September 2020

The Church Never Closed
It’s been a confusing summer in terms of our life in the pandemic. It’s OK to go
out! No wait you shouldn’t go out! Wear your mask! No, it doesn’t work if you
don’t cover your nose! Stay 6 feet apart! Wait, what are all of those people in
bars doing sitting close together and drinking without wearing masks? School is
starting in person! No, wait, it will be online. Sports won’t happen! No, wait they
will.

The truth is, none of us has ever done this before. And with an invisible enemy
that is spread through microscopic droplets, it’s hard to know how much safety
is enough.

Our last worship service in the sanctuary together was on March 8. In these
past months, I have been meeting regularly with church leaders to discuss what
is happening with the pandemic here in Cuyahoga County and when and how
the church will open its doors on Sundays and the rest of the week.

Yes, we are hoping it will be soon. But the truth is, we will probably go back and
forth between opening and going back to online only for the next months – as
we keep a close eye on the status of cases and ensure the safety of those who
gather. We’re not going to get it exactly right immediately – even though we
are going to try.

But this is an important time for us to remember – the Church never closed. The
Church never closed. We are still the Church no matter where we are, no matter
if we are gathered together on Sundays or apart. We are the representatives of
Christ in the world. That is our calling and our responsibility. Whether we are at
home making phone calls, praying for one another, or sewing masks, at our
community garden sowing seeds, or taking part in Zoom Bible studies and
meetings, we are still about God’s work.

So keep up the good work my friends.
And as always
Fear not!
Pastor Dianne

July/August 2020

Well, if you’ve been on Facebook lately, you’ve seen it – a couple of weeks ago I took
a Motorcycle Safety Course in Mentor, and then last week I went with a friend up to
Michigan to purchase my very own motorcycle – a used Harley Davidson Street 500.
That is a short sentence that doesn’t fully capture the feelings I have experienced
during the past couple of weeks. I have wanted to drive a motorcycle since I was 16 years
old. The summer before my senior year of high school I snuck down to the end of my
street to meet a friend from work who let me ride on the back of his bike to our weekly
work softball game. That ride was the beginning of my love affair with bikes.

The first day of class I woke up about two hours early. I was afraid that I was going to
make a fool of myself, although I had practiced a fair bit on a friend’s bike. What if I
dropped the bike? What if I couldn’t even get it going? What if I forgot how to slow down
and went careening around the course?

None of those things happened. Our three instructors were wonderful. There were only
four of us in the class, and at the beginning of the second day the class size was cut in half
– the other two just weren’t ready to ride. So Ray – a paratrooper and Vietnam vet who
was just there to get a refresher after a few years off, and I completed the class together.
Test day was a little scary. I started praying as soon as I woke up. We did a couple of
practice runs first thing, and then we had a break. I sat off by myself and tried to breathe
and pray. I looked up and saw a hawk, soaring high above, passing overhead. That hawk
was somehow a cue to me that I’d do ok.

And I did. I passed the test and am a fully endorsed motorcycle driver – at the age of
54, 36 years after my first ride.

What have you always wanted to do, but have told yourself you can’t? What have you
always wanted to learn, but have told yourself you weren’t good enough, or coordinated
enough, or smart enough to do? Maybe it’s learning a new language, or taking up a sport,
or learning how to knit or sew or crochet.

Learning something new is really the best way for me to celebrate the Sabbath – a time
of rest when we allow ourselves to take our focus away from the troubles of the world
and the demands on our time. For some of us, our days are empty and we look for ways
and mundane distractions to fill them. For some of us, our days are so full we feel as
though we don’t have time to sit down. But for all of us, sabbath is a requirement. A day
or a time when we stop trying to distract ourselves and instead look for peace. A day or
time when we intentionally force ourselves to stop, and to rest.

When I am on my bike, I cannot think about anything else. I have to concentrate fully
on being where I am. And when I get off, my mind is refreshed and I am ready to enter
the world again and to be fully committed to doing the work I am called to do. That’s what
Sabbath rest is all about.

I hope you make time for Sabbath rest this summer, and remember to
Fear Not
Dianne

November 2019

In the past two months, I have been able to travel to Kansas City, Missouri and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on two trips – both related to my vocation as a pastor, but each very different in its focus.

