Rector's Letter 4/24/2020
A continued Happy Easter to you. My prayers are with you and your loved ones. We live in strange times, but I have been comforted to hear folks in some recent virtual coffee hours complaining about the weather. What a typical New Englander thing to do! It may not be much normalcy, but I will take it.
As I shared with the clergy of the deanery last week, I had expected Eastertide to feel very disappointing, but I am holding to our life of prayer. As you know, I have been leading daily prayer on our YouTube page. I will be scheduling this practice through the rest of Eastertide so there will be a variety of different worship experiences. As time goes on, I will invite other parishioners to lead some of these. Each weekday, we will have a prayer service at 6:00pm. We will also have a morning prayer service at 8:00 am on Saturdays as well as our Sunday service.
On Mondays, we will have a time of open prayer. I will collect prayers sent by you throughout the week and pray them each Monday evening. While it seems like a lifetime ago, I took great comfort carrying your prayers with me when Gretchen and I walked the Camino de Santiago. I felt your presence with me when I prayed those prayers, and I know you took comfort having those prayers prayed regularly throughout the pilgrimage. During this difficult time, I again ask you to write some prayers. I will pray them regularly and publicly every Monday evening. These may be simple, informal prayers. They do not have to feel like collects. Just a list of petitions or even a few names are good enough. What ever you send me, I will pray, and I will add my own prayers each week.
On Tuesdays, I will pray Evening prayer with the litany of healing. I will pray our prayer list, and this will be a time to pray for our first responders, doctors, nurses, and frontline workers. On Wednesdays, we will pray Evening Prayer with a short homily. The homilies will focus on some point that was discussed at our weekly Wednesday morning Bible Studies. If you wish to join these Bible studies, please contact me. They are Zoom based, so you will need an invitation.
On Thursdays, we will have a brief time of Eucharistic adoration with a benediction service. For those of you unfamiliar, it is a very simple service, spending some time in front of the blessed sacrament. In this time of our great Eucharistic fast, I think it would be helpful to spend a few minutes in contemplation in this way. On Fridays, we will pray a brief service of Compline, which are our good night prayers.
On Sunday morning, we will continue streaming our services at 9:30am. At the beginning of this crisis, YouTube was able to turn our livestream around very quickly. This worked well for us. Our 8:00’ers could pray with me live, and our service was prepared for anyone to watch at 9:30am or later in the day. Unfortunately, with all the increased demand, they cannot turn the video around faster than 12 hours later. This means that we will be streaming our services at 9:30 am. I encourage you to watch them live if you wish to pray them on Sundays. A video of our worship will be available late Sunday night and beyond if you are finding it easier to pray along later in the week.
Thank you for all your generosity toward our Easter offering. It was very successful. We raised nearly $3,500 for the Medfield Food Cupboard. As you have read, they are getting very short on supplies, and this money will help. We raised more than three times as much as last year’s Easter offering. Our church makes a difference in this community, and I am proud of our work together.
Many have expressed their concerns to me about the church’s finances. It is true that, financially, this will be a very difficult year for the church. We are losing all our usual Spring fundraisers. The open plate has been empty, with a closed church, and rental income is also not where we were hoping it would be. I have appreciated the generosity of several parishioners who were able to pay their pledges early. This has helped us keep our commitments through April. We are applying for a Paycheck Protection Program loan which would be a big help. Hopefully, that will work out. Our application has been submitted to Rockland Trust. Thanks to our finance team and Millie for making that happen.
We are planning some smaller fundraisers. Blazing Hearth Pizza, one of our tenants, makes amazing pizza. They specialize in big parties, like weddings, so they have some time on their hands. They have generously offered to help us run a pizza fundraiser. They will make their wonderful pizza, and we can sell it to parishioners and friends. This fundraiser will be Friday, May 8th. You will be receiving more details on this next week.
I appreciate all your support for the Church of the Advent. You are in my prayers. You have done a wonderful job of caring for each other these past few weeks. I especially thank all the “shepherds” who have been diligently checking in on folks. It has been great to see so many of you in virtual coffee hours. We will continue these while we are closed.
