Pandemic or not, the Christ Child is coming. Socially distanced and all, Christmas Eve is coming.
Please make plans to participate in our joyful Christmas Eve service at 5 o’clock on December 24, via our YouTube channel, First Church Amherst Ma.
The service will feature live music and carol-singing, a pre-recorded pageant, and lots of joy. If you can’t worship live at 5, you can watch the service on YouTube later that evening or on Christmas Day.
You are also warmly welcome to our remaining Advent services at 10:30 a.m. on December 13 and December 20, also on our YouTube channel. The December 20 service be feature Lessons and Carols of the season.
On Monday, December 21 at 7 p.m., we will host a Longest Night Service on Zoom. If you would like to attend, please be in touch with us so we can share the link with you.
All blessings of this season of light and love to you and yours.
Who knows? Perhaps [Jesus comes] for just such a time as this.—Esther 4:14
And the Word became flesh and made his home among us. —John 1:14
Advent comes every year, but this year we might need it more than ever.
Advent is a breaking in: of the divine into the human, light into shadow, hope into despair, healing into brokenness, new life into death, Spirit power into human limitations, the realm of God into political and economic empire.
Advent is also an invitation: a divine summons to acknowledge the holy longings implanted in our hearts. Quiet encouragement to be still. A gentle wake-up call to wonder. Holy permission to put down all the things we think we should be doing for God and, instead, simply revel in God’s love for us and our world.
Because Advent comes this year amid a deadly pandemic, it will be different. But perhaps it comes for just such a time. Perhaps Jesus is born for just such a time. And so we will still light candles around a wreath. We’ll still sing our favorite hymns and carols. We’ll adapt beloved rituals and re-imagine cherished traditions. We’ll make special efforts to connect with one another. The circle of love will include one and all.
Make plans to engage as much of the season as you can—safely, and with a heart open to wonder and love. Sunday and Christmas Eve services will livestream on YouTube.
November 29, First Sunday in Advent That All Would Have Hope
Friday, December 4, 6:30 p.m. Family Advent Gathering on Zoom
December 6, Second Sunday in Advent That All Would Be Comforted
Streaming anytime after December 8 Piano Music for Advent, by Gail Weirick
December 13, Third Sunday in Advent That All Would Know Joy
December 20, Fourth Sunday of Advent That All Would Love and Be Loved
A Service of Lessons and Carols
Monday, December 21, 7 p.m. Longest Night Service on Zoom
Christmas Eve: 5 p.m. Family service with pre-recorded Pageant
After careful consideration of the science, state guidelines, and local circumstances (including, but not limited to, the return of college students), we have decided to continue worshipping online through the remainder of the year.
In doing so, we express our ongoing commitment to loving our neighbors. We realize that any in-person gathering we have has the potential to expose to the coronavirus not only those present, but also everyone with whom those present have extended contact.
Our decision also reflects God’s extravagant welcome to all, as well as our own commitment to accessibility. We will not resume in-person worship until we can also assure that those who cannot attend services in person will be able to continue worshipping with us online. Some new equipment we need to be able to stream services from our sanctuary is on back-order.
Finally, we are taking action to re-open our building to renters and other outside groups. Those interested in gathering in our building must submit a request with detailed plans for social distancing and cleaning.
We pray for the day when we can all gather safely again.
Dear members, friends and the greater community of First Church Amherst:
Due to an increase in Covid-19 cases in Massachusetts and the imminent return of thousands of college students to Amherst, the Re-Church Ministry Team and the Elected Leadership Team have made the difficult decision to keep our building closed to in-person gatherings until October 1 at least.
This decision, which we realize some may find disappointing, arises from our deep commitment to doing all we can to protect one another’s health. It is also informed by state restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in indoor spaces and the state’s detailed guidelines for how to prepare, separate, and clean those spaces and monitor the entrance and behavior of persons once they are inside the building.
The Re-Church Team will reconsider when to open the building for at least some limited uses of various spaces at its next meeting, on September 14.
In the meantime, the Re-Church Team will begin formulating protocols for safe, distanced, in-person gatherings in our spaces that follow strict state guidelines and take into account the size and ventilation of various spaces. All persons in the building will be required to wear face masks.
Renters and other groups who are interested in meeting in those spaces when the church building is re-opened will be required to submit plans for re-entry by September 8. All plans must meet state and local guidelines.
The Re-Church Team will evaluate plans in mid-to-late September after determining whether the building can be opened for some uses. Not Bread Alone and Spring Street Preschool will operate under state-mandated guidelines.
