May 22, 2020
Friends and Families of Paragould FUMC,
THIS SUNDAY I look forward to worshipping with you online or over radio or television this Sunday. The biblical text is one of my favorites: John 17! Rev. Chase will be preaching on 17:1-11 which includes:
I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
Here, Jesus asks God’s protection over his disciples including even us! Admittedly we have many reasons to fear during this global pandemic. We fear for our health, our community, and our economic futures. Anxiety is high. We would do well to be reminded that our lives already rest in God’s life. Our plans have been upended and yet our ultimate reality has not changed. Jesus has saved us and made us part of the Trinitarian family. We can move forward in faith and in hope knowing that God is near to us and cares for us even now. We can also move forward with care and respect regarding the seriousness of this virus. We are not spurred on by a false urgency to return to church in an unsafe way. Again, our lives already rest in God’s life. We live on God’s time and therefore we need not hurry! God’s faithfulness allows us to live in trust with patience. I look forward to sharing in the hope of John 17 with you on Sunday! Orders of worship for each Sunday service can be found at fumcparagould.org/homebound.
FINANCE UPDATE Your finance committee met this past Sunday evening. There were few pressing matters and I refer you to last week’s quarterly giving letter for more details. YTD general giving total is $287,667 compared to $309,368 in 2019. Thus our YTD giving is at ~93% compared to the previous year. We are slightly behind, but considering we have not held in-person worship in 9 weeks, our giving has been very strong. We are experiencing a few additional expenses due to COVID-19 and preparing to reopen. We appreciate your steadfast financial support in this strange season. You can give at .fumcparagould.org/giving, text any amount to 84321, or mail your check to church.
TRUSTEES UPDATE Your church Trustees met Monday evening. We discussed the accommodations necessary to prepare the church to reopen in the coming weeks like signage, sanitizers, cleaning products, and disposable masks. We are also making a couple of purchases to support improvements to our streaming services for those worshipping online. As many of you know, the matter of the Sanctuary front doors has been on the Trustees agenda for a while though we have run into a few dead ends. The Trustees are in agreement that the Sanctuary doors are a priority and are committed to finding the best solution as soon as possible.
COVID-19 RELAUNCH UPDATE Your FUMC COVID-19 Relaunch Team met Tuesday evening over ZOOM. We discussed the AR Dept. of Health and ARUMC guidelines for churches preparing to return to worship. I want to celebrate the work and honest conversation of our team. The leadership of this church continues to inspire me.
Assuming our current trajectory continues, ARUMC churches are expected to enter “Stage 1” (groups < 10) of reopening as of May 31. In Stage 1 FUMC will continue streaming worship and activities online. Individuals can visit the church, but anyone who enters the building must practice social distancing and wear a facemask. Groups of < 10 can meet inside if necessary, though again maintaining distance and wearing masks. FUMC Classrooms will not accommodate group meetings at this stage. Meetings would gather in Sanctuary, Chapel, Fellowship Hall (Gym), or Worship Center when not in conflict with other activities. Meetings would need to be scheduled over the phone with Denise Chipman in the FUMC Office. As with all public facilities, signs will be posted indicating you should not enter if (1) You have had a fever of 100.4˚F or higher in the past 2 days; (2) You have cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms typical of COVID-19; (3) You have had known exposure to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days; (4) You are over 65 or otherwise immunocompromised; and (5) requiring facemasks. Thank you for your support in accommodating these expectations.
A date is not yet set for “Stage 2” (groups <50) of reopening congregations. Our team will continue to monitor state and local data and ARUMC recommendations as we prepare for Stage 2. At this stage we could begin having some form of in-person worship with restrictions and protections in place. Your Relaunch team is sorting out the best way to offer quality and effective worship while maintaining the highest regard for public safety. We are not going to commit to a date prematurely, though we all look forward to being together in-person.
You should not be surprised to find congregations moving forward in different ways in the coming weeks. This has to do with the way they are governed, their facility size, and expectations regarding restrictions. Please do not be anxious. FUMC is in great hands with our Relaunch team. We have your best interests in mind and will seek to guide our church with wisdom and care.
COMMUNICATIONS For now, we are suspending our Tuesday email as we focus our church communications on the Friday newsletter via email and postal mail. Plan to receive your most thorough church updates on Fridays! Further, we would LOVE to update any of your contact information (email, phone, mailing address) during this season. Please share changes with Denise in the church office.
CHILDREN & YOUTH MINISTRY Though we are not in our usual patterns, we are attempting to shift into “summer mode” with youth and children ministries this week. Going forward Youth online will meet once per week on Wednesday evenings (subject to change). Children’s storytime/activity will continue to be shared on Monday evenings. We have no immediate plans for ZOOM socials on Sunday afternoon/evenings. One thing that has become clear in this season is that the discipleship of children and youth must be a focus in the home under the care of parents and guardians. We will continue to post weekly Childrens and Youth devotionals at fumcparagould.org/homebound. We will link the weekly Children’s and Youth devotionals to Friday emails. I want to encourage parents/guardians to locate these resources and lead their children in appropriate times of study, reflection, and prayer. We will continue to seek and share effective at-home discipleship resources for youth, children, and families including some form of at-home/virtual VBS later this summer.
