Middlesex United Methodist Church
Tuesday, August 04, 2020
Making Disciples - Transforming the World

Message from Pastor Rachel

 

June 20, 2020

 

MUMC Family,

 

On March 15, with only 2 days notice, we decided to hold our worship services online, instead of in person. I had never done a Facebook Live before, but many of you joined me online and ever since, we have proven that worship can indeed happen anywhere and is not bound to a sanctuary. Through all of the uncertainty, sheltering in place, and changes to our normal way of life, I have felt comfort in the Psalmist’s words:

 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” (Psalm 46, NRSV)

 

I have found these words to be true because of this church family. Many of our Life Groups (including two weekly adult groups, a new members class, a confirmation class, and youth and children’s ministry group gatherings), planning meetings, and mission opportunities continued on as you all logged online, learned a new technology, picked up a phone, sewed a mask, wrote a letter, gave financially and so much more. We didn’t imagine in March that we would still be streaming our worship and holding most of our ministries online in June. I thank God for you and the ways that you have shown enormous strength in the midst of tribulation.

 

As our area of Pennsylvania was ending our time of “shelter in place,” with the guidance and encouragement of our Conference, the MUMC Council created a Re-gathering Task Force to plan our next steps of how we could best be church in this stage of COVID and into the future. Over two weeks ago the task force sent out a survey through our email list (and phone call list for those without internet connection) to get feedback from the congregation on the online experience so far, the level of comfort in returning to in-person worship, and hopes and ideas for the future. We are grateful for the overwhelming response we received and your honest feedback.

 

In this survey, we painted a picture of what worship would look like currently if we returned to our sanctuary. Guidelines given to us by our conference would include (but are not limited to): maintaining 6 feet of distance, face masks, no congregational singing or spoken response, and no nursery or children and youth Sunday morning programs. Only 27% of those who took the survey said that they would return to worship at soon as it was possible and 58% said they would continue to worship online until social distancing measures could be lifted. Many gave feedback about wanting to utilize our outdoor space for gathering. We read every response in the survey and spent time in prayer seeking God’s guidance to make the right decision.

 

Our Church Council has approved the Task Force’s plan in the next step of our re-gathering process which will begin on Sunday, June 28th, 2020 with the offering of a drive in service at MUMC’s parking lot at 9am. If you choose to attend, you will be invited to pull into the parking lot where you will be guided by parking attendants to a spot to watch the service. We’ll invite you to roll down your windows, ask you to stay in your car, and keep the service to 30-35 minutes with a song, prayer, scripture reading, and message. We will continue this worship service through at least the end of July, at which time the Task Force will evaluate the service, COVID prevalence in our area, and make the next step in our plans. More detailed information about this service will be coming in a few days as we continue to make preparations.

 

From the beginning, the health and safety of our community has been our top priority, and all of our decisions have been guided by that. We believe it is part of our calling as Christians to care for the most vulnerable and create a welcoming space for all. We rejoice that our area has had a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases for over 40 days now. We hope and pray that this continues, but are still very aware that the possibility of cases increasing (like they have in other states) now that we are in the “green phase” is still very real. There is still a high risk to gathering indoors in such a large number.

 

While we know that a drive-in service is not ideal for everyone, we are hoping that this is the next best step in a larger plan of re-gathering. We will still be streaming our 10:30am worship service on Facebook Live and our intent is to continue streaming worship online even after we are fully gathering in person in our sanctuary. This plan includes the continued closure of our building through July as we work on a plan to clean and prepare our indoor gathering spaces for people once again. In addition, our children and youth ministries will continue online throughout the summer with many exciting plans for a virtual Vacation Bible School and Work Camp.

 

Some of our Life Groups have started to gather in smaller groups outdoors. Our staff and Life Group leaders are looking for more ways for groups to gather outdoors while our building remains closed. We are finding this to be a great opportunity to be innovative and follow our vision of being Alive in Christ in the Community so that the Community can be Alive in Christ. We encourage you to gather in your own community among neighborhood and church friends as you feel safe and reach out to us if God places a new ministry area on your heart for a time such as this.

 

Thank you for being the church. Thank you for continuing to show God’s love. Thank you for continuing to practice resiliency and compassion in the midst of a global pandemic. This time is not easy, but we are still in this together, and with God’s abiding presence and grace we are not alone.

 

In Christ’s Peace,

 

Pastor Rachel