One hallmark trait of this pandemic has been the constant building up and casting aside of plans once the need subsides. Or, just changes. Lessons in adaptability have been aplenty! But it's also been a study in evolution.
An example of this is the 6:00 p.m. "eclectic" service. At one time also known as "3.0" (the third service on most Sundays), it originated as an alternative worship experience that not only offered contemporary musical styles but innovative approaches to what a 21st century church could be like. Elements of this original design remain but contemplative characteristics began to become more prominent as the historical role of evening worship, such as the offices of compline and vespers, were given a greater influence to become a modern service of evening prayer.
Then came the pandemic. The service went on hiatus as our energies were directed to the morning livestream service. Soon after, a call to offer a midweek prayerful respite became apparent so Wednesday Vespers emerged. This subconsciously became a resurrection of the 6:00 p.m. service but with greater emphasis on introspection and prayer considering the trying times we were in. Even the sung Lord's Prayer (John Newell's "The Prayer of Jesus") found its way back in without us fully realizing our intention. As the pandemic slowly began to subside, a "return to normalcy" became the collective desire and so the service returned to Sunday evenings after many months away, albeit on Zoom. Vespers was missed by faithful participants, including myself and the ministers, so we kept those introspective pieces that became refined during the months-long midweek run while reintroducing elements that have not been heard in quite a while. And now, the 6:00 p.m. service has fully returned and is the first live in-person worship service Plymouth has been able to offer in 14 months! If you have been keeping score, this all amounts to a reboot of a reboot of a reboot of a reboot.
The result of this convoluted evolution courtesy of the pandemic is nothing short of a rebirth. The process reminds me of the signature mole dish by famed Mexican chef Enrique Olvera. This celebrated dish is heated and reheated repeatedly over time carrying over the delicious flavors from months ago while adding new and fresh ingredients for each day of service. The result is a living dish that can be experienced differently by guests at various times. But it's always an honest and delicious meal.
As we find ourselves on the cusp of opening Plymouth's doors again, let us still catch the flames of Pentecost and walk into rebirth. Rising like the phoenix—in due time.
Director of Music/Organist
Mark Heiskanen has been Plymouth's Director of Music since September 2017. Originally from Northeast Ohio, Mark has experience and great interest in a diverse range of musical styles including jazz, rock, musical theatre, and gospel. He is thrilled to serve a congregation and staff that values diversity and inclusion in all facets of life. Read his mostly-weekly Music Minute here.
“Surely the LORD your God has blessed you in all your undertakings;
he knows your going through this great wilderness.
These forty years the LORD your God has been with you;
you have lacked nothing.”
– Deuteronomy 2.7
“Early in the morning,
Joshua rose and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites,
and they came to the Jordan.
They camped there before crossing over.”
– Judges 3.1
Does it feel to you as if we’ve been wandering the in the wilderness for forty years? There are days when it seems as if it’s been that long since we’ve worshiped together in person. I have missed seeing you in the pews and in the Fellowship Hall…missed deeply the hugs and smiles and words of kindness and encouragement.
Even without being together physically, there is a force that has helped us maintain our bonds across these 15 months of pandemic isolation. A few weeks ago, Jane Anne preached on the text from John’s gospel in which Jesus tells us to love one another as he first loved us. My sense is that God’s love is the force that has held us together as a congregation during our pandemic pilgrimage. And as we love one another with that same love, we build community.
But now, we are approaching a different stage in that journey. Like Joshua leading the Israelites out of the wilderness, we are camped along the banks of the River Jordan, and we are about to cross over into a new land. I know some of us are ready to cross the Jordan today with no waiting on the bank! Others of us are nervous about what it might look like on the other side…that things will be different…that we may not know how to relate to one another exactly as we did.
Let’s wade through the water together…get our feet wet together…and make it across into the next stage of our Plymouth pilgrimage as we arrive home. Come on back! Wade in!
Some of the Israelites got really tired of the taste of manna, and I know some of us are really tired of recorded services on Sunday. (Manna and broadcast services have been life-sustaining, if not fully pleasing our palates.) So, join us for our Outdoor Service at Rolland Moore Park on June 6 at 10:00. (There is only one service that day…bring a blanket or lawn chair.) Come on back! Wade in!
