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March 13, 2020


TO:        Church Leaders in the New York Annual Conference

FROM: Thomas J. Bickerton, Resident Bishop


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
To Church Leaders in the New York Annual Conference:

A Letter from Pastor Martha

November 6, 2020


Grace and Peace my dear friends,

As you may know Clinton is now in the "red" zone, meaning that the cases of coronavirus are significantly increasing.  Our District Superintendent and Bishop have encouraged all churches to err on the side of caution and in the Governor's protocols he encourages churches to be virtual.  As such our Church Council has decided that we press the pause button on our reopening efforts.  We love one another too deeply, just as God has first loved us. to put anyone at any possible harm.  As such, starting this Sunday, we will be worshipping all virtually until the cases trend downward again.  This has not been an easy decision given that we know how important in person worship is to those of who have been coming.  Please know that if you are unable to worship via computer or TV we are happy to make a DVD for you or to send you a manuscript of the sermon; just let me know.  

We are also happy to make a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy if needed and if you have any concerns or want to talk about any of this please reach out to me.  We are all experiencing the fatigue of this pandemic and want to get back to normal, especially with the holidays approaching.  Let us continue to pray, let us continue to show one another love and let us all do our part at mitigating the virus transmission so that we can all get back together again.  

May you feel God's love enfold you in God's loving arms,

Pastor Martha



August 24, 2020 - Reopening Letter from Pastor Martha


“Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19


Dear UMC Clinton Family,

At the core of all missions and ministries we seek to follow John Wesley’s Three Rules: Do No Harm, Do Good and Stay in Love with God. It has been in this spirit that the Church Council has been meeting to determine the best way to be in ministry during these last five months. Now that we have been certified by the Conference to re-open our building we are doing so with great care and prayer.


We are excited to announce that we will have our first in-person service on Sunday, September 6th at 10:00 a.m.


Part of our certification process was to agree to follow the recommendations of the NYAC Covid-19 Guidelines for Church Reopening for the wellbeing of our community. As such, worship will look very different than when we left. Here are the guidelines that we will be following:

  • Everyone 65 years of age and older, and people with serious health conditions are encouraged to continue to worship from home. We will continue to livestream and tape our service.

  •  you have a fever, are not feeling well, have gone to one of the states that are on the quarantine list or come into contact with someone who has tested positive, we ask you to worship from home. We will be doing temperature checks at the door before entering.

  • Everyone must wear a mask at all times.

  • The Kathy Fell building is closed until further notice. All worshippers must come through the front orange doors of the church and go directly up to the sanctuary. Maintain 6 ft. from others as you enter and exit the building. Due to the inability to operate the lift maintaining these guidelines, the lift will remain closed until further notice.

  • Use the free standing hand sanitizer upon entry. An usher will then direct you where to sit as seating will follow social distancing guidelines. The choir loft and balcony will be closed, except to authorized personnel.

  • We will not use pew Bibles or hymnals until it is safe. You may bring your own Bible to worship. We encourage you to print out the bulletin at home or download it to your phone. We will have printed copies of the bulletin available if you need one.

  • For contact tracing purposes we must take attendance at each service. Please fill out the attendance card, which can also be used for joys and concerns, either from home or at worship. If you test positive for Covid-19 please contact Pastor Martha immediately. She will then notify those who were at worship maintaining strict confidentiality.

  • There will be a box located at the back of the sanctuary for you to place your offering and attendance card. We encourage you to continue to mail in your offering.

  • We will use individually wrapped communion elements when we have communion, which we expect to do the first Sunday in October. More specific information will be forthcoming on that.

  • Children and youth must stay with their parents/guardians at all times. There will be a Children’s Time during Worship but children will stay in their pews. Additionally, there will be no Children’s Church or Nursery care.

  • Fellowship time and greeting by the pastor will be suspended until further notice. The Fellowship Hall will remain closed except for emergency use of the bathroom. You are encouraged to join our virtual Fellowship time on Zoom.

  • Choir and congregational singing will be suspended until further notice except for the song leader.

Baptisms are suspended until further notice.

The expectation is that everyone in our community will follow these instructions without exception so that everyone remains safe. We will continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC, the state of Connecticut and our Bishop. Any changes to these guidelines will be communicated as soon as possible. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us.


In Christ’s Abundant Love,

Rev. Martha Epstein, Pastor
Karin Thelin, Church Council Chair

Barbara Cubberly, Trustee Chair

Jill Hale, Worship Chair



A Letter from Pastor Martha

May 22, 2020

"All of (the disciples) with their minds in full agreement devoted themselves steadfastly to prayer [waiting together]with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with His brothers." (Acts 1:14 The Amplified Bible)

Greetings Church Family,

We too continue to be in a period of waiting, just as the disciples were after Jesus ascended and before the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  I invite you to follow their lead and devote yourself to prayer during this time in which we continue to wait for the time when we can come together in worship.

A question on many minds now is when will the doors of the church building be reopened, especially now as the restrictions begin to be lifted in CT.   The Church Council will be working on that very question; this week we received a very comprehensive document from Bishop Bickerton on strict guidelines for reopening our buildings.  Additionally, all clergy and church leaders will be able to participate in a Webinar given by the Bishop next week about this topic. I will seek to keep you informed but if you have a question or concern please do not hesitate to ask.  

