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Spiritual Sustenance

The Rev. Dr. Kate Winters: Racism is 'second pandemic'

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jun 11, 2020
The Rev. Dr. Kate Winters is co-pastor of The First Church in Belfast, United Church of Christ.

Belfast — Our series of interviews with Waldo County clergy explores how their congregations are finding new ways to worship, to connect with each other and the wider community, and to find hope and encouragement in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Clergy interested in participating in the series may contact the editor at sreynolds@villagesoup.com or 338-3334, ext. 110.

The Rev. Dr. Kate Winters, co-pastor of The First Church in Belfast, United Church of Christ, said she has been pushed to be more creative in preparing worship services since her congregation has not been gathering in the church at 8 Court St. Services are prerecorded and broadcast on the city's local access channel Sunday mornings at 9:30, and are also posted on the church's website.

She said Ned Lightner of BEL TV has allowed her and her husband and co-pastor, the Rev. Joel Krueger, to borrow a camera, which they have used to record parts of the service in different places around the city. For example, they videoed church members outside their homes ringing wind chimes for the recent Pentecost service.

The additional planning, gathering snippets of video here and there, searching for music online and so on, has made the preparation of worship much more time-consuming, Winters said, even as it has allowed for greater creativity. And the fact that services are prerecorded means her preaching cannot be "right on top of the moment," as it would be in a live service. Still, she said, "it has not hurt us to be out of the building for a while."

In the last couple of weeks, First Church has added a "coffee hour" on Zoom after its Sunday services. "It was wonderful," Winters said of the first of these, "because people miss each other's faces."

Community members who are not part of the church as well as church members who are seasonal residents have taken part in the online services. "It's not an issue of growing numbers, but we have a growing voice," she said.

Winters said members of her congregation have taken the initiative to stay in touch with each other and respond to needs among the membership as they arise. Members also volunteer at the Belfast Food Cupboard. She is a member of the Greater Bay Area Ministerium, which she said is planning a service of grief for those lost to the coronavirus.

She said the public health emergency has prepared the community for what she sees as a second pandemic, systemic racism, by allowing time for people to nurture their spiritual relationships with themselves, God and other people.

Although respiratory health problems have forced her to be very careful during the pandemic — leading her to write more, instead of being out in public — Winters does plan to be more involved in anti-racism work locally. She expects the pace of change in society to accelerate as the virus recedes, allowing people to come together again. "I really think having the second pandemic of racism, we're going to have to be even more creative. We're going to have to do our prophetic role while keeping each other safe."

Winters has been encouraged throughout the shutdown by the way church members have cared for each other. "The church is a school of love, and this lockdown has shown us that we need to find many different ways to love each other."

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