Subject: Suspension of Worship Gatherings Beginning March 15
These are trying times. We are not a people of fear, but we are people who take seriously our responsibility to ourselves, to each other and to God our Creator. We have the faith of the kin-dom, but we also live in the real world and in these days, we need to exercise every precaution to keep people safe and healthy.
Around noon yesterday, our Bishop, John Schol, sent a letter to the Greater NJ Annual Conference urging churches to "follow governmental direction for your community and to use good common sense." Shortly thereafter, Governor Murphy issued a recommendation that all public gatherings of 250 people or more be cancelled for the next 30 days. When we reflect on these messages from our Governor and our Bishop, recognize that on any given Sunday more than 250 people pass through our doors, and consider that COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for a period up to 3 days, it's clear that we need to take definitive steps to protect our faith community.
After consulting with leaders and staff, it is with a heavy heart that we announce the temporary suspension of worship beginning this Sunday, March 15. However, because we are committed to living the hope of Jesus Christ, we will still live stream on Facebook at 9:30 am. Our live-stream worship may look different than normal, but we will be there and invite you to join us.
We remain fully committed to being in ministry during this time, though we may not presently understand the shape of that ministry. We encourage you to continue supporting the church with your prayers, your presence on Facebook Live, your continued gifts through our app or at medfordumc.org/give, your service to those around you, and your witness to the hope we have in Jesus.
Though we don't have answers to everything, we hope these FAQs help to clarify some of the way forward for our church.
Are you taking this action in response to any reported exposures in the church community?
No. We are taking this action as a proactive, preventative measure.
When will worship resume?
We can't say for certain. The governor's recommendation covers the next 30 days, which takes us through Holy Week and Easter. We will revisit the question each week and update you when things change.
Will the office be open? How can I reach the pastors?
For now, the church office will remain open Monday-Friday 9:00-4:00. All staff are expected to practice good handwashing habits and NOT to report for work if they are exhibiting any signs of illness. To reach the pastors, you can email Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kathleen at email@example.com, or call the church office at 609-654-8111, x101 (Joe) or x102 (Kathleen). We will be available (as facility policies permit) for hospital visits and other types of pastoral care.
How can the church support my spiritual life during this time?
We encourage you to take advantage of Daily Devotionals, weekly messages and other services available on our website (medfordumc.org) and through our app for Apple or Android (search "Medford UMC-NJ"). We are exploring ways to form and serve small groups in an online environment and will share details of those as they are developed.
How do I access the live stream on Facebook?
Visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/MedfordUMC to view the live stream, or you can connect through our app (Media>Live Stream). You do NOT need a Facebook account to watch our live stream, but you DO need an account to comment on or like our content.
Will the Pre-K be open?
Yes, we expect that the Pre-K will be open so long as Medford Township Schools remain open.
What about other gatherings (Sunday School, small groups, meetings, rehearsals, UMW/UMM, outside groups)?
The latest guidance from county health officials is that, when considering vulnerable populations, all gatherings of over 10 people should be restricted. Because many of our people are in that vulnerable category, regularly scheduled church and outside organization gatherings should be assumed to be cancelled until further notice, beginning today. However, recognizing the need for continuity of service to individuals in recovery, we will continue to host Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in dedicated, daily cleaned meeting rooms. Please check the church calendar at medfordumc.org/calendar for up-to-the-minute information.
We'll be in further contact as the situation develops. Meanwhile, keep the faith and stay healthy! We invite you to meditate on these words from Psalm 46:1-2:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.
Blessings, Pastors Joe & Kathleen