As we all look toward the fall, we are facing a lot of questions and uncertainty about what lies ahead. None of us yet know just what school will look like, what our work will look like, or what might happen to our future travel plans and events.

For many, fall also marks a time of renewed engagement with the church. It is safe to say that this fall will feel different at First Congregational Church of Milton. At the same time, there will continue to be lots of ways to connect to our ministry, and continue your journey of faith during this time when we cannot gather in person.

The Board of Trustees has voted to reopen our building to some small gatherings. This means, we are looking to safely schedule anonymous support groups, tenants, and church events that meet in small groups. At this time, we expect worship to remain a remote experience, as there is not a reasonably safe way to gather in large numbers in an indoor space.

The church leadership is continuing to seek a balance between the essential functions of our ministry and the safety of our staff and community.

If you have taken a break from the livestream worship this summer, please plan to start attending again. And stay tuned for more updates about opportunities to gather in small groups and to serve our community. I am so proud of the ways this church has adapted to this new normal, and I am grateful to God, whose presence never left us through all these challenges.

Like you, I long to gather again. Until then, I am grateful to be connected in spirit.

Blessings,

PAST UPDATES FROM FCC OF MILTON

May 20, 2020–All church programs, including worship, will be held remotely until further notice.

You may have seen that Massachusetts is beginning the cautious process of reopening our state. Houses of worship are included in phase 1 of the reopening and are now permitted to begin holding in-person services, albeit with significant new safety measures in place.

Our church will continue to gather remotely.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Even though we are now allowed to return to in-person gatherings, our Church Council has wisely determined that it is not yet appropriate to do so.

In addition to the new minimum safety standards set by the commonwealth, we have received guidance from the United Church of Christ that outlines a more cautious process for returning to in-person activities. Today, we also received a letter from the Massachusetts Council of Churches, which strongly urged churches against regathering in person.

Ultimately, our Church Council will prayerfully and judiciously determine what is best for our local church. Consulting the best available guidance, they will discern when and how we begin to return to in-person activities. Our staff, leaders, and other volunteers are working hard to ensure that we are ready to welcome you back to our sanctuary as soon as it is safe to do so.In the meantime, I am inspired by the way that the spirit of this church has carried beyond our walls. Our pews may be empty, but the worship of God is still ascending from our hearts. Read on below for ways we can stay connected. We cannot eat together, but we are feeding our neighbors more generously than we ever have. We cannot hold each others hands, yet our connections abound.

Thank you for being the church: together, in spirit. It is an honor to be your pastor.

Blessings,

March 13, 2020–Being together and worshiping God lies at the heart of who we are. Caring for one another and looking after our neighbors is also at the heart of who we are.

And so our heart is torn. Torn between our genuine desire to be together, and our call to act on behalf of those most at risk.

Please know that our inability to be together does not mean our inability to be the church. In the days and weeks ahead it will be more important than ever before that we remain diligent in our prayers, that we reach out in love to those we know who may be struggling, and that we stay alert for opportunities to serve our community in a moment of need.

The following are some ways to remain connected, though we worship apart. Please let us know if you have any ideas on how to use the strength of the spirit to help our neighbors in need, support the saints among us and keep the peace in this uncertain time.

Remote Worship

Our Sunday worship will livestream each week at 10 a.m. Access it here: ww.fccmilton.org/livestream. Worship will include a sermon and music, using as small of a crew of church staff and volunteers as possible. Please join us for this new way of being together. Contact Rev. John Allen, for technical help.

Children and Youth

To help our children remain engaged in faith formation while we are apart, once a week, we will send materials, including a video lesson and printable activity sheets, to all of families registered for Sunday School.

Small Groups and Classes

Some church board, committee and group activities will be postponed; others will take place remotely. If you are a participant in a board, committee or small group, you will receive instructions.

Church Staff

The church staff will be working remotely to make sure that our mission and purpose is carried out as faithfully as ever. If you have any need, please do not hesitate to contact any of us.

Let us find comfort in the opening words of Psalm 46:

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.

Selah

That last word, Selah, is an ancient word that indicated a place for the cantor to take a breath. I sense that we could all use a breath right now. So read those words once more. Then pause to draw a good, deep, breath.

And maybe once more.

For accurate and up to date information about the spread of the virus, please consult these trustworthy resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

https://www.townofmilton.org/health-department

https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

https://www.ucc.org/disaster_coronavirus_resources_from_the_ucc