UPDATE: The Church is Not Closed! - 5/14/20

The Church is not closed! While our church facilities are closed for large group gatherings, the Church of Jesus Christ is open, alive, and flourishing in and through you. Each of us is a member of the body of Christ, and the ministry you offer daily in the name of our Lord is inspiring. I am thrilled with the connections we have been able to make and the innovative outreach and disciple making we are now achieving. Our family of faith has especially excelled in employing new technologies to spread the gospel. I am so grateful for your faithful serving, diligent praying, generous financial giving, creative worshiping, and genuine witnessing during this time. Though the church facilities are closed, our church is being greatly used by God!

Decisions about gathering in our buildings are not easy ones. They become much clearer when we maintain an ultimate concern for the safety and health of our community. In making such decisions, I have sought input from several sources: a team of local physicians, a group of our elected church leaders, staff colleagues, our Bishop, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and State and Federal leaders. Not everyone will agree with the decisions outlined below. I understand that and am okay with others having different opinions. As always, I am glad to speak with you about your concerns on this subject. My phone number appears at the end of this notice.

So, where are we in terms of safely gathering in our buildings?

Because of several health and safety issues, including the quarantine of two of our staff members last week, our church offices remain closed. Church staff members are diligently working from home and going to the church periodically when needed. The staff is in a season of focus on organizing and training us all to be ready again for large in-person gatherings at our facilities when that is deemed wise. They are available by phone or email.

Presently, only groups of 12 people or less are permitted to gather in our facilities. Group members will need to clean surfaces they have touched and been in proximity to (including door knobs), maintain at least 6 feet of distance from each other, and wear masks. The group will also need to maintain a record of those present to send to the staff liaison in case one of the members of the group is diagnosed with COVID-19 in later days. This applies to all group gatherings, including funerals and weddings.

When small groups meet at our church facilities and when the day comes when larger groups can meet at our facilities, some individuals (for various reasons) may not feel comfortable being present. If you feel that way, please abide by your own decisions. We will continue live streaming worship, and I hope in the future all our studies, classes, and group meetings will continue using technology to help those who might not yet be ready or able to attend an in-person group gathering. Carey Nieuwhof recently remarked: “No one should be able to out-relationship the local church. That now includes online.”

In a zoom call with the clergy of our Annual Conference on May 11th, Bishop David Graves recommended we not resume in-person worship in our church facilities until we have met the CDC guideline of a “downward trajectory (or near-zero incidence) of documented cases over a 14-day period.” The Bishop then instructed us that, ultimately, decisions regarding worship reside with the pastor of each church. I believe our best course of action is to follow the guidelines of the CDC, Bishop Graves, our common sense, and the constraints of love. Before opening our facilities to large groups, we will be praying for and looking for a 14-day downward trajectory (or near-zero incidence) of documented cases of COVID-19 in our state and in Houston County. Some pastors will make decisions to resume in-person worship in their church much earlier than we do, and other pastors will make decisions to resume in-person worship much later than we do. I am focused on withholding judgment from any who make decisions that differ from what I feel led to do. I encourage you to do the same. Let’s move forward now in loving God and loving others!

The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a resting place; the church is a people.
I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!

Thank God our church is open and thank you for being the church!

Jim Sanders

An Update from our
Senior Pastor - 3/24/20

As promised, we are daily evaluating how to best live life together as a family of faith. Yesterday, some significant decisions were made. We attempted to follow the guidance of our medical, governmental and denominational leaders. Most importantly, we remain committed to err in the direction of the health and safety of all in our church and our community who are at risk to the coronavirus. Please read the policies below and share them with others.
 
1. Effective today, our church facilities will be open from 7:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. Telephone calls made after 2:00 p.m. and before 5:30 p.m. will be forwarded to our Office Manager, Paula Harrison. Our facilities will be closed to all groups of ten or more people through April 13th. This includes The Harbor and all groups renting or using rooms in our facilities.
 
2. Leanne Todd, Allie Freeman, and Paula Harrison have begun a new ministry with church members who need help with picking up groceries, household items, and prescriptions. If you are willing to assist with this ministry or are in need of some help, please contact Paula Harrison at the church office (793-3555 or paula@fumcdothan.org).
 
