Dear Centenary Family,
Based on the uptick in COVID cases and hospitalizations, the county mask order and frontline worker perspectives, the COVID Advisory Team has unanimously recommended that we suspend in-person worship for the time being. And we are heeding their warning. The best way for us to be safe, love our neighbor, and help our medical personnel is to be proactive in slowing the spread.
When numbers were going in the right direction it seemed we could safely meet in person. However, as we know, this situation changes constantly and calls for us to be vigilant and adaptive. Now that the numbers are going in the wrong direction, quickly, we just quite frankly, don’t think it is wise or kind to put you - or ourselves - at risk.
One of the things I love about the Church is that we all come with our own perspectives and experiences and persuasions. Because of that, there are many different opinions about how we should respond to this global pandemic. Some of you may be relieved by this decision. Others of you may think it’s unnecessary. I understand that.
This is a decision that we are making proactively, because we don’t want to have to be reactive. As your new pastor, I would rather speak to our collective disappointment and frustration than to our regret or, God forbid, grief. This is a hard decision, of course, but when hearing the warnings of those on the frontlines, the decision that brought a strong sense of peace to all of us was to listen to their advice and suspend the in-person gathering. Our online services will continue, but with some modifications. We are still working out the details to ensure that we follow the best practices and recommendations by the County Health Department to keep our staff and volunteers safe, and this creates technology challenges, so bear with us.
During this transition back to online only, we will be working hard to be creative in providing an engaging and meaningful worship service for you and your family to participate together. It will take time to overcome some technology and equipment challenges but we have a dedicated and impressive team of volunteers and staff working hard to make it happen. We’ll continue to serve our community through Wed. night Grab and Go meals, we’ll be working on a strategy for smaller groups to safely engage with one another, and we’ll be exploring creative elements just for kids. Great things are ahead!
I want to assure you that this is a decision of faith. Faith that God is answering our prayers for wisdom and discernment; faith that God is guiding; and faith that not only will the church survive this, but that we will come out stronger and more faithful on the other side. Our worship will be purer. Our care for one another will be quicker. Our time together will be more treasured. Our mission to reach the lost will be reignited. The church is going to survive. Because WE are the church! Whether we meet in a building, a parking lot, a front yard, over Zoom, we are the Church and nothing can stop us from living out our mission!
I think it is no coincidence that this Sunday we begin a new series called Unshakable. The first message is about security and how we handle uncertainty. Timely in so many ways. I encourage you to invite someone on the journey with you. Share the website for the online service or share the link on your Facebook or other social media. And remember that if you miss it Sunday morning, you can go back anytime and watch the service either on Facebook or in the “watch video archives” link just below the video on the livestream page. We can still worship together and we can still invite others to worship. Don’t underestimate what God can do in us and through us during this crazy time! I’ve seen Him do some pretty awesome stuff so I’m waiting in anticipation to see what He does now!
I am truly…
On the journey with you,
Rev. Jennifer Long
Centenary United Methodist Church
COVID Advisory Team:
Betsy Dumey, CRNA, MS
Dr. Zac Hudson
Dr. David Meece
Dr. Danette Miller
Dr. Michael Ornburn
Cathy Tenkhoff, RN
Charles David “Chip” Wilson, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator
Kristi Howard, Pastor Parish Committee Chair
Rev. Barry Winders, Associate Pastor
Rev. Jennifer Long, Senior Pastor