September 2020

So much is happening that we want to share with our congregation.  Please take a moment and look through our most recent newsletter.  We are gratified for all those who have participated in our Zoom Sunday services.  Our attendance has been stellar and well above our typical summer experience.
A Message from our Minister
I certainly appreciate Frank Kelly putting together this newsletter because, while we are not communicating in the usual way - in person at church, with coffee hour, and before and after live meetings - there is plenty going on.  The last Church Council meeting lasted about 2 hours and there was a great deal to talk about.  But here’s the thing. 
A good portion of it was about matters that have to do with the future.  That includes exciting plans for the Christmas season we’re calling Operation Comfort and Joy.  That is exactly the message of Christmas and the message of our church to the community.  Already we’ve had volunteers to organize the festivities - involving decorations, living nativity scenes, candles (okey great LED candles but hey!), possible donkeys and even sheep, a cool, but safe, Christmas shop - well, you’ll learn all about it pretty soon.
We’re also planning for the future in terms of the continuation of Zoom (thanks in not small part to the efforts of Alan Smith).  Plus, plans for improved Wi-Fi to make it all possible.
There’s even discussion (nothing definite yet) but perhaps a chance to work with the town in their summer program with families and children.  This is part of our ongoing conversations to “think family”. 
The pandemic has changed church everywhere.  But here, at least, it seems to have energized us.  So read the Frank’s report and perhaps feel a slight twinge in your elbow urging you to put your hand up with and idea or time to make it all happen.
Church Council Update

The Church Council held its quarterly meeting this month with a full attendance and full agenda.  Our Boards and Committee continue to oversee their areas of responsibility and to demonstrate progress toward their goals for the year.  As you will read, they are active and productive.
Our agenda focused on the Deacons’ congregational survey results regarding a return to in-person, in-Church worship, ideas offered by our Search/Imagination Committee for a re-imagined Christmas celebration and some thoughts on how we can engage families in the life of the Church, along with an update by all Church Boards and Committees.  Read more to learn the details.
Board of Deacons
The Board of Deacons have reviewed the United Church of Christ and State of Connecticut and CDC guidelines and sent a summary of their findings to all members of the congregation, soliciting members’ ideas and feedback.  The Deacons conducted a phone survey of active members and published a report as follows:
Deacons Outreach Calls
Return to In Person / In House Worship September, 2020 _________________________________
The Board of Deacons ultimately connected with 61 active members of the Congregation:
14 Would go back before vaccine with restrictions in place (23%)
10 Not sure, would consider going back before vaccine with restrictions in place
37 Would not go back before vaccine because they would not feel safe and/or would not feel like church due to restrictions
Possible scenarios to interpret/categorize “Not Sure” respondents:
Conservative, 100% go to “Would Not Go Back” category
14 Would go back before vaccine with restrictions in place
47 Would not go back before vaccine because they would not feel safe and/or would not feel like church due to restrictions
Even split, 50% go to “Would Not Go Back”- 50% to “Would Go Back” 19 Would go back before vaccine with restrictions in place
42 Would not go back before vaccine because they would not feel safe and/or would not feel like church due to restrictions
Note: More than 90% thought ZOOM was an effective platform for virtual worship and that Zoom (or some other form of simulcasting) should continue even after we are back in the Church.
Boxes to Check for Return to In Person Worship

