Update about United Parish and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

For updated information on COVID-19 (Coronavirus), you can visit these sites:

The Centers for Disease Control here.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts here.

Town of Brookline here.

Click here for an informative video from member, John Ayanian, Director of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation (IHPI) at the University of Michigan.

 

UPDATE: May 20, 2020

United Parish will remain closed until further notice.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.   Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5-7
 
Dear United Parish:
 
On Monday, Governor Baker’s office announced a plan for phased reopening of Massachusetts that allows houses of worship to open up at 40% capacity with restrictions. We appreciate the helpful, honest and matter-of-fact way the Governor’s Office has managed the Commonwealth’s response to the pandemic. However, we believe, along with many other colleagues, local houses of faith and health experts, that this directive is premature and raises many questions and concerns.
 
Jesus taught us that love of God and love of neighbor are the two most important commandments (Matthew 22:36-40). Jesus also said that he came that we might have life abundantly (John 10:10). With that in mind, we are compelled to place a high priority on our care and concern for ALL our neighbors and members, especially those who are most vulnerable to the effects of this virus. It is simply too early in the pandemic response to safely and ethically allow gatherings in our space, especially with no vaccine available. Like the early church, learning to practice their faith amid imperial oppression, we also need to continue to embrace creative ways of community connection, amid the real life-and-death threats of a pandemic.
 
We also have logistical concerns. We are grateful to have welcomed David Dunphy as our new Facilities Manager, but we still do not have a full facilities staff. The required sanitizing efforts would place staff at great personal risk at a time when cleaning supplies, latex gloves, and medical masks are difficult to obtain. Furthermore, the Governor’s required distancing guidelines would be challenging for both adults and children attending services or religious education, and implementing the necessary health precautions would prevent us from gathering before or after services, serving communion, sharing meals, or singing together, resulting in a much-reduced worship experience. 
 
With all this in mind, it is unlikely that we will be able to safely open our building for worship before September. Neither will we reopen the building for outside groups at the present time. We know this news will be disappointing for some and a welcome relief for others. God calls all of us to continue figuring out how to live abundantly, thrive and be creative in this new, uncertain normal.
 
We are establishing a team to develop detailed plans for reopening our spaces, based on the best possible resources we have from our denominations, collegial houses of faith and other non-profits and businesses. This team, along with staff and leadership, will assess our readiness to open the building in the coming weeks and months.
 
We are grateful for all of your encouragement about online worship and look forward to more meaningful worship to come. With warmer weather, we are also looking at options for safe, physically-distanced opportunities that can meet our collective spiritual needs.
 
We continue to keep all of you in our prayers and are here to help respond to whatever needs and concerns you have: spiritual, theological, emotional, physical and financial. Please continue to keep in touch with staff and other members.
 
As always, we welcome your prayers, your patience, your ingenuity and your continued participation as we all figure this out together. While physically apart, we remain spiritually strong and connected.
 
Gratefully,
Kent French, Senior Pastor
Jennifer Rodine, Moderator
Amy Norton, Associate Pastor
Susan DeSelms, Minister of Music

 

UPDATE: April 28, 2020

United Parish will be closed through May 18.

 

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 31, 2020

United Parish will be closed through May 4. All worship services and meetings will be held online. Keep checking this page for information about upcoming worship services. Check out our calendar for the schedule of virtual meetings.

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Psalm 46 adapted
God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
   though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
   God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
   God utters the divine voice, the earth melts.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
   see what desolations God has brought on the earth.
God makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   God breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
   God burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
   I am exalted among the nations,
   I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Rachel, Leah and Jacob, 
of Rebekkah and Isaac, 
of Sarah, Gomer and Abraham
of Mary, Joseph and Jesus
 is our refuge.

It is a strange, new world we are living into, with the news and precautions changing by the day, by the hour. For some of us, this is frightening, anxiety-heightening, for some of us it's invigorating and exciting. For all of us, it is challenging and requires our best adaptive resources, our bonds of community, our love for one another, which is usually how God’s love is made manifest in our midst. This is the spiritual nourishment that will get us through this. 

I encourage you to take a deep breath. To be still and know that God is with you.
And to know that the United Parish in Brookline is with you.
And then take another deep breath and another. We will get through this. There is much ingenuity, creativity and resiliency in the human spirit. And God is in the midst of us.

Online Worship. Many thanks to all of you who joined us with online worship last Thursday and Sunday. We’ve had nearly 400 views for Sunday’s service, with people joining us from all over the nation and the world. These numbers are more like what we see on Easter or Christmas Eve. We are grateful for your feedback and encouragement. 

We will continue with worship services tomorrow night, Thursday, March 19, at 6:15pm and Sunday, March 22 at 11am.
We are adjusting our formats, so look for a follow-up email or check out our home page for updates on live-streaming worship. You can visit our last two worship services and also read what people posted during worship by going to our Youtube page here.

Social Distancing. We strongly encourage EVERYONE to practice social distancing: avoiding groups, keeping six-feet of distance from people outside of your usual, immediate, most intimate network, washing hands frequently, staying out of the public if you’re sick.

