Friday from First! 3.13.2020
How is First UMC dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our first priority is for each person's safety and well-being, as we place our trust in God and then act with prudence to mitigate the effects of the virus as it spreads. As of this writing, there have been NO cases of COVID-19 in Brown County. But the numbers across the world continue to rise, and we would be foolish to ignore the impact of this virus on members of our community. For example, Oak Hills Living Center and Ridgeway on 23rd are both under 'lockdown' and that means our monthly worship with Holy Communion didn't happen yesterday. It also means members of our congregation who live in these places cannot attend worship or events at our church.
But it doesn't mean we are ready to cancel worship services, as some churches in California, Washington, and New York have had to do. Not yet, anyway. Brown County Public Health is monitoring the situation, and keeping us informed of any changes in protocol the Center for Disease Control might issue. Your Leadership Team will decide how and when we need to adjust our meeting and worship schedule, should the need arise to do so.
Right now, here's what we can do to help:
Wash your hands. "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully." (Psalm 24:3-4)
When you come into the building, you will notice a couple of new hand sanitizer stations, installed by our thoughtful custodian, Dean Fischer. (Thank you, Dean!) One is next to the stairway closest to the restrooms (pictured here) and one is next to the sanctuary entrance nearest the Library Lounge. Please use them!
Greet others without touching. We have practiced multiple ways to 'pass the peace of Christ' (if you need a refresher, just ask one of the children!). As the greeters say hello to you when you enter for worship, please don't be offended if they offer you an elbow or a nod instead of a handshake. Please also consider distancing yourself from other worshipers - allow at least six feet between you (it just means you need to sing louder!).
Stay home if you are sick, or if you are at increased risk for severe illness. This especially applies to older adults and persons of any age with underlying health conditions (recent surgeries included). We love you very much, and we want to protect you from exposure to anything that might compromise your health and safety.
All that said, how can we best be the church during this time of higher anxiety? Here are some ways you can live out your faith and support others:
Pray. Pray not only for those who have become ill, but also for the medical staff whose burden has increased during this crisis. Pray for those whose employment is jeopardized, and for those whose income depends on businesses affected by COVID-19 closures. Pray for students whose education has been suspended and for their teachers and professors. Pray.
Pick up the phone. Many of our congregants fall into the at-risk categories, and they may feel isolated under what amounts to a quarantine. But they can talk on the phone, even if you can't go visit them. So call, and check in. Let them know we are praying for them and we care about them.
Share. Stories of stockpiling and hoarding supplies are all over the news. If you know someone who needs something of which you have plenty, share what you have. Christians gained respect in the first century because they were willing to care for the sick and dying, when no one else would risk it. If you are in good health and able to help others, you can share Christ's love by being generous. Order a takeout or delivery meal to support local restaurants that might be experiencing a decline in business. Find ways to be kind. Care for children whose parents cannot find childcare while they work. Help out at the food shelf. Check on your elderly neighbors who live alone, volunteer to do their grocery shopping.
"Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT
This Sunday we hear from the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. I love this story, and I am so delighted that I get to share it with you all one more time before I retire! "Come see a man who told me everything I'd ever done - do you think this could be Messiah?"
Welcome, Pastor Nick!
By now, members should have received the official letter announcing the bishop's intention to appoint Rev. Nick Scutari to First UMC, effective July 1, 2020. Nick has been pastoring Tracy UMC, and I couldn't be more pleased to know that God has led him and his family to New Ulm! Nick's first Sunday in the pulpit will be June 28th. Please keep him and his wife Stephanie, and their daughters Abi and Zoe in your prayers as they prepare for this transition.
Several weeks ago, I packed up three boxes of books, to give to a young pastor friend who is building his own theological library. I figured it would be an investment in someone else's future ministry. Imagine my delight to learn that I can unpack those boxes now - that young pastor was Nick Scutari!
Coming to Our Senses in Lent Week 3
The Sense of Hearing
The Spiritual Practice of Silence
The Healing of a Deaf-Mute
Join us for supper at 5:30 PM on Wednesdays, followed by cross-generational interactive worship. (We have plenty of hand sanitizer for each table!)
I'm praying for you, Church!
Pastor Jo Anne