From Our Pandemic Team
In the past two weeks the county status related to Covid has gone back to green; therefore, we are going back to a mask-friendly policy and will also allow food/drink inside.
Please continue to social distance when in the sanctuary or other areas of the church, as this helps curb the spread of Omicron.
Our Pandemic Team will continue to monitor the county statistics and follow the advice of the health department representative who is helping us. As always, online church is available and encouraged for those who are high risk.
Blessings on your week!
Mel Huibregtse, Chair
Dear Plymouth Family,
There is good news and bad news about Covid. The good news is that many who contract the virus have relatively mild symptoms and few vaccinated persons wind up in the hospital. The bad news is that there is a strong uptick in cases in Larimer County, and the dashboard color has gone to yellow (medium risk).
After a flurry of emails and calls this morning, Plymouth's Pandemic Team is strongly recommending the use of high-quality masks in worship and meetings at Plymouth, beginning tomorrow. I know this is a real bummer, but we do want to keep our most vulnerable folks safe. If you don't bring a mask to worship, there will be masks available at each entrance. Please, if you feel at all ill, we suggest using our livestream option for worship.
We're also going to be taking ancillary such precautions as encouraging social distance, not service food or drink (unless it's outside), and offering a Zoom option for meetings.
Communion will still be offered in the manner we've managed it for the past two months. We still will have the opportunity to see one another, sing (with masks), and enjoy worshiping together. And our kids will still be able to gather outdoors.
I'm very grateful to the whole Pandemic Team and especially Melanie Huibregtse, who chairs our Team and who has been in touch with Larimer County Health to get the best possible information.
We hope that this flare-up will settle down soon. And I thank you for your understanding and cooperation as we keep on keeping on.
Wishing you health, grace, and peace,
Dear Plymouth Family,
For many, many months, I have been waiting to write this letter containing joyous news from the Pandemic Team: We are taking another great step forward as a congregation in liberalizing pandemic restrictions! This takes effect tomorrow.
Covid numbers in Larimer County have fallen precipitously (see above), and the Pandemic Team feels that it is time for us to move to a mask-friendly (or mask optional) stance. CSU also lifted its mask mandate this week. At Plymouth, this means that if you feel comfortable coming to church in a mask, that’s great! If you are alright being unmasked, that’s great! The lovely blue tape that marked off every other pew will also be removed!
Many of the things we took for granted two years ago (singing from hymnals, passing friendship pads and offering plates, greeting the ministers after worship, standing within six feet of another human being, hearing our choir and seeing their faces, having potlucks and meals together, welcoming outside groups into the church) will all be resumed with immediate effect. (Note that we will not offer nursery care for the time being.)
What have you learned in the past two years not to take for granted? A hug with a dear friend? A glass of wine at FOG? A friendly word offered to a guest at Plymouth? Hearing an entire congregation sing a favorite hymn? Sitting in the pew that you think of as yours? Seeing another worshiper face to face? Receiving communion face to face from a minister and a deacon? Hearing the small voices of our youngest UCCers coming forward for Children’s Time? It's time to reacquaint yourself with those joys!
My invitation to you is to come on back! The science is with us, and if you wish to wear a mask, please do so! (The clergy will be masked when not speaking.) And if you really feel more comfortable continuing to livestream, know that we love you and respect that decision: that’s why it’s available!
On March 2, 2020, our Pandemic Team had its first meeting. At that time none of us would have guessed that it would be almost exactly two years before we would resume a sense of normalcy because of Covid. I am grateful for the expertise, patience, and wisdom of this group, which has guided us each step of the way. I am part of a CREDO group of four UCC clergy in Colorado, Connecticut, California, and Maryland. Our is the only one of those three churches not to have had members die from Covid-related causes, and our Pandemic Team is part of the reason. If you see any of them at church, a word of appreciation would not go amiss.
I give thanks to God for medical breakthroughs in the past two years.
