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March 13, 2020
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in God my heart trusts.” Psalm 28:7
The Church Council met this past Tuesday to discuss and discern a good and faithful Chatham UMC response to the COVID-19 virus. There have been numerous discussions this week with members and leaders of our church as well. I just got off the ZOOM video conference call with some members of our Church Council and we have come to some clarity.
With reluctance, but with clarity, we have decided to close the church for at least the next three Sundays: March 15, March 22 and March 29. We believe that this is actually a compassionate and faithful investment in the long-term health of the greater community, that serves the common good of all people. Even though our building will be closed for worship and other community gatherings, our CUMC staff and lay leadership will continue to be involved in ministry, virtual community building online, and outreach. Even though people in our CUMC membership may be house-bound, God continues to call us to support the ministries of Jesus done through Chatham UMC with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.
Worship and Spiritual Formation
Although the church building will be closed, we encourage all of our members and friends to worship, pray, read scriptures and be present to the Presence from our own homes on Sunday mornings. We will be posting a worship experience on Vimeo and Facebook by Sunday morning so that we will be able to sing a hymn together, hear the scriptures read, and hear a message of spiritual encouragement online. You can worship this way from your own home on Sunday morning, or you can access this resource whenever it is convenient for you. I will send out an email on Saturday night or Sunday morning with a link to the worship video. I will send out an invitation link to a Zoom meeting, where we can drink a cup of coffee or tea from our own homes, and talk with one another in real time for about 30 minutes on Sunday morning at 10am. We are limited to the first 50 people who log onto Zoom for coffee and conversation. We’ll try this and see how we can improve and include more in weeks to come.
Care for our Congregation Members and Friends
It is vital for us as a church community to be in touch with one another during this time when so many will be practicing social distancing. One of the risks we all face is isolation that moves us further and further way from one another, and away from community experiences that connect us and bless our lives. Please reach out to one another in the church, via texts, emails, phone calls, face time, social media, and check in with each other.
We are planning ways that we can intentionally enhance the groups that are already formed by formalizing what used to be called “phone trees.” We are hoping to allocate a point person in each of these groups so that one person can call 2 or 3 others in the group, who will then call two or three others. There will be overlap, as some of our members and friends are involved in numerous groups.
Some of the groups that would easily fit into this attempt to connect and care for our congregation would include such groups as:
If you are part of these groups or other groups not listed, and would like to be one of those who reach out to others in the group, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I anticipate we will need 30-40 others in our congregation, who are willing to call and/or text and/or email others in our congregation who are not involved in any groups. If you would be interested in being one of these volunteers, please email me at email@example.com so that I can give you some names and numbers to reach out to.
Please keep in prayer, our church, our world and especially those living with the COVID-19 Virus. Let us pray for those in the medical profession as they respond with wisdom and compassion in these stressful conditions. Let us pray for politicians, policy makers, administrators and agencies that serve the common good, that they be inspired with wisdom, courage, and compassionate leadership. Let us pray for those living in fear and isolation, that they might know the loving and assuring Presence of God, right where they are.
These are just a few ideas that the leadership of the Chatham UMC is discussing and implementing. There will be further emails sent out in the near future. The situations in the world are changing quickly and we will change and respond accordingly. Our response will be imperfect at times, but hopefully we will remain motivated by our desire to continue to be in ministry, in communication, in connection with one another, and able to live out the Christian call to love our neighbors. God has called us for such a time as this, to be voices of compassion, people of prayer and trust, and actively living out our Christian faith, at home, in our neighborhoods and in the world God so deeply loves.
I am writing this late in the evening, so I may not be expressing all of this in the most clear way. I welcome your questions for clarification, and your insight on things we have not even considered yet.
With gratitude, with love, and with trust,
Rev. Jeff Markay