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Grace Church Covid Policy Update




As we suspected, Covid numbers are rising again in a 4th wave and this variant is more highly contagious and affects children in a higher rate. For this reason, we are reinstituting the following procedures at Grace starting this week:


  • Masks will be requested for all persons, vaccinated or not.

   A. It is not yet required by the state, but we highly ask you to mask while in the building.


  • Choir will immediately suspend again. We will return to quartets with social distancing.


  • Temp checks and sign in lists will be a regular part of worship again.


  • Please maintain good Covid guidelines while at Church by sitting only in the pews NOT marked as reserved. This will help us maintain safe distance.


A reminder: while these are not mandatory (yet), we are trying to lead the way in being cautious to protect those most at risk. We appreciate your cooperation. I hope we are through this soon.



Pastor Rob+   




Letters from Pastor and Council:


October 2021 

Dear Friends,

I used to hate October. When I was a child, my grandmother died on October 1st. She was by far the most formative maternal figure in my life. Two years later my grandfather died, again in October. I remember thinking “Does anything good happen in October?” Then as I grew, October started manifesting so many blessings. The weather is darn near perfect. I married a man born in October and we renewed our wedding vows in front of many of you here at church in October.

I love October for many reasons, not the least of which is the holidays. It is such a happy time of year for me now. It gets ushered in by Oktoberfest and ends with Halloween and it seems like for a few months there is something to get excited about every few weeks. Decorating and cooking and time with friends and family seem a regular cycle during the fall and early winter. And so, I am excited to see October arrive.

When I reflect on that in a spiritual way, I am reminded of the other ways my opinions have developed/changed over my life. When I was younger, I may have believed things that now seem odd for me. I have grown and, in that growth, there has been change. As a gay man, I no longer live in the shame and self-loathing I once did. As a white man, while I would never have considered myself to be racist, I have grown to see the privilege my whiteness has afforded me, and I have seen my relationships with people of color change as a result. As a man, I have seen my understanding of women change, especially as I have watched my 4 little girls grow into strong, confident women. I now find myself standing for women’s issues in new ways because I see those issues through the eyes of my adult daughters whom I adore.

I guess the point of my rambling is this: We change, we grow. We meet people and have experiences that give us new opportunities to see God, ourselves, and others in new ways. But for that to happen we have to be open to the change. Our hearts and our minds have to open to the possibility that even at 56 there is still more for me to learn. (Did I say 56? I meant 36….) and for that to happen, I have to get myself and my arrogant sureties out of the way so that God can be at work in me. October reminds me of the promise that even at my age (36, remember?) God can still work something new and amazing in my life.

Have a wonderful month. And may God remind you that wonderful things are in store for you too!

Enjoy October!

Pastor Rob+ 


September 2021

Dear Friends,

I am watching the news this week and my heart is heavy as I see scenes in Bagram, Afghanistan that are eerily reminiscent of Saigon in the mid 1970’s. As American forces leave Afghanistan, the Taliban is moving in and has effectively regained control of the country with no real resistance. What a tragedy in so many ways. This is creating a humanitarian crisis to which we must respond. Women and girls will face grave social injustice under Sharia Law of the Taliban. Those who stood with Americans will undoubtedly be executed for their denial of strict Muslim law.

What can we do? First, we can pray and be educated. Many have expressed real concern about the vast amount of people who are being left behind. Interpreters, intelligence staff, those Afghani people who have given assistance to the American effort for the past 20 years. There will be refugees who need a safe place. Some will come to the US, others to other nations. Accepting refugees (especially Muslim ones) usually brings a measure of fear and prejudice in a segment of the American population. Its going to take education and honest dialogue to dispel those fears.

Another way to help in the immediate moment is to give. There are two organizations that our Missions chair Mike has brought to my attention, both of which I have a connection to. First is Lutheran Social Services. I worked with Lutheran Social Services to help resettle 2 refugee families during the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s. They are an amazing group that helps churches resettle refugees and helps refugees assimilate to life in the US. The second group is Briggs Center for Faith and Action, a group that helps provide legal and education resources (English classes) for refugees. It was founded with funds from the Briggs Baptist Church and the Executive Director is a good friend and colleague who pastors Westmoreland UCC in Bethesda.

You can learn more about these organizations at:

Briggs Center for Faith and Action: https://www.briggscenter.org/

Lutheran Social Services of the Capital Area: https://lssnca.org/

Please remember the people of Afghanistan in your prayers. If you are able, get involved. Make a gift of any size to help these or other social agencies support the refugees who need a new start. Having led 2 congregations through refugee resettlement programs, I can tell you what a difference it makes to a family in need. And I can also tell you that it blessed the congregation in ways we had never expected.

Have a wonderful month!

 Pastor Rob+   



August 2021 


Dear Friends,

As I write this, I am hearing news of the Delta variant of Covid starting to rise in alarming rates particularly in southern states and those states with lower vaccination rates. This leaves me concerned. I am concerned that people are so easily swayed by false information about vaccinations that are not supported by science and fact. I am concerned that pastors are telling their church people not to be vaccinated or NOT to mask. The reality is that science is clear: those who are vaccinated, while still at some risk to reinfect, are almost always unlikely to develop symptoms that will require hospitalization or lead to serious consequences. Recent statistics show that 97% of all hospitalizations at present are with unvaccinated people. Unlike previous strains, this Delta variant is affecting young people in more serious ways. One county reports that 20% of their hospitalized are under 18 years of age.