With the new guidance from the CDC last week, our Pandemic Team (which meets again next week) will likely be able to liberalize our opening even further. Stay tuned! Our Leadership Council last week approved the installation of a new livestreaming system in our sanctuary that will enable us to stream services with worshipers in the pews! That will make Sunday morning hybrid (in-person + livestream) worship possible, once it’s installed early this summer! Come on back! Wade in!
In the meantime, if you are fully vaccinated, please plan to join us this Sunday evening at 6:00 in the Plymouth sanctuary as we have our first in-person service since March 8, 2020. You do need to sign up in advance…just go to plymouthucc.org/worship. Come on back! Wade in!
See you at church or in the park soon!
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal.
Dear Plymouth Family,
Here is a very quick update: Larimer County Health has a vaccine clinic this weekend for youth aged 12-16 using the Pfizer vaccine, which is now FDA approved for youth.
Here is a link to vaccine info on their website: https://www.larimer.org/health/communicable-disease/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-vaccine
Ready to worship in person?? Register NOW for our service on Sunday, May 23, if you are fully vaccinated: plymouthucc.org/worship And vaccinated or not, plan to join us for outdoor worship at Rolland Moore Park on June 6.
Thanks and peace,
“Carry each other’s burdens [on the pilgrimage of life] and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
From a Stephen Ministry handbook for pastors, Galatians 6.2 CEB
“On pilgrim pathways we learn the myth of control, the wisdom of relinquishment,
the promise of the unpredictable and the embodiment of grace.”
From Without Oars by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson*
This coming Sunday, May 16th, Plymouth celebrates pilgrimage. We will celebrate our individual spiritual, our inward, pilgrimage and our communal faith community, our outward, pilgrimage. We will do this in two distinctive, but connected, ways: through our Visiting Scholar events and through commissioning of our new Stephen Ministers in our 10 a.m. service. Last month I was quite excited to invite you to read our Plymouth Reads book, Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage, in preparation for our day with the author, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. Many of you have taken me up on the invitation. (And there are still books available in the office, $10 cash or check.) This month I am quite excited to introduce you to our Stephen Ministry lay caregiver ministry and our Stephen ministers. How might these two programs be connected?
Our Visiting Scholar, Wes Granberg-Michaelson describes pilgrimage as “embodied faith, taking steps ahead that teach us what we need to leave behind.” Our strategic planning team has discerned that “Plymouth’s purpose for the next 3-5 years is to embody beloved community with God, each other and our neighbors.” This coming Sunday, through our Visiting Scholar programming, we will explore being the gathered, worshiping, serving community of church, the Body of Christ, as pilgrimage. Amid this exploration we will commission ten among us to embark on a pilgrimage of embodied care for those in our community who need a companioning presence during tough times.
The Stephen Ministry introductory handbook for pastors describes the program as “equipping congregation members to provide distinctively Christian care to those who need it.” After at least 100 hours of training and study Stephen Ministry lay caregivers are prepared to care for their fellow congregants who have experienced a life crisis with on-going, one-on-one attention that pastors cannot always maintain, especially in a larger congregation. Hal and I will continue to be “first responders” in the event of an acute life crisis, such as the death of a loved one, a major medical crisis, job loss or a financial crisis, divorce, family caregiver stress, or a long-term illness. After ministry and care with one of us for an appropriate length of time we can then (with your permission) refer you to the Stephen Minister Referral Coordinator. In Plymouth’s case this is Stephen Minister and Stephen Leader, Eric Ferm, who will follow up to explain the Stephen Ministry caregiving program and assign a Stephen Minister if you are willing. Eric works to coordinate the program with our other two Stephen Minister Leaders, Peter Mullarkey and Lory Clukey.
Once a good match is made between caregiver and care receiver, the embodied care of the Stephen Minister lay caregiver begins as they meet with you weekly for as long as their presence is needed, offering empathic listening, prayer, emotional support, and other resources, if needed. (And we, the pastors, will always be available for occasional check-in.) This kind of trained lay caregiving is embodying beloved community and it is a journey of embodied faith, a pilgrimage.
Stephen Ministry lay caregiving is only one facet of multi-faceted lay pastoral care program at Plymouth that includes our Calling/Caring visitor program, our annual contact calling/emailing by the deacons, and our new Faith Nurse ministry program. Stay tuned for a vision of the entire pastoral care program and how it works together with the pastors in my June Staff Reflection. Until then, please tune in to our 10 a.m. service and prayerfully support our new Stephen Ministers: Nancy Bryan, Lory Clukey, Karen Dawson, April Mason, Fran Milde, Sara Mullarkey, Anna Olsen, Colleen Silan, and Irene Wherritt.