Pastor
Dianne Tobey Covault

In September, I joined with 35 other folks from the East Ohio Conference, many of them clergy, to attend the Leadership Institute at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. COR is the largest church in the denomination with approximately 20,000 members. Their lead pastor, the Rev. Adam Hamilton, is the author of many books and studies, including FAITHFUL: CHRISTMAS THROUGH THE EYES OF JOSEPH, which will be our Advent study this year. The Leadership Institute is an annual conference for church leaders held at COR.

This year, given the current crisis over human sexuality in the United Methodist Church, the conference was limited to 2400 United Methodists, with a maximum of two from any congregation. The conference, entitled “Bright Hope for Tomorrow: The Future of the United Methodist Church”, centered on the history and the future of the church. We heard talks about the history of racial relations, of the status and role of women in the church. We watched videos showing parents of children who had died by suicide due to their understanding of the church’s stance on LGBTQIA persons. We discussed the proposals coming to General Conference 2020, and then we met in annual conference groups to talk about what to do next.

I left the conference heartened by what I heard. I am encouraged by the number of folks in our conference who are as opposed to the Traditional Plan, which places severe punishments on LGBT+ clergy and those who perform LGBT+ weddings. It was a difficult week, as I saw many examples of the harm that the church has done to minorities and to women. But I also saw a church that is committed to moving forward into the future, a future where all means all.

In mid-October, I spent a week in Pittsburgh at the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center with my Order of St. Luke family. To many of us, the retreat center, and this annual gathering, are home. We planned and discussed the work of the Order, including worship books, psalmody, three periodicals, liturgical practice, and sacramental living. We worshipped together, in six services, or “offices” a day, from Morning Prayer to Compline (night prayer), and shared in the Eucharist (holy communion) each day. On this retreat, our focus was on the practice of iconography. Two artists joined us to explain their craft, and then we spent ½ day writing our own icon. We also took an afternoon trip to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where we met with a rabbi and then spent time at the Tree of Life synagogue where 11 persons were killed on October 27, 2018, during Shabbat services. We prayed portions of the Transitus prayer (for those who have died) and sang Dona Nobis Pacem in a beautiful round as we stood in front of the building. Two weeks, both “religious” in nature, but very different in content and style. Two weeks, helping me to remember why I do the work I do, and encouraging me on my journey.

Two weeks, and I am excited to share with you all I have learned in the months ahead, as we journey together and remember to Fear Not Pastor Dianne

October 2019

By now, I know many of you know a lot about me, about where I grew up, my family, and even my dog. You listen to my stories every week. But I’d like to hear more of yours. As we endeavor as a congregation to become more outward focused on our neighborhood, I’d like to know – did you live in this area growing up? What was it like and how has it changed?

What, or who, brought you to Christ United Methodist Church? Was it your parents? A friend? A neighbor? When people ask you about this church, what do you tell them? What would bring you in these doors now?

We all have a story, and our story is part of God’s story because we are all children of God. Stories are meant to be shared. So please, share yours! Come to one of our lunches at Rubin’s, drop by during my office hours, or if you are a writer, write yours down!

And don’t worry, I won’t use it in a sermon without your permission!

Fear Not, Dianne

September 2019

Have you noticed that community outreach is becoming a “big thing” at Christ UMC? Just some of the ways we are reaching out include –

  • Community meals – beginning again September 28!
  • Community garden – Roy Buser spearheaded a very successful growing season AND made some new friends among our neighbors.
  • VBS – thanks to our crack Education team, we had a very successful VBS in July.
  • Craft Tables at Jefferson Park during summer concerts for children.
    AND here are some exciting things to come!
  • Worship with West Park UCC – On Sunday, October 6, the congregation from West Park UCC will be joining us in worship as we celebrate World Communion Sunday!
  • Worship AT West Park UCC – On Sunday, October 13, we will be worshiping with West Park in their sanctuary on Rocky River Drive!
  • Meet the Pastor for Lunch – Dianne will be at Rubin’s on Wednesdays. September 4 and 18, October 9, October 30, and November 20 at noon this fall – come meet her for lunch and conversation!
  • Christmas Party for Kids coming up December 14.
  • Advent Study will be HERE on Mondays, December 2, 9, 16 and 23 with West Park UCC.
  • Members of the Community Outreach team are exploring partnering with other churches, with the Bellaire Puritas Development Corporation, and local schools to reach out to folks in the area.
  • What other ideas do you have?

It is great to see our congregation reaching out with the love of Christ to our neighbors! Let’s keep it up!

Fear Not, Dianne