A Letter Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Please read the latest news about First Church closures from Pastor Nanette and Moderator Larry.

We do not know what grief and care each coming day may bring;
the heart shall find some gladness there that trusts you in each thing.

Louis F. Benson, 1897, “The Sun Is on the Sea and Shore” Louis F. Benson, 1897, “The Sun Is on the Sea and Shore”

Dear First Church friends and neighbors,

We are writing with some important information about First Church activities and also some gentle reminders at this time of heightened concern about the coronavirus (COVID-19).

A time for prayer…

First, please take time for prayer or quiet reflection. While it is essential for each of us to stay as well informed as possible, the deluge of information can also create fear and anxiety. Please take a few moments now and as often as you can, to give thanks for the gift of this moment and think of the blessings in your life – the gifts of friends and family and of our First Church community. Remember that God is always present with us, especially in moments when we are most aware of our vulnerability.

Practical matters…

In support of statewide efforts to contain illness, the St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon on March 17, the Zydeco Kings concert on March 20, and Breakfast with the Bunny on March 28 have been cancelled. In addition, the University of Akron Symphony Orchestra concert scheduled to be held here at church tonight, March 12, has been cancelled.

At this point we are not cancelling worship services or smaller gatherings. We will continue to closely monitor recommended precautionary measures and, if in the future, public officials should recommend cancelling all meetings, we will heed their advice and seek other ways of staying connected.

For now, we are following common-sense practices and invite you to do the same. If you are sick, please stay home to avoid sharing germs with others. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, long enough to pray the Lord’s Prayer or maybe sing through a verse of a favorite hymn. For more tips and information about the coronavirus, please visit the Center for Disease Control.

What you can expect on Sundays and for other church gatherings…

We are working hard to ensure that hand sanitizer is available when you enter the building; however, our supply is limited. If you have personal sanitizer or wipes, please bring them with you.

Greeting – Let’s continue to greet one another in a Christly spirit but without the expectation of touch. Instead of handshakes or hugs, consider a verbal greeting, a smile, an elbow bump, an inclined head or slight bow.

Offering – We will be streamlining our offering practices to limit the spread of germs. If you are unable to make it to church, please consider using our electronic giving options to fulfill your pledge or make an offering.

Communion — We are serving communion on Wednesday evenings at our Midweek Lenten Worship and our next Sunday communion service is on Palm Sunday, April 5. We have purchased prepackaged disposable fellowship cups that consists of an individually wrapped soft wafer packaged together with a serving of grape juice. We will modify the service to ensure good hygiene for distribution. On these occasions, as always, let’s continue to pass the peace but avoid handshakes and hugs. Instead, consider again a verbal greeting, a smile, an elbow bump, a bow, or the ASL sign for “peace be with you.”

The building staff are taking extra care to sanitize high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets, light switches, etc.

We are grateful that audio recordings of Sunday sermons are easily available online. We will continue to explore other options for streaming. If you are unable to come to church for worship or would prefer not to be in a large gathering, please know you can join us on Facebook. If you are leading meetings at church, please consider meeting online or at least beginning to experiment with Zoom meetings or the like. If you need help with this, please ask a staff member.

Being a good neighbor…

At times like this, as Christians, we remember that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and so we are mindful of those who are most vulnerable. Being a good neighbor means making appropriate preparations and helping others do the same. It means countering xenophobia and scapegoating. We are all in this together and we should act together, caring for one another.

Please continue to pray for one another, for the frontline medical staff, researchers, for those in our community and our world as we will continue to pray for you.

In faith,

Rev. Nanette Pitt, Senior Minister, and Larry Becker, Moderator


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