Coronavirus upates

October 8, 2021
Dear friends,
My note this week will be brief. While we hoped that the COVID situation in Minnesota would follow other states experiencing decline, it is not yet so. Average daily new cases in this last week have risen above 3,000 per day, with a sharp incline in cases amongst those ages 5–14. And while many children are able to tolerate this illness with full recovery, it should alarm us that the pediatric ICUs in the state have no available beds and that children are dying from COVID-19. Please join me in praying “God, in your mercy, protect those most vulnerable from this insidious disease.”
I encourage you to be thoughtful in your gatherings and activities, considering not only what is safe for yourself but also for others. We are proceeding cautiously in our plans for the re-opening of the sanctuary for Sunday morning worship on November 7. In the coming weeks, I will discuss some practices we will employ to keep everyone as safe as possible in this endeavor. Worship at 9 a.m. Under the Big Top continues through October 31, and we livestream the 11 a.m. service from the sanctuary each Sunday. Boards, committees, and other groups may meet at the church, inside or outside, depending on the availability of safe spaces. Please use this form to request a meeting room.
Beloved community, I know we are tired of the ways this pandemic has disrupted our rituals and routines, especially at church. May the Spirit that binds us together infuse us daily with creative ways to be community, with a willingness to care for one another deeply—even at a distance—and with a patience that may have to exceed understanding.
Until next week’s correspondence, I hold you all in prayer as this pandemic wears on. May we be people of hope, may we be kind and caring, may we remain faithful in community.

Blessings, 

Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth 

Minister for Congregational Care and Worship 


October 1, 2021

Dear friends, 

Blessings to you on this first day of October, a favorite month for many of us in Minnesota. As we take in the glory of the creation’s spectacular color, I pray our weary spirits be renewed. 

The COVID-19 situation in Minnesota is not improving. Daily new cases average over 2,300. Particularly distressing is the significant increase in cases in this last week amongst our children ages 10–14. Many of our schools are in “outbreak status,” which means there are five or more active cases reported to the facility. Schools vary in their management of COVID-19 protocol. I am holding our church families in constant prayer as I worry for my own daughter’s safety in her high school. It is a troubling time. 

Several weeks ago, I informed you that the Covid Advisory Group determined that after three weeks of decline in cases amongst our youth we could open the sanctuary for worship. While we are not yet seeing a decline of cases, there is hope that we would follow the trend of our southern states and that our case rate would improve. However, as long as the COVID-19 situation in Minnesota does not dramatically worsen, we will open the sanctuary for both Sunday morning worship services beginning November 7. 

More information, with protocol for indoor worship, will be forthcoming. Until then, we are blessed that it is October in Minnesota and we have secured the tent through the 31st. Worship Under the Big Top continues at 9 a.m. (We have a bucket of blankets for chilly mornings!) And the 11 a.m. service with the Plymouth choir will be livestreamed from the sanctuary. Please know that even when we do return to in-person worship in the sanctuary, both services will be livestreamed. I know that while many of you are eager to return to gathering in-person inside, just as many of you are concerned for the health of your family and will participate virtually. Whatever the future holds, let us strive to be community in creative ways, honoring one another’s stories and experiences. The world is sadly and scarily divided over the impact of this pandemic. Let us model caring community even in those situations when we do not hold consensus. 

Until next week’s correspondence, I hold you all in prayer as this pandemic wears on. May we be people of hope, may we be kind and caring, may we remain faithful in community. 

Blessings, 

Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth 

Minister for Congregational Care and Worship 


September 24, 2021
Dear friends,
Like many of you, I welcomed the onset of fall this week with both relief and joy. The cooler temperatures and the colorful hues are like balm to my sunburnt summer spirit. I pray that this change of season will also create a shift in our pandemic situation, although that time has not yet arrived. Last week I informed you that the Covid Advisory Group is paying particular attention to the number of new cases in our under-12 population, since they are the most vulnerable now, having no access to the vaccine. In one week, across Minnesota, the number of new cases in children under 12 has almost doubled. A Minneapolis high school had to shift to online learning only because of its high numbers of COVID-19 cases, and other Minnesota schools have had to do the same. We are unable to open the sanctuary for Sunday morning worship until these numbers show a decline.
We continue to work towards this full re-opening. We welcome boards, committees, and other small groups to meet in the church building if desired. If your group has 12 attendees or fewer, please use our Event Request form, and Emily Venell will help reserve a space. If your gathering includes more than 12, we will try to accommodate based on group size and room availability. Please be patient with us as we move into this new, cautious phase of building re-opening. Masks need to be worn at all times in the church building, regardless of group size, and if your group includes unvaccinated people, we ask that you continue meeting virtually or outdoors.
I know that the sanctuary holds special meaning for many of you, and it is perhaps where you feel most grounded in God’s presence. Even though the sanctuary is not yet open for worship on Sunday mornings, the quiet of the sanctuary space is available to you for meditation and prayer during the week. I pray this might provide some meaningful moments for you.
We have secured our “Big Top” through October and will continue to hold outdoor worship on Sundays at 9 a.m., with the 11 a.m. service livestreaming from the sanctuary.
May the fresh fall winds of the Spirit renew your tired soul. May we continue to do the holy work of Plymouth Church in creative ways. May God bless you, beloved community, with tenderness and grace that fills you with the awareness that you are deeply loved and valued. Until next week’s correspondence, I hold you all in prayer as this pandemic wears on. May we be people of hope, may we be kind and caring, may we remain faithful in community.
Blessings,
Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth
Minister for Congregational Care and Worship

