Connected in our Homes and Hearts

Click here for the postcard South Church Cares Survey

It’s times like these we learn a fundamental truth: The Church isn’t a building.

While we long for the day we can return to our sanctuary and welcome back our AA meetings and Food Pantry, we remember that despite the privilege of having a building to share, the Church was never about a building.

It’s about the connections we make with one another and with God, and the ties that bind us together in service to the world.

Whether you are young or old – or a little bit of each, queer or straight – or a little bit of each, male or female – or a little bit of each, calm or nervous – or a little bit of each, we will continue to be faithful in finding ways to be Church for one another.

Thank you for boldly embodying God’s love and compassion.

Worship

Until we are able to gather again in person, worship will be available via live-stream every Sunday at 10 AM on our YouTube and Facebook pages.

The staff and leaders of South Church are working hard to consider the safety, health, and wellbeing of our whole church, especially the most vulnerable among us. This means proceeding with great care and thoughtfulness. 

The American Choral Directors Association in early May shared that there is no safe way for there to be congregational or choral singing until there is a vaccine or 95% effective treatment in place, most likely 1-2 years. Masks and spacing do not protect singers from contagion, as singers are super-spreaders.

According to the Boston Globe, “houses of worship must limit occupancy to 40 percent of the building’s maximum capacity, including both staff and attendees. Masks are required while inside the establishment, and non-family members must stay at least six feet apart. Communal gatherings before and after services are banned.” 

Bearing all of this mind, there are only two things we cannot do together remotely: be physically near each other and sing together. And unfortunately, if we risked gathering in our worship space, we would not be able to safely do either. 

Church Council voted in late April that in-person worship could resume in the fall, at the earliest. Even then, we’re imagining a hybrid model of worship that will be both live and recorded.

Trusting that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-9), we will continue to be church together in ways that don’t put the most vulnerable among us at risk.

We will continue to be as creative as possible in sharing the good news of God. As People of the Way, we will continue to live our faith in new ways in this chaotic world.

Digital Connections

Just because we can’t gather in person, doesn’t mean we can’t gather together and grow in faith. Throughout our time of physical distancing, there will be a number of ways to interact with one another, and engage our faith, throughout the week.

From Story Time to Theology on Tap to Fellowship Time, you can find our online opportunities to gather here.

Additionally, we’ve adjusted our weekly email to focus on these gatherings and how you can participate. If you’re not signed up for our weekly email, sign up now! It comes out every Saturday, detailing the coming week’s events.

We’re using the digital platform Zoom to host most of our online gatherings. You can download this free program for your computer, phone, and/or tablet here. Our conference office has also prepared a great guide to introduce you to Zoom, you can read it here.

Congregational Care

In addition to adjusting our small group offerings, we are also building out new ways of caring for one another.

Our Deacons have been calling dozens of folks in the congregation whom we think could use a personal check-in. We invite you to share with us how we can support you, and what support you can provide others. You can fill out the brief survey here, or call the church office: 978-475-0321.

Be on the look out for new neighborhood groups and other opportunities to boldly embody God’s love and compassion for one another.

Service Central: Managing Stress Through Service

“The crowd kept asking him, “What then are we supposed to do?” John told them, “Give food to the hungry, clothe the poor, and bless the needy.” Luke 3:10-11 (1)

These are uncertain times – the 24×7 news about Covid-19 and the Financial Crisis, being stuck in our homes without social interaction, worries about the future – all of these raise one’s anxiety and stress.  The CDC recommends getting enough rest, eating healthy, exercise and getting outside to combat the effects of this crisis, but serving others is another way to reduce stress and anxiety.

Dr. Oz recently asked a Today Show audience to rank the following factors in order of effectiveness for reducing stress:

  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Spending time with family
  • Doing community service

Service – doing things for others – was THE most effective way to reduce stress! Time spent in service to others gives a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. (2)

But how can I serve others if I have to practice “physical-distancing”?

