UPDATED COVID PROTOCOLS

Dear members and friends of the Franklin United Methodist Church,

In many ways, things seem to be getting back to “normal.”  While the pandemic continues, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to get noticeably brighter each day.  In the Town of Franklin, the 14-day number of total COVID cases is in the single digits and has been for several weeks; the positivity rate is below 1%; and, the number of people who are fully vaccinated is increasing rapidly.  On Tuesday (June 15), after 462 days, the state of emergency will be lifted in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  With all of this in mind, the Church Council met, on June 13, to review our COVID protocols.  Here are some of the major updates I need to share with you:

We’re back, fully in-person!  The Metrics for Safer Gatherings, adopted by the Council in March, will no longer be used to determine whether we meet in-person inside, in-person outside, or virtual only.  All activities in the church may resume meeting in-person and in a location most fitting the activity and group.  Many activities, including our worship together, will continue to meet in a hybrid model allowing for virtual and in-person participation.

Masks are not required during worship.  All persons who attend worship indoors will be asked to wear a mask over their mouth and nose upon entering, exiting, and while otherwise not seated for worship.  Worshippers may remove their mask once seated for worship.  Worship participants will be seated no less than six feet apart.  There will be no congregational singing indoors.  When worshipping outdoors, there will be no mask requirements and congregational singing will be encouraged.

Masks will not be required for adult small groups, but will be required for small groups including children that meet indoors.

After worship fellowship will resume.  Refreshments will be served outside, weather permitting, after worship to encourage each of us to reconnect with one another.

Below you will find the full resolution and rational for our updated COVID protocols.  All persons participating in the worship, life, and work of the church, and all outside facility users, are required to follow them.  We intend to review these protocols again in the Fall.

If you have any questions about the updated protocols or you just want to chat, please do not hesitate to call, text, or email to setup a time for us to meet.  I look forward to seeing you in worship, in-the-sanctuary, this Sunday at 10am!

Peace.
Pastor Jacob


UPDATED COVID PROTOCOLS

WHEREAS, the number of COVID cases has dropped precipitously in the Town of Franklin and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts;

WHEREAS, the State of Emergency in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be terminated on June 15;

WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control has issued new guidance entitled “Choosing Safer Activities” (see here) which states that fully vaccinated persons may resume most all activities, indoors and outdoors, without a mask while unvaccinated persons are strongly encouraged to wear masks indoors;

WHEREAS, COVID-19 vaccines are readily available for all persons 12+ years of age in Massachusetts, but is still not available for children younger than twelve (12);

WHEREAS, current research suggests that vaccinated persons are highly unlikely to contract and highly unlikely to transmit COVID-19.

WHEREAS, not all persons can receive the vaccine and “herd immunity” has not been achieved;

WHEREAS, Franklin United Methodist Church does not have an HVAC system that filters indoor air and introduces fresh air;

WHEREAS, The Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship, and Sacraments has released new guidance, entitled “Care-filled Worship and Sacramental Life in a Lingering Pandemic” (see here) encouraging churches to “stay the course” and maintain “ongoing limitations, such as wearing masks, no congregational or choral singing indoors, shortened services, and no ‘coffee hour;’”

WHEREAS, the New England Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church has issued an addendum to its “Guidelines for In-Person Worship & Ministry during COVID-19,” entitled “Risk Reduction” (see here) which states that the local church should “encourage everyone to use…a cloth face covering (mask) at all gatherings and whenever they are in the building. (Exception: children younger than 2 years old);”

WHEREAS, one of the guiding rules of Methodism is “Do no harm;”

WHEREAS, Franklin United Methodist Church seeks be a place where all persons can worship, live life, and work together;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that beginning, Monday, June 14 the worship, life, and work of the Franklin United Methodist Church shall resume fully in-person with the following protocols in place.

WORSHIP

  • All worshippers are asked to wear a mask over their nose and mouth when entering, exiting, and otherwise not sitting in their pew.  Masks must be worn when coming forward for communion.  Communion should be consumed in the pews.  Masks will not be required when worshipping outdoors.
  • Worship participants will be seated no less than six feet apart or two empty pews between households.
  • Congregational singing is not allowed. “Live” music will resume with a masked and physically distanced choir and/or vocalist.  All choir members, vocalists, and accompanists must be fully vaccinated.
  • Health questionnaires will no longer need to be filled out by worship participants; however, ushers will need to take detailed attendance.  Contact information (phone, email and/or address) must be on file for all worship participants.

