March 18, 2020 UPDATE/info
Brothers and Sisters,
Hope y’all have been passin’ a good time in your homes with people you care about over these odd days we’ve experienced in SWLA. I know I’ve been juggling pastoring and homeschooling our kids in a way that has made me stretch and grow a deep appreciation for teachers and others who serve our families everyday. Through all of the activity (and anxiety), we may have forgotten that we continue to live through one of the most holy seasons we experience as Christians—the season of Lent.
Lent has historically been a time of growth of people of faith if we allow it to be. This time where we, by our own initiation, begin with different practices—adding on or abstaining from certain things in our lives that might serve as barriers to our connection with God. It’s a time where God begins to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy, and help us to emerge from the lifelessness of winter into the blooming hope of a spiritual spring. Perhaps a certain set of disciplines have been required of us that we didn’t expect—a time of pulling away from our usual ways of connecting in Louisiana: sharing lives, sharing food, sharing warm hugs with family and friends. Lent is usually a rich and yet peculiar time for the people of faith, but we are experiencing a different rhythm to our days that hasn’t been seen in generations.
I know many of you are on edge, even afraid….others frustrated and struggling. But the community of faith that reminds us of the hope we hold together is still very much alive, and God is with us. In fact, time after time in scripture, God has had a way of redeeming every tragedy—I was reminded of that in an image depicted by Kitty O’Meara, “And the people stayed home. And read books and listened, and rested and exercised, and made art and played games, and learned new ways of being and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless ways the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
As we lean into this time together, we will continue to look for the ways God is inviting us to love our neighbor and “do church” together. Here are some updates you may want to know about and respond to in the days ahead:
Office Closure: In consideration of the health of our staff, and so as to not encourage gathering in our community spaces when it is not advisable for the public to do so, our office will be closed over these next weeks until further notice. All calls placed to the office will be forwarded and received by one of our staff, then sent for follow-up to the appropriate staff member. We will make every effort to follow-up on all calls by end of business day each day. If you would like to reach any of our staff, you can also email any of us through the addresses found here on our website: https://universitymethodist.com/our-team/
Worship: I have met with our worship staff and have created with them a plan for the worship experiences we will have online for the next few weeks: March 22nd and 29th our Safe Harbor team will provide our music as they did this past Sunday at a 10am service. On Palm Sunday, April 5th, a soloist and Hae Ju Choi, our organist, will offer a traditional experience of worship complete with copies of hymns for at-home singing and participation, also one service at 10am. Holy Week services will go on as scheduled online—Thursday (April 9th) and Friday (April 10th) nights at 6pm. Then, on Easter Sunday, we will offer two online services—one traditional offering with brass and organ at 8:30 and one contemporary offering at 11am. Know that our staff and volunteers are working faithfully to continue the vibrant worship we experience in our UUMC community on a weekly basis. We had SO MANY of you join us last Sunday through Facebook LIVE, and we hope that number of those engaging continues to grow.
Small Groups/Classes: Though over these weeks we will not meet in person, you DO have the opportunity for your small group or Sunday School class to use our online video conferencing platform to meet, offer support, pray and even offer teaching so your plans for formation won’t miss a beat. If you are interested in this opportunity, please email me at email@example.com and let me know the day and time of your gathering and whether it will be recurring weekly/monthly. Then, have your group download the ZOOM software (completely safe for your computer) by clicking this link: https://zoom.us/signin.
Financial Support: Friends, if there is ever a time to be intentional about this, it’s THIS SEASON. As we anticipated, not having folks “in house” affected our giving in a major way. Last Sunday we only received $400 in pledges—when at minimum, we receive at least $5-6,000 a Sunday. PLEASE don’t forget about the opportunity to continue your giving to support the church’s ministries on our website portal ( https://universityumc.churchcenter.com/giving ) or on our church’s website. If you have questions about how to do this, please email Ashley Johns at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, nothing beats a good check and postage stamp addressed to the church—our address is University United Methodist Church, 3501 Patrick Street, Lake Charles LA 70605. Thank you in advance for your faithful and consistent support.
Congregational Care: We want to be sure that everyone that can benefit from the care and touch of our congregation, even if we can’t actually be present with each other. Our staff and some key lay leaders are developing a disciplined system for regular contact with our membership to receive prayer concerns and updates about how you are doing, regardless of how long this time of social distancing lasts. Please remember to also make use of our Emergency/Prayer/Care texting service in the meantime for any needs you may have.
Communication: We want to know how you communicate! Visit our UUMC Friends page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/733744496746598/ to answer our survey so we know how best to serve you in the weeks to come.
