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A Coronatide Update for TLUMC
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images 1It’s hard to believe that we’ll be celebrating Advent in just 5 1/2 weeks. Seems like just yesterday that we were in the midst of Lent and the coronavirus shutdown came. Then again, it also feels at times like that was five years ago! We went through Lent and Eastertide with our services strictly being held online and we fasted from Holy Communion. Pentecost came, however, and like the early church that gathered in the midst of Holy Spirit wind and fire we, too, were able to gather outside for worship in the warm winds of summer at our wonderful hilltop setting for 15 consecutive weeks.

 

Now we’re back online and indoors on a limited basis as we move toward the end of what the lectionary calls “Ordinary Time,” though it doesn’t feel ordinary to us at all. I’ve come to calling the season we’ve been in since March 15 by a different seasonal name: “Coronatide.” If the color of Lent is purple, Eastertide white, Pentecost red, and Ordinary Time green, maybe the color for Coronatide should be the light blue that those ubiquitous disposable masks are made of!

 

It’s not been an easy time, but I’m extremely proud of the way we have navigated this season together as a church family. In addition to the pandemic, we’ve had to deal with a contentious political season leading up to the election, the ugly heartbreak of our country’s continued struggle with racial injustice, economic hardship for many, smoke from growing wildfires, a serious drought, and on and on. Through it all, we have continued to pray, to worship, to help one another, to reach out to our community, and to seek ways to be the Body of Christ. There is still much more to be done, of course, but I wanted to first say “Thank You” for your prayers, patience, and perseverance.

 

I also wanted to share a few updates with you so that you can be up to speed on where things stand and the plans we are making for Advent, Christmas, and beyond:

 

Worship: Our new online service, “The Table,” has been quite successful and we’re hearing from a lot of folks who love seeing more of our church family. Sam is doing an incredible job organizing that each week and our staff team is becoming more and more skilled at video production. We upload the service to YouTube in the wee hours of Sunday morning as well as broadcast it on our live streaming platforms at 8:00 and 11:00am. We’re hearing from some families who have been getting together to watch the live stream and discuss the message using our weekly Devotional Guide, which is a fantastic way to do “home church.” God has used this technology to open new doors for us to connect with people in our community and across the country, so keep sharing those links!

 

Our 9:30am in-person communion service has also been a success. It’s a quiet and contemplative liturgical service that has been quite meaningful, even if we haven’t been able yet to sing and connect with one another as normal. We’ve also been delivering communion after the service to those who request it. We’ve been following our State and Conference guidelines for masks and social distancing for this service, limiting our number to 40. I invite you to sign up and join us if you are able and feel comfortable doing so. If you are unable to attend but would like communion elements delivered to you, email Pastor Jason () by Wednesday at noon to get on the list.

 

I’m aware that there are other churches around us that have chosen to be less stringent about masks and crowd size, but with rising COVID numbers in our county and in an effort to keep our worshippers as safe as possible, we want to be diligent in maintaining our first General Rule as Methodists: To “do no harm.” While some will focus on the Constitution and the rights of assembly, which are important, I believe that there is a higher law of love that we also have to maintain–that we are at our best as Christians when we use our freedom to put the needs of others, including the health needs of our community, ahead of our own rights and desires. As the Apostle Paul puts it, “Take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).  When we wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash our hands, and limit our gatherings for now, we are practicing the love of God and neighbor that is the highest law for the Christian.

 

Rest assured–no one wants to be back in worship with a full sanctuary, music, and fellowship more than I do! I didn’t answer a call to ministry in order to preach to empty chairs (though I am thankful now for our small Sunday gathering where I can at least see faces–er, halves of faces!). We have to keep in mind that this is a temporary situation even though it feels eternal at the moment. As soon as we can safely be at full capacity and fully functional with Sunday worship, I promise we will do so with enthusiasm and great joy! I look forward to that day and ask that you join me in praying that it will happen soon.

 

Finances – Some have asked about our church’s financial situation. Our Finance Committee, led by Rob Gordon, has done a tremendous job managing our resources during this time. Thanks to your generosity, we have remained in a solid financial position throughout Coronatide. The last quarter of the year will be crucial in terms of giving, however, since that is when we usually receive a significant chunk of our annual income. At the end of the first nine months of 2020, our financial giving is down approximately 3% compared to the same period in 2019. We will be monitoring that closely and ask for your continued prayers and financial support for the ministry of TLUMC.

 

Christmas – One of the big questions we get is, “How are we going to handle Christmas Eve this year?” As you know, December 24 is like our “Super Bowl” at the end of the year when we usually see around 800 people in person for worship. Since we are not likely to be able to gather large indoor crowds at Christmas time (though we still hold out hope for that), we’re looking at a plan for some short outdoor/drive-in Christmas Eve services that would feature a live Nativity scene, singing carols, candlelight, and a brief message. Imagine singing “Silent Night” together under the stars! We’ll ask you bundle up (we’ll have some warming stations available) and bring your family for this unique experience. Plans are still in the works but I wanted to give you a heads up that Christmas will not be canceled! Start praying now for decent weather and for God to stir hearts to join us on that special night.

 

Looking Ahead – We’re also making plans for the Lenten season, which begins a bit early in 2021. Our Lenten Study this year will focus on a Christian and biblical response to issues of race and injustice, and we’ll be using Dr. Esay McCaulley’s book Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope as our guide. I highly recommend this book as a helpful means of learning from an African-American view of Scripture and how this understanding can lead us to be more unified and in mission together as the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Body of Christ envisioned by the New Testament. You may want to grab a copy of McCaulley’s book during the holiday season and start reading.

 

Coronatide marches on, but we know that this season will end and, God willing, will never be part of the church calendar again! We look forward to the holy days of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas and the hope they bring. I love you all and I pray that God will use this time to bind us together even as we are apart, and that we will “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

 

Blessings!

Pastor Bob Kaylor

 

P.S. I leave you with this awesome, hopeful “Hamilton” parody video put together by an Episcopal priest that looks forward to the day churches can be fully back together. Enjoy!

 



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