First Congregational Church of West Tisbury

First Congregational Church of West Tisbury

Photo Snapshot of 2020 at First Congregational Church of West Tisbury

Interview with Cathlin Baker

Over the last 18 months or so, our nation has faced two pandemics—the health pandemic of COVID 19 and the pandemic of continuous Racial Injustice.   As you think about these two pandemics,  

How did they impact your mission and ministry activities?

  • We formed a Racial Justice Team in February 2020 and worked with NY advisors who asked “What would we look like in 2030 if we lived out our racial justice commitments?" Some efforts focused on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod but the George Floyd murder really increased efforts and concerns. The church Council asked: Should this team have a council representative?   Went from a team to the Justice Board. Every activity would flow through a justice perspective  
  • During the beginning of March/April we offered Zoom Teach-In, which reached 120 households. 
  • Food equity remained a focus and we stepped up our community support, developing take-out and delivery systems to meet community needs.  Thankfully, we received a grant to offer a stipend to 2 volunteer leaders because coordination required so much more time.  

How did your church continue to be engaged in innovative, creative, and unfamiliar ways during the COVID-19 shutdown? 

  • We managed to use Zoom creatively, which was an interesting experience.  
  • The music quality on zoom at first was terrible, and we required patience and kindness. After some time we worked with “Power Sound” and purchased:  2 projectors, 2 cameras, and new mics to livestream services through Power Sound New England's link. 
  • For the1st 3 or 4 months we offered centering-type meditations 
  • There was a creative bubble and we also utilized sanctified art in service delivery. This was a visual feast for the eyes and church attendees could look at beautiful artwork instead of just looking at words. This is something we have continued to offer. 
  • We had special guest preachers join us.
  • We quickly transitioned to a Hybrid format because we were able to offer different ways for church members to join us for worship:  Zoom, In-Person, and Watch Later. To help the services feel more integrated we projected the live gallery onto the wall during the passing of the peace and during prayers. Additionally, deacons gathered prayer requests in the chat and included the requests in the prayers.  It took some time to smooth out the hybrid model and required patience and compassion. 
  • We discussed reframing the “Behavioral Covenant” to include issues of equity and belonging 

What were the low points, failures, or frustrations? 

  • Constant Tech Failures became a source of frustration for everyone. 
  • ​At some points we questioned if the cost of our investment into Hybrid worship was worth it. 
  • Concern about the ability of lay leaders to cope with the pastors' sabbatical.
  • Children and Youth Programming stopped and families were not doing Zoom services. Losing that connection to children and families was a tremendous loss.    
  • Unresolved “1619” issues re:  Old conflicts and working to include new programs to support this Multi-Racial Community.

What were the high points and successes? 

  • ​We pioneered cutting edge systems and worked through the hard stuff. 
  • ​Our church began to look at systems through the lens of Racial Justice 
  • Hybrid Worship offered new opportunities for us to carry over into the future.  
  • Staffing moves were challenging during this time. 

What lessons, learnings, or changes will your congregation carry into the future? 

  • We learned about our own resiliency and found that our church is adaptable. What we were able to do together was much bigger than the building.  
  • Outdoor Worship – Worship without Walls on Wednesdays in Summer 
  • We were able to muscle through so much while paying attention to self-care.

Interview with Cathlin Baker

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1 Badger Road
Framingham, MA 01702

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Hartford, CT 06105

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