God is inspiring and calling us to rethink our ministry and redefine what connection among Christians looks like. I pray that, even in an uncertain time, you will each continue to be encouraged and live out the Gospel in SWLA in life-changing ways.
Bless you all,
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FOLLOWING CHURCH ACTIVITIES HAVE BEEN CANCELED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE:
JOYFUL ADAMS CREEL CIRCLE
We will not meet Wednesday evening for meal and Bible study until further notice. For more information please contact the Beverly at the church.
VBS DECORATION WORKDAY
SPRING UP AND PAINT AND THE BASIC PAINTING CLASS
Scheduled at the University East Campus, 2587 Red Davis McCollister is canceled until further notice.
Saturday morning MALE & FEMALE SMALL GROUPS
Offered on Saturday mornings at our University East Campus 2587 Red Davis McCollister Road from 9:00 am-10:00 am are canceled until further notice.
March 13, 2020 Update/info
We mentioned briefly on Sunday during worship that our church leadership and staff are working diligently to make provisions for when we may have to face the reality of a COVID-19 outbreak. Over these past days, we have held the scripture from John’s first letter to heart: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18) We do not lend ourselves toward the temptation of fear in this time, but we believe out of concern and compassion for all of our community, we must be wise and proactive for the sake of all of our church membership and the neighbors around us.
1. Worship: We are beginning to make some shifts in our worship to enable more opportunities to lower the possibility of spread in the SWLA. We are enabling online worship support through Facebook LIVE on Sunday March 15th. We will hold ONE ONLINE SERVICE at 10am and STRONGLY ENCOURAGE all of our members and especially those in at-risk groups to stay home and engage with us on our UUMC Facebook page (found at https://www.facebook.com/uumc.lake.charles/). These groups would include those over 60, those with high-blood pressure and all with immune system conditions that would compromise their capacity for healing. Even if you are not in an at-risk group, but are concerned about doing your part to practice “social distancing” to ensure the slow of the virus spread in the SWLA area, we pray that you will also choose to live into the invitation to stay away from public gatherings for a temporary period in the days to come. Sunday School, Youth Group and Catalyst Children’s Ministry will be cancelled until further notice. Prayer requests will be taken by the Live feed or by private message. You can also access our message archives on our website to keep up with sermons in worship at any time through this link: https://universitymethodist.com/watch/.
2. Communication: Please don’t forget to sign up for our UUMC “EMERGENCY” text service (thank you to all who have signed up already!). This is a service to be used sparingly (in case of hurricane, health crisis, or other disasters) to make sure our congregation members stay informed of all of the ways University UMC will be resourcing our congregation and the community members in need around us. Lauren Broussard will be available in the “coffee area” to help individuals and Sunday School classes sign up. If you’d like to sign up now, please text the word EMERGENCY to 337-409-5883.
3. Opportunities to help: Not all of our congregation is able to physically or financially make preparations for a potential extended stay at home, and there may very well be children that experience food insecurity during school closures in our area. With this in mind, we are assembling a small Service team of people that would be willing to deliver essential needs door to door (bring groceries to a doorstep, pick up medications, etc.) for those that otherwise can’t get the help they need. Also, with the lockdowns beginning to happen in nursing facilities and other homes for care, there will be many that will experience isolation from a lack of visits over these next weeks. We have a chance to help the Care Team write cards, make calls, and connect with those that might experience that isolation. If you would like to help with that effort if/when the need arises, please e-mail Beverly Guidry at BeverlyG@universitymethodist.com.
4. Financial Support: If you do decide to stay home, don’t forget about the opportunity to continue your giving to support the church’s ministries on our website portal (https://universityumc.churchcenter.com/giving) or on our church’s website. If you have questions about how to do this, please email Ashley Johns at email@example.com. Also, nothing beats a good check and postage stamp addressed to the church—our address is University United Methodist Church, 3501 Patrick Street, Lake Charles LA 70605. Thank you in advance for your faithful and consistent support.
5. Going Forward: Our Pastoral Staff and Leadership Council will make a determination on small groups and other leadership groups meeting early next week.
In these days, we can allow the hardships we experience to do more to define us and remind us of the best of who we are rather than hurt us. As a church, we will not allow external challenges to have the last word, but will lean on the faith and hope we have as we make wise decisions moving forward. Wherever these days take us, we will move together with one mind and heart. I, alongside you, am praying for our world, our nation, our community and our church as we move with caution, compassion and care for all. Thank you for your attention to these matters, and your patience and grace as we discern a path for uncertain times. We look forward to connecting with you either in person or online in these days to come!