March 14, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers of Lakewood Park UMC,
By now, every fiber of your being has been saturated with the talk of the coronavirus and its rapid spread across the globe and, now, our nation. Everything you see on television, social media, and even what you hear on the radio is about this pandemic. Reactions to this issue are as polarizing as anything else these days. Some are in full-blown panic mode, stock-piling food and other supplies . . . while others write it off as nothing. Regardless, what’s very real right now is the fear and panic that many are experiencing. We need to acknowledge that. As your pastor, my goals are to: 1. Glorify God through leadership and ministry of the Word and Sacrament and, 2. Keep the flock safe.
Your leadership and I have met twice this past week to determine the best course of action for offering worship opportunities and other activities in light of the recommendations of local, state, and federal agencies. While schools have been closed by the State School Board for the next two weeks, there have been no restrictions on gathering as a church. Until such a time, we will continue to have our Sunday Worship Service and Sunday activities (e.g., pancake breakfast, bible study, meetings). We have, however, decided to cancel the Terrific Tuesday community meal through the end of March. The offering of other activities of that evening (bible study, children and youth ministry) will be left to the discretion of the leaders. The Homeschool Network will not be meeting in the FLC during the month of March. Other weekly activities (bible studies, Zumba, TOPS) may continue to meet at the discretion of the leaders.
To continue to be good stewards of our health, we have on the following for Sunday Worship:
1. Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance of the Sanctuary and we encourage everyone to use it as you enter.
2. We will discontinue the time of greeting at the beginning of the service. Obviously, please do welcome others around you through your smiles and words.
3. We will not pass around the offering baskets. Please deposit your tithe/offering in the baskets at the rear of the sanctuary as you arrive or leave.
4. Communion will be offered on the first Sunday of April using self-contained cups. The wafer and juice are in the same cup and requires the peeling of two lids to access them. If you need help, an usher will be available to assist.
If you are not feeling well, have been recently sick, or are in the demographic most affected by this virus, we encourage you to stay home. A few weeks ago, we implemented video recordings of the Worship Service’s sermon. Starting this weekend, we invite those that elect to stay home to join us in worship by viewing the service, LIVE, on Facebook. If you miss the live broadcast, you’ll be able to view it there later in the day as well, or by visiting the website where it will be uploaded after broadcasting. If neither of these options work for you, we will try to create some DVD copies of the service for you to watch.
Regarding the church’s operation, we will do all that’s in our power to reduce expenses to relieve our weekly financial burden; however, for the continuity of our church we ask that you all continue in your act of worship related to giving. We have made significant strides in overcoming our large financial deficit. If you do not wish to come to church you may send your tithes / offering to our mailing address: PO Box 651278, Vero Beach, FL 32965-1278. We are also exploring some options to receive tithes / offering electronically.
It’s a tense, high anxiety time for sure. Yet, we are constantly reminded in Scripture that God is in control . . . that we are not to have a Spirit of fear, but rather one of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1: 7). During this time, too, we have a wonderful opportunity to help set the tone for those around us. We have the opportunity and responsibility to be the church, to shine our light in the midst of the panic and darkness, to show people that love and peace will prevail even in this trial. Some simple things we can do to carry light and love into the world, even when we are practicing the recommended “social distancing” guidance: 1. Check in on your neighbors and loved ones, 2. Maintain an attitude of patience and discipline even if people around you are doing otherwise, and 3. Offer to help those that may be affected most by the closures of schools, stores, etc.
If you will be electing to stay home and would like for our pastoral care team to check in with you, please let us know. We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves. I may utilize a robo-calling service – in addition to communicating via email and social media – to communicate any changes if they become necessary. Please make sure that the church office has your phone number on file.