The reality is that this is a serious situation. I came back to the office after working from home for a year and one thing that struck me was the number of people I used to visit who had died in the past year. A friend is at present worried for his parents, BOTH of whom are in the hospital for Covid Pneumonia. Both decided not to vaccinate because their faith told them it wasn’t necessary.

Let me be clear, to the point of offending. This is a serious issue. I was vaccinated, not because I am in a risk group, but because I love people who are. My mother, my grandchildren, and all of you, my church family. There are people in my life who are at higher risk, and it is the very least I can do to keep them safe.

The ministry of Jesus was very clear. It was to be a presence to the least, the last and the lost. His ministry, and by extension our ministry, is to make a place for those most vulnerable. The prevalent “I can do what I want and if you don’t like it, that’s your problem” is not any form of Christianity. Its selfish and antithetical to anything that looks like Jesus. Anyone who tells you differently doesn’t know Jesus.

And so, I encourage you and those you love to get vaccinated as soon as possible. This is not an issue to be delicate about. People are ill, many have died and its incumbent upon us to do all we can to protect those we love. It really is what Jesus would do.

Be safe and have a great month!

Pastor Rob+


 July 2021

Dear Friends,

Its July already! July, for obvious reasons, always gets me thinking about my relationship to my nation. What does it mean to be an American? There are many opinions on this, so allow me to share mine, knowing of course that yours may be different.

There is a feeling that loving this country means you don’t criticize it. “America! Love it or leave it!” as the saying goes. In recent past, I was told many times to leave the country if I didn’t like it. Trust me, the thought has more than crossed my mind. But that attitude is not patriotism, its arrogance. And its misguided. I think the Biblical witness is strong that people of faith can love their nation and at the same time call it to account for injustice. Part of loving our nation is calling out its best and challenging its worst inclinations as well. This country isn’t perfect. It isn’t even the “best country in the world.” (Blasphemy I know…) I don’t think there is a “best country”. That’s silliness. We do a lot of things well, but there are things other nations do better and from which we can learn. As they too can learn from us. At its best, this is a generous nation that has gone out on a limb time and again to be a source of strength for other nations who needed it. We have stood strong in the face of oppression and tyranny and our men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice to change evil into good.

But we haven’t always met the mark, have we? The systematic slaughter of indigenous peoples as we made our way from sea to shining sea. The literal economy of human souls which treated people of color like chattel and has since created a system that has disadvantaged others to our own benefit. The rich and powerful (in my opinion) have (just like in Bible times) used their means to further their own prosperity even while standing on the necks of the poor and disadvantaged. We need a voice to call us to remembrance of our better selves. We need people of faith to stand together and remind our leaders that there is a better way. And that voice is not unpatriotic at all. It’s the most loving thing we can do. To stand with those who stand alone. To call our leaders to account for the way they use the people they are called to serve to advance their own agendas. In the tradition of the prophets and judges of the scriptures, let us live in ways that give voice to those places where we have failed to get it right. And let us lift up those people and times when we have gotten it very right. Because they are many.

Happy July!

And God… make America a blessing!      

Pastor Rob+





Dear Friends,


After many months, it is time to let you know that we are beginning the process of reopening for people to join us for weekly worship. Other churches have been opening for the past few weeks; but, at my recommendation, Council has decided to wait a bit to see if infection rates in our area would remain low once people start gathering for worship.  Honestly, things are working remotely, so we were more concerned with gathering safely than gathering quickly.


And so I am writing with good news and better news!  The good news: We are inviting people to join us for worship in person starting August 2nd.  The better news: Our live stream broadcasts of worship have been more successful than we imagined and they will continue to be a part of our ongoing worship experience.  So if you don't feel comfortable returning to worship in person yet, you can still join us every week as you have been! 


What to expect when you return? 

1. You will be warmly welcomed by someone who will take your name and contact information. Creating a contact list for each service means we will be able to reach everyone should one person end up getting sick at any point. 

2. You will have your temperature taken with our fancy new no-touch thermometer. 

3. You will be asked if you have a mask. If you do not have one with you, we will have one for you! (Masks must be worn at all times, no exceptions.)

4. Hand sanitizer will be available should you want it. 

5. The doors will be open so that there is no need to touch hardware.


What will look different?

1. Seating will be intentionally separated from each other.  Families of course will sit together, but we will seat in alternating rows every other row. (They will be clearly marked.) 

2. There will be no passing of the peace in the service.  We would ask you to greet each other with a heartfelt smile and wave instead!

3. There will be no offering during the service. (That doesn't mean we don't need your gifts. LOL)  We will have collection baskets at the doors when you enter and when you leave so you can drop off your tithe. 

4. There will be no Hymns, at least for now. The CDC and the National Council of Churches recommend no singing as that produces more vapor droplets which might spread germs in the sanctuary. A study is coming out in the fall which will have more definitive word on this, but until then, there will be lots of good music, just not vocally!

5. Fellowship hour will NOT resume for the near future. Once the weather cools, we might want to gather outside after church for donuts and coffee, where we can be outdoors and safer in a group. 


So, as you can see, we are doing all we can to make sure our reopening is as safe as it can be.  We hope you will join us as you feel able, either in person or on Youtube.  We are excited for this regathering and look forward to the day when we can all be together again soon!! 


Much love and know that you are missed!


Pastor Rob+


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