…for the patience of our members and friends.
…for the faithfulness of volunteers who continued to go above and beyond.
…for staff colleagues who have been through hell together.
…for lay leaders who have been willing to make unpopular decisions.
…for your faith in God to see us through.
As the chancel choir anthem says, “God has work for us to do!” Let’s get at it!
See you in church!
I’m listening to Max Richter’s wintery musical riffs on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as I write this update to you. Even though this particular season has been relatively mild, it feels as though we’ve endured a very long winter together during the pandemic. I share your feelings of social dislocation and missing normality…whatever that will be. With improving Covid statistics in Larimer County it is time for a shift!
Last week, Plymouth’s Pandemic Team met again to address when we should reopen our doors and invite people back into in-person worship. Before I tell you the result of our deliberations, I must tell you how magnificent your fellow members serving on this team are. There is much thoughtful discussion, weighing the scientific and the social-scientific dimensions of our common life, all of it undergirded by a sense of what we are doing together as a people called together by our love of God. I give thanks for each of them and for our work together!
We will welcome you back to in-person worship on February 27. (Livestream will of course be available at 9:00 & 11:00, but we’d love to see you in person!) It’s the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany (and the lovely Moravian star will still hang above the organ console). We have a special treat that day: our very own Rev. Laura Nelson will be preaching on this Transfiguration Sunday. (It was great to see so many of you yesterday at our Valentine’s Day drive-thru, and I look forward to seeing many more of you on February 27.)
Here are the guidelines we’ll be following:
Masks are a must for everyone. We will attempt to follow six-foot social distance guidelines, but our fully-vaccinated choir will be able to stand at a three-foot distance, which means more of our beautiful choir will be able to sing! Brava! Bravo!
Communion will be available in the sanctuary every week at 9:00 and the first Sunday of the month at 11:00. We will come forward to receive elements and bring them back to our seats and partake as one body. (People with mobility challenges or who simply prefer to receive communion seated will be accommodated by our deacons with a traveling communion tray.) We think this is even safer than communion served in the West Wing hallway.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 2, and our service (livestreamed and in person) will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary with the traditional imposition of ashes. We also are planning a mid-Lent evening service in the style of Taizé…stay tuned for details! As Lent draws near a close on Maundy Thursday, we are planning our service of Tenebrae in person and streaming. (We will re-evaluate the Covid situation to see whether a soup supper is possible!)
I cannot tell you how much your clergy and staff miss seeing you! It will get better as we adapt to living with Covid. Thanks be to God for scientists and medical staff who make vaccines possible and who help our time of trial to become a situation that we live with. Bless you for keeping the faith, proving that church is more than a building, and that together with God, we can make it through the toughest of times.
I leave you with these favorite words from A New Creed from the United Church of Canada:
We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.
God bless you all!
P.S. It was great to see so many of you at our Valentine's Day drive-thru yesterday! Special thanks to our Congregational Life Board for their help organizing! If you would like a hard copy of the Lenten Devotional booklet, you may pick one up on February 27 at worship or you may ask Barb Gregory to send you one via US Mail. (Electronic readers: look for a PDF version that Anna Broskie sent late last week!)
Dear Plymouth Family,
Last evening our Pandemic Team met set our course in terms of in-person worship and meetings. We looked closely at the Covid numbers in Larimer County and also considered that even fully vaccinated persons can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus. We also took into account that it is a challenge to feel connected to one another in the midst of another moment of pandemic isolation.
The consensus of the Team was that we keep worshiping and meeting remotely through the second Sunday in February, at which point we will once more examine the data from Larimer County. Our youth will start meeting outside for fun activities and fellowship. (And if your fellowship group wants to meet outside, go for it…just dress warmly!)