Here are a few ways to help:

  • Calling people with skills in carpentry, wall repair, window and door replacement, painting, and interior design. COVID-19 has forced Lazarus House to change the way they shelter Guests. They are creating “suites” for five families to offer reasonable protection against the spread of the virus for Guests and staff. Lazarus House is looking for volunteers to come to the Shelter while it is closed to safely join in the repair, beautification, and creation of the new shelter space. They need small teams of people. Contact Ellen Arvidson at ellenarvidson@aol.com to find out more.
  • Donate used but functioning tech such as smartphones, Apple iPads, and Samsung Galaxy Tablets to give to hospitalized patients in the Greater Boston area who are in isolation and unable to stay connected with their loved ones. Click here for details.
  • Make masks for Lawrence General Hospital, local health care facilities, and church members as face coverings are available. You need cotton fabric, elastic, thread, and a sewing machine. Directions can be found here or here. Wash masks with scent-free soap, dry on high heat cycle in the dryer and individually bag each mask. Questions? Contact: Janet Clarke, janetrn45@gmail.com 978-204-5311. Drop masks at the Clarke house, 5 Carriage Hill Rd, Andover, MA OR South Church in the mailbox outside the church office.
  • Buy or order some extra groceries to drop off (outside) homes or have delivered to Food Pantries. Please be sure to check individual websites to see what the individual needs might be. (Some need financial support while others need food items.)
    • Merrimack Valley Y: Has a weekly “Drive and Drop” on Wednesdays from 4-6 PM at 165 Haverhill St in Andover. Please keep an eye on their website to see what future needs they may have.
    • Lazarus House: Have shared a list of urgent food needs here. Please drop off at their FOOD PANTRY at 242 Hampshire Street, Lawrence M-F between 8:30AM and 4:00PM.
  • Send notes to seniors in local retirement homes.  Restrictions on visitors are putting seniors at risk of social isolation and depression.  Have your children write notes and/or draw pictures and send them to a local retirement home.  It can say things such as “Hi Neighbor – we wanted you to know that we are thinking of you…” or a drawing of a sun and flowers may say “There will be brighter days ahead for us all!”. 
    • Andover Elder Services/Meals on Wheels: You can support a meal for a senior with a $3.00 donation to Andover Elder Services. Donations can be made here.
  • Bake cookies or breads and deliver to first responders and health professionals.  Currently, the CDC website says that there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted by food.  If there are concerns over the packaging when delivering you can suggest they wipe off the packaging and/or leave for 24 hours. 
  • Do a spring clean-up at a park or do a gardening project for a neighbor. Spring is coming and getting outside for some vitamin D is good for you and your family! If practicing the 6′ physical distance rule, you can do the project with family and friends. 
  • Donate funds. All non-profits and local businesses are hurting. If you can’t get out to serve others then support them with a donation which is greatly needed during this crisis. Give to funds or your favorite charity. Here are some organizations we support who have expressed a need for financial donations:
    • Neighbors in Need: “Financial assistance allows us the flexibility of using funds for specific needs that arise from this situation. If interested in providing financial assistance, please donate here.
    • Of course, please consider financially supporting organizations previously mentioned, too: Merrimack Valley Y Food Pantry and Lazarus House.
    • Samaritan Fund: Pastors Dana and Alex make occasional financial gifts to members of the South Church community to help get through tough moments. You can support this fund by making a donation online (be sure to change the “fund” to Samaritan Fund) or by sending a check (memo line: Samaritan Fund) to the church office.
  • Donate blood: There is still a great need for blood. The Red Cross confirms that it is safe to donate and to make an appointment to donate.
  • Help a Local Hospital: Lawrence General Hospital has set up a great page with a list of ongoing needs. Please do take a look and see how you can help support them.

Below are some more resources of ways to help.  So go Love Boldly by doing good for others and for your own stress!

Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) COVID-19 Response Fund:

Boston Globe’s Boston Helps site

NBC 10 Boston


Friends: We are truly in unprecedented days. Our prayer for each of you is that you might find moments of peace, beauty and love in the midst of the worry and fear. And that through connecting with one another, and with God, we might lift each other up until we gather together again in body.

If there are additional things you would like to share or ask, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

-Your South Church Staff