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!