by Racquel Ray, Assoc. Minister (Acting)
Over the past few years, the word ‘hero’ has been used often. Military service members are sometimes referred to as heroes. Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Emergency Medical Personnel are often called heroes. But, over the past few years this appellation has been transferred to healthcare workers, teachers, chaplains, and other ‘frontline’ workers. The favorite heroes at my house have become our online shopping delivery driver that my kids refer to as our ‘Amazon Friend’ and our local pizza delivery person.
In her book Superheroes Are Everywhere, author and Vice-President Kamala Harris writes, “Superheroes always make the world better, no matter what goes wrong. Whenever there’s trouble, superheroes show up just in time. When I was a kid, I was sure superheroes were everywhere, blending in with regular people, ready to do good at a moment’s notice.” We have so many people around us who are ready to do good at a moment’s notice – even when there’s trouble – just in time. So, if what the Vice-President says is true then those around us who show up just at the right time to do good are superheroes.
I began ministry here at Barrington Congregational Church in September 2021. I was watching the BCCUCC Sunday worship service with my senior living residents at the nursing home via Zoom in our chapel. This became a weekly worship option for vulnerable residents throughout the pandemic shut down. I offered a Baptist and a UCC service via zoom on Sunday mornings and an in-person Communion service on Sunday afternoons. Residents loved the hymns and baby Baptisms which were not available in person to seniors. When I watched the announcement of Rev. Linda Hartley’s leave-taking, I felt God’s call to ask Dale “How can I help?” I know how hard the search for a new minister can be. I know how hard changing ministries and ministers can be. And I know the current shortage of ministers makes that process more difficult. I didn’t want my home church, BCCUCC, to be facing that struggle knowing that I was qualified to help.
Dale and I did not know then that “How can I help?” would lead to a full-time job change for me and sabbatical for him. But, we did know that God was calling us to this work of ministry and that God has big plans for BCCUCC.
As Dale’s sabbatical approached and discussions around how to find coverage evolved, I met our Deacons: Amy Barkat, Jeff Stumpff, Carol Strakosch, Nancy Arena, Pat Stoddard, Steve Fodor, Lory Snady McCoy, and Jane Tonn. After observing the Laity Sunday service, it was clear to me that this team of dedicated church members were talented. They have the skills and dedication to provide pastoral coverage in Dale’s absence. I know it was not the easy thing to do. But, it was possible. They cared so much about the welfare of this church that they 1) want to see their Pastor stay well and 2) are willing to try. They were ‘regular people, willing to do good, at a moment’s notice’. Superheroes.
We journeyed through Thanksgiving and Advent together as a congregation and community. And on Christmas Eve, we tried something new. Something big and different. We met and planned, accounting for every covid safety precaution. We wanted Christmas Eve services that were safe yet Spiritually nourishing. On Christmas Eve, members of the congregation, all ages, all committees, families, and friends joined together to create a service so unique, so meaningful, and so successful that plans are in the works for Christmas 2022. I am grateful to Tom Colby (Kate, Kim, and Amanda), Erik Ela, Pat Stoddard and Paul Dennis who came to church two hours early to help with last minute set-up. And as the minutes ticked by, more than 30 volunteers continued to make their way to BCCUCC to help. They were ‘regular people, willing to do good, at moment’s notice’. Superheroes.
In January our congregation needed to pivot in response to current covid safety precautions. We needed to shift our worship protocols and gathering with children and youth protocols. As covid rates climbed in the town’s elementary, middle, and high schools our church leadership decided to update safety measures. BCCUCC’s Tech Team: Erik Ela, Tom Colby, Kim Colby, Jeff Stumpff, and Laurie Dubel made the immediate shift mid-week. They, along with Marina, created the safest musical additions possible to the service using the virtual choir library of music. The library contains dozens of pre-recorded hymns and anthems created by the choir and the Tech Team throughout the pandemic. It reflects hundreds of hours of work by our Tech Team and Virtual Choir volunteers. At a moment’s notice, the Tech Team showed up just in time willing to ‘do good’. Superheroes.
Through all of these transitions, our church staff: Christine, Pat, Andrea, Jay, and John have continued to maintain a steady course. They have adjusted throughout the pandemic; filling in for custodians, reworking in-person to virtual worship and back again, supporting the various shifting covid protocols, the ministry staff transitions, fluidity between work from home and work in person, and maintained the BCCUCC traditions we hold dear. They kept Open Doors Sunday, record keeping, calendars, eBridge, the Pastor’s Blog, Church School, Children’s programming, weddings, baptisms, and funerals going while keeping the physical buildings safe and in good working order. Superheroes.
The Book of Acts describes the fullness of community of the church as The Fellowship of the Believers, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
This congregation is full of superheroes. We are a community of people, a fellowship of believers, who try to ‘always make the world better, no matter what goes wrong.’ We try, ‘whenever there’s trouble, to show up just in time ready to do good at a moment’s notice’.
For this community, for this fellowship of believers, for its superheroes, I am grateful. Thanks be to God for your efforts! And, as we prepare to shift again to Dale’s return, I thank you all for your support and dedication over the past three months. You have ALL been amazing!! Superheroes!
1 (Harris, 2019)