Lancaster United Methodist Church
LUMC and COVID-19: The Latest Church News
Sunday worship will be live-streamed at Facebook.com/lancasterunited
The service will then be uploaded later to Youtube.com/LancasterUnitedMC
How Does Church Work Now?
(Parents: Download "Keeping Sabbath" pamphlet )
This letter comes as our collective attention focuses on news and updates related to coronavirus. Yesterday’s health order to “shelter in place” calls for all non-essential services and workers to stay home. We pray these social directives are for the greater good, but nevertheless are unsettling.
Most people seem to be making adjustments with varying mixtures of fear and faith. However, these sweeping changes stir deep questions of duration: How long will this take? How much money can I live on? How can I help others? Should I help others?
During this season of unknown fluctuations, we must remember that the most important change we need to focus on is a deep transformation within ourselves. God yearns to empower us to replace our fearful and confusing thoughts with His thoughts of compassion, service, and vision.
During one of the worst times in Jewish history, Jeremiah laments to God and reveals his method of dealing with unwelcomed instabilities.
“Because of the LORD's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:22-26)
Note the bold print of how Jeremiah spoke the Holy Scripture back to himself, i.e., within himself. This is what is referred to as meditating “in” God’s Living Word.
If you are like me and have trouble hearing God speak, do what Jeremiah did, and speak God’s words into yourself.
I am amazed at how the Holy Spirit piggybacks on those sacred Words when I repeat a verse or two over and over in my mind. After a few minutes' time (sometimes longer) God’s Spirit begins to settle and spark one or more parts of myself, inner self (spirit, mind, will, and/or emotions). Indeed, “They (Lord’s compassions) are new (different) every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (v23 above)
Taking time to be holy means to set apart time to focus on God’s Word.
The balance of this letter is Lancaster UMC’s response to the latest health instructions from Bishop Hagiya to all UM Churches in the Cal-Pac Conference and Lancaster U.M.C.’s current response. For the bishop’s complete update on public health, go to (calpacumc.org).
1a) Worship services & meetings (Bishop Hagiya) “We are instructing all of our churches in the California-Pacific Conference ‘not’ to hold public worship services. Ironically, we are being instructed by our local authorities to limit exposure and not meet in groups larger than 9, this is a time when people need the church.”
1b) LUMC Response: We will NOT hold public worship services in our sanctuary.
*Worship services will be live streaming, abbreviated service videoed in the sanctuary Sundays at 10 A.M. (opening song, scripture, sermon, closing song). The music will alternate between our praise band and a quartet formed from our chancel choir. If at some point all public gatherings are further limited, then I will record my sermons from home without the benefit of our musical teams.
*Pre-school and Soup Kitchen are considered essential ministry and will continue serving while complying with additional health requirements.
*New office hours are 10 am – 2 pm, Monday – Friday.
*Small group meetings (Bible study, special interest, administrative) will meet at their own discretion and observe social distancing of six feet and attendance limits of no more than 9 people.
*All Chinese, Japanese, and Hispanic worship services, small groups, and activities have been canceled until further notice.
2a) Self Quarantined seniors and high-risk people (Bishop Hagiya) “We firmly suggest that those over 65 years of age, or who have underlying health conditions, stay at home and not attend church worship services or meetings… We are recommending that pastors do not physically visit nursing homes or the elderly to limit their exposure unless it is a close to death experience or hospice situation where they would like to see you. The conference recommends regular phone calls to all of your parishioners by the pastor, church staff, and leaders. However, there are ways to remain helpful and in touch by running errands to help out if neighbors cannot get out or are afraid of social exposure. We Christians should be leading that effort, as we care and serve others in need.”
2b) LUMC Response: We are assembling a hospitality team to shop for grocery and/or pharmacy items for at-risk groups. In addition, we are organizing a list of self-quarantined seniors and high-risk folks who would like this type of assistance. Those making deliveries will not enter anyone’s home and will maintain 6 feet of social distancing. I.e., leave it by the door. If you are interested in having someone deliver items to you or you would like to volunteer to deliver or assist in organizing and managing this ministry, please contact Donna Horn at (email@example.com)
Note: The 3-19-20 “stay home order” will not prohibit those willing from delivering to the seniors and the high-risk people because this service is essential for our most vulnerable population. We are also updating both prayer lists, phone tree, and email tree. And last but not least, we will be activating a “Robo” calling system to keep folks updated who do not use computers or smartphones to communicate.
3a) Small Groups of children, youth and adults (Bishop Hagiya) “(The conference also instructs) that church gatherings over 9 people “not” meet, and if you do meet for Bible study (Sunday school or youth group), or meetings (of 9 or less folks) that you allow a safe distance of six feet between people.”
3b) LUMC Response: Children’s Sunday school and youth group will not meet until further notice. We are replacing these traditional small groups with “Priestly Parenting” i.e., parents become main Christian educators for their kids. See the PDF brochure on Keeping Sabbath (forthcoming). Substitute sharing highs & lows during what would have been travel time to and from church with an in-home family circle before and after listening to the sermon on Sundays at 10 A.M. Sermons will be saved in prerecorded files.
- Pre-readers – 6th graders will receive an age-appropriate lesson delivered weekly by email which matches the sermon scripture. In the emailed lesson packet are suggested family activities to complete your Sabbath.