I was really touched by some of our folks who expressed the altruistic sentiment that we need to be sure that none of us is unnecessarily clogging up the healthcare system. PVH and MCR are currently overloaded, not only by an excess of patients, but also because many staff are out sick. To my way of thinking, it exemplifies the best of Plymouth: loving our neighbors as ourselves. I am grateful to the whole Pandemic Team for bringing their perspectives, both personal and professional, in guiding the decisions for our congregation.
I know that many of us feel as if we are in exile, which is a crummy feeling. Here are some ideas generated by the Team and staff:
God of long-awaited reunitings and new beginnings,
grant us patience and make your presence felt within and among us.
Bless those who care for people in the midst of pandemic.
Bless and increase the wisdom of decisionmakers and policymakers.
Help us to be faithful to you in the midst of it all. Amen.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage…
The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’
- Shakespeare, Henry V,
spoken by Prince Hal as he rallies his troops for battle
That is just about the only Shakespeare I have committed to memory (from a high school drama class, no less!). And it seems appropriate as we confront the omicron variant. I know that we are all feeling worn down by the endless pivots and adjustments and regulations, but I am issuing a battle cry and asking you to join in as we work to keep Plymouth safe.
Last night our Pandemic Team met and reached the decision that for the safety of our church community, we will do broadcast-only worship on Sundays at 9:00 and 11:00. It is a little heartbreaking for me to let you know this, but I know it is the best decision for the physical health of our church family. We will continue this through the end of January (the next three Sundays) and the Pandemic Team will re-evaluate then. (I’ll include some of the meeting minutes from the Pandemic Team’s gather last evening below if you’d like to see the data they are using to reach decisions.)
Fortunately, we have a top-notch livestream system in place. If you are on this email list, you’ll receive a link (as always) on Saturday evening around 7:00, and you can always go to plymouthucc.org on Sunday morning and click to livestream. Your worship bulletin will also be on our website.
Our Adult Education Forums on Afghan Refugees will continue via Zoom only, and you’ll find the link to this great series in that same Saturday evening email. Do join in!
The Pandemic Team has also asked that all meetings of groups at Plymouth go online only, including youth, men’s coffee, board and committee meetings, and the rest. Thank God we now know how to do this! If your group needs to schedule a new meeting, please click on this link or call Barb Gregory in the church office at 970-482-9212. (Existing Zoom meetings are set…no need to request a new Zoom link.)
Thanks to each of you for your support and cooperation. I know it’s difficult, but together with God’s help, we can do this!
Blessings and good health to you,
from the Pandemic Team minutes, January 11, 2022
I just got off the phone with one of our 94-year-old members who is an inpatient at PVH with a breakthrough case of COVID. I cannot imagine how hard it is for him to face the scourge of this virus at his age, and as we spoke, we agreed that neither of us has ever seen anything like it. How does this happen to someone who is vaccinated and has taken care to avoid the virus?
At lunchtime, I went to the grocery store, and I was shocked to see other customers not wearing masks, despite a public health order more than a week ago mandating mask use. As someone whose immune system is compromised by cancer treatment, I find this personally concerning and socially irresponsible. It is okay with me if an individual wants to play Russian roulette with their own health, but please don’t assume that it is alright to do so with mine or with anyone else’s. If we can cooperate by not smoking in the presence of others because of the danger of secondhand smoke (also a government mandate), why can’t some folks agree to slip on a simple mask without getting belligerent?
It isn’t easy living through these days of the pandemic. I’m sure that we all feel like a good rant every now and again. I think of Albert Finney in the 1976 film, Network, encouraging people to stick their heads out the window and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” And there are moments when perhaps you feel as if you’ve come to the end of your rope and want to shout at someone…or at least holler out the window. (Theological note: It’s probably a lot safer to yell at God than someone whose feelings are apt to be hurt. God can take it!) Lighting a tiki torch and becoming a white supremacist is not a faithful response to pandemic. Yelling at public health officials or school board members is not a faithful response. Why must humans find a scapegoat and play the blame game?