Keeping in Touch. We also encourage you to reach out regularly to those you know and love, including those you regularly see at church — with phone calls, texts, emails. Think especially of those who may be alone, lonely or without resources.

Online Directory — if you haven’t already, please, please, PLEASE take five minutes to sign up for our online directory here. This is one of our best tools for staying connected.

Lenten Groups — Tonight we will have a Zoom meeting for our Lenten Study at 7:15pm. If you haven’t used Zoom yet, it’s super easy once you get the hang of it. You can tune in by phone or other electronic devices
You can find out more info and materials for our Lenten studies here.

Other measures. We are actively working on several ways to keep us connected and will send out details shortly.

Neighborhood Groups — our Gathering Team and staff are working on connecting us via local neighborhood groups, so that we can check in on those in nearest proximity to us.

Chancel Choir — Susan is arranging a “virtual choir” meet-up tomorrow night. We don’t quite yet have the technology to sing together remotely, but it will be a time to gather together.

Pastoral Office Hours — Amy and I will start virtual office hours, in which you can join us via Zoom (again, it’s really easy!), either by phone or other electronic devices. You can also send us an email or give us a call if you have immediate need for a pastoral one-on-one.

Financial Help. As this pandemic takes an economic toll on those around us, in our community and on our country, we are actively looking for ways to be of help others, to live more fully into the early church’s commitment “to hold all things in common and give to any who have need” (Acts 2:44-45).

Giving. You are also welcome to give to the work of our congregation at unitedparishbrookline.org/giving-stewardship.

Please stay tuned for future updates. Until then, we will be praying for you.

 

Update: Saturday, March 14, 2020
In light of precautions from local public health officials, we encourage members NOT to gather face-to-face in small groups, but check in via phone, text or email. For those who have internet access, we encourage moving ALL meetings to conference calls and online meeting platforms.

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Please take a few minutes to read through this entire message.
Let us remember the One who, by the power at work within us, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine. 
Ephesians 3:20

After prayerful and careful consideration, we are following the lead of localstatenational and international officials in efforts to contain further contagion of the COVID-19 virus, in order to keep safe all those who use our building as well as the broader community around us.

Starting today, we are moving all worship and other gatherings to online formatsWe will not gather for worship or meetings at United Parish for the next three weeks (through March 29)We will decide whether to extend or rescind these limitations as the situation develops. 

We are canceling all outside building usage for the nearly 1,000 people who come through our building each week. This decision will cause us losses of about $8,000 in revenue each month. Our finance team assures us that this is a loss worth taking.

While this may be shocking or even upsetting news, these changes provide us new opportunities to figure out how to “do Church.”

Online Worship
For this Thursday’s Dinner Church (6:15-7pm) and Sunday’s worship (11am), we will have live online formats. Please click here to watch.

Lenten Groups
We will soon have information about how to connect with your Lenten group. Go to this page for updates.

Staying Calm
Above all, we need to stay calm, grounded, prayerful and connected — and pay attention to good information sources (see below). There is much to be grateful for: we have smart public health officials, wise and skillful medical practitioners, lightning-speed communications. Our main goal is to reduce contagion. 

Let us remember the words from Ephesians 3:20, and trust in the One who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.

I am grateful for all the ways our staff, Church Council, and building users are cooperating in this effort to keep us safe and healthy. I am also prayerful that this pandemic may help us all realize that our common health and humanity connect us more than the politics and ideologies that we let separate us. As the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) put it: “Let hope be the antidote to fear. Let solidarity be the antidote to blame.
Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat”

(For a God’s-eye perspective on history, you can read here how this is very different and much better than the Spanish flu outbreak of 100 years ago.)

Being the Church
This public health crisis offers us new opportunities to think creatively about how to be the church. In some ways, it is the 21st century version of Paul’s correspondence with the early church, or the early Jewish communities' ways of gathering after the destruction of the temple. In crises such as these, we need spiritual community more than ever. 

Staying Connected
To that end, I encourage all of us to stay even more connected to one another:
• via more regular phone calls and email,
• reaching out directly to those whom you know that are alone, lonely, sick or in need, and keeping your pastors informed,
• offering grocery and errand runs for those who are particularly compromised or alone.

Online Directory -- be sure you're registered
Our Gathering Team and staff will be looking at further ways we may strengthen our bonds of community during this time. If you haven’t already, I implore you to make sure you are registered on our online database. Take five minutes to set it up here.

Financial Help
For those who will be negatively affected by this situation (such as hourly workers who do not get paid or receive sick leave), please let us know. 

If you would like to help out financially, this is a great time to set up your online giving (just like your health club or other charities). Click here.

Other resources
Centers for Disease Control updates (click here)
Commonwealth of Massachusetts updates (click here)
Town of Brookline updates (click here)

Let hope be the antidote to fear. Let solidarity be the antidote to blame. Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat. 
Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)

Together, with faith, we will move forward as the beloved community we are.

Gratefully,
Kent