On the Sunday morning before Ash Wednesday, Pastor Nick invited the people of Broadus to join him outside after the service. As they gathered near the Peace Pole, he explained why we observe Ash Wednesday as he laid palm fronds from last year's Palm Sunday celebration into a fire pit. He then burned them down to ashes.
On Wednesday night, the people of Broadus and friends will gather again in the room across the hall from the sanctuary and observe Ash Wednesday together, ending the service with Pastor Nick marking their foreheads with a cross made of the palm frond ashes. As he does so, he will utter the words: "You are from dust, and to dust you will return."
This is one of the more somber days in the church calendar as it marks the beginning of a traditional season of fasting--Lent. As Baptists, many of us have not observed Lent before, and each year we do so is an opportunity to understand more deeply what this season means and how it can help prepare us for the crucifixion and resurrection we will celebrate at the end of these 40 days.
In this week's Pastor's Corner in The Beacon, Pastor Nick explained a bit about Lent and how we might participate. Here is an edited excerpt:
"Ash Wednesday is the traditional start in the Christian calendar for Lent. Lent is the time of year that we prepare ourselves for Easter. We in the church hope to take time to focus on God. There are many ways to do this. For example, this is a season of confession and repentance; a time to see where we have lost sight of God in our lives and recommit to the right path. Lent is also a season of fasting. In fasting, we give up something for a set time to allow for, and remind us, to spend more time with God. Finally, some see this as a season to take on a new holy habit; to pick up something in their lives that draws them closer to God. If you are like me, you might not have grown up with Lent being a part of your church life. Celebrating Lent is not essential to Christian faith, but as with every tradition we inherit, it is simply a practice that those before us have found helpful."
You are invited to join us for the Ash Wednesday service this Wednesday evening after our fellowship meal. The service will start around 6:15. It will be a time for reflection and considering what it means to be a people of the cross as we walk with Jesus through this Lenten season toward the celebration of the resurrection on Easter morning.
Our annual Soup/Dessert Cook-Off is one of those activities that has become a tradition at Broadus each winter. It’s not that we assume men don’t cook and bake all through the year, but on this night, we put them in the spotlight and allow them to shine. Males of all ages are invited to prepare soup and/or dessert and bring it to church on Sunday evening. The rest of us are able to enjoy their culinary offerings. And for fun, we ask women to be judges and pick their favorites.
Every once in a while, someone will say that maybe we don’t need to include this event on our calendar anymore, but then there are others who say this is one of their favorite events of the whole year. It means something to them beyond the food. For them, the tradition is invested with memories and meaning that add to its importance.
That’s the way it is with traditions in a church. You have to ask questions of them. Do they still have meaning? Do they need to be freshened up? Is there a simpler way to do something that doesn’t require as much preparation? In this case, we decided to carry on and just downscale our preparations, at least for this year.
There’s a second part to the evening, and that’s the program. At times the Arts Committee has staged elaborate themed productions, and they are fabulous and greatly enjoyed. And at other times, the program is more about highlighting the talents of our Broadus family. Children have performed magic tricks, tap danced, and shared with us their beginning efforts on an instrument. Adults have shared their talents too: singing, reciting, playing, telling jokes, etc. In recent years, we’ve had a pop-up art show where our artists are highlighted. As individuals share their talents, we learn something more about them and what is important to them.
Ultimately that is the goal of any of our fellowship events…to better get to know and appreciate each other. Why is that important? Because we all want to know that we matter. We want to have a name and not be known by where we sit on Sunday morning or physical descriptors. And as we connect to each other, we find unity in our diversity. We say an emphatic “no” to the divisiveness of our day. So, yes, the Soup/Dessert Cook-Off is a tradition, but it’s one with a holy purpose.
You haven’t missed this year’s Cook-Off! There’s still time to sign up. Men, you’re invited to bring a soup or dessert, but that is never a requirement. All are invited to join us on Sunday, February 23 at 5:30 PM. Call the church office to let us know you’re coming.
