Conference Staff to Resume Travel; Offices to Remain Shut

Conference Staff to Resume Travel; Offices to Remain Shut

Southern New England Conference staff will once again be able to attend in-person gatherings when both they and the host congregation feel it is safe for them to do so. The Conference offices will remain closed for some time due to other issues, however.

“We are still living in this liminal space,” Executive Conference Minister the Rev. Darrell Goodwin said in a video message yesterday. “We're still putting precautions in place, but we really want to try to be in connection and covenant with each of you.”

“As of October 1st, the Southern New England Conference staff will again be traveling to some of your in-person gatherings.  However, we're hoping to travel with a covenantal relationship with each of you.”

Rev. Goodwin explained that before accepting any invitation to be in-person, Conference staff will ask a series of questions, and will encourage the congregation to do the same.

“The first thing we'll ask you to consider is: Do you actually need a Conference staff person to be there in person, or is there a different, an alternative way that we might be with you, such as sending a video instead? We'll ask you to consider: do you actually need to have the event you're hosting in person, or is there another alternative way that we can continue to provide the level of accessibility to our events that we have been able to provide by doing more things virtual?” he said.

Secondly, Rev. Goodwin said, staff will ask questions regarding COVID-19 precautions and protocols, such as whether masks and/or vaccines are required, and whether contact tracing is in place.

“What are the things that you're doing to ensure the safety of your space? That will be one of the deliberative pieces that our Conference staff will be considering as they discern whether or not they're able to attend your in-person event,” he said.

Rev. Goodwin said staff will also share information about their own recent travels and potential exposures to COVID-19 with the inviting congregations.

“In this covenantal reality, I'll use myself as Conference Minister as an example,” he said. “Most of the fall I am scheduled to be in person with many of you. And though I'm very excited about those gatherings, I do want you to know that means that I might be what we would have referred to a few months ago as a potential super spreader as I'm going from congregation to congregation to congregation for all of these in-person touch points.”

“Of course, I'll be monitoring for symptoms, making sure that I am safe and that I'm okay. I am vaccinated, but as we know, people have had breakthrough infections of the coronavirus,” he said. “If after I share with you that I've been here and there and everywhere, if you discern ‘Rev. Goodwin, though, we are so appreciative of your presence, we would prefer you do a video’ I would be more than happy to do that, to keep you and your congregation and the people connected to you safe.”

Rev. Goodwin also announced that the Hartford and Framingham offices will not be re-opening this year, due to flood damage at both locations following the late summer storms. Insurance adjusters and remediators have been brought in at both sites.

“Our hope was to welcome you back to the conference offices in October,” he said. “But we won't actually be able to welcome the public back into our Conference office spaces until sometime after the new year.”

Rev. Goodwin said he was recently asked to share some words about hope with a Central Connecticut Association gathering.

"When we were in that conversation, though, people had a lot of lament of the things that we are missing, they celebrated a lot of the places where they see hope within our local churches," he said. "Hope connected to things like accessibility to worship for people who have not been able to physically be in worship well before the pandemic, but now they are regularly attending worship and Bible studies. For people who couldn't find an inclusive worship space, for instance, in their particular neck of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Connecticut or outside of this Northeast region, and they found one of our churches and they've started to regularly attend. And though distanced, they feel like they found a sense of home."

“I'll close again with: please pray for us,” he said. “As we try to get these offices cleaned out and ready to be opened after the new year, and then pray for us in mutuality as we discern how – now that staff can travel – we might be in covenant about that process. God bless you. I'm so grateful to be in service to you. And I look forward for what God will continue to do with each and every one of us together as one.”
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