Please tune in Sunday to experience Wes Granberg-Michaelson’s three presentations with us this coming Sunday: his10 a.m. sermon in our prerecorded service, “Can the Pandemic Begin a Pilgrimage?”, his afternoon webinar (1-3 p.m.) mentioned above and his 6 p.m. Zoom service sermon, “Re-entry: Our Congregation’s Pilgrim Progress.” (Get more info and register here for the webinar.)
God has joyful, risk-taking, love-giving work for us to do through our beloved community of faith!
With you on the pilgrimage,
*Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage, (Broadleaf Books, Minneapolis, MN, 2020, 112).
Click image below to learn more and to register for the afternoon event:
Dear Plymouth Family,
After more than a year of often-dismal news, I’m writing to you with a spirit of excitement…we have in-person outdoor worship and activities planned in June, and we are launching a pilot in-person service, starting Sunday, May 23 at 6:00 p.m.! It feels as though the logjam of pandemic isolation may finally be breaking up, at least a bit.
Our Pandemic Team met again last evening, and I’m sharing some of what the team decided, based on the most recent recommendations from the CDC and Larimer County Health. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated and you wish to be, there are many opportunities on the Larimer County Health website. If you are 16 or over, I heartily recommend getting vaccinated.
The team is acutely aware that there are different safety criteria for those who are vaccinated and those who are not (which includes anyone under 16), and we are doing our best to provide a range of opportunities for everyone at Plymouth. We appreciate your patience and cooperation, knowing that we aren’t able to do a perfect job of accommodating everyone’s desires. And as the Covid situation in Larimer County changes, we will adapt our plans accordingly.
For Those Vaccinated or Not…
For Fully Vaccinated Folks… (fully vaccinated = vaccinated + full waiting period)
As conditions change (hopefully improve), the Pandemic Team will continue to work toward taking further steps in the ways we can be together.
Together, we have walked a very long road through this pandemic. I have so appreciated your faithfulness in attending our broadcast services, staying as safe as possible, understanding our limitations, providing financial support, and continuing to be the church. You are a blessing!
I leave you with a prayer
God, help us be a part of the solution.
Let us do our part for the common good.
Help us to have patience, to care for one another.
Guide us through moments of ennui and languishing and
Lead us toward the abundance of life Jesus promised.
Help us be safe, hopeful, and whole.
Links in red below are not live. Use these links:
Larimer County Health Website, Larimer County COVID-19 Dashboard
Summer is coming. While I can’t see it on this rainy Monday as I write this, my calendar is actually filling up with TRIPS!
But as summer comes, and many of us look forward to traveling, we need to keep our connections with God and each other and our children. School may be out for the summer soon, but building a daily relationship with God, like God, neither slumbers nor sleeps. How will you keep your relationship growing?
Families with young children will soon receive a survey asking for opinions about the last school year’s offerings for Christian Education. What worked, and what didn’t? What would you like to see? What would you be willing to help with?
Families without children, you received a survey with similar goals regarding your pastors. Did you respond?
I know, no one likes “finals,” but the new Director of Christian Formation for Children and Youth (I will not miss typing that) is coming as surely as summer, and Plymouth doesn’t want to get off to a slow start with a new staff member. So families with children in the house, please, complete the basics of the survey you’ll receive and think about how to restart, or to kindle, faith in your household.
The Christian Formation Board will continue developing adult programming in Plymouth’s great tradition of Adult Christian Formation. In the near future this will be under the auspices of the two pastors with the support of the CF Board, the Adult Forum Team and the Visiting Scholar Team. What is your vision for adult Christian formation? How will you support the current programming? How will you support the staff and CF Board in developing this programming as we move out of pandemic mode and into post-pandemic mode?
As I watch the kids on my street learn to ride their bikes and sail over jumps, I wonder if they get the same encouragement to find God. I wonder if they say a prayer of thanks. I wonder who supports them on their faith journeys as well as their trail rides. Who will remind them that God is in the wildflower and the mountaintop, the trout stream and the rainbow? Who will remind you? How will you remind one another?
Tricia Medlock is returning to the interim position she held between Plymouth directors Sarah Wernsing and Mandy Hall. After leaving the Plymouth staff, she served as director of Children’s Ministries at St. Luke’s Episcopal for four years.