I’m writing to you from the warmth of my den, after missing everyone at our worship services yesterday. Some believe that cancelling Sunday worship services is an over-reaction to media coverage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Others appreciate the caution exercised, particularly since so many of our members are in a high-risk category as defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The decision was ultimately made for us on Friday, March 13th, when Bishop Lewis directed all Virginia Conference UM churches to cancel worship services for the 15th and 22ndand directed the closing of all church operated preschools as well. The leadership of the church continues to be in constant discussion as things seem to change hourly. We will keep you notified through our Facebook page, emails, one calls and our website.
As you can imagine, the implications of closing a church for any period are many. Sermon series are interrupted. We lose the opportunity to know how to pray for each other. Planning for future events is up in the air. Small groups limited in gathering. We not only have a loss in attendance but in giving as well.
Though we may not sit in our regular seats on Sunday mornings, mission and ministry of the church continue. The staff is still at work supporting the needs of the community and are still available for our own care. Our sexton is busy deep cleaning and sanitizing the church facility. Volunteers still answer phones, provide food to needy families, and perform much-needed upkeep and maintenance. Haygood will now become a backpack pick-up point for Luxford Elementary School families in need of food for the weekends. Any volunteers to help can call the office.
Our budget supports the mission, ministries, maintenance, utilities, and our staff salaries that continue even through the shutdown. John Wesley, the primary founder of the Methodist movement challenged his followers to gain all they can, save all they can, and give all they can. This commitment is particularly timely as we experience the COVID-19 emergency. While our doors are closed to communal worship, we each promised to give our time, our talents, our gifts, our service, and our witness when we joined the United Methodist Church. Many in our community are feeling the financial impact of the current crisis. Likewise, there are those in our congregation and on the staff that feel these effects as well. I pray that we as a congregation will continue to give as we can to support the mission and ministries that make us a beacon in our community. We can take advantage of online e-giving on our church website, drop by our offering during office hours, or mail our gift to the church.
Please remain in prayer for those most vulnerable in our communities as well as those suffering
from COVID-19 and their families. If you know of a need we as a church can respond to, please contact pastor Tammy or me. Also, pray for leaders and healthcare professionals worldwide who are working to contain this pandemic, to offer healing and to find a vaccine.
I am grateful to be in ministry with you. The Scriptures remind us “Do not be afraid,” and John Wesley reminds us, “Best of All, God is with US”!
Peace be with you,
Bill Slingerland, Lay Leader