Dear sisters and brothers:
Grace and peace to you in the name of the Great Physician and Healer from Galilee: Jesus the Christ!
If you’re anything like me, those are words you really need to hear right now, “Grace and peace.” Hear those words, grasp those words, and plug those words into your heart, mind, and soul. No matter what else happens, we have those words.
Yesterday, Rev. Dr. Matthew Lake from First Church Williamsport (PA) posted the following on Facebook: “Christ existed before the coronavirus. Christ is with us during the coronavirus. Christ will be here long after the coronavirus. That good reality gives me much comfort. ‘And it was very good…’ Gen 1:31”
Let us all find comfort in the promises of God and God’s eternal presence in our lives during these intense times of rapid change, confusion, and anxiety.
Based on the most recent recommendations of the CDC, Governor Wolf, and President Trump, Bishop Park and the cabinet strongly suggest that churches not hold “in person” worship for at least the next two weeks. In keeping with that suggestion, the church council has voted to do exactly that, as well as cancel Sunday school, and postpone the council meeting scheduled for tonight (3/17). Other events and meetings might also meet the same fate in the days to come. However, we will continue to worship, praise God in the middle of the storm, and be in mission and ministry to God’s people in the Waynesboro area … just differently; let me explain what that might look like.
Worship: We will continue to provide a planned and organized Sunday morning worship experience that will be available to view through Facebook Live (although other options exist, Facebook’s is easy to use). If you currently have a Facebook account, all you need to do is go to our page at Christ UM Church (or use this url: https://www.facebook.com/UMCChrist/ ), like the page and sign-up for notifications of Live videos, or just go to the page at 10:45 on Sunday morning (refresh the page as necessary). If you are not on Facebook but have a computer or a smartphone, consider signing up for it, even if you delete the account after we go back to a regular worship schedule. Once the worship experience is complete, the video will be available for viewing on our page. Although we are still working out details and bugs, we are hoping that you will be able to post comments, questions, and prayers that we can address as they come in.
Prayer time: Our regular time of sharing joys and concerns will be limited, as will our time for gathering together for prayer (Wednesday’s Prayer Breakfasts are on hold), I will begin using Facebook Live for midweek prayer and devotional on Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. and invite you to join me. You can participate by sharing requests as comments, sending me texts, emails, or private messages, and engaging in the prayer by commenting with “Amen” and the like. Please remember that when posting requests to only use first names if any at all in order to protect confidentiality.
Sunday school: I have heard from a number of folks about how much they are appreciating the current study and how it is being presented. We are looking into some video conferencing options to see if Sunday school can continue, but we might not be ready for this week. If you have been participating in the study, I would encourage you to continue reading and await contact by Dave Deatrich.
Outreach and economic impact: Although it is way too early to know the complete impact these shut-downs and closures will have, I am sure there will be some, especially among the ones who are already living on the edge paycheck-to-paycheck, including some of our staff and parishioners. Rest assured the staff will continue to be paid. Suzannah’s Pantry will still be in service to the community. Our policy has been to limit clients to one visit per month, but we will be increasing that to twice a month for at least the near future. The Missions team will also be looking for other ways to reach out to the community during this difficult time (including grocery or food delivery to folks who are most at risk).
You: We care deeply about each and every one of you and are taking these steps out of concern for your health and safety. We ask each of you to take whatever precautions may be necessary. We also ask you to assist us in the following ways:
- Prayer: be in prayer for the church, your neighbors, the community, the kids who are home from school in situations that are less than loving, health care professionals who are putting themselves at risk for us, and those whose guidance we desperately need.
- Reaching out: while you are self-quarantining pick up the phone and call our shut-ins and at-risk folks who are feeling even more lonely than usual since they cannot receive visitors; write them notes of encouragement and love so they know they are not forgotten.
- Financially: please don’t “wait and see” when things go back to normal, send your regular tithes and contributions to the church office so we can continue to pay salaries, bills, and expand our missions (even to new ones addressing needs that surface during this time).
It is only by coming together that we can avoid coming apart. As the theme of Annual Conference has been for the last few years: We are Better Together.