DRIVE-UP COMMUNION I am so excited to share that our Relaunch team agreed for FUMC to host a Drive-Up Communion service on Wednesday, June 3 at 6pm. In keeping with the ARUMC guidelines, we are allowed to have an outdoor, drive-up service so long as your STAY IN YOUR CARS. Similar to our Palm Sunday parade, you will park in the main lot behind the Welcome Center. We will offer a short prayer service over a speaker system as we bless the communion elements. You will then drive through the Welcome Center breezeway to receive the bread and juice in sealed, individual serving in a sanitary and safe way. I know many of you have been missing having Communion. Me too! This will be a day of great celebration as we worship and share in this holy meal together! In case of inclement weather, we’ll push our plans to the following Wednesday.
Lastly, it is not lost on me that this coming week includes our recognition of Memorial Day. We join our nation in giving thanks for those who have served in military service including especially those who lost their lives. We mourn their death and look forward to the day when war will be no more. Enjoy your holiday weekend and be safe.
Thank you for your patience and faithful support of FUMC. If you need anything at all, please call the church!
Grace & Peace,
Dear Paragould FUMC,
Governor Hutchinson & the Arkansas Department of Health have shared expectations for churches returning to in-person worship. The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church and Bishop’s Task Force have offered further guidance including a letter from the Bishop urging churches to practice great caution as we return to in-person meetings.
FUMC in-person activities are suspended through May. Following the aforementioned guidelines, we hope to then proceed into “Stage 1” which allows for groups of less than 10 and before later pursuing “Stage 2” which allows for groups less than 50. Congregations will proceed in different ways these next few weeks and months. Smaller churches will likely return to worship sooner. Larger congregations have more obstacles in returning to in-person worship. Though in the meantime, we have excellent resources like quality live-streaming worship experiences. Thank you for your patient support.
FUMC has organized a “Relaunch Team” under the guidance of the Conference which will oversee plans to reopen FUMC for public access and worship. We have much to consider including scheduling, safety, liabilities, and expectations. The team will meet this coming week. Members include: Rev. Dane Womack, Rev. Chase Burns, Stewart Runsick (Council Chair), Cody Gray (Lay Leader), Matt Hobbs (Trustees Chair), Brian Pearson (Worship Coordinator), Dr. Vern Ann Shotts (Pediatrician), Jill Weeks (V.P. Patient Services St. Bernards), Robert Thompson (J.D./SPRC Committee), Luke Cook (Insurance/Finance Committee), Shelia Ragsdell (City of Paragould/SPRC Chair), Denise Chipman (FUMC Administrator), Karole Risker (FUMC Communications & Technology), and Nancy Cupp (FUMC Hospitality Captain/Finance Committee).
Upcoming business meetings:
This month the Witt House is collecting specific donations: canned Corn, Green Beans, Pinto Beans, and Tuna. Purchase these goods during a regular grocery pick-up. Do not make a special trip. Donations should be left at the Witt House, near the back door by the big freezer. Drop off anytime.
Grace & Peace,
Greetings Paragould FUMC,
From Psalm 66, verse 16; “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.” This time last year I and my family and Rev. Chase were finding out we would be coming to Paragould and FUMC. One thing I enjoyed about those first few months was your willingness to share. Do you remember our cottage meetings where you spoke about your lives and church history? Others of you met with me in my office or shared during a conversation on a Sunday morning. You have incredible stories of faith including personal trials and losses, interesting experiences, and hopes for the future of FUMC. You may not think of it in those terms, but this is your “testimony”. As the psalmist says, “Come and hear and I will tell what God has done for me.” You did that! Remember those stories! In trying times it is good to recall the difficult moments through which God sustained us. One day, this pandemic will also be part of our testimony and our church’s story. I look forward to when we share “what God did for us” during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Hang in there!
PRAYER: Source of all creation, maker of the world and everything in it, you are never far from each one of us. We continue to seek you, O giver of life and breath. Reveal yourself to us; dwell with us; and abide in us. We live because of you. We hope because of you. In the name of Jesus Christ in whom we live, and the Spirit of Truth who abides in us, Amen.
+ Governor Hutchinson & the AR Dept. of Health have shared expectations for churches returning to worship. The ARUMC Reopening Task Force have offered further guidance. We are assembling a FUMC Relaunch Team to guide the reopening of FUMC. Gatherings at FUMC are suspended through the month of May. Further information forthcoming.
+ Our weekly pattern of Facebook ministries continues: The Richardson family shared the story of Joseph for our Children’s Storytime Monday evening. Great job! … On Wednesday 7pm, please watch an interview with professor of bioethics and theology Dr. Brett McCarty (Duke Divinity School) regarding a Christian response to COVID-19. Brett is a good friend of mine and a wise fellow! … Lastly, continue to tune in Thursday at 7pm for the Worship Moment including some of your favorite songs live from FUMC!
+ We celebrate the life of Luke William Pillow, newborn son of Kaylee and Alan. Continue to hold the Pillows in prayer during this season. Over the next couple of months, Rev. Chase will oversee our Youth program. Chase served 4 years as a Youth Director and recently completed his speciality certificate in Youth Ministry. Chase will do a great job! I will help coordinate Children’s ministry responsibilities, though many of us will work together. Currently there are no plans for in-person Youth or Children’s ministries.
+ In Friday’s newsletter, we mentioned the Witt House needing specific donations: canned Corn, Green Beans, Pinto Beans, and Tuna. Purchase these goods during a regular grocery pick-up. Do not make a special trip. Donations should be left at the Witt House, near the back door by the big freezer. Drop off anytime.
Grace & Peace, Rev. Dane