• Trinity Voices

COVID-19 and Pastoral Care from Trinity Church

March 16, 2020

Dear friends:


By now you will know that we are offering worship live "from Trinity" on Sundays at 11:00 am versus "at Trinity" for the next several weeks.  If you missed Sunday's service, it has been posted online here. In our first foray into this format, we were working out the kinks of the technology in real-time.  Please keep watching and trust that the sound will be sorted.


I'm writing to you now, in my capacity as the priest overseeing pastoral care, to answer some questions and share information on a topic that's as important as our worship: how will we continue just now to be a community of care and support? Our love for each other and for the world, for the time being, asks something hard and sacrificial of us: that we keep our physical distance. COVID-19 is unlike anything we have lived through as Trinity Church, including 9/11 and the Marathon bombing of 2013. The usual solace of gathering, of bread and cup, of our church's mysterious and welcoming beauty, and of our own faces and voices and quirks, are not elements we can share as we always have and will again.


So in a few paragraphs to follow I'm offering some practical ways we can continue to be church together. First, though, one perspective I am finding personally helpful and calming in this time of distancing and disinfecting: we are already doing something important, and we are doing it as community and as an act of care for both friend and stranger. Viruses only cease in proliferation when people refrain from everyday social "mixing." If we can think about our current isolation as sacrificial and saving love and not as inconvenience, over-reaction, or tragedy, perhaps we can begin to reframe our individual reactions and responses and continue to see the love of God at work all around us in the time to come. In a time like this we are being invited into generosity of spirit and to extend to each other non-judgmental benefit of the doubt. 


Here, then, is a short FAQ of some specific questions you might have about pastoral care, along with some practical guidance. Please take a minute to review carefully.


How should we be in touch with clergy and staff at Trinity?

Email is the best way to be in touch with clergy and staff at Trinity. As the church buildings are closed through at least March 29, no one will be at the front desk. Leaving voicemails at our individual desk phones is not an efficient means of reaching us just now and is discouraged. You can send messages into our individual inboxes through the contact section of the web site.


What about parishioners who are not on email?

Some regular Trinity parishioners do not use email or the web. We have learned over time who they are and have been reaching out since Friday to this list, which is fewer than 20. If you have a concern about a parishioner who may not be getting news, please let me know of that person immediately by a response to this note and please make your own best effort to keep them current with parish news.


What do I do in a pastoral emergency?

As of this week we have a new emergency cell phone number, which will be managed by each week’s priest on call: 857-315-7968. It can receive voicemails and texts. We ask that this number be used, in lieu of email, only for emergencies or by parishioners without email or internet access. Again, please share this number with anyone known to you who is not reading email.


How can I help others?

Of particular concern to us right now are our most elderly parishioners, and those who live alone. If you have handy our printed parish directory from 2018, take some time to leaf through it prayerfully. Consider sending an email or making a phone call yourself simply to say hello and to check in. In the coming week we hope to organize a more formal program -- phone and email based -- to pair parishioners for regular phone check-ins.


What are our opportunities to be "together?"

We are considering a number of web-based and teleconference gatherings into which we hope to invite you in the days to come. These will include a dial-in Compline service every single night until we can gather again safely as church. We hope to launch this in the coming week. If you are a FaceBook-er, the Trinity page is a good way to stay current and to read updates from others. Here are three other helpful online resources. First, our beloved Book of Common Prayer at www.bcponline.org. "Prayers and Thanksgivings" begin on page 814, but take the opportunity in the days to come to explore the entire book. A number of us have grown to love the daily office website offered by the Mission of St. Clare at https://www.missionstclare.com/english/. Finally, the daily meditations offered by Forward Movement at https://prayer.forwardmovement.org/ have a well-deserved fan base and are a helpful daily resource for you.


What if I or someone in my household is diagnosed with COVID-19?

As a community, we take care of one another, and in this season of our life together, knowledge is a critical expression of our concern. We ask that if you or someone in your household is positively diagnosed with the virus and have recently participated in worship or in our parish programming, that you reply to this message (which will come directly to me) within 24 hours. Indeed, we would also urge you to contact all with whom you have interacted within the preceding 14 days of initial diagnosis.  In coordination with Morgan and healthcare leaders, we will respond to you with grace and confidentially, ensuring your well-being and that of our congregation and community.


With gratitude from our “Being Trinity Church” working group, here are some other considerations to take if you or someone close to you is diagnosed:

“STAY HOME - People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.

Avoid Public Areas: Do not go to work, school, or public areas.

Avoid Public Transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

Stay Away from Others: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.

Steps to prevent Illness – please visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for additional steps to protect you and your family.”


Can I expect a clergy visit if I need one?

This has been an especially painful discernment in recent days. We are not at this time conducting in-person pastoral visiting for the safety of the greater community. Because all of the clergy have been in contact with so many during the last week, we believe that we must wait a period of time to ensure that we would not become a vector of the virus in your home. Working to avoid the same outcome, hospitals are now strictly limiting visitors, and we are abiding by their standards. Please know we take this step in loving necessity.  For the time being, we believe this provides the best protection to safeguard the health of all and support the goal of ceasing the virus’ proliferation.


How should I request prayers for myself or others?

Now and always, the best way to share a prayer request with your clergy and with those who manage our prayer chain is by having you or someone on your behalf send an email to prayerlist@trinitychurchboston.org. If you give us permission and/or have permission from the person named, we will include your request in our next public worship service. If not, we will bring your request into our private prayers.


Who is most at risk of COVID-19?  How can I best protect myself and others?

Wading through news cycles and CDC instructions can feel overwhelming and confusing.  Again, with gratitude to our “Being Trinity Church” working group, here are their most important recommendations, as of this morning: Monday, March 16:


“The reality is that we all are at risk for contracting COVID-19.  As of last evening, Gov. Charlie Baker has directed that all schools in the Commonwealth remain closed until April 6, 2020, restaurants only offer take-out options, and that all public gatherings over 25 persons are prohibited.  These measures have been taken out of an abundance of caution to prevent the spread of the virus, and these steps speak to its infectious nature.


The data collected this far by the US CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that persons over the age of 60 may be more susceptible to both contracting COVID-19 and experiencing more series symptoms.   Moreover, those individuals of ANY AGE that have the following pre-existing conditions also are at a higher risk for severe disease but those over 60 should be even more careful and vigilant: Cardiovascular disease; Diabetes; Hypertension; Chronic respiratory lung disease (eg. asthma, COPD, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, sleep apnea and occupational lung diseases).


Strongly recommended practices include:


  • Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content or in absence, handwashing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water should be used to used often to mitigate infection.


  • Covering coughs and sneezes, preferably with a tissue that is immediately discarded


  • Making a strong effort to not rub eyes, nose, mouth, or face as evidence has suggested these are the primary areas of initial transfection – we are usually not conscious of doing this so we have to make a mental effort


  • Disinfecting common areas, bathrooms and classrooms, especially handrails, doorknobs and faucets, should be cleaned and disinfected frequently”


You can expect more updates from your Trinity staff in the days ahead. Thank you for giving me your time and attention now and for writing back to me with names or guidance.


Here, in closing, is a poem by the Rev. Lynn Ungar. She serves as a Unitarian minister, and I share it with her personal permission, as well as with an invitation to learn more about her ministry and work at www.lynnungar.com.


With our prayers and our thanks for all we are about to be together --







What if you thought of it

as the Jews consider the Sabbath —

the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.

Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now,

on trying to make the world

different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those

to whom you commit your life.

Center down.

And when your body has become still,

reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected

in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives

are in one another’s hands.

(Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love--

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.


-—Lynn Ungar 3/11/20