March 12, 2020

Dear Friends,

Due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and our concern for our congregation and neighbors, Berkeley Friends Church’s Ministry & Counsel, which has care over worship at BFC, has decided that starting March 22 we will begin to hold Sunday morning worship solely remotely (via videoconference, with optional telephone dial-in).

Why has this decision been made?

This was a difficult decision. Our time together as a community is precious and life giving. Yet we must balance our need for in-person fellowship and support with our moral imperative to protect each other and contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

As of March 11, COVID-19 is not known to be spreading in the general Alameda County community, though there are several confirmed cases that have been traced to specific travel or contacts with others known to be infected. Several places around us, such as San Francisco, Santa Clara and Sacramento, however, do have it spreading more widely.

According to the CDC people over the age of 60 or with conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or lung disorders should avoid group gathering places such as movie theaters, cruise ships, airplanes, concerts, etc. Public health officials, including the CDC and Alameda County Public Health Department, are encouraging social distancing strategies and increased hygiene practices to slow the spread of the disease.The California Department of Public Health has encouraged all community meetings of people at risk (those over 60 and with underlying health conditions) larger than 10 people be canceled, postponed or moved online.

While our Sunday morning gatherings are small, the average age of our attendees is well over 60 and many have underlying health conditions. Our building has many people in it throughout the week as we share our space with a preschool and the food pantry as well. This makes it difficult to sanitize adequately. Through moving our worship online, we want to be part of the process to protect our members, neighbors and the whole community.

What will happen this week, March 15?

We will be meeting on Sunday March 15 in person. This meeting for worship is strictly optional, and we encourage anyone who is particularly at risk (over 60, and/or with conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or lung disorders) to strongly consider not attending this gathering.

Adult Sunday School or Kids Sunday School are canceled. Monthly meeting for business, scheduled to happen on March 15, is postponed till March 22 and will happen via videoconference (with an option for calling in by telephone). Instead of the planned potluck, our fellowship time will offer only coffee. We will provide handouts about how to access the online meeting for worship we will have going forward until it seems safe to resume meeting in person.

How will we gather as a community?

We will be using a program called Zoom. This software allows us to video conference with each other through a computer or smartphone. It will also be possible to dial in from any telephone.

After we gather in person on March 15th, we will hold all worship, Bible study, and committee meetings via teleconference. The officers of the Monthly Meeting decided business meeting will be postponed one week until March 22 - and will meet virtually from then on. They also decided committee meetings will meet virtually.

M&C, the officers of the Monthly Meeting, and Trustees will review the public health situation on an ongoing basis. Once we have determined that conditions have stabilized and lives and health are no longer at risk, we will resume our normal practice of gathering in person.

During this time of disruption and anxiety for many people, Ministry & Counsel and the pastors will focus additional efforts on offering pastoral care by phone and staying in touch via email and video chat. If you have emotional, spiritual or physical needs they might be able to help with, please reach out. If you have questions or concerns about this change in our worship together, please speak to members of Ministry and Counsel or the officers of the Meeting.

Summary

In service,

John Maurer

Presiding Clerk, Berkeley Friends Church