Rising Cases and an Update on the Season Ahead
Dear friends and members of St. Matt's,
I pray that this note finds you well. These last few weeks have been very difficult for us as a community, and they’ve highlighted for me how much of a lifeline St. Matt’s is. Our life, our work together has been a beacon of hope, a constant support for many. You are an important part of that beacon. By your gifts and your presence you empower our light and witness in the world. I have also been reminded of the fragility of life and of our eternal hope. What follows is a long message from me, I apologize for that. And I do hope you'll take the time to read it, for the sake of the light we shine together.
Case numbers in Wilton, our surrounding towns, and in Connecticut are trending up in a distressing way. I continue to watch this closely and like you, I am concerned about the life and wellbeing of our members and our neighbors. As Christians, we are called to work for the common good. That means doing what we can as individuals and as a Body to slow the spread of COVID-19 so that schools can stay open, people can continue to work, and our communities stay as healthy as possible.
Some among us are already experiencing job loss and financial hardship. Others are worried they soon will. All of us are experiencing the anxiety and frustration that comes with this season we did not choose and cannot control. Every person I know in a leadership role will tell you how difficult this moment is and how hard it is to hold communities together.
Among us, there continues to be a desire to be connected, to do what we can to help each other, to continue to serve our neighbors, and to keep each other safe. I know that many of you are wondering what all this means for our life together as the parish moves into the fall, and so I want to share a sense of direction. Like all things in this season, this sense of direction is subject to change as the world around us continues to change.
When your Vestry and I met, I asked for feedback regarding in-person events. We talked about what was safe, what was possible, and what is important. Your Vestry and I struggled with how best to care for this parish, how to lovingly care for each member, how to responsibly try to keep people safe, and how to live out the work God has given us to do. There are many factors to consider.
The most important thing I heard from the Vestry was a commitment to who we are at St. Matt's: a place where all people are welcome. I heard a deep desire from your Vestry to live out our commitment to welcome and hospitality. When I joined you, one of the things I heard consistently was your commitment to welcoming everyone, how much it matters to you that everyone belongs, and no one is left out. Everyone gets to be who they are at St. Matt's, knowing that God loves them and so do we. It’s one of the things I love about you. And I heard this again from the Vestry. This kind of love in a community is special, and it's rare. It is profoundly faithful and resembles the radical love of Jesus.
Events in the time of COVID-19 are necessarily exclusive based on age and health factors, seeking to protect those who are at higher risk. If we are a place that wants to equally support the lives and the faith journeys of all our members, then we will need to think creatively about what is possible and yet not exclusive. We must also be willing to make some sacrifices for the sake of our love for each other, keeping in mind the needs of the community as a whole. We are working on some creative things that will offer us the opportunity to connect without excluding folks based on age and health factors.
While we have the weather, I have also decided that we will offer some gatherings for our older kids in person. On Sunday night, the high school youth gathered outside and at a safe distance in the WEPCO parking lot. Tonight, our joint 8th grade youth will do the same. Like you, I know that our kids are under a tremendous amount of pressure, and I am glad we can offer them a safe place. As long as it's responsible, we will continue to offer some opportunities for our youth to gather safely, outdoors, and socially distant.
These are calculated risks, and we are starting slowly. I know from speaking with some of you that this will feel like too much risk - and for others it will feel like not enough risk. Each of us has a different willingness to accept risk in the midst of this time. That’s okay – that’s how God made us. And as your Rector, I am ultimately responsible for the risk(s) the parish takes on. Perhaps you've seen that there have been many churches, some not far from us, who have been in the press because they held an event where someone (sometimes many people) contracted the virus. In some cases, members of the congregation died. This is because gatherings are continually flagged as the most dangerous thing we can do in this season, with the highest risk of transmission. And church is precisely that - a gathering. Losing one of our number, seeing even one of our members suffer, would break my heart - and I think, yours.
And so, I must ask for your grace. This is a very challenging time, and there are no good solutions, only difficult choices. This parish, this community needs you. We need each other. And if we continue to grow in this time, I am so hopeful about what God has in store for us at the end of this season. Already, St. Matt's has pivoted again and again. We’ve offered a myriad of services, programs, and fellowship opportunities online. Our survey over the summer reflected that many among us are more engaged than they were before, learning, growing, and worshipping more often due to virtual opportunities. We are blessed by faithful membership, a gifted choir, a committed staff, and volunteers who support and participate in so much of what we do. And the good news is that this season is temporary. Longer than we’d like – absolutely. But still temporary. So, please continue to journey with us. Continue to be connected to the people in this place who have been a part of your journey. And look forward with us to the time when we can all rejoice together.
I'm also aware that there are those among us for whom the online platform simply has not worked or fit into their lives, and that grieves me. Believe me, I miss you and I miss our life together more than I can say. I want nothing more than to be able to fling the doors open on Sunday and have you all come in. And as I mentioned at our last Parish Update, I completely understand if you just can’t bear to open your computer and do one more thing on Zoom. Know that we miss you. When and if you're ready to plug in and join us, it is not too late. We will be very happy to see you.
As always, if you have questions or concerns, I hope you’ll be in touch with me. I am always happy to explain further, to tell you more about all that has gone into these decisions, and to hear your feedback. As you can see from the length of this note, there has been quite a lot of prayer, discussion, thought, and care shared between me and your lay leaders. So, please be in touch with me if you'd like to know more about that. We can set up a call or a zoom meeting. I would be glad to set up a time to see you and hear from you. Until then, imagine what it will be like on that day when we can rejoice together, when we can embrace, worship and celebrate together the way we want to. That day is coming. God loves you, and so do I.
Tags: Welcome from the Rector