For this week’s staff reflection, I thought I’d change things up a bit and send you a video message instead of an essay.
This is a Spiritual Practice much like the ones that I share Mondays at 1pm on Facebook Live. You can watch the past videos on the youth Christian Formation page.
I miss you! Stay safe!
Grace and Peace,
Author Mandy Hall began her ministry at Plymouth in August of 2014. She is originally from Michigan where she followed her call to ministry to become a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. Her passion is helping young people grow in faith in creative and meaningful ways. Read more
How is your soul?
I have a dear, longtime friend, who often begins her conversations with this question, “How is your soul?" I always appreciate that someone cares about my soul, that someone draws my attention to it in the midst of life’s distractions. It is always a blessing to hear this question. So I ask you, friends, in these days of sheltering in place, of isolation, and even quarantine for some of you, how are your souls?
At times, my soul seems numb to all the pain and suffering in the world, to the discord and dysfunction of national leadership, to the extreme needs of those who do not have jobs they can work at home or those who do not have homes at this time. I cannot take it all in and I feel helpless.
At times, my soul is grateful for the greater abundance of silence and solitude I am having. More time to establish a deeper prayer and meditation routine. More time to read. More time to just BE. Time to watch the birds at the bird feeders. Time to walk and watch spring emerge.
At other times, my soul is impatient! Even impatient to the point of anger! Impatient with the lack of supplies for our medical workers in a country that sees itself as the most abundant in the world. Impatient with people who do not seem to be taking the seriousness of this pandemic to heart. Impatient with those who are not seeing how deeply we are all connected in the world.
This virus has revealed in a terrifyingly clear way that we are all connected in creation. No one is an island, no community is an island, no state or country is an island. The earth and all humanity and all living flora and fauna and the air we breathe and the land we live on and that sustains us with food and shelter – we are connected. My soul is eager, impatient to discover how we will take this to heart as a lesson hard learned from the pandemic.
At times my soul is very sad as it does take in the gravity and the immensity of the suffering emanating from the consequences of these times. At times my soul is worried and fearful for the health of loved ones, for the economic plight of so many friends who work in a gig economy. At times my soul is weeping from the pain.
At times my soul takes heart in a renewed sense of the presence of the Holy One who is still mysteriously holding all of creation in Love. These are the times I cherish. These are the times I have not said my prayers in haste, rushing off to the next meeting. I have taken the time to sink into the presence of the Holy, who I am sensing these days as Mother. I take time to pour my heart out to the Divine that is strong, powerful and compassionate, full of comfort. The time I spend with the Holy empowers me to move back into work, into relationship and into finding the seemingly small things that I can do to make a difference during these times of fear, uncertainty, and dis-ease.
How is your soul?
I invite you to ponder this question today and throughout your week, even as we hear the news of “re-opening” measures. What will you keep from your time of isolation? What will you let go from the time before pandemic that you have discovered you do not need? How is your soul in its divine relationship with the Holy directing you to move ahead as we continue to shelter one another in this completely connected world God has given us?
I leave you with words from Psalm 116 taken from the book, Psalms for Praying, by Nan Merrill.
Receive my love, O Beloved, You who hear my voice and my supplication.
You incline your ear to me, and I will call upon You with trust
for as long as I live.
When the snares of fear encompass me, when the pangs of loneliness envelop me,
I suffer distress and anguish.
Then I call upon you, my Rock: “O Beloved, I beseech you, come to my aid!”
Gracious are You and just; the Heart of all hearts is merciful and forgiving.
You preserve the simple; though I am humbled, You lift me up.
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for You, O Loving Companion Presence,
bestow grace upon grace, a balm for my soul.
You raise me up to new life; You dry my tears,
and guide my feet on straight paths.
Now, I walk hand in hand with Love in the land of the awakened ones.
I keep my faith, even in times of great turmoil;
I invite others to awaken to the joy of your Presence.
Blessings on the journey,
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Associate Minister, is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. She is also the writer of sermon-stories.com, a lectionary-based story-commentary series. Read more
Guest post from Plymouth's Treasurer, Jim Medlock
As Plymouth’s Treasurer I am so thankful for
• Plymouth’s ministers and staff who used their imagination and skills to ensure Sunday services continue and that the congregation can continue to learn, network, meet, and enjoy each other virtually during this time of social distancing.
• My Treasurer predecessors and former members of the Leadership Council who have ensured Plymouth has a healthy rainy-day fund to get us through the Coronavirus Pandemic.
• My Treasurer predecessors who implemented the Evergreen Partners contribution program.
• My Treasurer predecessors who implemented the Text Giving program.
• The members of Plymouth who made their 2020 contributions by early March.
• The members of Plymouth who prepaid their 2020 contributions in 2019.
• The members of Plymouth who make their contributions monthly through the Evergreen Partners program.
• The members of Plymouth who make their contributions by Text Giving.
• The members of Plymouth who mail their contributions to Plymouth.
• The members of Plymouth who have their financial institution mail their contributions to Plymouth.
• Plymouth’s Trustees who are keeping the facilities maintained during the closure
• Keith Schulz who is ensuring the income from the parking lot continues to flow to Plymouth.
• Plymouth’s Assistant Treasurer, George Theodore, who provides his insights into managing Plymouth’s finances.
• Plymouth’s Budget and Finance Committee which asks inquisitive questions and supports financial programs.
• Plymouth’s Leadership Council which provides the directions and priorities for Plymouth’s financial programs.
• Hal whose leadership takes Plymouth in creative directions and growth.
Recently I viewed a social distancing presentation of one of my favorite Beatles songs – "Let It Be." As the third verse says,
“And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me
Shine on ‘till tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking Words of wisdom let it be”
I’m thankful to know that social distancing and the Coronavirus Pandemic will end and the light will shine on us tomorrow!
Jim Medlock, Treasurer
Church in the Time of a Pandemic
This may surprise you, but I LOVE CHURCH. I love Sundays when we gather as a community to read liturgy, pray, sing familiar songs, connect with each other and learn in our educational programs. As churches around the country close their doors and open up Facebook Live, YouTube, and Zoom to for their worship services, there is a lot of chatter that the church is not a building. And, there is a lot of talk that society will forever be changed by having experienced COVID-19, including the institution of the church. Being adaptable is key and that also brings with it challenges.
Your church is finding new ways to worship, connect and care for you. We have increased our online presence, we are reaching out more by phone and mail, and we have increased our care by providing supplies and financial assistance and so much more. Please let us know if you need anything.
So while the church is not the building, we have enjoyed reaching beyond our walls and our physical boundaries and hearing from folks afar. Yet, I know all of the staff at Plymouth looks forward to us all being together in the building again AND with those online. It’s too early to tell how this pandemic will impact the institution of the church, but I know the Plymouth will adapt to effective ways to be the living faith.
Holy Week is upon us and Maundy Thursday is my favorite worship service of the entire church calendar. I even love Good Friday when there is darkness because we move to silence on Saturday, then finally the celebration of ‘He Is Risen’ on Easter Sunday. I wonder if we are ready for Easter. The pandemic news is dire for some and uncertainty surrounds us. I know I am ready for the Easter message that moves us from death to resurrection to new life.
I wonder what it is like for you to worship via Facebook Live? Let us know.
In December, Carla started her two-year designated term pastorate at Plymouth. She spent the last 5 years consulting with churches on strategic planning, conflict transformation and visioning. Before going to seminary she volunteered at her church through Stephen Ministry, visiting ministries and leading worship services at a memory care unit and a healthcare facility. She served on the Board of Directors for the Iowa conference of the United Church of Christ.