3. On March 29th, April 5th and April 12th, we will live stream an 8:55 worship service that will incorporate elements from The Bridge and our Sanctuary Services. Some of our Holy Week activities such as the Wednesday Luncheon, Maundy Thursday Worship and Tenebrae Worship will be made available online. In addition, we will also offer an online Sunrise Service on Easter.
 
4. On March 29th, April 5th and April 12th, we will offer two adult Sunday School lessons online, taught by members of our church.
 
5. Weekday mornings (Monday – Thursday), you will continue to receive “A Good Word” video emailed from the church containing some inspiring thoughts from some of our clergy.
 
6. Our clergy will still be making hospital visits when called upon. We are utilizing the phone to a greater degree in our pastoral care these days. Please use good judgement and call upon our clergy for a hospital visit when you feel one is needed. We do not want to infect anyone in the hospital with the coronavirus and we do not want anyone in the hospital infecting us. Please call Angela Larabee at 793-3555 if you have a pastoral visitation need.
 
7. The ministry of our church is continuing in new, adaptive ways and still requires the financial support of us all. Approximately one-third of FUMC’s revenues are given through our Sunday morning offerings. If you routinely offer your tithes and offerings during a worship service, please consider other avenues of giving in the weeks ahead. Avenues for financial giving appear at www.fumcdothan.org and are available through the U.S. Postal Service. If you need any help with this, please contact our Director of Finance, Carla Burnett, at 944-3222.
 
Some years ago, Alex Banayan interviewed Maya Angelou. Angelou told Banayan to write a sentence on his notepad and to never forget it. She told him to write: “Every storm runs out of rain.” Even the storm of the coronavirus will run out of rain. Psalm 30:5 says: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” The morning is coming! This I believe.
 
Inhale Faith; Exhale Fear.
 
Jim Sanders

 

A Word from our
Senior Pastor - 3/17/20

Late last week, I read a tweet from a school superintendent who had just announced the closing of all schools in his city for the next three weeks. The tweet read: “In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much. But it will be quite apparent if we under reacted or did too little.” I feel the profundity of those words as I have been praying for our world and trying to help our church family heed the directions of the Center for Disease Control, the Guidelines of the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Guidelines being communicated from The White House, and the guidance of our Bishop.

The last four days I have met and conversed with Bishop Graves, our clergy and staff, and many of our church leaders to formalize some ways for our church family to proceed into the future as our nation and world confront the Coronavirus pandemic. Before I go on, I must let you know that we are blessed with an exceptional church staff. They are so flexible, faithful and competent at providing adaptive leadership. As a team, we are trying to do our best to err on the side of abundant caution and reduce the peril for those in our community and church who are at risk and vulnerable to the Coronavirus. In short, we are seeking to love our neighbors well! Please read the policies and plans below and feel free to share them with others.

1.
Effective immediately, our church facilities are closed to all groups of ten or more people through the end of March. This does include The Harbor, all church groups and all groups renting or using rooms in our facilities.

2.
Leanne Todd, Allie Freeman and Paula Harrison have formed a new ministry to help our church members who need assistance with picking up groceries, household items, and prescriptions. If you are willing to help with this ministry or are in need of some assistance, please contact Paula Harrison at the church office (793-3555 or paula@fumcdothan.org.).

3.
 On March 22nd and 29th, we will live-stream an 8:55 worship service that will incorporate elements from The Bridge and our Sanctuary Services. More information will be sent out later this week concerning how you can connect with this online worship service. We are working now on ways to provide help for those who might have trouble connecting. That information will also be forthcoming.

4.
On March 22nd and 29th, we plan on offering two online, adult Sunday School lessons taught by members of our church. More information will be sent out later this week concerning how you can connect with these two online lessons. . We are working on ways to provide help for those who might have trouble connecting. That information will also be forthcoming.

5.
On weekday mornings for the next two weeks, you’ll receive “A Good Word” video emailed from the church containing some inspiring and healing thoughts from some of our clergy.