Most of us are frustrated, exhausted, and feeling traumatized to some degree. Instead of blaming and ranting excessively or becoming passive aggressive, we need to talk to people who understand us, even if they are amid the same crisis. We can explore with a friend, a spouse, or a trusted companion such questions as: What is lifegiving for me right now? What is depleting or deadening? What have I done to live into the idea that there is no us and them…there is only us? What help do I need from my friends? (Thanks to Gareth Higgins for this model!) Social contact — even with social distance — helps diminish our isolation, our sense of being alone, and our frustration.
During the Middle Ages and in Early Modern Europe, Christians dealt with the plague on numerous occasions (without the benefit of masks, vaccines, or knowledge that a virus exists). And lest we think them primitive or unenlightened, we can look to some of them for examples of faithful response. While others fled Wittenberg when the bubonic plague arrived in 1527, Martin Luther stayed behind to support the sick and dying. That is a more constructive response than scapegoating or discharging misdirected anger at someone. Who can you help? Who needs you to hold the Christlight for them? As St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness joy.” What can you do to alleviate someone’s stress, suffering, or isolation today? The path to healing for ourselves lies in how we can use our lives in the service of each other.
Blessings to you helpers!
P.S. I listened in on the Larimer County Health Board last week, and it was terrible listening to how our public health director, his staff, and our public health board were verbally abused during the public comment. It's been a long pandemic, especially for these folks. I ask that you take two minutes to send them an email at email@example.com and let them know that you support their efforts to keep us safe. Thank you!
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 here.
Dear Plymouth Family,
I have LOVED seeing you in worship these past six weeks! Baptism, live singing, outdoor fellowship, reuniting with friends, worshipping God outdoors and in our sanctuary...it has been a blessing! I hope that it has given you the spiritual lift it has given me. (And the timing of our new livestream couldn't have been better!)
And it is dispiriting to have the Delta variant intrude and cause some of us to feel anxious, fearful, and unsafe when we venture beyond our homes. I share your feelings..."Didn't we just come out of a pandemic nosedive?" ... "Will we ever reach a new normal?" ... "We've been vaccinated, faithful, and safe, why are we paying the price now?"
Our emotions may on a bit of a rollercoaster, and there is a heightened sense of anxiety in our society and community again, even if we aren't aware of them. (Our conference staff yesterday confirmed this is popping up in churches all over the Rocky Mountain Conference.)
What can we do about it? One thing is to be intentional about dealing with our emotions. If you feel upset with someone or sense despair with a situation, practice the pause: Close your eyes, take a couple of slow, deep breaths, clench and release your hands several times. Ask yourself what you are really, truly upset about; ask whether it's something you have control over, and if not, ask God to handle it. I'm finding this helpful because there is so very much that is beyond our control right now. It takes faith and courage to live positively in this moment, and Christians across the millennia have done just that during times of plague and pestilence, and we can, too.
Knowing that our congregation's emotional and spiritual health is delicate right now, on Monday evening our Pandemic Team decided to stay the course in terms of worship and meetings for the time being. So, our services this Sunday will be at summer hours: 10:00 & 6:00 and then on August 29 (Jubilee Sunday), we will begin our new fall worship hours at 9:00 & 11:00.
The Pandemic Team is introducing a few tweaks so that we can continue to meet with the greatest safety possible:
I am grateful to Mel Huibregtse and the members of the Pandemic Team for seeing the big picture and for keeping our safety as a congregation at the forefront. They continue to use the best information available from the CDC, Larimer County Health, and their own experience to make the tough calls to keep us as safe as possible.
We all know that there are no guarantees in life and that our tradition is replete with stories of acting on faith and not relying on the illusion of security that things like wealth, health, material comfort, and even family can provide. God is with us through all of it and will continue to be. May you sense God's presence this and every day and continue to live in faith and courage.
