From the Pastor’s Pen ~ March 31, 2021

It is Holy Week, friends! It is the second Holy Week we’ve experienced amid this global pandemic that is still with us, hanging on to the very end.

The Holy Week story is one full of ups and downs and dramatic turns. From a hopeful process into Jerusalem, to Jesus angry in the Temple, to a celebratory Passover feast replete with sad reminders of things to come… you know the rest. Holy Week is such a human venture which thankfully ends with a divine exclamation mark!

If I had to say where we were as a nation in the pandemic’s passion story, we are on Holy Saturday. Good Friday has happened, but Easter hasn’t yet.  We are either deeply sad and self-insulated or numb and wanting to move on despite the reality. Easter certainly is going to happen, but not on this day. We must wait a little longer.

Maybe you see where I am going with this… We are seeing another surge of cases, and it appears a 4th – and final – wave has commenced. While many of us, me included, have been vaccinated at least with the first dose, and while the elderly will be less effected by the 4th wave because of vaccinations, those not yet vaccinated will endure the bulk of it, largely thanks to the spread of variants of the original Covid virus. Until more younger people are vaccinated and until the onset of summer possibly, the spread looks like it will continue. We need to continue to mask up, and for the unvaccinated, extra vigilantly. Maybe wear two masks if you are not vaccinated and in the context where social distancing is difficult.

But what about C.C.P.? What about Worship Service? Important questions… And here is the important news you need to know

The hope and plan was for us to return to full, in-person worship on April 11th. Then the latest surge came. As of today, there has been in Connecticut a 54% increase in the number of cases across 14 days.

So, we have decided, because of the surge in cases, to return but in the safest way possible – with both online and outdoor services on Sundays for April and possibly May. We will do a hybrid approach like we are doing for Easter. The hybrid will be composed of a shorter version of the online worship services we have been doing at 10 am and a short 11 am outdoor service. Think a memorial service but for the living followed by an empty-graveside service in front of the church.

One big benefit of starting with in-person outdoors as we return is that our young people and younger families will feel freer to join us. Families I know will likely not come to in-door services with a spike of cases happening. But outdoor services will be more attractive in this regard.

Please note, MASKS will still be required with the outdoors service. We will be singing! And breakthrough cases of variant virus might still be possible, making masks prudent, especially amid mixed crowds of vaccinated and non-vaccinated folks.

I know this is disappointing to hear for many of you. It is for me, too, and for more reasons than one. It means more work for me! But I think for April it is the wisest, most prudent choice. While it is extra-cautious on our part because of the demographics of our congregation, I think as a community we should always seek to model the way of prudence and compassion. Folks in the community should see in us a discerning, safe, and compassionate community. Fully opening up amid a surge does not model prudence, I feel.

And who knows, we might love the hybrid model!

I am sure you have the question – what if it rains? In the case of rain in the forecast, we won’t do the outdoor portion of the hybrid service. We will announce this by Friday before. On those rainy Sunday mornings, one will be able to on their own say a prayer and give their tithes and offerings in the sanctuary which will be open Sunday mornings (10 – 11:30 am). I will be there outside to greet you and check-in with umbrella in hand.

At the end of April, we will discern next steps.

Thanks so much for your patience and understanding. It won’t be long!!

Blessings,
Rev Don

From the Pastor’s Pen ~ March 10, 2021

The big news is this – we will be returning to in-person worship services on Sunday, April 11th. Here is the rational:

  1. The Covid case numbers, positivity rate, hospitalization and death rates in Connecticut are the lowest they’ve been since we returned to remote services in October.
  2. The vaccination rate in Connecticut is among the highest in the country.
  3. Members of CCP are increasingly getting vaccinated, and those at highest risk (65 years-old and older) are almost all vaccinated here at CCP.
  4. The concern about the growth of variants has thankfully not matched reality.
  5. The weather is getting warmer, and cases are projected to continue to go down with warmer weather and increased outdoor activity.

As for what our return will look like, we on the Phase Forward committee are ironing out the details still. But in general, this is what it will look like (though subject to change between now and then):

  1. Whenever weather is conducive, i.e., warm and dry, we will worship outdoors on the front green using a speaker system and using a BYOC – bring your own chair – basis. Masks will be required for those not yet vaccinated.
  2. When worshipping inside, the following will be required:

Highly effective masks… We will hand-out KF94 and KN95s along with bulletins

Social distancing… individuals or household units will sit at minimum 6 feet apart

Hand sanitizer… before entering sanctuary and upon exiting

Inserts for hymns… no use of hymnals through summer

HVAC will be turned-off for service… so dress appropriately

No indoor coffee hour… working on possibility of outdoor/courtyard version

As for our children, the school year CE program will not commence until September. There will be a Covid-friendly summer program that Nicole is working on. That said, kids are welcome to come to worship services when we return!!