In the meantime, let us remember the song we love to sing, "We ARE the church."  Even though the building is closed we continue to meet virtually through worship, study and family fun activities.  We continue to reach out to our neighbors, sharing masks, food and hope.  

This Sunday we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus and his promise that he would not leave the disciples (or us) alone.  My hope and prayer is that while we continue to be apart you do not feel alone but that as we devote ourselves to prayer we wait with eager anticipation of what God has in store for us.  And I also encourage you to take a moment this Memorial Day weekend to say a prayer of thanks for all those who fought and died or our freedom.

In Christ's Abundant Peace,

Pastor Martha



A Letter from Pastor Martha

March 16, 2020


Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Grace and Peace Clinton UMC Family,

We are experiencing something unlike we have ever experienced.  It is preciously at that these times we need to hold on tight to our faith and feel the presence of God for God has promised to never leave us.  I encourage you to spend more time than ever in devotion and use the social distancing to draw yourself closer to God.  

Although we weren't able to gather together on Sunday physically, I was able to record a service, you can access it at:
Durham - Haddam - Killingworth - Chester - Deep River - Essex - Old Saybrook - Westbrook - Clinton:
Comcast Xfinity Channel 19 or 1070
   Frontier TV Channel 6089
   Thursdays @ 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.
   Channel 18
   Sundays @ 7 p.m.
   Mondays @ 1 p.m.

It is also available at the Valley Shore Community Television Website, where you can actually view up to a year's worth of recordings!​ as well as on YouTube, in which we now have a Clinton UMC channel!  You will see that the very beginning of the service was cut off, so if you view the YouTube video, please read Psalm 95 before listening to the sermon.  We are all learning this as we go, so please bare with us as we fine tune and adjust to a new way of being in community.

In the mean time, please call or email the church office with your joys and concerns.  We want to stay connected and share our burdens as well as rejoice with one another!

We are also asking that you continue to support the church financially during this difficult time by mailing in your contributions.  As the Bishop has said we may be called upon to respond to the needs of the poor and marginalized unlike never before. He said, "As the crisis escalates, we know that the least among us will arrive at a point of critical need. We must maintain or begin to establish outreach ministries that are needed to assist our communities. I am asking that all of our churches and leaders explore ways that will allow us to serve as “Responding Stations,” able to receive the needy and offer essentials such as food, water, supplies and comfort."

I am here for you.  If you want to talk, pray, laugh or cry please do not hesitate to contact me, either through the church office, 860-669-8396 or via email,  

We will continue to keep you updated as things change.  We are working on uploading the bulletin for next week's service so that it will be more interactive.

God will see us through!!

May the peace of Christ which passes all our earthly understanding abide with you,

Pastor Martha

As all of you know, we are currently being called to serve in ways that require exceptional leadership and spiritual guidance to create and manage our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) response plans.

As one of the most diverse Conferences in the connection, there is rarely a “one-size-fits-all” response to any matter. However, in this instance, there is need for a uniform response. 

The recent news that the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic and also the growing number of our churches that find themselves in the eye of this storm, means that we as leaders, must make difficult decisions. 

This is one of those occasions where I, as your Episcopal Leader, must act immediately to protect our congregations and communities. Given the clear word from health officials across the country and our own local authorities, I am asking that all United Methodist Churches in the New York Annual Conference not hold public services of worship for the next two weeks. 

There will be a separate advisory issued today with information for churches in need of guidance on streaming services, Zoom video, conference call options and grants that will be offered by the New York Annual Conference in order for local churches to acquire necessary licenses to conduct worship services and meetings remotely. We will also provide guidance for you to consider as you engage with groups that rent/utilize your facilities. 

The need to minimize and “flatten the curve” of infection and curtail the spread of the Coronavirus is at a critical stage. Together, we must act to lessen the burden on health care personnel, systems and our people. 

This clear reality has given rise to the need to make this decision. It has been made only after careful conversation with several informed people and deep personal reflection within myself.  While this is a matter that will affect all of us emotionally and spiritually at the very core of who we are and what we do as called servants of Christ, it is a decision that must be made for the good of all the people we serve.

In the midst of the challenges associated with cancelling public services of worship, I strongly urge all our leaders to explore ways to continue providing words of hope and guidance when conveying the steps that must be taken in response to this crisis. Our role as spiritual leaders who provide a message of hope and possibility does not nor should not be quarantined.  This is a time to explore and utilize new and creative ways of sharing the gospel in spite of the current circumstances around us.

In your planning, a key consideration is the responsibility we have to open our doors in creative ways and respond to the needs of the poor and marginalized. As the crisis escalates, we know that the least among us will arrive at a point of critical need. 

We must maintain or begin to establish outreach ministries that are needed to assist our communities. I am asking that all of our churches and leaders explore ways that will allow us to serve as “Responding Stations,” able to receive the needy and offer essentials such as food, water, supplies and comfort.  

I urge you to consider that not everyone in your community is able or willing to make the best or most prudent decisions in regard to this pandemic. And I am also sure that not everyone will understand the need for this decision to be made. However, these challenging days demand of us to take extraordinary actions. In light of this, I pray that you, as a leader, will take on the task of caring for the welfare and health of the congregation under your care and the community to which you have been appointed. 

United Methodists have historically stood as a connectional church. Friends, we are in this together. As such, let us remember to pray for one another as we work to provide hope and healing in response to this virus. 

The Journey Continues,…



Thomas J. Bickerton
 Resident Bishop

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