Dear Plymouth Family,
Are you ready for another pivot? Neither am I, but it seems as though that is in the cards…though not such a hard pivot as we’ve taken in the past. Our Pandemic Team met yesterday afternoon to chart the course for our congregation as we navigate the Delta variant together. The CDC continues to provide new counsel about how we can best keep one another as safe as possible, and we are using that as guidance.
First, here are some changes in Sunday worship:
Thank you not only for your patience and cooperation, but for your encouragement and participation as we move through this together. Working to prevent the spread of the virus is not so much about “me and mine” as it is about “us and ours.” Thanks for caring for your neighbor and for yourself!
Dear Plymouth Family,
The news about the pandemic in this country continues to improve. For the first time in a very long time, new cases of COVID are in the single digits in Larimer County.
It has been a very long road…unique in Plymouth’s 118-year history. It has been rough on congregants and lay leaders and rough on pastors and staff, but we have made it through! Thank you for your patience and continued participation in being the church!
I am especially appreciative of the wise counsel of our Pandemic Team:Melanie Huibregtse (chair), Barry Beaty, Claudia DeMarco, Greg Ebel, Jane Anne Ferguson, Bob Jeffrey, Judy Lane, Jim Medlock, Bruce Ronda, Nancy Sturtevant, George Theodore, and Harmony Tucker. Scientists, healthcare professionals, ministers, officers of the church, deacons, and trustees have comprised this august body, which has kept us as safe as possible.
The Pandemic Team met and reached some decisions about our reopening process. The team has produced detailed guidelines for building use and cleaning, but here is a top-line report of their counsel:
are now available to all Plymouth groups, both fellowship groups and other meetings, so long as all members have been fully vaccinated. It is the responsibility of the group leader to ensure that all are fully vaccinated and if not, to offer alternatives. (Outdoor meeting space on the lawn is available for all persons.) You can also continue to use Zoom for any of your gatherings, which saves gas and commuting time, and it helps our air quality. You can schedule online at plymouthucc.org/cal.
has already resumed at 6:00 for fully vaccinated folks, and we have made masks and distancing optional, and eliminated the need for advanced sign-ups. Just come!
In-person worship at 10:00 has now been approved for all persons, including kids, whether vaccinated or not. Folks who have not yet been vaccinated — including young people — are asked to wear masks and to observe social distancing. Our deacons have arranged the sanctuary with an every-other pew configuration on the west (window) side of the sanctuary. The east side of the sanctuary has no social distance requirements. We will be singing and serving communion. We ask that social time following the service be outside, either on the sanctuary lawn or the north patio outside the Fellowship Hall. Nursery care will be available.
Our first 10:00 service will be Sunday, July 4! Independence Day will have a sweet, new ring for us at Plymouth! The Stewardship Board will be providing breakfast burritos…since we missed them on Consecration Sunday last year. The choir (all vaccinated) will sing, and we will celebrate communion. (Starting July 4, until new livestream equipment is installed later in July, we will post a recording of the live service on Sunday afternoon at plymouthucc.org/streaming)
Precautions are still encouraged, including the use of hand gel…new dispensers are available in the Fellowship Hall, Sanctuary, North Wing, and Narthex. Please feel free to wear a mask if you wish, and for your own protection, if you have not yet been fully vaccinated, we ask that you keep a mask on at all times.
Faith Family Hospitality Network guests are now with us and will be through the morning of Sunday, June 20. They are using the North and West Wings of the church and the Fellowship Hall, so those areas are off-limits unless you are volunteering with FFH through June 20.
Again, thank you for your patience. I know that there has been a diversity of opinion within the congregation about how and when to open, and I appreciate that we have let the Pandemic Team do their important work to make the best possible decisions on our behalf.
See you in church!
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,
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
Dear Plymouth Family,
The COVID landscape continues to change as we walk into spring and newness of life. Even as cases continue to increase in Larimer County, many of us are getting vaccinated. On each of three days last week, the count in our county exceeded 150 new cases. Many cases are the easily transmissible new variant strains of COVID. The Larimer County Health website puts us in the red “high risk” zone. The first priority for the Pandemic Team is keeping our people safe, while knowing that coming together in person is important!