I know many of us are going to struggle in May. It is supposed to be a month of celebrations – graduations, confirmations, weddings; also, the time of our plant sale and auction dinner – and all these events will not happen as we would have wished. Through this, let us not get too isolated. The church is a place of faith and connection. Let it still be so. Your prayers are needed as much as ever, as our society endures this virus and the recession that will follow. Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, to a member of the vestry, or to your fellow parishioners. We are all here for you.
Blessings and peace,
Rector's Letter 4/3/2020
Holy Week and Easter is our most sacred time. It is a time to reflect on the whole Christian story. It is a time for us to remember how God can turn defeat into victory, death into life. It is a time for us to celebrate new life and new beginnings. This is a time to embrace again that Christ is alive, a very present help in trouble and a joyful presence in our triumphs.
This year, the message is the same, but the delivery is not what any of us would want. Easter has always had a strong family focus in our tradition. Easter is filled with Easter Egg hunts and rolls, visiting friends and relatives, and perhaps preparing our homes for guests. Easter might mean singing in a choir or listening to a trumpet shake the church. It might mean sharing a joke and a smile with fellow parishioners. These small comforts will return, but this year will be different. There is no spin that I wish to put on this fact. It is a loss that I know we will all feel.
This loss presents us with a new opportunity. We can focus on our faith. Our faith is sacramental, and part of our sacramentality is tactile. Our incarnational faith encourages us to worship through all our senses, and, in this moment of crisis, the sense of touch has been particularly restricted. Normally you would be given a palm on Sunday which you can hold, wave, crumple, and perhaps shape into a cross. We cannot distribute palms, but I encourage you to find your own. Take a cut of an evergreen, a budding branch, a house plant, or anything that can be waved. That branch can be your palm for Sunday.
I encourage you to create a holy place within your house. It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate. A small end table with a cloth in a corner of a room would work fine. You could place a candle on it, perhaps a cross, or a Bible. Place your “palm” on it, and say your prayers. On Wednesday of Holy Week, you could place a few silver colored coins to symbolize Jesus’ betrayal by Judas Iscariot. On Maundy Thursday, you could place a bowl of water to symbolize Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet. On Good Friday, you could place a cross or even simply two sticks in the shape of a cross. On Easter Sunday, you could place some flowers on your sacred table. This is a great time to bring church into the home.
We also will have streamed Holy Week services. As you may have noticed, I post at least one prayer office a day on our YouTube channel which can be accessed through our website. It is most often our simple compline service of good night prayers. During Holy Week, I will continue to post services, a few of which, will contain a brief homily. On Thursday, we will not do our usual worship, but I will invite you virtually into my home. I will be virtually sharing an Agape meal with you of bread, soup, and wine. This can be accessed through the web meeting site Zoom. The link to this will appear in the All Parish email. Using this service will allow us to talk to each other during the meal. There are a few short prayers that go with this, but this will mostly be a chance for us to be together.
After our meal, I will head to the church to place the webcam in front of the altar of repose. You are invited to keep a virtual vigil in front of the sacrament. It is the tradition of the church to keep vigil for an hour. If you have never done this on Maundy Thursday, it is a simple and meditative way to keep holy week. On Friday, we will again be back in the church on YouTube. This will be a more familiar Good Friday experience as we will not have to change the liturgy very much from what we normally do.
On Easter Sunday, we will again gather virtually for a joyful service. I hope you will join us online. I thank Eric and Roger for providing music and our lay ministers – Ingrid, Donna, Theresa, and Jill for serving at the altar on Sundays. I have appreciated the feedback I have received on the virtual worship. I have heard that being able to pray along with a few familiar faces has made this experience more bearable, and I am glad we can at least worship in this way. We also will have Easter flowers. The flower guild cannot meet as it normally would, but we can have a few plants around to beautify the church and to help inspire prayer.