LIFE AND WORK (SMALL) GROUPS

  • Participants in small groups where only adults are presents shall not be required to wear a mask.
  • All participants in small groups where children are present indoors shall be required to wear a mask.  Masks will not be required for outdoor activities.
  • Health questionnaires will not be required; however, detailed attendance must be taken and turned into the church office.  Contact information (phone, email and/or address) must be on file for all new participants.

GENERAL PROTOCOLS

  • Food and refreshments may be served outside and in settings where social distancing can be maintained.  After worship fellowship time should begin immediately, weather permitting, outdoors.
  • A person’s decision to wear a mask will be respected.
  • All public areas will be cleaned and sanitized regularly.
  • Hand sanitizer will be made readily available throughout the facility.
  • A supply of N-95 masks will be kept on hand and accessible for those who may want or need a mask.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that these protocols shall be adhered to by all persons and organizations that use the Franklin United Methodist Church facility.  The Church Council may amend these protocols as needed to address the on-going safety and concerns of the church and community.


The above letter and resolution were sent out to the congregation via USPS. You can view a printable version of the mailing here.

Transition to In-person Gatherings

Dear members and friends of the Franklin United Methodist Church,

On March 13, 2020, in response to growing concerns regarding the spread of a novel-coronavirus, I made the difficult decision to cancel in-person worship.  The following Sunday (March 15), the Church Council decided to halt all in-person gatherings.  For just over a year now, in response to what became a global pandemic, our gatherings have been exclusively virtual.  While virtual small groups and virtual worship have kept us connected through this crisis…

IT IS FINALLY TIME!

Over the next several weeks we will begin transitioning to in-person small groups and worship.  The metrics that will guide whether or not we gather indoors in-person, outdoors in-person, or exclusively virtual can be found below.

            Assuming we meet the metrics, in-person small group gatherings (<20 persons) will be allowed to meet at the church beginning on Monday, April 5.  Assuming we meet the metrics, in-person worship will begin on Sunday, May 2.  On fair weather days, even if the metrics allow for indoor gatherings, preference will be given to outdoor gatherings.  It is important to note that all in-person worship services and most in-person small groups will continue to allow for virtual participation.  Links to participate virtually will be sent through the church website and calendar.  This will allow people who may be traveling, homebound, in an institution, or living at a distance to participate in the life of the church even though they cannot make it to the facility in-person.

            As we make the transition back to in-person gatherings, most COVID protocols will remain in place.  You must wear a mask over your nose and mouth, maintain physical distancing, frequently sanitize your hands, and fill out a health questionnaire (for contact tracing purposes) in order to participate in-person.  There will be no group singing.  And, capacity limits will be set for indoor events in order to maintain physical distancing.  A registration and RSVP system will be setup so that we can plan for your in-person worship participation.  Virtual worship participants will not have to register for worship.  We will not, at this time, be instituting a registration process for small group gatherings.

            Below you will find the metrics that will guide how we gather, along with some reminders about our COVID protocols.  You will also find a table with current metric data. If you have any questions about the transition to in-person gatherings or you just want to chat, please feel free to contact me directly.  I look forward to gathering with you in-person once again that we might worship God, work and live life together for Christ’s sake!

Peace.
Pastor Jacob



The above letter and graphic were sent out to the congregation via USPS. You can view a printable version of the mailing here. To know where the metrics currently stand, see below. Metrics are updated Thursday evening/Friday morning. Numbers are pulled from the Town of Franklin website and the Massachusetts COVID dashboard.

#COVIDMemorial

Today (Tuesday, January 19, 2021) at 5:30pm ET, Franklin United Methodist Church will ring its bell and turn on its lights as part of a national #COVIDMemorial in honor of the lives lost to COVID-19.

You are welcome to light a candle or ring a bell from wherever you are, and join in prayer for those suffering from COVID-19, medical staff, scientists, and others both treating those with COVID-19 and making and distributing vaccines.

A Communal Lament in COVID-times

This lament was written as part of our Life Together small group discussion on October 1. We had spent three weeks discussing the Book of Lamentations and were modeling our final lament after the final lament in the book. Lamentations 5 is the only lament spoken by the community and the community’s cry is addressed solely to God (unlike the other laments which seem to be addressed to God and anyone who will listen). The community is relentless in their protest–their description of what is wrong in God’s world–and they issue a series of challenging questions, near the end, to God. With Lamentations 5 as our model, the group gathered on October 1 humbly offers their lament. It is unedited (language alert).