I know this has been a long haul and that many of us are feeling the weight of pandemic isolation, and I appreciate your faith and patience as we have journeyed through this together. Having weighed the data, the Pandemic Team is making some changes for Plymouth, including launching a pilot program that will include in-person worship at our 6:00, beginning Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021.
Here is what is already happening:
Middle School and Sr. High Youth Groups are meeting in the Fellowship Hall or outdoors with <10 people, masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer use. We had a two-session Easter Egg Hunt and drive-in worship on Easter Sunday. Those experiments have gone well!
Starting Monday, April 19:
Fellowship groups and small-group ministries like Celtic and Healing Prayer, may opt to meet either in the Fellowship Hall for fully vaccinated participants. (Fully vaccinated means both injections or one J&J injection AND two-week waiting period.) Non-fully-vaccinated participants may meet on the sanctuary lawn. You must make a reservation at plymouthucc.org/cal for either the lawn or Fellowship Hall and agree to the terms below. We encourage boards and committees to continue meeting via Zoom, knowing that there are people in our congregation who may have reasons for not getting vaccinated.
If you do come to Plymouth for such a meeting, please wear your mask at all times (members of staff are still waiting for second doses of the vaccine), use hand gel, and observe social distancing.
Starting Sunday, May 23, 2021 (Pentecost Sunday):
We begin our pilot program of in-person worship at 6:00 p.m. (The 10:00 a.m. service is recorded on Wednesday and Thursday, and it wouldn’t be much fun to attend while we’re filming…livestreaming is still unreliable, but we’re searching for a new solution to that.) Maybe you’ve never tried our 6:00 service…this is your chance! I’ve heard over the years that some people think the 6:00 worship is “the Hippy Service,” which made me laugh out loud! Or that we have “Jesus is my boyfriend” praise-band music at 6:00…nope! You might hear a postlude by U2 or a song by John Bell, but it is a totally schmalz-free service! And we have communion every week!
There are some caveats that the Pandemic Team approved:
All of our plans are contingent on no further big changes in COVID cases in Larimer County, and the Pandemic Team will make adjustments to the pilot plan as things progress. We will also continue to look for more opportunities to be together outside as the weather improves…unlike later this week! Thank you for your patience, your prayers, your abiding faith in God. Our staff is as eager as you are to have in-person services and events.
I also want to thank the members of our Pandemic Team for their guidance: Barry Beaty, Paula Bernander, Claudia DeMarco, Greg Ebel, Jane Anne Ferguson, Melanie Huibregtse (chair), Judy Lane, Jim Medlock, Bruce Ronda, Nancy Sturtevant, George Theodore, and Harmony Tucker.
Be well, be safe, and enjoy the spring!
Welcome to The Fellowship Hall!
We’re glad you’re here! We care about your safety and appreciate your strict adherence to these guidelines…if they seem too restrictive to you, please opt to meet somewhere else.
At this point, only Plymouth fellowship groups, small-group ministries, and staff will meet. For the health of our staff, please don’t come into the office.
Only meet here if you can agree to these guidelines:
One of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson begins:
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
A central message about Easter is that sometimes what we assume to be impossible is not. New beginnings and “newness of life,” in Paul’s words, are possible. Six months ago, we may not have thought that a COVID vaccine was possible, but in January this year, things shifted. Three different vaccines are now approved for use in the US. All Coloradoans 16+ years old are eligible to be vaccinated. That is likely to be a game-changer for us!
What are the possibilities for us as individuals, as a church, as a wider community, nation, and world? We are being given a second chance at life…unlike the 2.85 million people who have died from COVID-19 around the world and the 555,000 people in the United States.
