A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: A new option to connect

One of the blessings that has emerged for me in the midst of everything that is so painful about the pandemic has been groups of pastors from across the country (and actually, across the world) who have connected online to share resources and ideas and offer support and encouragement to one another (as well occasionally venting their frustrations to each other!).

These groups have been invaluable as we here at First Pres have tried to faithfully navigate the shoals and rapids of this pandemic, in everything from best practices on livestreaming to questions about building usage to ideas for more innovative ministry.

In those forums, one of the themes that has come up over and over again is the challenge that the pandemic has simultaneously created a more pressing hunger for strong bonds of community than ever AND disrupted most of our normal ways of cultivating that sense of community. While much of the public attention has been on the question of gathering for worship, there are ways of providing meaningful worship digitally while we are staying apart physically, but that is harder to do in terms of community.

That’s been my own experience on Sunday mornings, as well; while leading worship in an essentially empty room is challenging, what I miss most are the informal conversations at the door, in the halls, in the Narthex, or in the Hospitality Hour. The same is true about committee meetings, educational programs, and staff interactions.

We have been able to move most of the “official” elements of those activities online pretty seamlessly, but it is the informal chats around such activities to catch up with people that we have not been able to replicate. (Above: This is what I miss!)

So, in keeping with our identity as “an experimental church,” I’m going to try an experiment for the next four weeks that I’m calling, simply, “Pastor’s Coffee Break.” On Wednesdays at 11 a.m., starting next week on September 30, I’ll be hanging out on Zoom with a cup of coffee for an hour.

If you want to drop in and chat at any time during that hour, you can use a link that we’ll provide on the Facebook page and website, just like we do for other programs (it’s also listed below). I’m calling it “coffee break” because that’s what a break in the late morning is often called, but feel free to have your own beverage of choice or none at all!

If this works, we’ll keep it up for a while; if it doesn’t, we’ll try something else. In the meantime, know that the Deacons and various committees of the Session, especially the Congregational Life Committee, are working on more organized ways of nurturing community in the church. But I miss chatting with you all, and thought this might be a simple way of doing that. Hope to see you some Wednesday in the next few weeks!

Grace and peace,

To join the Zoom Meeting online:
Meeting ID: 818 7972 9161

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID:
818 7972 9161
followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.