A Communal Lament in COVID-times

Life is not normal, Lord,
and we don’t know why.
A sickness is spreading
faster than we can keep up.
We are afraid:
a cough may not be just a cough,
allergies may be more than the sniffles.
Our heads ache.
Is it the plague?
Our loved ones are getting sick.
people are dying alone.
Family cannot visit.
Even those who recover
are not well.

And we’re pissed.
You gave us scientists and physicians
to help care for us
and people are not listening.
It is getting worse.
People are out of work.
There are food shortages.
Our young people think they are invincible,
others are in denial
and all are getting sick
some are dying.
Our elders and persons of color
are disproportionately effected:
they are seen as expendable casualties.
Our leaders have failed us.
Our healthcare system is overwhelmed–
understaffed and short supplied.

Where are you, O God, in the midst of all this?
Did you create this plague?
Why does this devastate some and not others? Are you choosing who dies?
Have you, O God, forsaken us? Have we forsaken you?
How could you allow us to suffer? What have we done to deserve this?
How can you allow your children to put others at risk?
When will you comfort us?
When will rest come?

Sunday, May 31, 2020 || Worshipful Conversation & Fellowship

Join us for a time of Worshipful Conversation and Fellowship on Sunday, May 31, at 10 am ET. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (http://meet.google.com/ens-kcoq-bgg) or by calling 1-262-885-7027, the PIN is 172 874 072#.

You can view and download the bulletin for this service below. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

In order to best participate in this service, you will need access to a bible (bound or electronic), and some sort of food/snack and drink.  The Bible is for the discussion.  The food is for the love feast during which you will be invited to share some aspect of your hope, joy, or faith before you eat what you have with you. Prompts for our time of sharing are provided in the bulletin.

All are welcome.

Sunday, May 24, 2020 || Worshipful Conversation & Fellowship

Join us for a time of Worshipful Conversation and Fellowship on Sunday, May 24, at 10 am ET. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (http://meet.google.com/ens-kcoq-bgg) or by calling 1-262-885-7027, the PIN is 172 874 072#.

You can view and download the bulletin for this service below. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

In order to best participate in this service, you will need access to a bible (bound or electronic), and some sort of food/snack and drink.  The Bible is for the discussion.  The food is for the love feast during which you will be invited to share some aspect of your hope, joy, or faith before you eat what you have with you. Prompts for our time of sharing are provided in the bulletin.

All are welcome.

Devotional || Psalm 93

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

The Lord rules!
    He is robed in majesty—
    the Lord is robed,
    clothed with strength.
Yes, he set the world firmly in place;[a]
    it won’t be shaken.
Your throne is set firm for a very long time.
    You are eternal!

Lord, the floods have raised up—
    the floods have raised up their voices;
    the floods raise up a roar!
But mightier than the sound of much water,
    mightier than the sea’s waves,
    mighty on high is the Lord!
Your laws are so faithful.
    Holiness decorates your house, Lord, for all time.

Psalm 93, Common English Bible

God is in charge! From the beginning of time and on into the future. God is in charge. God rules. God is and has always been–Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer. The waters of the earth are powerful; floods and hurricanes with all their power are not more powerful than God, though they may seem to be stronger in the midst of the storm.

The coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic are not stronger than God. God stands among us to carry us through and God will be with us as we begin to move out of our homes and back into the world.  In the midst of suffering and death, in the midst of economic collapse, we believe that God is there. Jesus came to call us to the kingdom of God, and invited his disciples to enter the kingdom. “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:14-15). We are called to decide- are we kingdom people or not.

The Hebrew people complained repeatedly through their time in the wilderness and God always provided for them. So, if today is one of those days when you are miserable and can’t think of anything except your complaints, raise them up to God.  Just as God provided for the Hebrew wanderers, God will provide for you and find a way to lift your spirits. We are seeing improvement in our situation now, but we don’t know when it will be brought to a new normal. Yet we have the promise of the kingdom, the promise of God’s rule in the world, which brings us comfort, peace and strength despite the reality of the troubles the world faces.

Claim the Kingdom!  Praise the Lord!

