May 25, 2021
To Members of the Congregational Church of East Hampton:
First, we want to thank each of you for the patience and the understanding to each other in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. This has been a trying and stressful time for all of us, and we want to thank all of you for working with church leadership as we tried new things, quickly changed and modified plans, and worked through the adaptations we had to make in order to continue to be the faith community that everyone expects. Though these difficult days, we still were able to hold Sunday service, provide Christian education to our young people, hold fund raisers, and offer community service events. We should be proud of the achievements we made even while our church building was shuttered. As Reverend Jim Latimer told us: “The Church was always open, only the building was closed!”
As you know, effective May 19, 2021, the state of Connecticut has removed limitations on indoor attendance and relaxed the rules on wearing masks and maintaining social distances. The Church Council met on May 24 in order to discuss the most recent recommendations and determine what our policies would be going forward to effectively implement the state’s guidelines to hold in-person worship services.
This is our current strategy now in effect for in-person services:
- Mask wearing for people who are fully vaccinated is not mandatory except while singing
- Those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear a mask throughout the entire service and practice social distancing
- The choir will remain in the quartet mode, though other choir members may join from the choir benches/loft
- Sunday School participants should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing
- The church will continue to live-stream Sunday services using Zoom
Other topics such as returning the pew bibles and hymnals, resuming using the collection plates, the resumption of coffee hour in Fellowship Hall, and other pending topics will be revisited at next month’s Church Council meeting. We are taking a slow approach to being “back to normal”, but we do know that as people of faith, our commitment to the health and well-being of ourselves and our communities takes precedence.
A time of fellowship after Sunday services has happened without any planning on our part in the parking lot between the church and the school, and we encourage all to continue that practice. Other groups who use our facilities such as the Garden club, the Boy Scouts, and other groups are also being informed of our strategy.
We humbly ask that everyone show patience during this time. This is an excerpt from an article that was suggested about that topic:
Patience is one of the rarest virtues in today’s insta-everything world. And yet patience has rarely been more needed, as many of us are antsy to break free of “stay home” isolation and get back to normalcy as soon as possible. To be sure, it is good and right to be eager to gather again as churches. We should take Hebrews 10:25 seriously when it says we ought not neglect meeting together. We should feel the ache of what is lost when we only meet virtually, and every Christian should long for the day when “church on Zoom” gives way to “church in a room.” That day will come. But we should be careful to not rush it. We should be careful to not go faster than governments allow, or faster than those in our community can understand. We should be patient with a timeline that might be slower than we’d prefer; patient with a reopening process that will doubtless be clunky; patient with leaders feeling the pressure of this complex situation; and patient with one another as we figure out the new normal. Those who are not comfortable with physical gatherings should be patient with those who are, and vice versa. As hard as it will be to practice patience, remember that in the scheme of eternity this season—whether it’s months long or years—will be but a blip.
Please keep our church, our community, and our nation in your prayers as we continue to face these challenging times together.
Jerry Gerkey, Moderator (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jim Latimer, Minister (email@example.com) 610-568-2480