Church during a pandemic

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I serve as pastor of the Rowayton United Methodist Church, and we have been adapting as well as we can to the challenges of ministry during the pandemic. Our understanding of church is that we are a resource to the community, and so we have tried to live that out in finding new ways to support our neighbors.

For the last three weeks, we have been having our weekly 10 a.m. Sunday morning worship services online. Initially, my thought was to record myself reading scripture and offering an accompanying inspirational sermon, and then uploading it for congregants to watch at their convenience. I reconsidered after mulling over the impact of social isolation that has been so difficult for so many of us. Ours is a small community, and I realized that one of the most important reasons for online worship is to encourage, support and care for as many people as we can. We ended up conducting worship via Zoom, in particular because when we pray, it allows anyone in worship with us to raise up a concern, and we are able to pray together as a community. Everyone present can hear what is said, and everyone’s voices come together, saying “Lord, hear our prayer.” The sense of community created was so strong that when worship is over, people requested that we leave Zoom open for a Virtual Coffee Hour.

The clearest silver lining is that attendance is UP from where it had been. People have been worshipping with us that we rarely see due to a wide range of circumstances—and yet in a time of isolation, we are experiencing community as strongly as ever. We’ve also started an online community prayer gathering at 8 a.m. Wednesdays, and this has included people that I’d never met before. A good church should benefit its community, and I am proud that we are able to facilitate bringing people hope and connection.

This has been a very challenging time for churches, as social isolation affects most of the ways we work, necessitating learning and discovering new ways to minister to people effectively. Our building is closed and I am working from my home office — quite an adjustment for a vocation predicated on personal relationships.

I was on a conference call two weeks ago with Norwalk public officials and was impressed by the level of coordination, commitment and resources pulled together to support all manner of congregational activity in a variety of faith traditions. This may be another silver lining — in a time when so many of us are isolated in our own corner of the world, I would welcome this time fostering a new commitment to interfaith cooperation and partnership with local government to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of the community. The work is difficult and most of us are under resourced, but by working together we can make a bigger positive difference for a wider range of people. That is my prayer — that this experience of isolation will result in greater connection than ever before.

Grace and peace,

Michael Cobb


Mike Mushak April 5, 2020 at 6:11 pm

This is a wonderful and uplifting post on Palm Sunday. Especially the last line, “That is my prayer-that this experience of isolation will result in greater connection than ever before.” Amen to that! Thank you, Pastor Michael Cobb. Someday we hope to be able to pop in for a “comparable religion” experience as we like to do from time to time. Its always fun to see how other churches “do it”!

We also have been doing church for a few weeks through Zoom, at our church St. Pauls on the Green, the gothic stone Episcopal church down the hill from Stew Leonards.

This morning at 11 am, we had our Sunday service conducted by our Provisional Priest-in-Charge Daniel Simons from his brookside den in Wilton (with a waterfall flowing behind him), the music was conducted by our music director and one singer (at a safe distance from the director!) from the church sanctuary itself, and we enjoyed a remote sermon from West Hartford by our Suffragen Bishop, The Right Reverend Laura Ehrens (the first female Episcopal Bishop in CT.)

We a large group of over 100 participate. At the moment we offered peace to each other, I got choked up with emotion and was embarrassed until I saw most everyone else was choked up as as well. It was a profoundly beautiful experience and one that is more important in this challenging time than most of us ever imagined just a few weeks ago, before all this necessary social distancing started.

St. Pauls-on-the-Green has a full Holy Week schedule of daily prayers and services both morning and evening, as well as every week beyond that, available at stpaulsnorwalk.org. All are welcome regardless of your faith tradition, or where you are on your own personal journey of faith.

Healing blessings to everyone, and prayers for those many residents of Norwalk and all over who suffering from illness, loss of loved ones, and loss of jobs, income, and healthcare. These are difficult times but we will get through them together with love, faith, and hope.

Laura Lamorte April 6, 2020 at 1:10 pm

Thank you, Reverend Cobb and St. Pauls on the Green, for considering the safety of your congregants as well as the community at large and demonstrating that worship can continue with the help of technology. COVID-19 does not discriminate between believers and non-believers. Unfortunately, Governor Lamont amended Executive Order 7N on March 26th to allow “religious, spiritual, or worship gatherings” of up to 50 people while limiting certain secular gatherings to 5 or less. This defies the medical evidence about the aggressive nature of the spread of this virus and does not consider the health and safety of the general public and the many brave health care workers working without sufficient PPE and who are risking their health and that of their families in sacrifice to those who fall ill. As we quickly approach the days ahead where religious communities across our state will celebrate Passover, Easter, and Ramadan at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases are on a steep rise, please write to Governor Lamont and your local representatives to ask them to consider amending EO 7N to include religious et al. gatherings in the 5 and under limits.



NOW, THEREFORE, I, NED LAMONT, Governor of the State of Connecticut, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of Connecticut, do hereby

I. Restriction of Social and Recreational Gatherings to No More Than 5 People. Effective immediately, and through April 30, 2020, unless earlier modified, extended, or terminated by me, the prior order set forth in Executive Order No. 7D, prohibiting social and recreational gatherings of 50 people or more, is hereby amended and modified to require that all such gatherings of six (6) or more people, including but not limited to, community, civic, leisure, or sporting events; parades; conceits; festivals; plays or live performances; conventions; and similar activities, are prohibited throughout the State of Connecticut, except that religious, spiritual or worship gatherings shall not be subject to such increased restrictions, and shall instead remain subject to the prohibition on gatherings of 50 or more people, provided that they employ reasonable and appropriate distancing measures. To further clarify this order, it does not apply to government operations, private workplaces, retail establishments, or other activities that are not social or recreational gatherings.

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