Good afternoon, New Covenant family and friends!
Things around us continue to change or be extended. The State of Texas has just issued an executive order that all gatherings (including religious service) of 10 or more be cancelled until April 3. All schools across the state are closed with online classes being held until April 3. We are asked to be prepared for the possibility that these restrictions will continue into April. All nursing and long-term care facilities are closed to everyone but those providing care to residents. Employers are instructed to require only essential employees report to their places of business. Wherever possible, we are to work from home. Restaurants are now takeout only. Routine types of doctor visits are being rescheduled. My dermatologist appointment (for this week) has been rescheduled for June. Even Dallas County Courts have halted all jury trials until May 8. We are still able to go to stores (including grocery stores) while asked to practice social distancing of 6 feet. I was out yesterday and all check-out persons wore gloves. The state now has quarantine authority.
On March 17, I received notice from Bishop McKee that all churches in the North Texas Conference are to cancel worship services thorough March with the possibility of an extension of cancellations into April. The General Conference of the UMC scheduled for May 5-15 has been postponed. Our North Texas Conference staff (including District offices) are working remotely. Meetings are being held through Zoom…which is an online way to gather people and be able to see and hear one another.
I don’t report all of this to you to cause greater anxiety but to provide an understand of the steps that we will be taking as the New Covenant faith community.
- We will cancel all onsite worship services through the month of March as requested. We will also be preparing for creative ways to enhance Facebook live worship. Our Facebook live worship will be on my Facebook page live on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. At the conclusion, it will be saved to my page and the church Facebook page.
- All gatherings on New Covenant premises are cancelled through March. Why all when the executive order is for 10+? Because our community has way too many people who are over 60 or have other health risks. This applies to all committees and groups such as Yarnbirds, etc. While I remain hopeful that we will be together in April, please be aware that these cancellations could extend into April.
- As a congregation, everyone needs to be aware that our giving is way down since many folks give through the collection plate on Sunday. Online giving is available through the church website and the new app which has been set up for this purpose. I would encourage you to make use of these giving modalities since we will still have to pay our bills through this time. I realize that some of you may be concerned about the state of the stock market right now. I’m in that boat with you. Still, I ask you to remember that as a country and a world, we have been here before and we always come back. We will recover from this as well. We are in this together and will continue to support and share with one another. Those of us who manage church funds will be taking every step possible to conserve and be good stewards of the resources that you provide.
I will continue to stay updated on both the recommendations and orders for public safety. I believe that when this crisis has past, our church community will be one of the first places that we will want to regroup and come back together. As a result, while we’ll be preparing for the possibility of future closings and cancellations, I will continue to monitor the need for closings on a daily basis and keep you informed weekly.
As United Methodist, we hold to Three General Rules for our church and our lives. The first is to do no harm. Perhaps that is why we are on the frontlines of those churches fully cooperating with all recommendations before they become orders to protect ourselves and our community. Again, some may think this is all an overreaction. If this is you I ask, but what if you’re wrong? We do not want to over-reach or build hysteria. That also causes harm. And, yes, businesses, especially small businesses, are suffering. Still, our first line in ‘do no harm’ must be to the public health for the good of our world and our community.
The second General Rule is to do all the good we can, wherever we can, whenever we can, for as long as we can. As a community of faith we will protect the most vulnerable among us. We will share with one another as we can. Where possible, support local small businesses. We will refrain from panic purchasing that depletes goods needed by all. Those of us who are able, will assist those who are not. If you know of church members or other folks who are your neighbors who are high risk and may face even greater restrictions that some of us, offer to pick up items for them when you do go to the store. Email and snail mail words of encouragement to one another. More important to our human connection, may phone calls to family, church members (maybe even folks you don’t know well), other friends and neighbors to offer a listening ear and words of encouragement. Be attentive to the needs of those around you. Offer to help those who haven’t used social media so that they can be better connected to all of us.
The third rule is to attend upon the ordinances of God, or put another way, to stay in love with God. This means that we are a people of prayer, worship, bible reading and study. We look at a variety of spiritual disciplines to keep ourselves aware to our connection to the divine and one another. I have been in the process of learning and establishing systems to make sure that I don’t overlook anyone during this time. I’m also looking at means for connecting us for study and to encourage new, creative spiritual disciplines. Remember that we are not restricted from taking walks outside, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. This, too, is a form of spiritual discipline.
Watch for more ways to connect from me through email, my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I would also welcome any comments or suggestions to expand our connection and ways to connect with those among us who do not have the capacity for all the internet avenues. You also help me to remember that we remain a community connected through our love of God and one another. And remember that I am praying for each of you daily by name for the peace of Jesus Christ that passes all understanding. We remain a strong community in love with God, loving one another, loving our neighbor, loving the stranger, and yes, even loving our enemies. Look for the blessings to be found in each day, even now, especially now.
Peace be with you,