The church, when at its best, stirs us to action on behalf of those who suffer. This ministry is especially important when every person is feeling the strain. There is not a person I am writing to who is living what can be called a “normal” life. We are all feeling it, but there are many who are suffering acutely. Many have lost their jobs during this crisis. It has been surmised that not since the Great Depression has such a high percentage of us lost their jobs so quickly. We will need our food pantries in the coming months. The Church of the Advent for decades has provided the Easter meal for clients of the Medfield Food Cupboard. Last month, we were told that the M.F.C. could not accept our food donations because of the COVID-19 crisis. We certainly understand and appreciate their caution. They will have to give gift cards to their clients to make up the difference. This will be very expensive. As a way of helping, our Easter Offering will be dedicated to the Medfield Food Cupboard. Donations may be sent to the office by check with “Easter offering” in the memo line. I thank you in advance for doing what you can during this crisis.
Even though I cannot see you, know that you are in my prayers. I look forward to a time when we can be together in person. I send my best to you and your loved ones. I ask your prayers for the those who are suffering from this virus, and those who are caring for them. I suppose that in our information-based economy, we should better understand a crisis involving a group of people who have the training and knowledge to fight our battles, but, for me, it does not help. I thank this parish’s medical professionals for the great work you are doing. I wish I could do something more active than stay home and drive my children crazy. It is easier on the brain to be active, but, right now, I ask the rest of us to pray for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals and to stay home. The greatest gift to them is for you not to get sick. Please let me know if you need anything. We have parishioners who love to bring groceries or medications. Stay in touch and keep praying.
Blessings and peace,
Rector's Letter 3/17/2020
As I mentioned in last week’s letter, the Coronavirus situation is fast moving, and we will continue to adjust our common life as necessary. On Sunday, Governor Baker made the decision to limit gatherings to only 25 people. With that reality, Bishop Gates had little choice but to suspend all Episcopal Churches’ public worship. Our typical, daily operations are officially closed through Palm Sunday, but it is my expectation that we will be closed for public worship for a much longer period.
This news comes as a great disappointment to us all. I know that especially during challenging times, we rely on our faith and the faithful people of God to give us the strength that we need to face all that may come. I want to assure you that the church of Christ is not closed, on hiatus, or absent from this crisis. Our life together is just changed, not ended. Beginning this Sunday, we will be livestreaming church services. We have a new website. We now have a new YouTube channel that will stream worship. I may be younger than many of you, but I am not a digital native as my children are. I am learning fast, though. With each passing week, I think I will improve. I will be posting videos of morning prayer (which also serves are morning chapel for my now homeschooled children) and other content. Beginning next week (once we have the proper equipment in place), we will begin posting videos to replace children’s chapel.
If you are in a vulnerable group and do not feel comfortable entering public places, please let me know via email at Rector.email@example.com. We have a small army of people who are willing to make dinners, shop, or pick up medication. Please let me know. You are not a burden. Believe me, our parishioners want to help. These are anxious times and finding a way to be useful is a gift. It is the gift of safety for yourself, and a gift of purpose for someone else. I know New Englanders are tough, hardy folks, who are reluctant to ask for help. This is not a time to show your toughness. It is a time to be smart and to let people who love you help you.
Intention. I want to let you know of a theological principle of which we do not often speak. In our modern world, we do not often encounter the inability to receive the sacrament of communion before very old age. The church has always cared about the state of our hearts, however, not focusing on the inability to come to church as a spiritual detriment. Do you intend to receive communion with all your heart, but due to the difficulties of the world, the Eucharist is not available to you? This intention, this movement of the spirit, matters to God. God will know that you would have been in church were you allowed. This idea is usually invoked due to distance, conflict, or infirmity, but epidemic is a very good reason not to go to church. God knows the state of your heart, and your intention to receive the Eucharist is enough for God. The grace that I found in the Eucharist is what pushed me to be a priest. The Eucharist is powerful, and its grace is lifesaving. The grace and power of God will be with you, even if it is through distance worship, the internet, or simply your intention to receive. Sermons will continue to be found on our church website by clicking media, then sermon archive, or by typing in https://adventmedfield.org/sermon-archive.
