Friday from First! 3/27/2020
See Jesus. Show Jesus. Share Jesus.
Governor Walz issued a "stay home' order that takes effect at midnight tonight (Friday, March 27, 2020). Bishop Ough had already urged Minnesota and Dakotas UMC congregations to refrain from in-person worship through at least May 10th. While you may be feeling disappointment as you realize how this will affect you personally, I want you to know that the work of the church continues - it's just going to look a bit different for a few weeks. Clergy and church staff are exempt from the stay home order, so Lorna will continue to be in the Church Office Tuesday-Friday mornings. But she needs you to call ahead if you plan to come in (and really, you shouldn't be coming in, unless you are an offering counter!).
I will primarily be working from home - it's where worship will be happening over the next few weeks, and this will also help me keep a safe distance from Lorna. I will be stopping in at the church daily, but if you need to reach me the best way to do that is my cell phone.
This afternoon, the Blessed Bottoms team worked diligently to make sure all the families who had registered for diapers could get them before the Stay Home order goes into effect. Thank you for supporting this ministry with your contributions of wipes and diapers - we had enough wipes to bless all the bottoms on our list!
We will continue to monitor the progress of COVID-19 containment, and Lorna is keeping the news outlets updated on our status. Please take the Stay Home order seriously. The life you save could be your own, but it's more likely that your compliance will help save others. You'll be modeling Christian love!
Live Stream Worship through May 10, 2020
Thanks to all of you who participated in the live stream worship last Sunday! You can watch that worship service here if you missed it. Remember that you can see the live stream even iwithout a Facebook account. Go to www.facebook.com/firstumcnewulm/ and you will be on the church Facebook page. Scroll down until you see the live video.
If you view the service this way, you may not be able to add comments, so be sure to send an e-mail to Lorna in the church office so she can add you to the attendance records. And if others in your household are viewing with you, be sure to add their names in the comment section or in your email.
This Sunday, we'll be gathering around our electronic devices once again, for Living Room Worship at 9:30 AM. I am hoping to use the lessons I learned last week, so the experience will go a little more smoothly for you all! We will hear the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and look for the hope of resurrection in that story.
Speaking of Resurrection...
We are heading into uncharted territory this Easter. We cannot return to our sanctuary until after May 10th, as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19 by staying away from each other. I think of people throughout history who have been unable to worship in groups of more than two or three, and I am gaining a new appreciation for the privilege of praying, singing, and hearing the Word as the assembled Body of Christ. What I think I will miss most this year is sharing Christ's Table with you during Holy Week.
What a great opportunity to share our worship with people who might not 'go to church' - but might be willing to view the live-streamed service from the safety of their own homes! For example, a third of our viewers this week have been people with whom you shared the Facebook link. So as I re-think how to shape our Holy Week services as online experiences, be praying for those who might only catch a glimpse as they scroll through your social media timeline. Together, let's see Jesus and show Jesus, and ultimately share Jesus through this new medium.
You can join next Wednesday's final installment of Coming to Our Senses in Lent here. That Zoom link won't go 'Live' until Wednesday, just before 6:15 pm, but it will allow us to see and talk to each other, almost as if we were in the same room. We will be exploring the sense of smell, and the spiritual practice of prayer.
If you have a scented candle or some incense you could burn during this session, or even an essential oil diffuser, that will be great. Or maybe just cook/bake something that smells really good! In a way, doing this final session remotely is a blessing. It works out well for those of you with fragrance sensitivities, who might have had those sensitivities triggered by the incense I will be burning. Join us!
We will continue to worship from your pastor's living room during Holy Week. Join Bruce and me for a Maundy Thursday service at 7 pm April 8th, and a Good Friday Tenebrae (service of shadows) at 7 pm April 9th. If you prefer to have your own family observance of these two services, I've put together an order of worship you can follow at home, without depending on the internet. It is included in the April Circuit Rider, and you can also download the files from our website here.
I'm still working on Palm Sunday and Easter morning - want to help me with this? How about you send me a picture or video of you and your family waving branches you cut from your yard (or use paper from your recycling bin), or waving cloths (a dish towel or scarf works pretty well for this) as you have a "procession" around your house or yard? And I'm still looking for folks to make videos of yourselves (or family members) reading scripture. Here are some passages we need to have read over the next couple of weeks, to give you an idea of what you could be reading:
Will you help?
A Final Word
Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of 'helpful' resources being offered to help navigate this new reality. Then I remember that all the shiny new techno-toys can't replace the one thing we have going for us that others might not have: we know Jesus, and we know that Jesus loves us. Jesus doesn't really care how fancy our technology is. Jesus only cares that we love one another as he has loved us.
I got a card today from someone who saw our worship service on Sunday. It was a note of encouragement, and it contained a handmade refrigerator magnet that says, "NEVER give up Hope!" Good words.
Thank you for the prayers you have been praying. Thank you for continuing your financial support of our church's ministry. Thank you for seeing Jesus, showing Jesus, and sharing Jesus - by staying home, by reaching out through social media, by picking up the phone, by sending an encouraging card to someone else. We'll get through this. Keep washing your hands. Never give up hope!
I'm praying for you, Church!
Pastor Jo Anne