September 17, 2021
Dear beloved friends,
As I write this weekly COVID update, I am filled with the joyful memories of Rally Sunday. How wonderful it was to be with one another—to celebrate worship and welcome back our beloved Plymouth Choir, and to hear sounds of delight as children (of all ages!) played on the bouncy slide. Being together provided some necessary balm for the disappointment of these days and was an important reminder that we are able to know community in creative ways.
Unfortunately, the state of COVID-19 in Minnesota is not improving. Daily cases continue to be above 2,000, and the increase in infection in children under twelve is alarming. The Covid Advisory Group is paying special attention to this demographic as we determine when it is safe to reopen the sanctuary for worship. Our children have no access to a vaccine, and we must make accommodations in order to protect them. Once we have experienced a meaningful decline in infection rates in children under 12 for three weeks in a row, we will re-open the sanctuary. Until then we will worship in person at 9 a.m. Under the Big Top and livestream worship (with the Plymouth Choir) at 11 a.m. from our sanctuary.
I understand that, for many of you, the sanctuary holds special meaning and it is where you feel most grounded in God’s presence. Please know that even though we cannot yet open the sanctuary on Sundays for worship, you are welcome to come in during the week and bask in the meditative quiet of the sanctuary space. I pray this might provide some meaningful moments for you.
The good news is that Plymouth Church is not closed. Our children are gathering on Wednesday evenings (outdoors) for various arts ensembles, and Church School kicks off the new program year this Sunday. Boards and committees continue to do their essential work. Small groups are meeting in the tent, courtyard, inside, or offsite. Clergy are offering pastoral care in a variety of settings. As DeWayne reminded us on Sunday: We are still here! Ministry of all kinds is happening at the corner of Franklin and Nicollet, which has ripple effects all through our wider community.
Because of the way the Minnesota Department of Health is currently reporting COVID-19 statistics, with a significant weekly update offered on Thursdays, my weekly letter will be included in the Friday email and posted on Facebook and our website on Fridays now, rather than Thursdays. Until next week’s correspondence, I hold you all in prayer as this pandemic wears on. May we be people of hope, may we be kind and caring, may we remain faithful in community.
Blessings,
Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth
Minister for Congregational Care and Worship

September 9, 2021

Dear friends,

I write this week with news you already know: that daily cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota continue to be high, with numbers escalating above the spring surge of this year. One week ago today, the number of cases reported was 2,138. Cumulative data from the holiday weekend reports 5,777 new cases. Until we witness a downward trend in new cases per day, we will be unable to open the sanctuary for worship.

The good news is that fall is the most beautiful season in Minnesota, and Plymouth will provide ways to gather safely outside. This Sunday, September 12, is Rally Sunday. In all my decades of ministry, Rally Sunday has been one of my favorite days. I have experienced this special Sunday as both homecoming and reunion, a day of great anticipation as a new program year commences. This Sunday we will worship together at 9 and 11 a.m. Under the Big Top. The Plymouth Choir returns with joy at 11 a.m. after an 18-month absence. The Jazz Trio continues to delight at 9 a.m. Rev. Dr. DeWayne Davis will gather us in with an inspiring sermon. We will be together in beloved community, reminding one another of God’s steadfast presence and in the importance of our spiritual connection.

At 10 a.m. there will be festivities for all ages in the parking lot, and at 10 a.m. and again at noon, you will have an opportunity to come into the church in small groups to view the art you created this summer. The Living Tree is on display in Guild Hall and is a beautiful reminder of the beauty and strength of our church. Other stops on the church tour include the sanctuary, a new display of staff photographs and bios, and a walk through the gorgeous courtyard, which is resplendent and has provided balm and gorgeous color all summer long.