  1. Affirmation from Congregation that they want to go back and feel safe doing so.

  2. Affirmation/confirmation from key participants (minister, musicians) that they will go back and feel safe doing so).

  3. Solid virtual platform in place for simulcasting/live streaming worship service going forward.

  4. Worship service conforms with all UCC and State of CT current guidance.

Of 15 UCC churches in Litchfield South and several surrounding Towns, only 4 are currently offering in-church worship. Several of our members have attended the Roxbury UCC Church.  The Deacons continue to assess the situation.
In the meantime, please consider an “Angel(s)” donation toward our live production capabilities in the Sanctuary. This could be in the form of monetary donation or (for the most important component) a host desktop or laptop. Components include: internet connection for the Church, host desktop/laptop, external microphone, web cam, tripod.
Search/Imagination Committee
During it’s hiatus as an active Search Committee, the Committee has morphed into an Imagination Committee to brainstorm some ideas that surfaced in the Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT) survey conducted earlier in the year. Once an idea seems to “have some legs to it” the idea is turned over to the appropriate board or committee
The Committee is currently focused on three issues: 1) a re-imagined Christmas holiday celebration, 2) preparing the Church for ongoing virtual worship capability (creating a ZOOM capability for those unable to attend in-person church services, and 3) considering ways that the Church can engage families in the life of the Church.
A Re-imagined Christmas – Operation Comfort and Joy!
A Committee has been formed to create a safe and enjoyable Christian Christmas celebration. Some ideas include:
 A drive-through celebration and live nativity where everyone can be safely in their cars but still enjoy the magic of Christmas. As cars enter our parking lot they would be given a battery-operated candle (Thanks to Larry Neary for finding the perfect one). The cars would then slowly proceed through our parking lot to view a few vignettes: including the innkeeper telling everyone that there is NO room at the inn. The church could be re-imagined as a faux inn.  The cars could then go on to see live angels, shepherds, wise men and hopefully a live donkey and a few sheep.  Then onto view Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus.  All cars could then be given a Christmas card from our church with a Christmas prayer, a Christmas message from Daniel and an invitation to a Zoom Christmas service.  Kevin Hobbs has volunteered to find a way to play our choir’s CHRISTMAS CD on a continuous loop that could be heard outside. Our church bells could also ring a few times during the celebration.
The mediation garden area could be decorated with fairy lights and festive greenery which could be seen by all cars driving by.  The Live Nativity could run about 2 hours possibly on the Sunday before Christmas and again on Christmas Eve.
Anyone interested in joining this committee or in participating in this event should contact Frank Kelly or Candy Smith.
A separate idea is to have a Zoom Christmas Eve service by Daniel.  If the Live Nativity ended at 7 pm, perhaps the service could start at 8pm.  The Deacons will lead this planning.
Please contact Candy Smith by October 7th if you would be comfortable working at the Christmas Shoppe this year.  We need to know how many volunteers we have in order to know the number of days we can open to the public. If we do not get enough volunteers to staff the shoppe safely, we will not open.
We will have only ONE-- 3 HOUR SHIFT each day that we are open (11am to 2 pm).  Volunteers will work all 3 hours, at least 2 volunteers per shift.  We will choose a few Saturdays and Sundays to be open when we expect the most traffic.  We will not open on Friday nights.  
Customers will enter the door near the church office,  and clean their hands at a HYGIENE STATION complete with hand sanitizer, extra masks and gloves.   They will then continue through the french doors, and a shoppe volunteer will greet them and escort them as they view the merchandise.   Customers will exit at the door by the fireplace.  This will allow for one way traffic only.  There will be a limited number of customers allowed into the shoppe at any one time.  Customers MUST wear a mask, sanitize their hands before entering, and walk in one direction.
The shoppe will have a smaller inventory than in past years.  There will be NO Fair Trade items.  There will be Bridgewater handmade items, whimsical Folk Art, home baked goodies (individually wrapped) and a silent auction.  The shoppe will accept only cash and checks. NO credit cards.  The auction bidding table will have either disposable pencils or a writing implement that can be sanitized after each use.  
The CHRISTMAS SHOPPE COMMITTEE currently has 8 members and 3 are comfortable working at the shoppe.  If you would feel SAFE and COMFORTABLE volunteering, please let Candy Smith know by October 7.
Another idea is to have a re-imagined Christmas Shoppe, more limited than in prior years, to be open for a limited time in concert with our tree sales. Appropriate safety precautions will be maintained. The hours of the Shoppe and other details will be made known as we get closer to the holidays.
Please contact Candy Smith if you are interested in serving on this committee.  It will hold its first meeting via Zoom on Monday, 10/5/20be served.
Linking with our Community