6.
Our Weekday Children’s Ministry and our Respite Care Ministry are closed and will resume operations when the Dothan City School System reopens school in Dothan.

7.
Our church staff will still report to work during their regularly-scheduled hours. Please note that some will be working from home and others may be coming into their offices on a staggered basis. If you need to speak with a staff member, please call to set up an appointment.

8.
Our clergy will be making hospital visits when called upon. However, we will be utilizing the phone to a greater degree in our pastoral care in the weeks ahead. Please use good judgement and call upon our clergy for a hospital visit when you feel one is needed. We do not want to infect anyone in the hospital with the Coronavirus and we do not want anyone in the hospital infecting us. Four of our five clergy are in the “high risk” category when it comes to the Coronavirus. Please call Angela Larabee at 793-3555 when you have a pastoral visitation need.

9.
Observing the six foot rule when you are at our church in the weeks ahead will be a great way to love your neighbor and prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Social distancing is that simple. It’s that difficult.

10.
This Sunday is UMCOR Sunday, one of the great Sundays in the life of The United Methodist Church. If you would like to contribute to our annual United Methodist Committee on Relief offering, please make your check out to the church, earmark it “UMCOR Offering,” and mail it to the church (Carla Barnett, 1380 W. Main Street, Dothan AL, 36301).

11.
As you can see, the ministry of our church is continuing in new, adaptive ways. Presently, approximately one-third of FUMC’s revenues are given through our Sunday morning offering plates. If you, like me, are one of those who prefer to offer your tithes and offerings while participating in a worship service, please consider adapting for the next few weeks. Avenues for financial giving appear on our church website, and are available through the U.S. Postal Service. If you need any help with this, please contact our Director of Finance, Carla Burnett, at 944-3222.

We will be re-evaluating and planning how we continue to offer our future ministries early next week. As you might imagine, this is a daily process in the fast-changing world of the Coronavirus.

Andrew Hurst, one of our college students, posted the following on his Instagram account recently:

viruses are contagious
so is panic
fear
hysteria
calm
love
enthusiasm
kindness
joy
choose wisely 

People are frightened and Christians who choose wisely can point the way to the One who, in John 14:27, told his troubled followers: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Choose wisely! Love abundantly!

Inhale Faith; Exhale Fear.

Jim Sanders

MINIMIZING THE RISK OF COVID-19 IN OUR CHURCH FAMILY - 3/13/20

Dear FUMC family –

As many of you are aware, today we received the news that there is a diagnosed case of COVID-19 in our state. While our state has not seen a large number of cases, our church staff is taking precautions to keep the members of our church and our community safe.

We continue to believe that one of the best ways we can love our city right now is by taking proactive steps to slow the spread of coronavirus and reduce the number of people infected. Out of a desire to protect the safety of our members and community, and after consulting with several physicians in the area, we feel it is in everyone’s best interest for us to cancel all Sunday School classes and worship services for Sunday, March 15th. In addition, afternoon activities for the children, youth, tweens, and confirmation class will also be cancelled this Sunday, March 15th. As more information becomes available next week, we will notify you of future plans.

You’ll be glad to know that Tony Garrette and our custodial staff have been and will continue to be working diligently to keep our facilities safe and sanitary. Also, our worship teams and staff have already worked out ways for everyone to receive communion in a safer way.

Even though we are not meeting in our physical building, we still want to be able to care for one another. Part of caring for one another is contributing financially through our tithes and offerings. You are always welcome to mail in your checks with a note to designate your funds, contact Carla Barnett (Director of Finance) at 944-3222, or give online at fumcdothan.org.

Please join us as we continue to pray for the safety and well-being of all, especially in those areas that have already been hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Pray for the leaders of each country, and the healthcare providers, especially those in our own city we love. May God continue to fill you with peace and hope, in the midst of an anxious season for our country and our world!

 

Inhale faith; Exhale fear.

Jim Sanders

 

 

P.S. FUMC Children’s Weekday Ministry will continue to make decisions about their closings based on the Dothan City Schools’ decisions.

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Phone: (334) 793-3555
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