June 4, 2020
Dear FUMC Family
First of all, we want to say thank you! The prayers, encouragement, and support you’ve given to us as a staff during this difficult time have been such a strength and blessing. We love you and are tremendously thankful for you!
Second, we recognize that this quarantine has been tough. And as time goes on, we’re all longing to see each other again. But along with those feelings come many different - even confusing or conflicting - messages. So it seemed crucial to us that we communicate some clear direction to you in regard to where we are and where we’re going as a congregation.
Moving Forward: When and How Should We Meet?
There is a lot on the line when it comes to this question. The matter of re-gathering together includes the emotional and spiritual well-being of each person in our congregation - and we do believe that being together with the Body is crucial. It also involves the physical well-being of people, and we must especially consider those connected to our ministry who are most vulnerable to this dangerous and not-yet-understood disease. So we as a staff are seeking to make a decision that is both Spirit-led and well-informed. We are praying a lot, individually and together (over Zoom, of course). We are also paying attention to statements from our Governor and other authorities, from our Bishop, and from other faith-communities locally and around the country. Given the uncertainty and ever-changing nature of this pandemic, it is not possible to declare any definite long-term plans or dates; however, we also don’t want to keep you guessing. So for now, we are sharing our decisions for the summer.
In cooperation with the Governor’s proclamation that smaller groups can begin meeting, and because of our need as humans to be with each other, we are allowing smaller groups (including life groups, prayer groups, etc.) to consider reconvening. But first, recognize that not all group members may feel comfortable doing so just yet. We call all leaders to show grace in your invitations, and consider allowing a hybrid gathering with some joining in-person and others joining virtually. And second, all groups must meet safely. The following is our “Top 10 List” of precautions for small groups this summer:
- Keep it to 25 people or less
- Stay outdoors
- Stay 6+ feet apart
- Wear a mask (if you can’t keep 6 feet apart)
- Bring your own chair
- Bring your own food/drink (or none at all)
- Don't use the restroom (We suggest a time limit of approx. 60-90 min)
- Wash hands/use sanitizer before and after
- Anyone with symptoms of any kind for the previous 48 hours (fever, sore throat, respiratory symptoms, etc. - even if you think it's allergy related), should not attend
- Anyone with symptoms of any kind within 7 days after meeting in-person with the group, should contact the group, and Pastor Sam or the staff, immediately
We all want to be together again! But in light of the information we’re receiving, and through much prayer and discussion, we have decided to continue our quarantine from large-group gatherings. So we are planning on having no activities at the building, but keeping all services, meetings, and ministries virtual through the summer (including VBS - the children’s team will evaluate other options for ministry this summer). We will continue monitoring the situation - let us all keep an open mind, and be prepared to adjust restrictions looser or tighter, sooner or longer, as necessary.
Moving Forward: Our Posture
In everything, we’re asking all of us to remember that what is most important - more than any position held, or decision made - is our posture as God’s people. Don’t forget that we are reflections of Christ in this world, and everything we say or do (or post), and the attitudes and tones behind it, creates positive or negative ramifications. In light of that, may we embrace the following posture toward God, each other, and others around us:
Humility. Yes, all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is frustrating, and our temptation is to believe “I know best.” But NO ONE - including our government, the experts, our staff, and even you - knows the right answer in any of this. May we all recognize that people are trying to make the best possible decision for the most people possible.
Unity. As God’s people, we have a different goal than the world does. We must not seek our own comfort or well-being at another’s expense; rather, we work for and with each other. And unity doesn’t equal uniformity: we will disagree on many things, but we can keep holding on to our common (and most important) vision and mission together.
Grace. Let us throw away our attitudes of condemnation toward others who hold a different position, make choices we don’t understand, or don’t act/speak with their best behavior (you and I don’t always either). Everyone is under a great degree of stress - give each other the benefit of the doubt and “make allowance for each other’s faults” (Col 3:13).
Love. “Above all else, clothe yourselves with love” (Col 3:14). “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another” (Rom 13:8). “[If I] do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2).
In other words, may we seek to live right, not merely be right!
Finally, we want to acknowledge the reality that this season has been (and will continue to be) very painful. This pandemic has created quite a strain on us in multiple ways - physically, relationally, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and/or financially. We see you, and we care! We as a staff are committed to your safety and your well-being, and will continue to do all we can to lead you and meet your needs. More importantly, God cares - He sees you, He is with you, He has not forgotten you! May we all find comfort in God’s invitation and promise to us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6)
Your staff - Pastor Sam, Matt, Leon, Will, Shawn, and Pat