June 8, 2020
Greetings once again, fellow First Methodist Family-
I am writing with updates on our reopening plans. Also, I want to highlight volunteer opportunities which are critical to carrying out these plans.
Our reopening team continues work to prepare for numerous details and anticipate the safest way to do things. Thanks to John McWhorter and Ron Leonard and their team in particular for their work developing a plan for live worship service broadcasts. The remainder of the team- Roger, Barbara McWhorter, Jenny Varner, Lee Mabe, Paul Crago, Donna Smith, Wayne Michael, David Stott and Terri Beck have dedicated many hours to this effort. Please acknowledge and thank them.
Know this about reopening:
We will be guided in our final decision making by Bishop Leeland, DS Laura Auten, the State of NC, Rev. Kirk Tutterow and Rev. Cheryl Skinner, other churches and your consensus. We will not be pioneers in this but we must make progress.
Safety is our first priority. Many protocols and procedures are being developed to make sure we and you do everything we can to be safe.
You will have options. If you are led to attend in person, we welcome you and ask that you follow our guidelines. If you need to stay home, we are working extra hard to make sure your worship experience is the best possible.
We will return to in person worship and live broadcast at the same time and plan to continue broadcasting into the future.
We need volunteers:
USHERS- we will need more ushers to facilitate a safe environment. You will be well trained. Contact Richard Foust at Rfoustdeacon@gmail.com.
BROADCAST TEAM- we will need a sound person and a video operator at each 11:00 service. Contact John McWhorter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CREATIVE HELP- our broadcast team is in need of someone with experience in video graphics to make our broadcast high quality. Contact John McWhorter at email@example.com.
Roger's final Sunday in the pulpit is Sunday, June 14. I want to thank him for all he has done to lead us through the last two years and wish him much enjoyment in his so-called retirement. He and Cindy will host a Drive-Thru Goodbye on Sunday, June 28. Look for more details on that and please make plans to stop by.
Please continue to pray for us, specifically in our teams' decision-making, for our church family and that we find the volunteers needed.
Much love and respect to you,
May 25, 2020
I want to share an update on our reopening response team plans. Your continued prayers and support for others’ decision making around personal needs is very important. People who stay home aren’t afraid. People who need to be with others aren’t careless.
The reopening committee met again May 21. We determined that our objective of returning to in-person worship in late May or early June lacks support by our committee. In addition, we thought we would not be getting guidance from our Bishop, but instead we have heard clearly through our District Superintendent that they do not support re-opening for the foreseeable future. What we decided to focus on instead is to develop our live broadcast and recording of worship to make it the best experience possible. Since we will continue this along with in-person worship eventually, this makes the most sense for now.
We will not return to in-person worship for the foreseeable future. I for one am not sure if this is best for us or not, but we cannot do anything until we have consensus. In the meantime, we will be working on making virtual worship the best it can be.
May 18, 2020
Dear Fellow Members of First United Methodist Church,
Our work on re-opening continued the week of May 11. Our team has been considering all the details of being safe and I want to say how thankful I am for their work and your prayers. Welcome to the next new normal.
While we still don’t have definite dates for you, I can tell you we are targeting the end of this month or the first Sunday of June for beginning in person worship. We will also offer broadcast versions of worship if you are not ready to come back. Look for Roger’s homilies and messages on our website in addition to an electronic worship option. We will give you details on where to find all this soon.
We decided it is important to communicate the new normal procedures so everyone understands that we are not just unlocking the doors and picking up where we left off. Here are some new things to expect:
Safety is still our first priority.
We have developed a conservative plan of prevention. There will be one door to enter and exit the church, although exit doors will obviously not be locked. This is to avoid congregating.
There will be no hymnals or bibles in the pews. We will not hand out bulletins at first. Bring your own electronic versions.
We request everyone wear a mask, although physical distancing and hand washing are more important. You may sit with people who live under the same roof, but please do not sit or stand within 6 feet of anyone who is not part of your household. Ushers will help direct you where it is safe and we will have spaces marked. Please follow their requests.
There will be no balcony seating at first.
We will hold one worship service at 10:00 am. We will continue to do Zoom Sunday School but haven’t yet decided when that will be held.
Please limit bathroom use.
We will not be passing the offering plate. Instead, please drop your offering in a box that will be located in the sanctuary. This is also a good opportunity to remind everyone that we have electronic giving options using the QR code in our newsletter and bulletin, or you can mail your gifts to 310 South Main Street or use a credit card (although it costs us for you to do that). I am also very happy and pleased to report that due to your generosity, our church-wide giving is AHEAD of budget at this point in the year!
Here is something I never imagined – we will be photographing or videoing our congregation to facilitate something known as contact tracing. Just smile and show your joy at being together!
Roger met with GLAMA last week and reports that no other member churches are making plans to reopen. This gives me some pause as we don’t intend to lead a charge against COVID 19, but I hope you value our foresight and planning as we prepare to conduct ourselves in the safest manner possible as we face the uncertainties of this virus.
Your continued prayers for our congregation are still needed and appreciated.
May 11, 2020
Dear Fellow Worshippers:
Last week a group formed to begin building a roadmap to re-opening our church. In the past two months we have discovered new ways to conduct worship that will endure and evolve, but returning to in-person worship and connection with each other is important also. Thanks to Roger Weisner, Lee Mabe, Donna Smith, Barbara McWhorter, Paul Crago, Jenny Varner and Wayne Michael for attending the meeting and to David Stott, Ron Leonard and Mark Hinkle and others for playing important roles. We will need your help as well.
Here are the priorities for our mission so far:
Safety is paramount – we will issue and follow guidelines on cleaning, spacing, personal protective equipment and new processes for things like communion and collecting offerings. We will do many things differently for a while.
We expect a gradual return to opening. We will probably conduct this in 3 phases, the first of which is one worship service. We will also record and broadcast our service for the for seeable future in which everyone can participate virtually. We will still do Sunday School on Zoom for some time.
Physical worship attendance will be limited in number, especially early on. It will include music but in different ways.
We will be led by guidelines issued by our Bishop and the state of North Carolina as to timelines. At this point, churches are allowed to open in phase 2, with limitations. We don’t have a date to report to you at this time.
I feel it necessary to remind everyone that we all reach safety and peace of mind differently. We are not encouraging anyone to come to worship until you are ready and it is safe for you. In fact, if you are vulnerable in any way, please join us from home. On the other hand, if you are at home, please don’t judge those who feel safe and a need to attend. We are all called individually and this group is trying to provide a means to worship for everyone. We are called to love each other, in this time more than ever.
We will be meeting a couple more times as we identify issues and build our plan. I will do my best to keep you informed. If you have questions or concerns, please contact me or anyone in this group.
Your sincere prayers are greatly appreciated,
Steve Jackson, Church Council Chairperson