Again, I want to note, all of the above is subject to change, updating, etc.

Let me wrap up this discussion by saying this – YESSSS!!!!!! It’s finally happening!!!

2021 Easter Plant Sale

We are excited to share that church members will be able to purchase Lilies, Hyacinths, Tulips and Daffodils through C.C.P. for their Easter celebrations.  These beautiful plants are purchased through Karabin Farms in Southington CT.  All plants must be pre-ordered and will be available for curbside pick-up on Saturday April 3rd from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. This year these plants can be purchased in honor, or remembrance, of someone special and will be listed in the Order of Service. The plants are $10 each. 

Also, this year, members will have the option to make a $10 donation in honor, or remembrance, of someone special with the names of the donors and those they are honoring or remembering listed in the Order of Service, but with no plants ordered. 

There will be one line for each donation. Please be sure that you circle Honor or Memory for each notation. This floral ministry of the church is coordinated through the Diaconate and the Minister. 

Please complete the order form below and return it to the Church Office with payment by Friday, March 26, 2021.  No order will be accepted without payment.  You may attach multiple forms together if needed.  Checks (made out to C.C. P.) or Cash will be accepted.

Payment and completed forms can be returned to:

The Congregational Church of Plainville, UCC, 130 West Main Street, Plainville, CT 06062

Please contact the Church Office at churchoffice@uccplainville.org or 860/747-1901 with any questions.  Thank you for participating in this beautiful ministry.

Update & Info

Dear Friends,

Well, as we move into April, we will enter a phase that Nicole nicely described as “ramping up” as we slowly move to a less restrictive mode as we move to a post-pandemic reality.

To be clear, this ramping up will be a safe one. No running on the ramp here! We will be methodical and wise about it. The practical application of this is that we will use the outdoors, taking advantage of the warmer weather of Spring and Summer. This makes sense, right? Ramps are usually outdoors and lead to the front doors of a building.

Here are a couple upcoming events that are indicative of the early phases of the ramp-up to a post-pandemic reality.

This Sunday, March’s Communion Sunday on the 7th, I will be sharing the Communion elements using a drive-thru approach. This is how it will work: I will be on the front steps of the sanctuary with the plate of bread and with the tray of cups. As cars pull-up, I will present the bread and juice along with a printed prayer to folks inside their vehicles with masks on. Folks can then drive to the back parking lot, read the prayer, and prayerfully partake of the elements, maybe with sacred music playing in their car. This will start at 11 am. Our online service will be per usual and include a spiritual Communion prayer as well.

Then for Easter, which is April 4th, we will do what I am calling an Empty-grave Service. Our 10 am service will be as we’ve been doing remote on Facebook. It will amount to a memorial service, a happy Easter memorial service. Then, instead of a graveside service that follows memorial services, we will have an empty-grave service outdoors. It will happen in the front of the church, along West Main. It will be a short service at 11 am. Masks will be required. And it will end with a sharing of the Communion elements. 

What about the weather? Well, we will have some canopy tents for our elderly. But folks will otherwise be encouraged to bring umbrellas. In other words, the outdoors Empty-Grave Service at 11 am on Easter will happen rain or shine. 

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With church business stuff out of the way, I share a memory. Easter mornings as a kid often included coffee and donuts. My father and I loved to go to Sunrise Service on Easter. I loved to go with him. We’d drive from Hudson, New York, our bustling town, to the quiet, rural church we attended in the pre-light dawn. The Catskills in the distance blinded by the night’s remnants. The country roads to Clermont Bible Church just beginning to sense some semblance of the sun not yet risen but rising. 

We’d arrive at the church and join the handful of disciples and sing Easter tunes. “He lives.” “Because He lives.” “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” “…Alleluia!” 

My dad was always his happiest, even radiant, on holidays. His laugh just a little extra infectious. And the sun would rise, the condensation and cold breaths joining us in the resurrection story. We’d enter the church together for coffee for my dad, chocolate milk for me, and donuts for the both of us.