While we continue to long for pre-pandemic familiarity, especially for our church rituals, let us have open hearts as we continue to discover new ways of connectedness. I know this weekend, in the midst of the joy of Rally Day reunion, we will all pause to remember the life-changing events of 9/11. As the doors of grief re-open and the images of 20 years ago flood our newsfeed, let us pray for those who live with the tragedy of that day always, and let us be even more determined to create sustaining beloved community at Plymouth Church. Plymouth is a community of love and support, a place to tend our pain and share our joy and to know God is present in our midst. This is why coming together this Rally Sunday is so important.

Until next week’s correspondence, I hold you all in prayer as this pandemic wears on. May we be people of hope, may we be kind and caring, may we remain faithful in community.

Blessings,

Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth
Minister for Congregational Care and Worship


September 2, 2021

Dear Friends,
In the last week, little has changed regarding the COVID-19 situation in Minnesota. New cases are still averaging above 1,500 a day, with some days closer to 2,000. Some data suggests we may be near a peak in Delta variant cases, but there are experts who believe case numbers will continue to climb well into the fall. Please trust that Plymouth’s Covid Advisory Group remains diligent in reviewing information and continues to adjust building use protocol as the scenario evolves.
We ask that boards and committees plan for their September meetings to be held outside or via Zoom. We will worship at 9 a.m. Under the Big Top through September. On September 12, Rally Sunday, we have a morning of festivities planned outdoors: worship at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Our beloved Plymouth Choir returns to the 11 a.m. service. At 10 a.m., there will be festivities for all ages as well as an opportunity to visit Guild Hall to view the spectacular Community Art Project. More information on this will come: we will do this in small numbers, masked and with appropriate spacing. Following the 11 a.m. service, there will be time for continued fellowship and more visits to Guild Hall.
I anticipate that on September 19 and 26 we will resume the current worship schedule: worship Under the Big Top at 9 a.m. and Livestream Worship from our sanctuary at 11 a.m. Please trust that as soon as we can open the sanctuary, we will, regardless of what has been planned! We know that everyone awaits that day with great anticipation, even as we battle the disappointment that it has not happened yet.
Beloved Community, please pray for our children upon their return to school. The number of children becoming ill is growing daily. Many schools are not requiring masking or other safety measures, and the youngest in our midst are now the most vulnerable to this insidious virus. With every decision the Covid Advisory Group makes, we ask not only what is safest for our congregation, but especially what must we do to protect our children.
Until next week’s correspondence, I hold you all in prayer as this pandemic wears on. May we be people of hope, may we be kind and caring, may we remain faithful in community.
Blessings,
Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth
Minister for Congregational Care and Worship

August 18, 2021

Dear friends,

With the concerning rise in cases of COVID-19 in Hennepin County and the entire state, I expect my words today will not surprise you, even as sadness and frustration pervade. We will not be opening the sanctuary for the 11 a.m. worship service this Sunday, August 22, and it is doubtful we will be able to open it at all before Rally Sunday, September 12. In addition, meetings or other gatherings at Plymouth must be held outside. You are welcome to reserve the tent for these purposes. Click here to reserve the tent. If you have a scheduled meeting inside the building, church staff will be in touch with you about moving it to an outside space or online.

We will continue to celebrate worship outside “Under the Big Top” on Sundays at 9 a.m. There is much joy in these gatherings. We are following the Minnesota Department of Health instructions regarding outdoor masking at this time:

  • Face masks are recommended for all vaccinated people.
  • Face masks are required for all unvaccinated people over the age of 2.
  • Face masks are required for everyone while singing.

In addition, our livestream sanctuary service at 11 a.m. will continue. Right now, your church clergy and staff are creating all kinds of programming to be held as safely as possible. We will celebrate Rally Sunday on September 12 with joy and gratitude. We may have to be outdoors (yet to be determined), but we will gather and be community and remember that God is in our midst and there are blessings to acknowledge, even in this continuing time of pandemic.

I will communicate with you each week in this way to report on any changes to our protocol and keep you aware of an ever-evolving situation. And I will close each letter with this encouragement and blessing:

I hold you all in prayer as this pandemic wears on. May we be people of hope, may we be kind and caring, may we remain faithful in community.

Blessings,
Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth
Minister for Congregational Care and Worship

