By Karen Barstad
When Plymouth Church had to close our building in March of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, our clergy and staff had to quickly pivot to provide church in a virtual world. Determining what was necessary to protect the health of our church staff, members, children, and tenants became the work of the COVID Advisory Group.
This group— Minister Beth Hoffman Faeth, Dr. David Homans, Dr. John Davenport, Director of Operations Anne Gustafson, and Ministry Assistant for Hospitality Emily Venell—has met every week for the past year to make decisions based on ever-evolving information about this deadly virus.
They collect, decipher, and analyze data from the CDC, Minnesota Department of Health, and other scientific resources. They identify tasks each of them will undertake between meetings. They solicit feedback from Philip Brunelle, Nina Jonson, our technical staff, and our security and custodial staff. They develop protocols and communicate the requirements to all who might ask to come through our doors. In all of their recommendations, they acknowledge that ensuring our safety often means saying “no” to physical community.
“This is hard, holy work,” says Beth. “We hold the blessing and the burden of responsibility for this community.”
Plymouth Church can be grateful that this small, dedicated group is quietly and carefully making difficult decisions that always hold our health as their top priority. They ache over every decision that means we cannot share the same physical space. They explore options that make community possible. Because of the COVID Advisory Group’s time, expertise, devotion, and compassion, we can all breathe a bit easier in these breathtaking times. Theirs is a ministry that reflects our commitment to the wellbeing and inclusion of all, a ministry for which we can truly give thanks and praise.