- Youth (7th-12th graders) are to follow the PDF brochure on Keeping Sabbath and watch the live stream sermon with family and substitute drive times with in-home family circle to do “highs & lows” before and after the sermon. Remember, Keeping Sabbath recommends no or low-tech activities.
4a). Living and Giving of ourselves (Bishop Hagiya). “Finally, I would encourage all of us to embody a generous Christian response to our new reality. We must remember to be generous with ourselves and each other as we take a deep breath, learn new ways of doing Church, and give of ourselves once again for the most vulnerable among us in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, including, keeping in prayer those who may have contracted COVID-19.”
4b). LUMC response to living and giving. Below list various ways of remaining faithful in sharing your finances as we continue adapting our ministry model. Even as we expand our online presence, we “still have to keep the lights on.”
Here are the ways you can continue your Tithe & Offerings to the church:
*Go to our Website for On-Line Giving – www.lancasterunited.org
You have 3 options for online giving:
1. On-Line - Bank and/or Credit Card
2. On-Line - Pay Pal
3. On-Line - Text Giving
Lancaster United Methodist Church
918 West Avenue J
Lancaster, CA 93534
*Office Drop Off – 2 Options
1. Come to the church office window and drop off your donation. The new office hours are from 10 am – 2 pm.
2. Drop-in Mail Slot that is in the door to the right of the Main Office Door (by the big pine tree on the sanctuary side).
As things are shutting down, new ways of doing church are springing up all around us. I feel like we have never been busier. Everyone is in the process of determining what new ministry looks like. I want to thank you all for being the body of Christ in real times of change and opportunity.
Our best witness is a humble non-anxious presence. We need to be calm in the midst of the swirling storm around us and assure people that God is here for us and will steady us. If you are afraid or unsure, please call (661)942-0419 church office messages will be checked daily, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for prayer or counsel. We need to be more available to each other, even as we are limiting our physical presence due to the call for social isolation.
Grace, Truth, and Peace
We have received a message from Bishop Grant Hagiya of the California-Pacific Annual Conference, requesting all churches in the conference to suspend Sunday worship until further notice. We are exploring the option of a livestream through Facebook, among other possibilities. Meetings of fewer than 10 people will be going forward (with social distancing) at the discretion of the individual leader; however, we encourage that groups also explore options for conference calls and web meetings.
Please see the link to Bishop Hagiya's letter below, and check both here and Facebook for updates.
Grace and Peace,
Grace, Peace, and Truth to you from the leadership at LUMC.
It is no understatement to say that the church faces a great challenge in the recent outbreak of the Corona Virus-19. The threat of a pandemic also creates an opportunity for the church, because people will be more open to the Good News of Jesus Christ than ever before.
In this changing environment, our ministry plans will be directed and adjusted by remaining cautious, caring, and creative till public health returns to normal...and it will. Paul's second letter to Timothy reminds us how God's own Spirit indwells within us for such a time as this. "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of sound mind." (II Timothy 1:7 NKJV)
The following guidelines are in compliance with 'congregate settings' the Center for Disease Control recommends for our regularly scheduled Sunday worship services (under 250), small groups, Soup Kitchen, and Footprints preschool.
1) Sunday Worship Services: no physical contact, social distancing of 6' apart when seated, no refreshments and drinks, please stay home if you are sick or have a cough.
Note: This Sunday we are taking special precautions to have Children's Sunday school classes. However, beginning Sunday, March 22, we are encouraging families to sit together in the worship service. Age-appropriate children's bulletins and crayons will be handed out. In addition, our regular teachers will be available for those K- 6th graders who need to be relieved from the big church experience.
2) Small Groups: no physical contact, social distancing of 6' apart when seated (therefore use larger rooms than normal), no refreshments and drinks, please stay home if you are sick or have a cough.
3) Soup Kitchen: no physical contact, no seating, food will serve food in 'to go' boxes, no eating on the church campus.
4) Footprints Letter to Parents: (excerpts 3/18/20) "We understand that the school districts have made a decision to close today...We will stay open...as long as the health department allows us...(In addition to taking many) extra precautions, we will be taking every student's and teacher's temperature before entering the building. If their temperature is above 99.5 degrees, they will not be allowed to attend until they are fever-free for 24-hours."
5) Special Events: All of our special events have been canceled through Easter: Music Teachers AC Testing, NA 30th Birthday, UM Women's luncheon, the Music Department concert on Palm Sunday. However, we will have the additional Easter Sonrise service in the courtyard at 6:30 A.M., along with our regular Easter Sunday worship services at 9:00 A.M. and 10:45 A.M.
Our ministry plans are flexible and will be reviewed weekly by our leadership team. Watch your emails and check our website (LancasterUnited.org) for updates. This email went out to about 50 households. Unfortunately, we do not have a complete church-wide email list available at this time. Please, mention this to your church friends and contact those who do not use a computer. We have copies available in the church office.
Below is a link to our bishop's counseled guidelines and additional links to public health.
Our goal and prayer is that LUMC will maintain healthy practices to keep those who are able to attend safe as they answer God's call to love and serve their neighbors.
Rev. Greg Pittman
Lead Pastor, Lancaster U.M.C.