COVID-19 – Session Letter – 3/13/2020

Dear Members and Friends of First & Franklin Church,

As you know, we are in the midst of a public health emergency with community transmission of COVID-19 now taking place in Maryland.

In response, Session met on the evening of March 12 to consider appropriate and proportionate responses to the pandemic, informed by guidance from the CDC and Maryland Department of Health. Just as Governor Hogan announced concrete actions to slow the spread of the virus, so Session has also acted in a manner it believes is in keeping with the degree of concern being voiced by scientists and leaders in government. In brief, Session articulated its decision within the framework of the following goals:

  • Goal 1: A Refuge in Times of Trouble: Slow the spread of this infection by practicing social distancing – since we are in the middle of a public health emergency, we want to exercise maximum caution for everyone’s benefit, including to assist health care providers by working with them as we face this challenge together;
  • Goal 2: Preserving the Body of Christ: Protect the most vulnerable people (the elderly) and people with underlying medical conditions from infection — the impact of this virus may hit this population with unusual severity. As a body, we are committed to promoting and preserving the health of each member and if one of us feels vulnerable, we are committed to sharing that burden as if it were our own.
  • Goal 3: Blest be the Tie that Binds: We aim to maintain the bonds of Christian fellowship. Just as many workers will be “tele-working” we want to maintain the connection to our life together through tele-worshipping. While the technology will take some getting used to, we are confident that we can refresh and strengthen the connection of love and tenderness that is characteristic of our life together.

With these goals in mind, Session decided on Thursday to temporarily move our services to an online/phone format, in lieu of the regular congregational worship of Sunday. This is effective beginning this Sunday, March 15th and will extend through March 29th. At this point, we will not have Adult or Youth educational programs at the 9:15 a.m. hour. Nor will we be holding the mid-week Taize service in Reid Chapel or Theology on Tap gatherings. All Adult and Youth Choir rehearsals are cancelled until further notice. We will also suspend the use of Reid Chapel for AA meetings and the weekly Yoga classes.

Staff will continue to work either onsite using social distancing or electronically from home. The office, however, will be closed to the public.

Beginning THIS Sunday at 10:30 A.M., we will be using Zoom Video Communications to share in a tele-worship service. You will be able to connect online but also simply by phone to hear the audio, too. More information on how to access Zoom will be forthcoming in a separate email. We will also have a member of Session who will be available to assist you with any technical difficulties you may experience with the phone or computer login.

We will meet this way for the next three Sundays: March 15th, March 22nd, and March 29th.  Session will revisit this question later in March in order to assess whether further cancellations are required or whether we can resume regular worship or if there is some “middle” solution as we continue to navigate the pandemic.

If you have questions, please let us know. It may feel a bit like building a plane while flying. We’re working in a quickly changing environment and we are doing our best to be responsive to new information. We ask for your prayers and for your patience as we venture into this uncharted territory.

Grace and Peace,