SUSPENSION OF SERVICES
Our response to COVID-19 pandemic
Benham’s Circuit UMC
Temporary Shift of Primary Focus from Services to Mission
Due to the rapid spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) many public entities (Businesses, Universities, Schools and Churches) have been asked to temporarily suspend services or limit the number of public meetings. As social distancing (limiting contact and maintaining a six foot distance from others in public) has proven to be the most effective way of slowing the spread of the virus, the intent of these temporary closures is to impact the spread and slow the proliferation of the virus so that we do not all get it at the same time and essentially overwhelm our medical services, supplies, and facilities.
Yesterday evening, a directive was issued by Bishop Virginia Taylor of the Holston Conference (UMC) recommending suspension of worship services for the next two weeks. That recommendation was then upgraded to a mandatory cancellation as of today.
While we all see the church as God’s house and where we need to be, particularly in troubling times, we must also be cognizant of the most vulnerable in our communities and do all that we can to prevent overwhelming our local medical resources and possibly causing the most vulnerable to even be denied services or treatment. Additionally, we would be putting those at risk who have long been committed to attend whenever the doors are open, even if they are the most at risk age group.
Therefore, with heavy hearts and much prayer we have made the difficult decision to comply with the temporary suspension of church services (we will be evaluating this weekly). But, on a positive note, we are committed to remain active in God’s work.
During this next few weeks, our churches will shift our current primary focus from “worship services” and “teaching” to that of “Missions.” Many people will have work hours shortened or paychecks reduced or even jobs lost. Many more whose budgets are based on preparing one meal a day for children currently in school will now have to supply three meals a day. Some will certainly contract the virus and be isolated at home for fourteen days and possibly much longer if multiple family members contract it at different times. As such, we need to locate those at lower risk ages willing to volunteer to go out into the public area and shop for groceries and supplies as well as deliver them to needy families. Even to some who may already be infected and isolated. Further, to be ready and able to assist to address whatever issues arise in their homes (plumbing, appliances, etc). Lastly, to locate funding and resources for these needs as well as, maintaining contact with others by phone, text, email, or online to identify and assist with needs.
In order to protect the most vulnerable and our Mission volunteers, we will need to be constantly vigilant and aware of symptoms. In the event that a volunteer develops a fever, cough or shortness of breath, they will need to suspend assisting in mission until medically cleared to return.
During this time of concern we must always remember that our worship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not, nor should it be, limited to what happens inside the church walls. That true worship can be done anywhere, at any time, when you take time to read the Bible, reach out to the Lord, and just start talking to Him.
Our caring and concern for one another and taking care of ourselves, our reading and hearing the holy Word of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ, and singing out to the Lord doesn't need to stop just because you temporarily cannot participate in a formal worship service at Benham’s Circuit. You can do every bit of that at home, alone or with others who are close to you, just by taking the step to do so.
The Lord our God is still in control and He is able to handle anything that this world can throw at us so stay in prayer and do not give in to fear and panic. He is with us always. That is a promise.
We will keep you informed of any additional developments and issues. Please let me know if you would like to assist the new mission either financially or as a volunteer.
FYI - During this break we will be working to develop a Facebook page and website as sources for ongoing information about our churches.
Let us all be in prayer for a swift resolution of this outbreak of disease and for God's mercy upon us all. May he build a hedge around us all!
Friends in Christ,
Pastor Curtis Frye
UPDATE TO THE COVID-19 RESPONSE
On the topic of opening church services
Although the governors of Georgia, Tennessee, and (this past week) Virginia have opened up churches for in person services at 50% of their seating capacity, I must inform you that the Southeastern Conference of the UMC will not be allowed to resume in person worship services at this time.
I have been in conversation with our District Superintendent, Jane Taylor, regarding the possibility of returning to services and other activities. She has informed me that Bishop Dindy Taylor has indicated that she is not ready for us to resume any services and/or activities on church property at this time and that it will be "a few more weeks" before we are allowed to do so. She and the consultative group that have been monitoring the situation are "acting out of an overabundance of caution". As such, we cannot resume any of our usual practices until this changes.
For now, we will continue with our online worship services via Facebook and our website. As this situation will be extended, I plan to add a phone system (for those without internet) whereby they can call a dedicated phone number and access the recorded weekly services. I will send out a message when it is up and running.
In the meantime, we will begin to review the government mandated guidelines for restart, cleaning, and maintaining the safety of our churches. Also, establishing attendance criteria, requirements, and best practices for when we are able to resume services.
I will be reaching out to some of you for input and assistance.
Please contact me if you have any concerns or questions."
Pastor Curtis Frye
276 780 4773