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Ted Crass, President of The United Methodist Foundation of New England

Loving God,
Thank you for these Spring days that explode with new life.
For the flowering crab apple, cherry, dogwood, redbud, and plum
For the buds that pop with leaves that unfurl
For warblers, phoebes, grosbeaks, and indigo bunting
For the blue skies and warm sun.
I thank you that this same Spring comes in the diversity of other plants, trees, birds and signs in other lands, too.
And that the warmth of your sheltering love can be felt all over creation.
This morning, I bring to mind the faces of friends in Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceana, South America, the Middle East, and also here in my little corner of the world.
Whether welcoming the same Spring or facing the same pandemic,
They are my sisters and brothers.
Today, I pray a prayer of peace for these my siblings, for their land and for mine.
Help me never to forget 
That their joy is my joy and that mine is theirs,
That their suffering is my suffering and that mine is theirs,
That we cannot fully realize our own being without each other.
O God, help me never to forget our shared oneness in Christ 
As I enter this blessed Spring morning.
Amen

Sunday, May 17, 2020 || Worshipful Conversation & Fellowship

Join us for a time of Worshipful Conversation and Fellowship on Sunday, May 17, at 10 am ET. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (http://meet.google.com/ens-kcoq-bgg) or by calling 1-262-885-7027, the PIN is 172 874 072#.

You can view and download the bulletin for this service below. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

In order to best participate in this service, you will need access to a bible (bound or electronic), and some sort of food/snack and drink.  The Bible is for the discussion.  The food is for the love feast during which you will be invited to share some aspect of your hope, joy, or faith before you eat what you have with you. Prompts for our time of sharing are provided in the bulletin.

All are welcome.

Devotional || Psalm 68:8-20

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

8 All you nations, bless our God!
    Let the sound of his praise be heard!
God preserved us among the living;
    he didn’t let our feet slip a bit.

10 But you, God, have tested us—
    you’ve refined us like silver,
11     trapped us in a net,
    laid burdens on our backs,
12     let other people run right over our heads—
    we’ve been through fire and water.

But you brought us out to freedom!
13     So I’ll enter your house
        with entirely burned offerings.
    I’ll keep the promises I made to you,
14         the ones my lips uttered,
        the ones my mouth spoke when I was in deep trouble.
15 I will offer the best burned offerings to you
    along with the smoke of sacrificed rams.
    I will offer both bulls and goats. Selah

16 Come close and listen,
    all you who honor God;
    I will tell you what God has done for me:
17 My mouth cried out to him
    with praise on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished evil in my heart,
    my Lord would not have listened.
19 But God definitely listened.
    He heard the sound of my prayer.
20 Bless God! He didn’t reject my prayer;
    he didn’t withhold his faithful love from me.

Psalm 66:8-20, Common English Bible

Once again, we sing a Psalm of praise. We sing of God’s love and care for the world even in the darkest times. The whole world has been tested, but despite that, God has brought the Israelites out of their troubles. They’ve been burdened and struggled through fire and water, but God brought them out to freedom. Now the individual Psalmist is ready to give sacrifices to God, to keep promises that he made when he was in deep trouble. He prayed and was answered, and now offers songs of praise.

Throughout the ages there have been repeated trials and disasters. In each time, God was there, God was working among the people during the previous pandemic in 1918, during the world wars, during the black plague.  God is with us through the Covid-19 pandemic. God is working in the world and God is working in each one of us.

God is with the scientists who are trying to find and effective treatment and with those working on vaccines. God has given the gift of creative thinking and experience with other diseases to the scientists doing this work. God is giving courage to the health care workers going into hospitals and nursing homes to treat those infected and the love and care they bring to their patients despite their own risk. God is with those who are trying to make ends meet and keep their businesses despite the shutdown. God is with those of us who are isolated, so that we are never alone.

And so, as things improve and we begin to slowly open up businesses, we will praise the God who has been with us throughout this experience and we will find ways to sacrifice to God in thanksgiving for all God has done.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Dr. Jacquelyn Brannen, Northern Maine District Superintendent

Lord, during this pandemic, life has become so confusing.
There is fear, grief and so much anxiety.
And yet, your Spirit resides within me. Sometimes, I feel you as near as my breath.
Sometimes, I long to feel you but cannot. 
Today, I will trust that you are here. I will trust that you are with me even when my emotions hide your presence.
Today, Lord, I will concentrate on keeping your commandments and I will trust that the Spirit that resides within will help me with that, for I do love you God.
Thank you for loving me.