By Lark Madden – For the Stewardship Team
In my life I’ve been lucky enough to do a little bit of offshore sailing – not enough to brag about and always on other peoples’ boats. For me being a long way from the sight of land, especially at night, is a magic and memorable experience. Sometimes the weather does turn bad, and I admit to having been terrified at times. But I also remember a few key lessons learned from observing more experienced crew members getting ready, performing under stress and ultimately sailing into calm waters.
First – we paid attention carefully to what conditions were coming at us. And we tried to get our boat and our minds ready for conditions that would be worse than those predicted. We tried to build in a margin of safety you could say. So this meant preparing our crew, communicating with each other about roles and responsibilities and making sure we knew what to do. It also meant tying everything down, anticipating lots of wind and water over the deck. And we double checked all our critical systems – engine, electrical panel, bilge pump, and all thru– hull ports and hatches. We checked our personal safety gear – boots, foul weather gear, caps, PFDs emergency beacons, life lines. Food was inventoried as well as water, and beer. The sail plan was reduced to meet worse than predicted wind speed and direction. Everything else was organized, tied down or stowed.
All that work happened before things started to get bouncy and wet and scary. When the gale arrived it was evening, so we had little light to give us perspective. Wave heights reached twenty feet and we were fifty miles from shore in a forty-foot yawl. As the gale built, the first twenty–five huge waves that went under the boat caused me to think I was likely to die. The next twenty–five made me realize maybe I wasn’t going to die. Then I began to realize that the boat was actually behaving well, it was dry down below (although very bouncy) and that the wailing in the rigging while initially morbid was actually slightly musical and the lightning eerily beautiful. The crew began to relax just a little as the weather blew through. We tried to enforce watches so that some of us could rest. This was hard to do – but a few of us got some downtime. We tried to stay dry and alert and as a crew we sailed along.
Around daylight we noticed the wind was abating. And we could clearly see the wave patterns as they approached giving us more time to brace and ride the boat’s movements. We were exhausted – in body and mentally tired. But we were experiencing a kind of survivor euphoria. We could see that we’d be OK.
Perhaps you’ll object to this story as a metaphor for FRS current situation. And maybe it’s a little over the top – I apologize if I’ve offended. But there seems to me to be a set of instructive parallels to look at together.
During this unprecedented pandemic, remember that we have a very good FRS community boat – and a very good captain and crew in our Parish Board, Reverend Rebecca and the rest of our staff. We have lots of new crew in our recent members and friends, and some old hands who’ve been through some bad weather. We are all facing a disruptive and uncertain situation which is much like a storm. It will stress us and may be worse or less-worse than we think.
But we’ve already done many things to get ready, to increase the safety of all, to make sure that our community is prepared and will ride through. We have terrific energy and love for each other. No one knows when or how this storm abates. But we can take steps to be strong and safe together while we go through it. Now is actually the time when the church needs us most. It’s the time when attention to our course, our boat and our people is most important.
Our commitment to online gatherings is a kind of life preserver and is a creative way where we can convene and stay in fellowship. This will be an important way to maintain our continuity. We are doing this now with skill and our worship experience is available to all despite the need for social distancing. This leads to our sense of gaining equilibrium even in rocky conditions – we need to give each other confidence that we are still and will be here for each other and that we care. “Coming together by staying apart” is a new idea that we can adopt for the time being.
To me, part of the storm experience is thinking about the after-storm conditions. What’s happening right now will surely go by, and what comes after we can plan for. This is why thinking about FRS in the longer term is important. We can feel comfort by taking the steps that make sure we emerge even stronger together after the storm. And it’s part of our stewardship of the community. Our Mission/Vision work is exciting and real and awaits our engagement. Our new friends and members are key contributors to this work for our future.
Our goal for this year’s annual campaign is 100% participation. We’ve received over 100 pledges so far and we are making progress on our financial target. In the next few days, the FRS canvass contacts will begin to reach out to those who haven’t yet pledged. Please accept this outreach by answering the calls and emails that your fellow congregants make. They are assisting us in making ready for the clearer weather that will surely come. Please make a pledge that reflects a long–term view, and reflects your own sense of the importance of FRS to you and yours.
For the Stewardship Team
During this time, you may pledge online here: https://www.frsuu.org/pledge