Tolland Church (CT) Interviews Front Line Workers
The pandemic has affected people in many different ways – whether it be losing a job, working remotely, trying to juggle working at home while your child is remote learning, or even going into work and dealing with the safety precautions and worries that go along with it.
However, the front-line workers are seeing a different side of the pandemic, and the United Congregational Church of Tolland (CT) wanted to acknowledge their work.
After hearing an idea shared in a clergy group, the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallagher, Senior Pastor of the church, created a video series called "On the Front Lines" to show support for the workers.
“We had been praying for all those on the front lines for weeks, so I wanted to spotlight those people in our church, and in our community, who had been doing this important work and were seeing a different side of the pandemic than many of the general population were seeing,” explained Gallagher.
Twelve people -- including a police officer, the town manager, a nursing home doctor, a student working retail, a teacher, a food resource worker, a hospital chaplain, a volunteer at a local soup kitchen, and someone who was a patient in the hospital during this time – were interviewed. The interviews – which range from 5-20 minutes long – were then published on the church website, in their weekly church email, and on their Facebook page.
“I wanted the congregation to hear what it was like from these workers’ perspectives,” said Gallagher. “I wanted to better understand what it was like ‘on the ground, and to give them a voice. But just as important, I also wanted all those people to know that they had the love and prayers of our church being sent their way.”
A police officer noted that because of the financial and emotional stress, he has seen an increase in domestic calls, and explains that when mediation doesn’t work, arrests have to be made. The food resource representative discussed how when the pandemic hit, they experienced a huge increase in people who requested help, and she cited a study quoting a 40% increase in food insecurity has be realized over the past few months. A nurse practitioner medical consultant at a nursing home, tells of the “fear and tears” of the staff who didn’t have enough equipment at the beginning, but also had to become the ‘family’ of the saddened residents because their own family members could not visit.
A bright spot in all the videos, however, is hearing how people have risen to the occasion by volunteering, donating, and stepping up to the challenges.
The feedback has been quite positive, and Gallagher believes people not only have a better understanding of what things were like for those on the front lines, but the interviews also brought them closer. “I think it actually helped people in our community – who may not have known each other before -- feel more connected to each other, which is so important when people are feeling distanced from each other,” he said.
“Also, asking folks to share their stories and then assuring them that we are praying for them helps them to understand that when they do the work they're doing, that they're not alone -- they carry the thoughts and prayers of the church with them. They need to hear that they have our utmost thanks, appreciation, and love for their service and sacrifice.”
Moderator, Midge Hurtuk, said that one of the worst impacts of the current Covid-19 pandemic has been the sense of isolation coupled with a feeling of just needing human contact. “There is a sense of helplessness - not knowing what we can do to help others or just plain help the world a little bit,” she said. "’On the Front Lines’ answered both. It was wonderful to see and hear from people – most of whom we knew – especially about connecting and helping in our new real world. It was uplifting, inspiring, and just plain warm and fuzzy! What a great way to impact mental health, introduce us to ways we can contribute, and perhaps the most important – prod us to thank those who are doing so much for us even at the risk of their own health.”
Rev. Laura Johnson, a former member of the church, and presently a chaplain who provides spiritual and emotional support to patients and their families, thanked Gallagher and expressed her “deepest gratitude” to the members of the church for their support. Frank Pasini, a physician assistant, said that he believes prayer is powerful and can be a big part of recovery.
“I think it's faithful to show those in our community that we love them and care about them,” said Gallagher. “We're all in this together and the only way we're going to get through this is together. The church plays a role and so do all these people. They need to know that, in the church's eyes, we are grateful. So perhaps you could say that this is a way of living out Jesus' message to love all God's children -- even those who might not normally feel that love because the work they do isn't always deemed to be the most important. We've seen how important some of those jobs are during this time and I hope we never take them for granted again.”
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallagher can be reached at the United Congregational Church of Tolland office at 860-875-4160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
[This Spotlight was written by Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane and will be her last Spotlight as she ends her time with the SNEUCC Communications team. We thank you, Marlene, for shining a light on the great ministries of our Conference.]
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Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane is the Spotlight and Publications Editor for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