A few months ago, one of our members in her 20s, who was working for the Larimer County Health Department, was an early vaccine recipient, and at Coffee Hour one Sunday she said that she was aware of the privilege of having been vaccinated. That word struck me: privilege. We who have received the vaccine are privileged by dodging death one more time. We do have privilege…so what shall we do with it?
How can we take advantage of the second chance we’ve been given? What new beginnings do you see or envision sprouting in your life and in our common life as a congregation? Or as the late poet, Mary Oliver, wrote, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
You’ll be hearing more in the coming weeks from our awesome Strategic Planning Team about ways, including a Congregational Conversation on Sunday, April 11 at noon via Zoom.
Our Pandemic Team meets again this Wednesday, and I anticipate that we will have information for you soon on more occasions to see one another in person. We are keeping your safety and others’ safety first and foremost and using science (rather than wishful thinking) as the basis for our decisions.
We did have two wonderful in-person events last weekend: an outdoor Easter egg hunt (and games, including Pitch-the-Peeps-at-the-Pastor) and a drive-in parking lot service on Easter Sunday with clergy held ten feet aloft by construction scaffolding. Truly, engaging our kids, teen, and families on Saturday and seeing a host of you sitting in your cars on Sunday was one of the most energizing and uplifting experiences I’ve had in the last year.
May God help us dwell in possibility as we envision and act upon the privilege we’ve been given in this one wild and precious life.
Wishing you courage and newness of life!
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,
It has been some time since I wrote to you with an update on the unfolding dimensions of the pandemic and how they affect us at Plymouth. As you've seen, there is a lot going on with changes afoot in our worship life with prerecorded services on Sundays at 10:00 and the return of our 6:00 p.m. Sunday service, now available by Zoom.
The Pandemic Team met two weeks ago, and as our moderator Bruce Ronda reported in the Overview, their counsel is to go slowly. You may also have noticed that the Larimer Country Health Department has moved its Risk Dial Level to Yellow (Concern) this month, but the data as reported in the New York Times (captured above on 2/27/21) don't seem to support that move unless economic vitality, rather than public health data, is considered. The NY Times data suggest that we are in the red zone with "Very High Risk."
I can tell you that the Pandemic Team is taking hard data into account in our decision-making. As part of our go-slow approach, our building will remain closed, and starting tomorrow, March 1, we are going to open the building occasionally to our youth groups for gatherings of ten or fewer students in the Fellowship Hall only, with masks, social distancing, and open windows. (There are protocol sheets, cleaning supplies, and plenty of hand gel in the Fellowship Hall.) If that step goes smoothly, and if the numbers of new cases in Larimer County declines, our next step will be to open the Fellowship Hall to Plymouth groups of 10 or fewer people, such as our spirituality and fellowship small groups. Boards, Committees, and Ministry Teams will continue to meet via Zoom for the time being. Staff are still working primarily from home, except when we need to be in the building. And you are welcome to come walk the labyrinth and to add prayers to the Lenten prayer tree outside the North Wing doors!
I know that many of our older members are receiving vaccine, which is great! But there are still many of us who are not yet eligible. And unfortunately, faith leaders' eligibility was reclassified by the state government Friday, so we are now in group 1.B.4, which is no longer the next group in line. (Some staff are getting vaccinated by virtue of their age.) I want to acknowledge that it is difficult not to let our newfound enthusiasm lead us to conclude that we should be back together in person soon. When we do come back, please don't expect things to be the same. Until we're all vaccinated, things like singing, coffee hour, children, young families, young adults are all likely to be missing from our remembered Sunday experiences. I'm not trying to be a downer...just trying to manage expectations.
I ask for your patience and understanding that our first concern is your safety. As always, your clergy are available for online, telephone, and outdoor pastoral counseling. And please do let us know of any emergencies and hospitalizations!
As we continue to exercise patience and good judgment, I give thanks to God for you, and my prayer is for your good health, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Blessings!