August 11, 2021

Dear friends,
Yesterday at our weekly Covid Advisory Group meeting, we made the difficult decision to delay opening the sanctuary for the 11 a.m. worship service. Our anticipated opening was this Sunday, August 15, but with the increased number of daily cases in Hennepin County, along with a rising number of breakthrough cases amongst vaccinated people, we do not feel it is yet safe to gather indoors for worship. We hope we may be able to open on August 22 and will make that determination next week. I am asking that you stay tuned to communication from me regarding our reopening process.
Those of you who are keeping a watchful eye on the COVID-19 situation will not be surprised by this decision, and all of us are saddened that once again, this insidious disease keeps us scattered rather than gathered. The Covid Advisory Group is especially mindful that our children do not have access to a vaccine, and because of this, we must do all that we can to protect their precious health while also encouraging their spirit. All programming for children is currently held outdoors. We must all take good precautions in keeping them safe when we are able to be inside again.
The good news is that we continue to worship weekly at 9 a.m. under the “Big Top”. If you have not yet joined us for this vibrant outdoor worship, please come. I know many of you are missing the beauty and sacredness of our sanctuary, and we look towards the future with the hope that soon the pews will be filled.
Again, we will not be opening the sanctuary for 11 a.m. worship this Sunday, August 15. We are still on track for a full reopening on Rally Sunday, September 12, and remain diligent in evaluating the situation each week. Stay tuned for news regarding 11 a.m. worship on August 22.
I hold you all in prayer as this pandemic wears on. May we be people of hope, may we be kind and caring, may we remain faithful in community.
Blessings,
Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth
Minister for Congregational Care and Worship

July 9, 2020

I am pleased to announce that due to low numbers of daily new COVID-19 cases and an increase in vaccinations in Minnesota (70% of adults and children over 12 have had at least one dose of the vaccine), the Covid Advisory Group is making two changes effective immediately:

  • Masking is still encouraged but not required at our 9:00 a.m. Sunday Worship Under the Big Top.
  • Masking in the church building is no longer required for all those who have been vaccinated. The exception to this is group gatherings in a room in which distancing is not possible. Of course, you are welcome to wear a mask if you wish, and you are required to wear a mask if you have not been vaccinated.

We are still on target to fully re-open the building for Sunday morning worship and educational activities on Rally Sunday, September 12. We will open the sanctuary for those who would like to attend 11:00 a.m. worship (still in a Livestream format) beginning August 15. Worship Under the Big Top will continue weekly at 9:00 a.m. through Labor Day weekend.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns,

Beth Hoffman Faeth


December 29, 2020

Beloved friends,

With the surge in COVID-19 cases in our community we have had to turn the dial back on PCC building usage. There is no in-person worship or programming until further notice. The building is closed except for essential personnel. This is a temporary situation. While we fully recognize how we are all experiencing COVID fatigue and desperately miss our church building and church friends; we need to be vigilant and practice COVID safety measures. Please stay home as much as possible, wear a face mask, socially distance, and wash your hands regularly. Remember, “We stay home now so that when we gather again no one is missing.”

Blessings,

Anne Gustafson


March 27, 2020

An excerpt from Paula Northwood’s March 27 Along the Way:

We have great resources that are guiding us through this time. The MN Conference UCC Minister, Shari Prestemon, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz are providing solid leadership and direction.

Because of the information we have now, we will not be holding in-church worship services until mid-May, and possibly for a longer time. Because we house the Groveland Food Shelf and Academia Elze, which are considered essential, we will continue to have limited custodial and security staff on site. Governor Walz’s executive order gives faith leaders and staff permission to record and broadcast spiritual support during this time. We are taking every precaution while doing this. We are trying to err on the side of caution.


March 14, 2020

Friends,

Upon further consideration and in consultation with the Deacons and the MN Conference of the UCC, we have decided to cancel the Sunday worship service and postpone the special meeting. This was a difficult decision, but we want to err on the side of caution. Our plan is to resume Sunday services and the special meeting on April 5 with the building opening again on April 1.

Elements of worship will be recorded and shared via the website and, we hope, other media platforms.  May these offerings provide some spiritual sustenance in this complicated time.  We continue to imagine ways to stay connected in community during these days of social distancing. Check the website tomorrow for details.

We will also provide boxed meals for the Third Sunday meal with limited volunteers.

Thank you for your patience.
Paula, Beth and Seth


March 13, 2020

Friends,

We are living in unprecedented times. We are also having to make decisions daily as new information becomes available. We know many of you are concerned and anxious about the future. Please know that we are in this together, and your clergy are available to help you through this stressful period. During life’s difficulties, the church is called to be a place of solace, support and well-being. We just may have to be creative about how we do it.

Following the Third Sunday meal—handing out boxed meals—we will be closing the building until April 1. (This date is subject to change; we’ll keep you posted.) All Plymouth programming, board and committee meetings, and events are cancelled unless held by teleconferencing or other non-contact means.

The only exceptions are Groveland Food Shelf, Academia Elze, VocalEssence and theater groups. They will be making their own decisions.

We’re taking our lead from MN Dept of Health and following the guidelines as best we can under the circumstances. We are committed to be a supportive community of faith during this time. Stay tuned as we creatively find solutions for staying connected and supporting each other.

May God bless us!

Paula Northwood, Acting Senior Minister
Beth Hoffman Faeth, Minister for Congregational Care and Worship
Seth Patterson, Director of Spiritual Formation and Theater