You are welcome to contact members of the Re-Church and Elected Membership Teams to share your feelings or concerns about these plans. For contact information, please email the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, we continue to be the church in myriad ways: worshipping together, praying together, serving our community, ministering to our youth, the grieving, and the sick, and doing the work of the church. We long for the day when we can gather together in person, and we pray without ceasing for all frontline workers and for all individuals and families who are suffering from the coronavirus and pandemic shutdowns.
In love and hope,
The Re-Church Team
The Elected Leadership Team
To give our worship team a much-needed break, we are moving our Sunday worship services from YouTube to Zoom on July 19 and 26.
The July 19 service will be led by our Anti-Racism Ministry Team. The Rev. Vicki Kemper will be preaching on July 26.
Unfortunately, because of security issues with Zoom, we are not able to share the link to the services publicly. If you would like to have access to the services, please contact our office administrator at email@example.com or (413) 253-3456.
Last evening the church’s Re-Church Ministry Team made the difficult but necessary decision to keep our building closed to in-person gatherings at least through Labor Day. We cannot truly love God, one another and our neighbors–the essence of what it means to be the church–if we fail to protect life and health.
We will continue to livestream our Sunday morning worship services on YouTube and to gather virtually on Zoom for meetings, devotions, Youth Group, and community-building, and we are committed to making it possible for more of our members and friends to connect with one another via those online platforms. And we are preparing for the day when we begin to have small and safe in-person gatherings.
We have been busy being the church over these past 11 weeks–reaching out to check on one another, worshipping together while apart, and making lots of decisions about how to care for our larger community and our many neighbors during these challenging times. Stay tuned for some exciting news about some major gifts the church is making to support those in need.
As always, please be in touch by email or phone if you are in need. Meantime, please gather with us on YouTube at First Church Amherst, MA for Sunday morning worship. Music and LiveChat begin at 10:20 a.m.
So that we can continue to connect spiritually during this time of social distancing, beginning March 22 we will be live-streaming our Sunday worship services on YouTube.
To subscribe to the First Church Amherst, MA YouTube channel, follow the link below. It will take you to a
brief video message from Pastor Vicki. Then click on the “Subscribe” button.
To be notified by email whenever we go live, click on the bell icon to the right of the Subscribe button, and you’re all set!
We look forward to worshipping with you!
The Elected Leadership Team and I met last evening by conference call to consider together how best to continue being the church during these challenging times. We made the difficult decision to suspend in-person worship and all in-person gatherings in our building except for the operations of Not Bread Alone through at least April 5. It pains us greatly to do this but we know it is the most loving and responsible action to take for ourselves, our neighbors, and this world that God so loves. We also realize that we may need to extend this time but, to be perfectly honest, we could not bear the thought of not being together on Easter Sunday, and so we have postponed that decision for a couple weeks.
We will be posting information soon about online worship services starting this Sunday, March 22, and how to nurture one another and our community during this time.
The longer the disruption of our normal lives continues (and it’s likely we are just at the beginning), I am aware for myself and as I speak to church members that we are all experiencing multiple forms and layers of loss. Everything from worship to working from home instead of with our students and colleagues, to visiting loved ones in a nursing home or hospital, a steady paycheck, to getting together with our friends, singing with others, running errands, and, in my case, going to rowing practice with my crew friends.
Don’t underestimate the reality of these losses and changes. All loss is real, and all loss must be grieved. Find ways to acknowledge what you’re feeling: tell someone about it, pray or journal about it, and then consider creatively how to make up for that specific loss, how to comfort and feed your soul.
We take our callings as soul- and spirit-nurturers very seriously and, toward that end, Dick and I, with the technical know-how of Holly Howery and the input of several others (please call or email me your ideas!), are working to provide you with an online worship experience. We are still working out the technical details, but we will send another email Friday or Saturday with information about how and when you can connect.
In the meantime, please tell me how I can pray for you and/or if you have joys and concerns you would like to be shared in our online worship. As evidence of my prayers, I will light a candle for you and send a photo of the lit candles on my office coffee table.
There is a joke going around in clergy circles that none of us expected to give up so much for Lent. As with many jokes, there is an element of pain behind it. We all are going through a kind of death; our lives are not what we expect or want them to be right now.
And as Christians we know that death is not the end. Death opens the door to new life. We may not know when that new life will come or what it will look like, but we trust that it will come, and we live accordingly.
I miss you very much. Please take care of yourselves, and please stay in touch.
Love and peace,