PACEM (People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry) is a coalition of 80 congregations in the Charlottesville area that work together to provide shelter for members of our community experiencing homelessness during the late fall and winter months. Last year 250 adults stayed at least one night; an average of 43 men and 15 women stayed in the shelters each night. Broadus is one of those 80 congregations. For the first years of our involvement, we primarily helped with providing and serving meals at other churches that were hosting the sleep site, but that all changed four years ago. At the last minute, the church that was hosting the women the week before Christmas had to drop out, and we were asked if we could host them instead.
To be honest, we were a bit startled by the request. It was Advent, and we had so many activities planned already. We asked ourselves if we had room to do the job of hosting a large group of women for a week. That’s the question that determined our answer. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” There was room in the Broadus inn, and we happily invited the women to eat and sleep in our beautifully decorated building and prayed that the welcome they found here would convey the message of Christmas in a tangible way. God loves us, each and every one of us. We are all His children, and He offers to each of us the gifts of hope, peace, joy and love.
That first year, we prepared for the number of guests we were expecting, and cots were set up in the classrooms across the hall from the sanctuary. But when they arrived that evening, there were more women than would fit in that space, so we set up the overflow cots in the sanctuary. Part of the Christmas transformation of the sanctuary is a series of quilted banners made over the years by talented artisans in our congregation. I don’t know that anyone paid particular attention to what the banners said when they set up the overflow cots, but the “Come to Bethlehem” one became part of the bedroom decor. A reminder to us that year, and every year since, that the true measure of our Christmas celebration is whether we have reflected God’s love not only in our words, but also our actions.
We don’t ask the question of whether we can host anymore. After that first year, it’s a given. The week before Christmas, we are privileged to be the inn that welcomes some women who, at least for now, don’t have homes. And those cots lined up along one of the walls of the sanctuary are a visual reminder that Jesus comes to us, not just at Christmas, but each and every day of the year asking if there is room in our hearts for Him.
This article from our Pastor originally appeared in The Beacon, our weekly newsletter. If you would like to see what is going on around the church this week, you can view the latest copy of The Beacon here. Or, if you would like to receive The Beacon in your email inbox each week, you can contact the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The month of December is an interesting time. On Sunday we celebrate Advent, looking forward to the coming of Jesus with hopeful longing. But during the week, we are putting up Christmas trees, making cookies, and listening to Christmas music on the radio.
It can seem like a bit of a disconnect, but I don't think it has to be.
I was talking about this contrast with a friend of mine, and he said, "Every expectant parent prepares the nursery."
I really liked that insight.
In Advent we remind ourselves of our wait for Jesus, but during the week we can remember that Christmas is slowly breaking in all around us. So, I hope this month is filled with tons of joy for you as you celebrate Advent and look forward to what is coming.
- Pastor Nick
There are two more Sundays in Advent, and we would love for you to join us in worship at 11:00 a.m. as we wait expectantly together.
You are also invited to join us on Christmas Eve at 5:00 p.m. for our candlelight service. This is always a special evening of celebration full of singing, a reading of the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke, and plenty of excited children adding their voices to worship. We'd love for you to be there!
If you grew up in church, you more than likely have memories of one or more Christmas pageants in which you participated. Perhaps you were one of many angels or shepherds or perhaps you had one of the main roles of Joseph or Mary.
Christmas pageants have long been associated with church and children. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with staging the first nativity scene in Greccio in 1223. Later he said about this event, “I want to do something that will recall the memory of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger, and how the ox and ass stood by." A Christmas pageant allows us to experience a story that we might know very well in a different way. We see a story unfold before us.
Broadus has a long history of Christmas pageants too, but ours have almost always been unrehearsed. The children learn about Jesus and his birth in Bethlehem, and then they have a chance to act out that story. We use the same script every year, but it never turns out exactly the same. The adults that are shepherding the children and moving the play along through the script have to be prepared for the unexpected, which is one of the messages of Christmas.
Mary wasn’t planning on delivering her child in a stable in Bethlehem. The shepherds who were in the fields with their sheep weren’t expecting to have their night interrupted by angels. The Wise Men who journeyed from the East didn’t know their exact destination. Life happens for us in unexpected, and sometimes unwelcome, ways, but we are children of a God who appears in the unexpected and even transforms it into something new and wonderful.
So, when a shepherd wanders around on the stage or baby Jesus doesn’t lie still in the manger, we don’t cringe because they’re off-script. We smile and laugh and understand that life doesn’t follow a script. And we understand too that life, like this unrehearsed pageant, doesn’t come with a dress rehearsal followed by the real thing.
As we journey through Advent, our hope and prayer for you is that you will find moments to pause and reflect on a story that may be so familiar to you that you forget to marvel at it. Christmas...God coming to us to live amongst us and show us the way. Then and now.
You’re invited to join us for our Christmas Family Night on Wednesday, December 11, 5:30 PM. You can call the church office, 977-7381, to make a reservation or just show up. Either way you’ll find a warm welcome. Hope to see you there!
When we talk about Broadus, we frequently refer to ourselves as a “church family.” What does that mean? We all have families into which we were born or adopted. Those families help us, in part, define and understand who we are. A church family is different because we choose to become part of it.
As a child or teen being brought to church with our parents, we may not have a choice, but eventually everyone has a choice whether to be part of a church family and, if so, which one to join. When they function well, our families, whichever one we’re talking about, become places of safety, places where we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will find love, support, and encouragement as we navigate our way through life.
We have a Wednesday evening meals many weeks of the year, but a few of them are called Family Nights because we want to encourage our church family to make room in their schedules for these meals. Much as the Thanksgiving meals that we will celebrate next week do, they provide opportunities to celebrate that we belong together. They affirm our bonds to one another.
In recent years, the program for our Thanksgiving Family Nights has been the Senior Singers performing their musical. This group of musicians has been part of Broadus since we first existed as a church. The members have changed over the years, and they are fewer in number now than they were twenty years ago, but their twofold ministry has remained the same. They sing hymns in area care facilities, primarily memory care units, on the second Tuesday of each month, and they present a musical in area churches and independent living communities.
This ministry impacts our community in a variety of ways. Music is buried deep in our brains, and often a person who is for the most part non-verbal can still sing a hymn when they are unable to enter into a conversation. Whether they’re singing hymns or their musical, the Senior Singers are bearing witness to a faith that sustains them as they grow older. And they model to their audience one of the aspects of healthy aging: staying engaged.
You do not need to attend Broadus to join the Senior Singers. In fact, most of the group today is comprised of non-Broadus members. What you do need is a love of singing and a desire to share your voice to encourage, inspire, and entertain others. If you want more information on this group, please call our church office at 977-7381, and we’ll get you connected.
Eighteen years ago we added All Saints’ Sunday to our annual church calendar. On the first Sunday in November, we light candles in remembrance of members of our church family who have passed away in the previous twelve months. This is always a poignant service because we are reminded of ones who we love who were with us and now are not. Even though we know that they have taken up residence in their heavenly home, we miss them. This year we lit candles for eight individuals. Memories of them and their contributions to the faith community known as Broadus continue to encourage us and propel us forward as we seek to be faithful to our calling to be a light in our world.
Too often when we hear the word “saint,” we think of individuals who have been canonized by the church. People like Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa. But when Paul refers to saints in Romans 1:7, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” he is talking to you and me, too.
A saint is a person called by God to be holy, to live his or her life for Him. Each and every one of us who call Jesus Lord are called to be saints.
Over the years, we have lit candles for 124 saints. None of them would claim to have been perfect people, and some might even shy away from being called a “saint,” thinking they weren’t worthy of such a title. As Christians, we are learning to live into our calling, learning what it means to seek God first. Sometimes we fail; sometimes we succeed, but that doesn’t change the goal.
On this and every All Saints’ Sunday, we are reminded of our calling and are thankful for the saints who are no longer with us here on Earth, who have set an example for us and have joined the “cloud of witnesses” that continue to encourage us to be faithful followers to the end.
Costumed children, cars with trunks open, hot dogs and cookies, music, and Halloween crafts. It’s almost time for Trunk or Treat!
For about ten years, we’ve invited our neighbors to join us in our lower parking lot on the Sunday before Halloween. There’s always plenty of candy, but it’s not just about letting kids fill up their bags with goodies. It’s about providing a safe place for children and their families. It’s a time for families to enjoy watching their children have fun. It’s a time for us to get to know our neighbors and our neighbors to get to know us. It’s a time for us to talk to the families of our Kingdom Kids for more than a few minutes at pick up and drop off. It’s a time for us to make clear that being a church is about more than getting together on Sunday morning for worship.
Church is about living life together. It’s as we get to know each other as neighbors that we build up the trust that is needed to allow us to call each other friends. It’s friends who you go to when you need a hand or a word of encouragement. It’s a friend who you want to share your joys and sorrows with.
Right now, there seems to be so much division between people. Differences have not become something to celebrate, but rather something to divide us. Trunk or Treat is one of the many ways that we at Broadus want to build community and send the message that “All are welcome.”
It’s happening again this year on Sunday, October 27, 3:00-4:30 PM, and you’re invited to be part of the fun. We’ll serve hot dogs, chips, cookies, and drinks at 4:00 PM. If the weather isn’t good enough to be outside, then we’ll move everything indoors.
So, rain or shine, Trunk or Treat will happen and we hope to see you there!
Several years ago, those of us who work with Broadus’ children on a regular basis through our Kingdom Kids program decided to do something different with Vacation Bible School. Rather than purchase a VBS curriculum from one of the large Christian publishing companies, we created our own homegrown version and called it Hearts and Hands. Its focus is on worship and art. Our goal was not necessarily to have the biggest VBS in town, but rather to stay connected to the children who come to Kingdom Kids during the school year. That meant it needed to be held in the evening when they weren’t in summer school, and it needed to begin with a meal so that we could start early enough to get them home at a reasonable hour. Hearts and Hands was a vision that made sense for us.
This year we held Hearts and Hands on four consecutive Mondays so that if someone was on vacation one week, they didn’t miss out on the whole thing. It happened that this summer two of our Kingdom Kids were in Mexico for the whole summer and two of them had moved out of the area, so our group was smaller than usual. Numbers matter on some level, but we weren’t using that measure. We had a good experience sitting around the table at dinner talking, singing and learning about Jesus, and then creating art together. On the last night, one of the girls wanted to show me a video she had made of her and her cousin singing one of our songs, “Awesome God”, together.
No, we didn’t have huge numbers, but we started creating another beautiful piece of art for our sanctuary and two little girls are singing “Awesome God” and know, along with the other children who came, that they are loved by a God who will never ever leave them.
Do you have a child or know a child in Kindergarten through 5th grade who might like to be a part of Kingdom Kids? If so, call the church office at 434-977-7381 to find out more about registration.
If you’ve never heard of Camp Young at Heart (CYAH), you’re not alone. Even though this program has been going on for fifteen years and information has been sent to churches of every denomination around Charlottesville, many people who register for the first time tell us they’d never heard of it before. For three days in August adults, primarily of retirement age, gather at Aldersgate United Methodist Church to worship, learn, and get to know each other. Classes are offered on a variety of topics, some biblical and others offering the chance to learn a new skill or expand understanding of a particular topic. Some years we’ve had attendance in the mid-60s and other years it’s gotten closer to 90. What is always the case is that 16-19 churches are represented and that they’re not all Baptist. Our theological differences aren’t important. All of us are God’s children and glad to be together, raising our voices in song, bowing our heads in prayer, and engaging our minds in learning.
When we look at Acts and read the various letters that Paul wrote to those first churches in what are now the countries of Greece and Turkey, we hear him plead over and over again for unity. In Ephesians 4:3-6, we read, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” At Camp Young at Heart, we put that lofty goal into place and celebrate our oneness as children of God. In a time when division and rancor seem to be running rampant, it is good to be part of something where that is not present.
Another aspect of CYAH worth celebrating is that it offers participants a chance to learn something new. Every year one of the classes that returns by popular request is Virginia Thompson’s art class. Some years it’s oil painting, other years it’s watercolor or printmaking, but always art. What surprises me every year when I talk to the participants, and admire their artwork, is that for at least one person this is the first time that they’ve ever taken an art class. Many of them have said it was something they always wanted to try, but, for a variety of reasons, they had never done so. Often that reason was a fear of failure, and they had allowed their fear to stop them from pursuing a dream. It is exciting to see someone liberated from fear.
