Recently, I and twenty or so members of the Chancel Choir gathered at Bill and Anne Thompson's home for a time of fellowship and a celebration of Michele Betsill's upcoming adventure in Denmark as professor at the University of Copenhagen. It is an awesome opportunity but she will be missed at Plymouth! And some of us have only seen each other in two dimensions these past fifteen months, courtesy of Zoom. And for others, it was a reunion long time coming. Connection and camaraderie are essential components for choral singers, the most social of all music ensembles. We don't need an instrument to express our harmonies after all— just our natural selves. This became very apparent last Wednesday evening.
These months of the pandemic have been anything but linear. As close contact could potentially be dangerous, it was always about finding a workaround: virtual choral singing approaches, prerecorded worship services pieced together throughout the prior week, livestreamed services, and more protocols than one would hopefully ever need again! Time-consuming. And often frustrating.
But now, we can actually connect two points together...in a straight line at that! For example, you can drive from your home and pull into Plymouth for the 6:00 p.m. service and we'll all be together in real time. Soon, we can experience the 10:00 a.m. service in this same way on July 4. And the Chancel Choir will be there too...and the week after. What was once a major super spreader event (choral singing) is now laid low with these life-saving vaccines. It is an amazing transitional time now.
So let's enjoy the return of immediacy and overflowing connection opportunities we once freely enjoyed. Strangely, the ease of simply doing something without the resistance of once necessary safety protocols makes me feel like a slacker. As if, "this is just too easy, really?" Maybe you can relate to that too. In any case, we'll get over it. That I'm quite sure of.
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.
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!
“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.