After a very long time of not having in-person worship, the church council believes that we are ready to move into “Phase 2” of our COVID-19 plan and resume in-person worship at Custer Community Church. We’ll be restarting in-person worship this Sunday, September 20th.
As we resume in-person worship, you’ll find that there will be some changes to our service compared to pre-COVID. During this “Phase 2” reopening, we’ll be doing shorter services – around 40 minutes in length. There won’t be any congregational hymns – only solo, duet, and small group musical performances. There won’t be any bulletins – everything will be on the projector. There won’t be an passing of the offering – instead, a plate will be available for you to drop off your offering as you enter or depart. There won’t be a passing of the peace. There won’t be a coffee hour. Masks and social distancing will be required.
It’s our hope that these changes will significantly reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. However, COVID-19 is still present in our community. Until there is a vaccine that is widely available and widely administered, there will continue to be some risk associated with large, indoor gatherings. For that reason, we’re asking people to stay home if you aren’t feeling well, or if you know that you have been exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive in the last two weeks. Please do what you can to protect your neighbors.
If you are someone who is at high risk for developing COVID-19 complications, you may want to stay home as well. But don’t worry. We will continue recording the worship services in their entirety and posting them on Facebook and on the website. If you’d like, we can also mail copies of the order of service, complete with a sermon manuscript, to you at your home. If you would be more comfortable worshipping with us online, you can continue to do so.
Finally, I want to mention a special “Easter in October” event that will happen in worship on October 4th. You might recall that, in my Easter message this year, I talked about how it didn’t “feel like Easter” because we weren’t together, worshipping in-person. We didn’t experience the rituals and celebrations of Easter. One of the rituals that this church celebrates on Easter Sunday is an open invitation to baptism, to a renewal of baptismal vows, and to receiving new members of the church. We will have a fun, celebratory, and socially distanced version of that happening in conjunction with Holy Communion on October 4th. So, if you want to be baptized, renew your baptism, or become an official member of the church, please plan to attend the service on October 4th.
And if you want to do one of those things but aren’t comfortable with being at in-person worship just yet, let me know and we’ll arrange something that works for you.
An Update on the Wider United Church of Christ
Two weeks ago, the South Dakota Conference held its strategic visioning retreat for Placerville Camp. The meeting was a success, generating good discussion and new ideas. These include the possibility of hiring an assistant camp director and/or bookkeeper specifically for the camp, the need to have better personnel policies for the camp, and enthusiasm for the long-term future of the camp. More concrete, next steps will come from the SD Conference’s next board of directors meeting, which is scheduled for March 14th.
Related to Placerville, we’re getting to that time when youth need to be filling out camp registrations, and especially camp scholarship forms if they want to receive a scholarship. I’ll be working on getting those distributed through Kid’s Time and confirmation, but if you know that you or your child need registration and/or scholarship application forms, see me.
Finally, I just want to say a word about UCC polity. I’ve heard some complaints and concerns from members of the Custer Community Church about actions or statements of other UCC churches or of the national setting of the UCC. I just want to remind you that the UCC has a covenantal polity, which means that we agree live together in a covenant of mutual respect, caring, and growing. We agree to listen to, and consider, what other settings of the UCC are saying and doing. But we aren’t obligated to agree. The others settings of the UCC speak to us, not for us. We are free to make our own decisions and take our own actions on the issues that affect our church.
So, please, remember that just because it’s happening in some other corner of the UCC doesn’t mean it’s going to happen here. And, as always, feel free to talk to me directly about any concerns you might have.
An Update on the Wider United Church of Christ
The Black Hills Association meeting was hosted by our church, and it was a great event. We had two different associate conference ministers join us for Sunday morning’s worship service and for the afternoon meeting. At that meeting, First Congregational Church of Chadron requested to join the Black Hills Association and was accepted. It was decided that on Saturday, October 5th, I would lead a retreat to help the association develop a clearer sense of mission and brainstorm new ministries. Dee Anderson became the association moderator and our own Paul Nettinga is set to become the vice-moderator.
Through our two mission workshops, the South Dakota Conference board came up with the following mission statement: “To live into God’s extravagant welcome and advocate for justice so that all know love, safety, belonging and dignity.” There will be more information about the new mission statement and the process that was used to craft it at the annual meeting.
Speaking of which, the annual meeting will be June 14th, 15th, and 16th in Omaha. Our church’s delegates are Hunter Rice, Vachel Rice, and Martha Schilling. And, of course, I will be attending as your pastor and as a member of the conference board of directors.
In fact, I will be gone from the 12th through the 27th in order to attend both the annual conference meeting in Omaha as well as the General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Milwaukee. And not just me – Hunter Rice and my wife, Pam, are also General Synod delegates for the South Dakota conference.
You can read more about Hunter’s participation in the wider church at: