About Online Security, Accountability and Transparency 

May 12, 2020

Friends, there have been several things recently which have raised our awareness to communicate directly with you as our congregation when the church’s message and mission are under attack and when fraudulent activity is taking place.  While it might seem like something that is just part of life in the chaos of the world in which we live, we do not want to take for granted the sacred trust and covenant we share with all of you.  As these things happen, we want to communicate and pray you will do the same, by both noticing and reporting it.

So, this seems like a good time to mention a simple best practice regarding money and boundaries. We value transparency and accountability. NO ONE from Plymouth Church UCC staff will ever, and should never, ask you for money in secret without anyone else knowing. If we ever make a request that's not public, you can verify it with Council leadership.

Also, if clergy or other staff ever behave with you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, in person or otherwise, please do talk with a trusted leader from the Church Council, the Conference Minister's office, or another minister on staff. People often don't report inappropriate behavior because they feel ashamed or embarrassed. Yet those feelings can be the very indicators that there's been a boundary violation.

This role the clergy and staff share with us all is a sacred trust. We all need accountability. Whether it's an impostor acting or our own poor judgement, you honor our relationship when you hold us to a standard of conduct. That's part of the redemptive power of community.

In March and April, many of us received emails from someone that looked as if it might have been from our Lead Pastor, Rev. Dr. Kelle Brown.  If you looked closely at the email address, one would see if was not from the church domain, and in a couple of cases, her name and the message often contained misspellings.  This is not the first time a staff member has been the subject of “spoof emails.”  Unfortunately, those who respond are often asked for money, or the message has a computer virus attached.  This has happened before to Kelle and others.  Each time we’ve taken measures to block senders from our system and when appropriate, reported to the authorities for follow-up.

Last Sunday, May 10, during our worship broadcast on Zoom and Livestream to our Plymouth YouTube channel, the church was the victim of a vicious assault by an unknown and sophisticated internet intruder.  We are grateful for the prompt action of our group leaders to try to address the matter. For several minutes, during the prayer and passing of the peace, the sound of a crying baby could be heard, and one of the “box” images contained a video of a female child being sexually assaulted.  We do not yet know the extent to which persons in the congregation may have been traumatized by seeing these images, but we know it was replicated to different viewers as if it was coming from someone within the congregation, friends we know and trust.  It was horrific and we are devasted to have this happen at all, most especially on Mother’s Day.  If you saw the video and desire further support, care and/or counseling, please let a member of our Pastoral Care Team know so we can respond to you. In no way do we trivialize this incident as a “to be expected” occurrence in the times in which we live.  This was not just a “Zoom bomb,” it was an assault to who we are as a faith community.
 
Moving forward, we are taking additional measures to try and make our online experience of community together more secure.  For all future Zoom events, we will be including a “waiting room” feature where the event host/co-host will moderate and allow entry individually. We will also be requiring a password for all events, which is the 4 digits of our Plymouth physical address (1217)The links on our website and in emails will only take you to the meeting.  You will need to enter the password (1217) to enter the waiting room and be in the gathering.  This will take a bit of adjustment, and we plan to have additional people monitoring to assist if you have difficulty.  For other separately scheduled video meetings for conducting the business and ministry of the church, participants will be emailed directly with links and passwords to connect.
 
If you are connecting by phone only, you will dial the phone number as usual for the meeting and when prompted, add the password (1217).  If you have difficulty, you are welcome to contact me, Rev. Steve Davis, by phone call/text (325.725.2423) and I will try to assist you with technical support and/or direct you to the meeting host for assistance. Please refer to the website for weekly gathering links and remember our password (1217) to connect.
 
Thank you for your understanding and support as we endeavor to create a more secure environment for our online gatherings and worship.  For the next two Sundays, May 17 and May 24, worship will be premiered on the Plymouth Church Seattle YouTube channel. There is no password needed for viewing.  Those who have a gmail related email account can easily participate in the “chat” section during the service premier for sharing comments and greetings.  While we know how much we want to be with each other and see each other in meaningful connections, we are taking these measures for the wellbeing and security of our community until other more secure actions can be put in place.

If you have questions or concerns, please reach out, sdavis@plymouthchurchseattle.org or call.
 
Yours in grace and hope,
Rev. Steve Davis, Executive Minister



Topics: Church Life

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