Please read this carefully as it contains a lot of important information.
Dear First UMC Family,
Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am writing to you today with news about upcoming changes to our worship service. I don’t know about you but I am tired, exhausted actually, from dealing with all of the change that the COVID virus and resulting mandates have brought. And I haven’t been pleased with the feeling and flow of our services since we have gone back to live worship or recording services on Sunday mornings. There is just so much missing when worshippers are absent from the worship space or if worshippers are present but muted and wearing masks. Those of us leading worship can really feel the difference. In an attempt to design an enriching worship service that can withstand whatever the virus, government or conference might throw at us in the coming months, I have gathered the Worship Committee, Vision Team and worship leaders for a series of meetings to discuss how we can move forward to provide spirit-filled, authentic worship even with the limits placed on us. During these meetings, many ideas were discussed and I’m happy to report that we have settled on a worship design that we hope will please as many people as possible from both our traditional and contemporary services.
We will “kick off” this new service on August 23rd . The new worship service will be a mixture of both traditional and contemporary elements and will be available for both virtual and in-person worshippers. As in the past few weeks, we will offer one services which will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be live streamed on Facebook.
Because we know that many of you are missing your church family and communal worship and that some do not have the technology available to watch the services online, we are offering the opportunity to worship in community even with the limits placed on us that prohibit indoor gatherings larger than 25 people. The church will open 5 spaces within the building for folks to gather at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. The 3 main spaces will be able to accommodate 25 people each with proper social distancing. There will also be 2 overflow worship spaces that can hold 12 worshippers each. Each space will have a facilitator to greet you and lead you in some elements of the worship service. Except for the sanctuary and narthex, the worship services will be live streamed on TVs or screens. The spaces are as follows:
Space #1: Sanctuary-Pastor Rick, Facilitator (limit 25)
Space #2: Living Water Café-Nancy Kohl, Facilitator (limit 25)
Space #3: Celebration Center-Holly Pote, Facilitator (limit 25)
Space #4: Welcome Center-Nancy Grove, Facilitator (limit 12) This will be used as overflow
Space #5: Narthex-Pastor Rick, Facilitator (limit 12) This will be used as overflow
Worshippers in these 5 worship spaces must follow the mandates that we established prior to resuming in-person worship in June. These include:
-Everyone must wear a mask while in the building with the exception of the worship leaders while in the chancel area leading worship.
-Enter the church building only from the upstairs parking lot entrance or the downstairs entrance by the church office.
-Refrain from touching any door handles. All interior doors will be left open.
-Please go directly to your worship areas and refrain from gathering in the hallways.
-Check in with the greeter or facilitator in each area so we have a record of attendance should contact tracing become necessary.
-Please sit only with members of your household and keep at least a six foot distance from others not in your household.
-Refrain from hand shaking, hugging or other personal contact.
-Once the services are over, please exit the building immediately.
Of course, if you are not comfortable joining us for worship in the church building, you can continue to worship with us from home either by watching the 9:30 a.m. live stream on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/FirstUMCMuncy/live_videos/) or by accessing the recorded services on Facebook or the church website and YouTube (after 12:00 noon).
For those who aren’t ready to worship in larger groups but would still be willing to worship in smaller groups, you might want to consider forming home watch parties with folks with whom you are already in regular contact. This might include family members or close friends. Offering home watch parties might be a good ministry that you can offer to members who don’t have technology at home. Feel free to form such a group and invite family or friends if that fits into your comfort level.
Small Group Discussions
After several weeks of gathering in the church and/or in homes in the smaller worship groups, we hope to add a small group discussion time, which will immediately follow the worship service, for those who wish to participate. These small group discussion times will be based on the pastoral sermon for the day and will be led by the facilitators in each space or by a leader of your choice if you are gathering in a home group. This will provide our congregation with additional opportunities for fellowship and sharing life with one another, something we are all missing. Pastor Rick will provide the discussion questions for these times of sharing. More information on this will be provided in the coming weeks.
Let Us Know Your Plans
The church leaders who have been meeting to work out this new plan for worship have talked a lot about how we feel this new plan will be received by the larger congregation. We can make guesses but truly have no idea how many of you will choose to join us in the 5 different worship areas for Sunday morning worship services. In an effort to get a better idea of what you all would choose, we have created an online sign-up sheet. PLEASE KNOW THAT THIS IS FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED YOUR RESERVATION FOR A SPACE. Please click on this link https://reopen.church/r/igeCNEL1 and sign up for the worship area of your choice. Be prepared with a second choice if your first choice is full. You may also simply reply to this email to let us know your plans. We know that most people would choose to be in the sanctuary but ask that you consider other options as well. We are hoping that each worship area will come to see themselves as an intimate close-knit community that can provide the connection we are all seeking.
Friends, we know this is all very difficult and that you are missing your church family and the way church has operated for our entire lives until now. We also know that there will be some elements of the new service that you don’t care for. But we are asking that everyone enter into this new time with a spirit of grace, flexibility and love for one another and our beloved Christian community. If you don’t care for a particular element of the worship service, just know that someone else may be being blessed by it. Likewise, if you aren’t able to get into the worship space you would prefer, just know that we are all worshiping with one heart regardless of which space we are in. Because this is new to everyone, we are sure there will be glitches in our plan that we have not anticipated. Please be patient with us as we work out the kinks.
I want to personally thank the Worship Committee, the Vision Team and the worship leaders for all of the thoughtful, hard work they have put in to creating this new blended worship design, working out the worship space details, and offering to act as facilitators. They have each remained positive and flexible in the process, and for that I am humbled and grateful. Thank you.
Please share the details of this letter with those church members without email and please consider helping folks get their name onto the worship space lists so we have a good idea of how many folks will take advantage of the in-person options.
Peace and Blessings on this new journey,
Pastor Rick, Worship Committee, and Vision Team
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