Further instruction on LiveStreaming will be coming with this week’s All Parish email. I encourage you to listen to our medical leadership during this crisis. Pandemics do not usually bring the best out of humanity. I know that our church will defy the conventional wisdom and will prove to be resilient and loving.
I will continue to hold you and your family in prayer. I continue to give thanks for this community. Let us hold those suffering from this virus in our prayers, as well as those who care for them. We also pray for all of those suffering economic hardship. May the Holy Spirit push us to greater levels of love and generosity to care for those in need.
Blessings and Peace,
Rector's Letter 3/11/2020
I write to you during a difficult time. We are experiencing more disruption than has been caused by any other disease in decades. My prayers are with those suffering from coronavirus, those caring for them, and those whose jobs have been dramatically affected by the virus. It is during these occasions when the church is more important than ever – providing hope, a sense of calm, and a community dedicated to looking out for one another. God is not in quarantine. God will be with us throughout.
While the church will continue to hope that this will pass over our nation, we will be taking all necessary protocols as called for by our bishops. Some of these protocols we have already been observing with others being new.
1) As instituted two weeks ago, we will not be passing the peace through bodily contact. A simple bow or a smile is enough for the moment. The peace, remember, is the “peace of the Lord” which is always with us. A very present help in trouble.
2) As instituted two weeks ago, we will not share handshakes or other physical greetings upon entering and leaving the church. This does not mean that we must exit the building like it was on fire. I would love to chat even if only for a few seconds.
3) Beginning today, parishioners will no longer be receiving communion in both kinds. The body of Christ will also be given from the crossing and not from the altar rail. This is an effort to limit touching surfaces. I will communicate the Eucharistic Minister, Eric and the choir, the transept side, the pulpit side, and then the lectern side. I know that many people feel very strongly about receiving the common cup. We will be restoring our practice as soon as it is permitted. In the meantime, please know that it has always been our theology that Christ is fully present in the consecrated bread. I will also be washing my hands before communion.
4) Beginning this Sunday, we will no longer be passing an offering plate. For traditionalists, this was a nineteenth century innovation, anyway. We will be using a box - what used to be called the “poor box”. The box has a slot in the top where church donations and offering envelopes can be dropped.
5) When offering blessings, I will not be touching the forehead as I normally would. I will make the sign of the cross over the person and offer my prayer.
6) Coffee Hour will continue, for now, but will require some adjustment from our usual practice. Current protocols no longer permit us to self-serve. Coffee and treats will be provided by a coffee host or other volunteer from behind the counter. Milk and cream will also be poured by the kitchen volunteer. Perhaps we can all become better baristas.
7) If you are sick, please stay home.
8) If you are in a vulnerable group and do not feel comfortable coming to church on a Sunday, please let me know via email at Rector.firstname.lastname@example.org. We have trained Eucharistic ministers along with me who will be available to administer communion at your home. Sermons can be found on our church website by clicking media, then the sermon archive, or by typing in https://adventmedfield.org/sermon-archive/
9) For those who want to practice social distancing, when we include the transept and choir space in addition to the nave, there is plenty of room to get some space.
10) Your mother probably taught you good self-care, but I know we can find it difficult to follow her advice. I encourage us all to really pay attention to our bodies. Get enough sleep, wash your hands frequently, and eat well.
We have a plan, and should it be necessary, further action will be taken. This is an important time to check on vulnerable neighbors who may need help with errands or just a little company across the back fence. Pray for our scientists and epidemiologists who God uses. Please listen to your doctors and nurses. The book of Sirach says, “Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them.”
I pray daily for our parish community, and if our contact becomes more difficult due to a quarantine of some kind, I will be communicating more in writing than I typically do. You have my love, and I look forward with you to the other side of this crisis.
Blessings and peace,