One idea that has surfaced is to consider the development of a summer church camp to augment the limited summer camp provided by the Town of Bridgewater during  July from 9 am to 1 pm. This idea is in the very early stages of development, but is intended to offer a program for children for additional afternoon hours.
Anyone interested in learning more about this program or in participating in such a program should contact a member of the Search Committee. (Candy Smith, Larry Neary, Frank Kelly, Jeanne Paparozzo, Sue Stumpf, Chris Smith, Ted Anson)
Board of Trustees
A summary of the work of our Board of Trustees includes:
Additional income from the Government payroll protection program (PPP) and rental of parsonage house has offset loss of income from loose offerings, no Friendship Hall rental and cancelled tag sale and Fair booth. 
Property and Grounds:
Our caretakers are maintaining and doing repairs as needed with no issues or concerns. We have a good couple with Corey and Amy looking after things.
Carl Dill and friends have been doing additional yard work, removing expired scrubs and trees and replacing with fresh grass or new plantings.  A large hornets nest in front of the church was also professional removed under Carl’s direction.
Parsonage Rental:
Our tenants appear to be happy. Our annual oil contract for the house was executed prior to the rental and is being billed directly to church. We will ask for reimbursement from the tenant.
Church illumination.
New low energy LED lighting replaced the large halogen fixture in front of the church. Two spot lights which were inoperable on the roof (pointing to the steeple) were replaced. Walt Barlow assisted in reaching the fixtures with his bucket lift.
Parking Lot sale:
The State approved the grant requested by the town to purchase the parking lot at our agreed price. Additional red tape is being worked through at the town level.  The town would like to complete the job before winter sets in.  Jim Crosskey is our representative to the town.
A new church website was developed and is now on-line.  The current site is Phase I and for public viewing.  Phase II is currently in design which is for “Members Only” access.  This portion of the site will include the membership directory, volunteer sign ups and information of interest to members only.
Missions and Outreach
We continue to support Loaves and Fishes. A special collection for “Neighbors in Need” will take place on Sunday, October 4 and for the “Christmas Fund” will take place on December 20.  Of the $3,500 allocated to Missions and Outreach in our budget, $1,500 remains, a portion of which will be used to provide supplies for Loaves and Fishes.
Our Board of Missions and Outreach does a phenomenal job in supporting “Loaves and Fishes” and its many other initiatives to support people in need, such as the most recent restocking of the Food Pantry and providing “Back to School” packs for area school children.
Board of Music
Stu Rapp presented an eloquent statement concerning the importance of music in our worship which is shared here:
The strength of our congregation’s appreciation of music as one of our acts 
         of worship is shown in the ways our individual members and friends have provided “our own” music during the Zoom service, from the first.
The single most visible supporter of that strength, of course, is Chris Smith, whose worshipful performances of music, framing and connecting the acts of worship—including the hymns--each Sunday, are irreplaceable, and vital to our continued sense of ourselves as a congregation. We can easily sense, in Chris’s presence and instrumental work, the most vital aspects of a true vocation, a calling in the most important senses of that word.
Despite the suspension of her regular music leadership in the traditional room of                         our meetinghouse, Maggi Heilweil has also found ways to provide that leadership through coaching, as needed, and in her own provision of sacred music in her solo performance in our virtual worship.
Generous members of our congregation have also come forward to offer their own musical gifts during worship, clearly showing that a building as such is not needed for our spiritual gifts, as well as vocal gifts, to be shared with our membership.
Finally, our congregation itself, has shown how well we all understand through our Christian experience that singing is not just a casual activity. It is a vital expression of the human spirit, as in our worship now we are still “addressing one another …in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…to the Lord,” as the New Testament writer of the letter to the Ephesians reminds us. Our music has been with us from the beginning, is with us now, and will be with us on into the future.
Christian Education
Bible study to begin soon! Reverend Daniel is preparing to reinstitute adult bible study following Church services for about a half hour.  All are encouraged to attend.  This was a popular program pre-COVID and is a welcome
Board of Memorials
The current balance of the fund is $14,415. The Board has received a request for funding improvements on the church property by the Parish House.  The next Memorial Sunday will be November 22.
Ted Anson has requested that all current Board and Committee Chairs remain in their positions unless they are unable to do so, and that they confer with their members to inquire as to their willingness to remain on their respective Board/Committee. Chairs are asked to do this and report back to Ted within the next 2 weeks. Please let your Chair know of your continued interest.
October 4 – Neighbors in Need collection
Mid-October – Adult Bible Study begins
November 22 – Memorial Sunday
Late November – Christmas trees arrive!
December – Operation Comfort and Joy!
                      Christmas Shoppe
                      Christmas Tree Sales

(Please see Church Website)
Christmas tree sales
Operation Comfort and Joy! – Live vignettes
Operation Comfort and Joy – Christmas Shoppe
Board of Missions and Outreach – Support to Loaves and Fishes