We continue to work through challenging times, not just for the church and her ministries, but for our families, our community and the world. We find ourselves looking for good and perfect solutions to the challenges that we face, when the reality is the solution to one issue creates negative consequences on another front. As we stay home to effectively fight this pandemic, we see businesses struggling and unemployment figures rising. As we work to protect our most vulnerable populations, we find ourselves missing the social aspects of life and worship that are so meaningful to our mental and emotional health. We are faced with having to learn new skills and to adapt everything we do to this new reality. And on top of all that, First Wayne Street UMC is dealing with all this amidst a pastoral change.
Decisions that are made about how the church and its ministry will operate moving forward will not be perfect—partly because not everyone will see things the same way and partly because we cannot know exactly how things will play out. We cannot know how responsible and compliant others will be–especially in dealing with the public. We cannot know how the COVID 19 virus will respond to actions taken. And we are faced with ever-changing guidelines from both the federal and state governments, as well as guidelines from our own denomination and Bishop.
Communication is critical in this situation and so I would like to offer important updates with you to guide your ministry and your communications with other church members and ministry teams. Keep in mind that things will continue to change and I will do my best to keep you informed. Feel free to contact me at any time (email@example.com).
As the Senior Pastor of First Wayne Street, it is my responsibility to “order the life of the church.” But I do so, knowing that the gifts and wisdom of the congregation and its leadership are critically important. I also believe that John Wesley’s counsel to “do no harm” and Jesus’ admonition to “love our others as ourselves” should be our guiding principles. I have taken action with input from the FWS Trustees to establish a “Reopening Team” to help guide and implement the ministry of the church in the coming weeks and months. This Reopening Team is comprised of staff members (Cesar Anzaldua, Audra Reinders, Dr. Geoff North and Pastor Cheryl), Trustees (Donna Hochstetler and Holly Redding), Lay Leader Ron Marker, Anna Zartman and incoming Pastor Jason Morris. This team met for the first time on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 to review what guidelines have been offered to churches and to make both decisions and recommendations for use by both staff members and ministry teams.
Discussion included a review of guidelines and input from governmental entities, our United Methodist Bishop Trimble and input from informal discussions with church members via Zoom Sunday School and Zoom coffee groups after worship. While everyone misses being together, there was a strong general consensus that we should move forward very cautiously and folks are not feeling comfortable about in-person activities. Below are the decisions and guidelines that came out of the meeting and I share them with you to guide the work of the church at this time.
Suspension of in-person worship services will extend through Sunday, June 7.
- Continued focus on on-line worship with the intent to improve and hone our skills at virtual worship even after the congregation returns to the sanctuary.
- Care of children will be important when we do gather
- We will continue to re-evaluate and as we get closer to possible in-person worship, all safety guidelines, signage, and communication with the congregation will be implemented.
- Live singing extends the contagion significantly and will impact use of choirs and congregational singing for some time.
All outside groups that currently use the building are suspended indefinitely.
- Connie Boren (office manager) will contact all groups to advise.
Staff are able (but not required) to work at the church at their own discretion and should abide by safe practices, such as social distancing, not coming to the church if they do not feel well, frequent hand-washing and use of sanitizing products, etc.
In-person ministry gatherings are suspended at this time to include church meetings, small group gatherings, Sunday School, music rehearsals and monthly Life at the Table dinner church. Meetings and small groups can be conducted using virtual technology, such as Zoom. As we see what happens over the next several weeks as businesses and the community begin to open up, we will continue to reassess how and when groups may begin to meet using safe practices and under specific guidelines from the Reopening Team.
Decisions about community gatherings and ministries are difficult ones, since these have been wonderful ministries of the church. While some events may technically be allowed under the Governor’s staging plans, just because we can do them does not mean we should do them. For the present we are suspending all community events that would bring the public into the church building.
- Water bottle ministry at the Farmer’s Market—currently suspended
- Rummage Sale—suspended; the team felt that we do not want to begin collecting the huge amount of rummage normally received, only to have TRF cancelled PLUS concerns over general public in the church building and assumptions that folks will be far less interested in buying rummage.
- Ice Cream Social—questionable, but no decision needs to be made at this time.
There was a concern that some events are also fundraisers for youth and VBS ministries. The FWS Administrative Council discussed that they would be aware that some of their contingency funds may be needed by these ministries to offset loss of revenue from the Rummage Sale and the Mother’s Day Bake Sale, for example.
Trustee Holly Redding will contact Church Mutual Insurance regarding any liability issues for the church and any guidelines they offer for reopening the church.
Pastor Cheryl and Cesar will handle the pricing and purchasing of appropriate personal protective products for the church, such as free-standing no-touch dispensers for hand sanitizer, masks and gloves. Many of these items are back-ordered.
Ministry for the foreseeable future will be different and effective ministry will happen in new ways by thoughtful and creative people. We have the opportunity to see ministry in more effective ways than ever before, and we have the faithful and gifted folks to make it happen!