At Broadus, we take seriously our charge to be part of ushering in God’s “kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven.” That means finding unity in the midst of differences, being a faith community where all are welcome, acknowledging that none of us have a lock on the truth and that we’re all in the process of becoming, and always having as our goal to be the presence of Christ in our world. Our support of Camp Young at Heart is just one aspect of putting that charge into action.
If CYAH sounds like something you would like to be part of, you haven’t missed it for 2019! It will be held next week, August 26-28, 9:00 AM-2:00 PM at Aldersgate United Methodist Church. The cost is $25.00 for individuals and $40.00 for couples. You can call the Broadus church office at 434-977-7381 to register.
On Sunday, August 11that 6:30pm we will set up tables at Wilton Farm and distribute school supplies and sign up children for Kingdom Kids. For the past five years or so, we have been joined by teachers and staff from Stony Point Elementary School. This is a wonderful event, and one way you can be involved is to donate school supplies. These are the items that appear in most of the grade level lists: Glue sticks, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, 24 count Crayola crayons, colored pencils, Ticonderoga pencils, marble composition books, two pocket plastic folders, three prong folders, and highlighters. A bin is in the hallway at Broadus to receive your donations.
This partnership has been a yearly tradition for almost two decades. Below is a story from Back to School Night in 2017. It originally appeared in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia’s Mission Box curriculum. If you are interested in accessing that full resource, please email email@example.com.
The sun was beginning to set over the mountains when I arrived at Wilton Farm apartment’s parking lot. Members of Broadus Memorial Baptist Church had set up tables in an “L” before I arrived, and they were now scurrying around organizing and setting out school supplies by grade level. Two teachers from Stony Point Elementary helped make sure supplies matched the lists for each age group. All the while, children meandered around, skipping between the tables and the nearby playground. Some older children climbed trees, and the younger ones slid down slides and pumped their legs to take swings high into the air. Parents wandered up bringing more children and doing the work of keeping them all corralled and out of the street. I offered to help, but mostly stood back and observed. This Back to School Night was running like clockwork, and I was invited to partake in a beautiful expression of God’s love that I had absolutely no hand in creating. This breezy and warm summer evening was the backdrop for a local school, church, and apartment community to come together once again and support our children.
The Broadus folks – most of whom also volunteer in our children’s ministry, Kingdom Kids, where they build relationships through sharing Bible stories, songs, and meals with these same children every Wednesday night of the school year – gathered and settled the families and many children and gave instructions. The kids were divided into their grades and the youngest, kindergarteners getting ready to go to school for the first time, were invited up first. I stood at the backpack table, the start of the assembly line. Their little eyes were wide as they picked out the color pack they wanted. I smiled as they wrapped their arms around a bag that, while scaled to a kindergartener’s size, still seemed to overwhelm their tiny five-year-old frames.
As the kindergarteners picked out their backpacks, I heard familiar joking voices just behind me. Two of our freshmen–twins–who live in Wilton Farm had arrived on the scene. I had only been at Broadus a little less than a year, but they had been a part of Broadus’ family through Kingdom Kids, other Back to School Nights, Sunday mornings, trips to UVA basketball games, and many meals and moments in between–for almost their whole lives. They were baptized into this community and they now offered hugs, high fives, and jokes to the Broadus folks that taught them on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. They are the cool, older kids that the younger ones look to. Their smiles were infectious and they brought an air of ease and joy to the evening. I looked to them and was reminded of the intricate, long work that God does among God’s people. I am thankful for every Broadus member, every Stony Point support staff and teacher, and every Wilton Farm resident and the community members that have been a part of this journey. This is God’s work in the world. Bringing communities together, sharing what we have, receiving the gifts from those we meet along the way and then turning around and offering this story of belonging to others.
There is just something about brand new school supplies. They have always filled me with anticipation, inviting me to dream about the words I will write, the words I will read, the drawings I will create. I saw a flicker of this on the faces of our youngest friends as they made their way around the table for the first time. There were little squeals of excitement as they realized that all of this was theirs to take home and, in just over a week, to school. Their parents and older siblings helped open their bags and the children began to fill them with treasures. Their first stop? Books.
