Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - July 13, 2020

As part of our work in the church, we want to hear from YOU. We have created a survey to help us know how you have been and want to be engaging in our ministries going forward. It should take less than 5 minutes and can be done by one person in your household answering for all, or multiple, but may require the second user to work from a different IP address. Please take a few minutes to answer and help us plan more appropriately. Your answers will not be shared in any person-specific way.


Last week, someone asked: What responsibility does the church have in societal behavior modification during a pandemic?

I wrote out my answer to him and thought it might be helpful to share with all of you too. Please know I'm always happy to have a conversation and answer any questions you have about what we are doing or why we are doing it. Here's what I said:

I don't have a great/perfect/right answer. I believe we (UMC in general, plus most mainline folks) have tried to live faithfully in closing and then re-opening slowly and intentionally. There are many ministries that we have learned to do online and it is both burdensome and a blessing. AND, many ministries simply cannot happen online...often crisis care and deeply emotional care (related to illness, death, abuse, mental health, and more).

Trying to find a balance in caring for the whole person and reaching the varied needs of people while also slowing the spread and protecting public health is incredibly challenging.

The people I know and do ministry with genuinely care about the health of *their* people and the welfare of the community. It is hard to feed the hungry when you can't be in the kitchen to cook or serve a meal. It is hard to minister to the lost and the lonely when they only find our doors closed. Ministry is primarily the work of and with and for the people. It's hard to do that work virtually. I'm not saying there shouldn't be extreme care and caution, but there is such a large messy picture to work on.

Locally, you know we have stayed virtual for most everything. We are working on a plan to take the next step in re-opening, which would allow for in-person worship with fewer than 50 persons (including masking, distancing, disinfecting, and more) and trying to make those plans wisely. You may also have noted, we are seeing a significant community spread in our county and we don't take those cases lightly.

On the macro level, I think the church takes responsibility by modeling *good* behavior...taking seriously the risks and local numbers, creating plans for the what-ifs....what if we have to shelter in place again? What if someone with COVID comes to our worship space and we have to do contact tracing? What if someone from our congregation gets the virus and falls seriously ill? How do we come alongside (while protecting individuals) to offer support and care for them or their families?

As a general practice, we mask. We ask others to mask. We use fresh air where it's available. We open windows and doors if we need to be inside for our gathering (while recognizing that won't be feasible in the winter months...) We wash religiously. We distance. We stay extra mindful of the most vulnerable within our reach. And we pray for those who are sick, those who are working the frontlines, those who are researching to find a cure, and those in office who should be offering leadership in all of this.

We also continue to work at being the church in significant ways. We have a fund to help those with financial needs. Throughout the pandemic, we have been able to pay for gas, buy groceries, stock the little pantry, provide emergency shelter at a hotel, and help pay bills for individuals. We are looking into ways we might potentially help our local schools for the Fall. We are getting creative about how to support our local ministry partners in their work as we know all have been impacted financially.

Though our doors have been closed, we are still very much a church and are committed to sharing the Good News of Jesus in as many ways as possible.

And I want to add, I am so grateful for all of you! You are amazing and have been so gracious about our adaptations and changes, including the sacrifices you have made in how we do worship, small groups, and meetings. Your generosity has helped brighten spirits, nurture to those who are struggling, and strengthen the work we are doing in this strange and unpredictable times.

Again, I encourage you to take the survey. And I ask you to pray for our community that we can slow the current spread and help our area stay safe and healthy.

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie


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