SPECIAL ALERT: Bethesda Friends Meeting House and Related Activities to Close for a Month
After much discernment by the co-clerks of Bethesda Friends Meeting, working with BFM's Ad Hoc covid-19 Advisory group, and following the lead of Sidwell Friends School, we are closing down our Meeting for Worship and all activities that usually take place in the Meeting House beginning today and lasting at least through April 13 – painful though this change will be for us all.
The Ad Hoc Advisory group and the BFM co-clerks are in unity that the over-riding concern for our Meeting is the safety of the individuals who comprise our BFM community, especially our older Friends. But another theme also emerged during our discernment process: our not gathering together in the Meeting House means we are looking out, not only for our own BFM community, but also for the larger community, by mitigating the risk of transmission of the virus. We ask that we hold each other in the Light as we make a transition to other ways of carrying out our worship, fellowship, and Meeting business.
Below are several basic points that we wish to communicate now
- Sidwell Friends School has announced that the Meeting House and the rest of the campus will be closed beginning Saturday, March 14, and will not reopen any earlier than Monday April 13 while the School offers distance learning to its students. The School plans to make a decision in early April about whether to extend the campus closure beyond that date. The duration of the closure of the Meeting House is tied to the School’s decisions, and we know that the School is putting a lot of thought into these decisions that impact us all.
- During this period of closure that will cover the next five First Days, there will be no Meeting for Worship, First Day School, childcare, adult religious education programs, committee meetings, or other activities at the Meeting House.
- We are mindful that the most important mission of our Meeting is the spiritual support of the members of our community. We are looking to Ministry and Worship to take the lead in discerning how we can create ways for our members to gather in small groups in homes or gather electronically in order to continue worshiping together. The co-clerks are asking M&W to develop recommendations for how to proceed.
- We realize that the closure of the Meeting House and the social isolation caused by fear of this virus will be painful for many people in our Meeting. The co-clerks are asking Pastoral Care to develop recommendations that encourage and allow us to reach out to those who are ill or feeling isolated.
- We will be working to ensure that the business of the Meeting can still go forward:
- Committees can still get their work done by gathering either remotely online or meeting in people’s houses. How or where the committees meet is up to each committee. – If the committees meet in a small group at a home, we remind them of the importance of social distancing, washing hands, and cleaning surfaces.
- Some of the agenda items usually covered in Meeting for Business will be carried out electronically.
- Details about how we carry out these tasks will be covered in later communications.
- We have identified Zoom (www.zoom.us) as a possible means for electronic communication with video. We plan to appoint a Zoom Points Person so all committees can have a helpful hand if they wish to hold their meetings remotely and do not already have a knowledgeable resource person with an account on their committee. This Points Person will set up an Executive Zoom account for the Meeting, help committee members learn how to use it, and schedule meetings for them.
- More detailed information on these matters will be forthcoming, and we will use the weekly Bulletin and Services Exchange as the main vehicles of Meeting-wide communication. Committee clerks, co-clerks of the Meeting, and others can share news, ideas, requests for help, and other messages using the Bulletin and Services Exchange, as well as directly via the List Serve.
- (Please note that the Bulletin and Services Exchange are sent to every person in the BFM Directory. The List Serve goes to a smaller sub-set of that group, namely to those Friends who have chosen to be included in the List Serve. Please see instructions below if you want to be added to the List Serve group.)
Finally, with the unfolding pandemic around the world, we are facing unprecedented challenges, both practical and spiritual. It is very important that we remember that we are facing these challenges together – even in the face of “social distancing.” Together we will keep our Meeting community strong, meaningful and caring. Together we will support each other, finding creative ways through electronic communication, meeting in small groups, or simply just calling on the phone. Let us all also hold the whole world in the Light as humanity finds its way through the coming weeks. The Spirit is with us, and the way will open.