June 30, 2021

Dear First Church Amherst members and friends,

Thanks be to God:
Our pandemic exile has almost ended!
The time of regathering, rejoicing, and renewing is upon us!
Thanks be to God!

As much as we’ve all been longing for a return to in-person worship and so many other “before-time” routines and activities, even as most of us have already ventured out into more “normal” life, many of us have discovered that making our way in this still-not-over pandemic world is complicated. And it comes with a whole range of feelings: joy and relief, anxiety, trepidation, frustration, impatience, uncertainty, and everything in between.

As we prepare to reopen our building and regather for in-person worship on Sunday, July 11, we want to acknowledge and honor all of those feelings. We want to let you know what to expect and to acknowledge that there will surely be bumps in the regathering road.

Toward those ends, and in the spirit of continuing to grow in love and respect for one another and our community, it is with both excitement and humility that we share the following information so that we might all be prepared for our first few weeks of in-person worship. These guidelines have been developed over months’ worth of meetings, research, consultation, discussion, and prayer.

First: Love for another, expressed in protocols designed to keep everyone safe, will continue to be paramount.

It may be that some folks who gather for worship in the sanctuary will not have been vaccinated; we know that will be the case for our youngest children. Therefore, all of us will do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety and health of all. This will include signing in when you enter the building (for contact tracing purposes), moving immediately into the sanctuary, and sitting in alternate rows. We will celebrate Communion with modified distribution of the elements; you are welcome to bring your own elements if you prefer. The worship bulletin will include more specific instructions. For now we will wear face masks throughout the service, keep safe distance, and forgo congregational singing and Coffee Hour.

Second: We encourage you to worship in whichever format best suits you.

While we will begin regathering for in-person worship on July 11, we understand and fully respect that everyone may not be comfortable with or ready for that. We will continue to live-stream our services on YouTube (which can be watched anytime) and offer a Zoom Coffee Hour. In fact, we will redouble our efforts to engage online worshippers.

Third: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Pandemic life has taught us the importance of trust and mutual respect. We trust you to follow the protocols we have put in place for the good of all, especially the most vulnerable among us. We expect to regularly reevaluate and revise our protocols, and we welcome your feedback as we gain more experience.

Fourth: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12

To keep one another safe while we worship in person and, at the same time, honor and engage online worshippers requires the gifts of many people: welcomers, deacons, worship leaders, teachers, treasurers, and more. If you are able, please consider serving the church as a welcomer, scripture reader, deacon (digital or in-person), or ministry team member.

Finally: We love you, and we really miss being together. We are grateful to be able to continue learning together what it means to be a community of faith in these times. We need YOU (online or in person) to help make us whole as we continue being God’s hands and feet in the world.

Questions or concerns? Please be in touch.
Suggestions or ideas? Please be in touch.
Excitement and hope? Please join us for worship (online or in person) on Sunday, July 11, as we begin the next stage of our blessed journey together.

Love and Peace,

Pastor Vicki
Marylou Sullivan, moderator