How are you doing? I ask this because in my house we are going through a range of emotions; from anxiety, to fear, to boredom, to happiness, to frustration, to joy, to anger, to all sorts of feelings we can’t always put words to. So I ask you, how are you? And in asking, I pray that you are doing well enough. May God bless you with a sense of peace, or hope, or strength, or grace, or whatever it is that you most need right now.

As I write to you today, we are in week two of our Coronavirus pandemic. Or, at least, we are in week two of our lives being significantly disrupted due to the pandemic. Most of what we at the church have been doing is coping with an ever-changing situation and learning how to do things differently. Social distancing isn’t a concept I was aware of even ten short days ago. Now we all know it.

              • Did I ever think I’d be leading worship to an empty church in front of a video camera hoping that someone somewhere might be tuning in?
              • Did I ever imagine that I would encourage a church of mine to suspend all activities for an extended period of time, not knowing when we might hold another meeting in person?
              • Did I ever believe that the day would come when so few people would stop by the church, and those who did wouldn’t be greeted with a handshake?

Well, welcome to our new world. Even if this passes soon and schools are opened and quarantines lifted, we will likely all be changed by this experience.

However, change isn’t always bad. In fact, change is a defining characteristic of life. The only things that do not change are things that are inanimate (and even they are changed by outside forces). I want to take a moment to celebrate some of the changes that are taking place in our church life and how we are coping as a community. I also want to invite you to join in any of these experiences as you are comfortable.

Live-streaming Worship – So last Sunday we held our first worship live-stream. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work and even less sure of our technology holding up. In the end, we had a beautiful, if different, worship service. We had 44 accounts logged in through most of the service which probably equates to 80+ people coming together in worship last Sunday. That is SO COOL! And this Sunday promises to be even better. We are seeking to boost our technology to make the experience better for you all. We are bringing in some special music and hoping to even sing some hymns! Tomorrow (Friday), Christine will be sending out a bulletin and song sheet so you can follow along from home. And, best of all, we are not only streaming on Facebook Live, but you will be able to access our live-stream both on Facebook and on the church website! Look for details in tomorrow’s mailing or now on the church website.

Children’s Story Time with Andrea – This morning Andrea launched a live-stream from church designed for our kids (and the young at heart). She read a wonderful story, shared a Psalm, and read about the many images of God. For now, she is planning on doing this twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday, at 10AM. Like everything else though, this has the potential to change as our schools decide how to handle a prolonged shut-down. Keep your eyes posted for any schedule changes.

Reaching Out to One Another – One of the easiest things we can do at this time is to send a note or make a call to each other. Linda has started making calls to many of the folks on our homebound and parish concerns lists. The Lay Visitation Team is reaching out to their usual folks with calls and cards, too. We may not be able to visit with each other face to face, but we can still connect and share our love and concern for one another. Is there someone you want to call? Find a time today and reach out. They’d love to hear from you! Saying that, if you need support, strength, or help in these days, please don’t wait for Linda, me, or someone else from the church to call you. Reach out to us. We’re still here and we’ll be there for you in the ways that we can!

Lifting Prayers – One of the most powerful times for me during last week’s service was reading all the congregation’s prayers. We had both joys and concerns to celebrate, and while we couldn’t share them ourselves in worship, it was such a blessing for me to be able to read them aloud to everyone who was tuned in. God is Good! Saying that, if you have prayers you would like Linda and I to lift up this Sunday, please email either one of us (dale@bccucc.org or linda@bccucc.org) or call the church office between now and 9AM on Sunday. We will lift your prayers up to the whole community. (Note: Please be sure that the person you are lifting up is comfortable with us reading your prayer. Also, consider only using first names as God knows who we’re talking about!)

We’re ZOOMming – Zoom is a video/audio conferencing platform that the conference has been using for the past 3-4 years. More and more of our meetings are taking place over Zoom allowing for far less travel that we used to undertake. BCCUCC will be trying out two Zoom meetings next week. Mission and Justice and Linda’s Spiritual Gifts Class are going to hold our first two BCCUCC Zoom meetings,. We’ll see how it goes. If your group is interested in using Zoom to hold your church meeting, we can set that up for you! (Just give us next week to see how well it works for folks.)

2000 years ago, the Apostle Paul invited the Christian community in Thessalonica to “encourage one another and build each other up.” That remains one of the primary missions of the church even to this day. Yes, our present pandemic is challenging the ways we do that, but we are coming back with new and creative ways of supporting one another. What a joy it is to be your Sr Minister at this time! Yes, a challenge, but a joyous challenge. May God bless you this day and each day going forward. Find strength. Seek opportunities. Live hope. Support those around you. And Love all.