We Will Not Fear...
March 16, 2020
Bishop Ough sent this message to all churches this morning. Please take a moment to read it, then come back to this blogpost to learn how ministry at First UMC will be affected in the weeks to come. (Go ahead ... I'll wait ...)
ALL in-person worship, activities, meetings, and gatherings are suspended, effective immediately.
This means there will be:
- NO Lord's Laborers
- NO UMW circles
- NO Wednesday RECHARGE meals or in-person worship
- NO Community Breakfast
- NO in-person Sunday worship.
This suspension will last at least through the month of March, at which time the bishop and your Leadership Board will reassess, and determine if we can resume our regular schedule. However, the Center for Disease Control issued a recommendation yesterday to cancel all group gatherings of 50 or more people for the next EIGHT weeks. (Easter may have to come a bit late this year.) The situation changes rapidly, so our plans may change almost as quickly. But I have good news, too...
We WILL be live-streaming an adapted form of our Wednesday night Coming to Our Senses in Lent, probably through Facebook Live (at least this week). You do not have to be 'on Facebook' to see it: once the live stream broadcast is complete, a link to the video will be posted on our website under the Lent 2020 tab.
We WILL live-stream the complete Sunday worship service the same way.
We WILL distribute diapers to families who register for the Blessed Bottoms diaper giveaway (and if you happen to see baby wipes, please pick up ONE package to donate - those things are hard to find these days!) but those registered will be asked to make an appointment to pick up diapers, instead of just dropping in.
We WILL hold our regular monthly Leadership Board meeting in April, and if we cannot meet in person, we will meet through a Zoom online meeting format.
We WILL continue to hold one another in prayer, and check in on our neighbors to make sure they have what they need, especially our elderly or at risk neighbors, or those who live in facilities that are currently locked down. In fact, Lay Leader Sue Loose is working to connect folks with each other, and she'd love to hear from you if you would be willing to help with this endeavor.
We WILL maintain regular office hours of 8-1 Tuesday, and 9-1 W-F. The work of the church doesn't stop just because we can't meet together in person. As I said on Sunday, the Church never closes ... but sometimes it changes location.
We WILL continue to accept your tithes and offerings, so that our ministry continues without interruption. There are three ways you can keep your giving up to date:
1. Mail in your weekly/monthly contribution
2. Give online through our church PayPal account (you can also access this from the website by scrolling down to the bottom of the page and clicking on the "Donate" button)
3. Set up an automatic bank transaction that deposits your offering right into the church's checking account. Call Lorna in the church office to learn more about this option. It's a great way to keep your pledge up to date when you aren't able to attend worship.
We are also in conversation with the New Ulm Public Schools, and will likely become one of their distribution points for students to pick up lunches and learning materials while the schools are shut down. This is a great opportunity to introduce families to our church, and help them feel loved and welcome here.
In the book of Acts, the church grew because it was dispersed under persecution. Those first Christians couldn't hunker down in the upper room for long - they were forced into a new way of 'being the church' as they scattered. Just because we can't gather in the sanctuary together on Sunday morning doesn't mean we stop being the church, either. We may be scattered, but this only gives us more opportunities to connect with people in our community who need to know that God loves them right now.
The last part of Sunday's sermon was a challenge to all of us. The well is deep, and we have water to share. It's time for us to be the church that the world desperately needs us to be.
Please wash your hands. Fear not, God is with you. I'm praying for you, Church. - Pastor Jo Anne