A community member, who is passionate about spreading the love of reading, and who connects with the children periodically through book nights at Kingdom Kids, had gathered piles and piles of books and invited the children to explore the titles that were most appropriate for their age. They slid their treasures into their bright, new packs and continued on. Here, as they rounded the bend in the “L,” they came face to face with the two teachers, for some their very own teachers, who would welcome them to Stony Point Elementary for the first time in a few weeks. They got to say hello, and I suspected, felt a little less anxious about starting their school journey now knowing another smiling adult face that would help them feel safe, loved, and smart.
After introductions, smiles, and encouragement the children picked out their favorite color notebook, paper, pencils, markers, and crayons. They finished off their journey by stocking up on classroom supplies–clorox wipes, tissues, hand sanitizer–all things that would help make their classroom healthy for learning. In just a few short minutes our new kindergarteners were equipped, celebrated, and invited into the excitement of a new school year. They were ready to learn and grow.
This year’s kindergarteners may have made a short trip around a table, but this scene was at least fifteen years in the making. I, like our kindergarten friends, got the distinct privilege of walking up and enjoying decades of relationship building without doing much at all myself. What a grace. I was welcomed into the fold of what God has been doing in partnership with Broadus Memorial Baptist Church, Stony Point Elementary, and Wilton Farm Apartments since the early 2000’s. To learn more about this journey and the community of faith I am now a part of, I sat down with our Associate Pastor, Margarete Gillete, to hear more about how all of this began.
It began, as things often do, with a relationship. There was a Broadus member who lived in a neighborhood near the church and whose daughter attended Stony Point. This naturally provided a connection point and pulled the school onto Broadus’ radar as a space to be a good neighbor. Margarete reached out to Stony Point’s Family Support Worker, Pat, and began to build a relationship. Things like this take time, Margarete notes. It took time to build up trust and to prove, simply by showing up again and again, that we were in this for the long haul. Margarete remains the contact person, and advocate, for this continued partnership. Even as pastors changed, she communicated the history of the work with Stony Point and the families in Wilton Farm and encouraged continued support and relationship building. Back to School Night is just one piece of the ongoing partnership between Broadus, Stony Point, and the children and families who are part of Wilton Farm. As trust grew between Stony Point and Broadus, Pat began to contact Margarete with more ways to support families. The number one goal in any of these support opportunities? Protect and celebrate the dignity of families being served. Whether it is providing a holiday meal, toys at Christmas, or gift cards for groceries, it is so important to “not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). We serve families and strive to be good neighbors by listening to needs, and then meeting those needs in a way that celebrates the image of God in each person.
The image of God, or Imago Dei, we are all created in it; every Broadus member, every person at Wilton Farm, and every Stony Point teacher and support staff. We celebrate this unity by entering into the work God is doing in our neighborhoods. For Broadus Memorial Baptist Church, this looks like a commitment to Wilton Farm and Stony Point that spans decades. We celebrate, with our continued love, that God opened the doors for this partnership all those years ago.
At Broadus Memorial Baptist Church we believe we are called to love God and love our neighbors. The stories you read on this blog offer a witness to the ways we respond to God's love and seek to share that love with others.
Scripture describes the church as a body, made up of many parts. Just as your tiniest toe isn't aware of the intricate work your heart or brain do, it can sometimes happen that people in the church body only see what is happening immediately around them. Our hope is that reading these stories will help forge connection and inspire greater love and understanding for one another.
At Broadus we are a community defined by warm-hearted fellowship and thoughtful inquiry. We hope you see evidence of that in the stories we share here. We hope you know, or come to know, that you are a part of God's grand story and that you are welcome to join us, on a Sunday, a Wednesday, or any gathering in between.
The life of faith is a journey, and we are not meant to walk it alone. Our stories connect us and we are excited to share some of ours with you.
If you have a story you'd like to share or would like to connect in some other way you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (434) 977-7381.
Please visit our new YouTube channel to find all of the latest videos of sermons, Bible studies, and ways to stay connected while we are not gathering in-person.