Dear Congregation and Friends of Asbury UMC,
Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We have been social distancing for way too long, and we are beginning to get weary. I would encourage you to notice and be aware of God Sightings each and every day. It might be a sunrise or a sunset, the cool breeze blowing through the air, the birds chirping in the distance, or a neighbor that cares for another. Remember that our God is a God of presence and is with us through the storms and the joys of life.
Speaking of Joys, it was great to celebrate a social-distancing birthday with D Stidham this week as he turned ninety. Neighbors, family, and friends gathered to sing happy birthday while standing across the street standing apart from one another. It was a much-needed way to break up the monotony of our days. If life is beginning to get too difficult, please remember that I am available to talk with you. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office, and we will set up a video conference or a phone call.
As we end our week, here are the latest updates for Asbury UMC:
- Upon guidance from Bishop Carter and his cabinet, all in-person worship services have now been suspended through June 15. The actual date for when in-person worship services will resume is still being determined but the Bishop and cabinet know it will be after June 15th. The rationale for this date that they provided includes:
- Relaunching in-person worship presents a significant effort on behalf of church leadership. June 15th allows church leadership enough time to prepare worship spaces and gather and train the necessary volunteer base.
- By June 15th, we will have clearer results from the reopening of the state of Florida to guide us in our decision making.
- Many in our state and in our church communities are part of the most vulnerable populations. Our clear guidance from the feedback we have received is to err on the side of safety.
- All of our worship services will continue to be accessible online. I encourage you to visit our website (http://asburyop.com) and Facebook page for the link to the videos. You will be able to pray, sing, and listen to the sermon as if you worshiped with us in-person. I would also encourage you to create a Facebook Watch Party. This is a virtual party through Facebook that allows you invite Facebook friends to watch the video together. One member had seventeen individuals throughout the country join her for a watch party. This is a great way to involve any of your friends who might not attend a church.
- This past Tuesday, I have begun conversations with the committee chairpersons, lay leader, and lay member to the Annual Conference about our reopening strategy. We are not yet sure when that date will be, but we are aware that there will be a new normal due to the pandemic. We understand that people will be frightened to return to large groups for the immediate future. Using guidance from the Conference, we are beginning to develop steps for when we return to in-person worship.
- I thank those of you who have continued to give your tithes and offerings. We may not be gathering weekly, but the church is still active. We are still supporting our ministries and missions in this time of great need. Just this week, we were able to assist an individual with groceries due to financial hardship. To help in your giving, there is a link on our webpage (http://asburyop.com) that will allow you to submit your tithes and offerings via a credit/debit card or transfer from your checking or savings account. You will also have the ability to check a box on the form to offset the processing fees associated with this method. Of course, you are also welcome to use Bill Pay through your bank or mail a check (16 College Dr., Orange Park, FL 32065)
- On Tuesday evenings, at 6:30, Charissa and I are live streaming a short evening prayer service on our Facebook page. We invite you to join us as we pray and sing hymns. Although we are apart, we are still able to be in community.
- Upon guidance from the Conference, the church office is still closed. Bethany and I are still able to be reached by calling the church phone number or by email. The church phone number has been forwarded and will be answered. Emails will be answered. The mail is being collected.
Each and every one of you remain in my prayers. I encourage you to continue to stay safe and follow the instructions of local health officials and the CDC. Remember that we follow the commandment to love our neighbor by looking out for their health by wearing masks and social distancing. May God continue to bless you with the grace and love that is greater than our fears!