August 19, 2020 - A Message From our Pastor
Your Lead Team met last night, Tuesday 8/18, and the primary topic of conversation was the concern many people are expressing about not having regular in-person worship services. We want you to know that your concerns are heard and are being considered. Please know that your Lead Team has been monitoring all of the public information sources about the COVID-19 virus, including daily briefings by public officials and medical experts. We have been in contact with the local Health Department several times, to make sure that our service plans were in line with best practices for limiting the virus.
As a United Methodist congregation, we are subject to the guidance of our Bishop and the District Superintendent. The Conference has formed a COVID-19 response team. That team has provided guidelines about re-opening. There have been a few times—most recently the Ice Cream Social planned for July 25—when instructions from the Bishop’s office have caused us to cancel our plans.
All of this caution is out of a Christian desire to, as John Wesley put it, to “first, do no harm….”
COVID-19 IN MERCER COUNTY
Thankfully, Mercer County has so far been spared extreme numbers of cases. But in the last few weeks as the virus has surged, Mercer County cases have risen dramatically. In the four months from the end March through the end of July, Mercer County had 78 cases. In the past 18 days, Mercer has had an additional 32 cases—almost half as many as the entire total from the previous four months. So while the raw numbers are small, the trend is disturbing.
We struggle as your leadership with balancing the very real concerns for safety and preventing the virus from spreading more broadly with the equally powerful and real need for us to gather as the people of God. Be assured that even as many folks who express a desire for in person worship, just as many more have expressed concerns about the safety of gathering. We are trying to serve the needs of everyone as best we can.
We are making plans for three in person services over the next 6 weeks. Details follow:
- We will schedule in-person worship on August 30, September 13, and September 27. Worship will begin at 11. Masks and social distancing will be required. Each service will last about 45 minutes. Each service will offer communion, as a sign and symbol of the togetherness in the Spirit of God we experience.
- In addition to the sanctuary being configured for social distancing, we will set up the fellowship hall downstairs for use. Each of our tables are 6 feet in diameter, and so can function as an easy way to check social distance. Because we are indoors, masks are necessary to protect ourselves and our fellow congregants, we will have a live feed of the service on TV with audio, so that you can sit downstairs and be part of worship. Communion elements will be provided for those who want to worship downstairs.
- We will also broadcast the service, using our FM transmitter, so that persons who want to come to church but who are concerned about the safety of being indoors can park around the building and receive a live audio broadcast of the service. Communion elements will be provided for persons outside. Outside, masks are not required but are recommended, especially for persons in the at-risk groups. Those outside may choose to sit in lawn chairs outside their cars—but social distancing should be maintained. If you intend to sit outside, bring along your radio so you can hear the service!
All of these plans are fluid, depending on the spread of the virus. At the end of September, we will evaluate our progress, consult with local officials and other authorities, and decide if we are ready for every week worship.
Your leadership team hopes that this information can help everyone see more clearly what the process has been for the past few months, and how we are working to bring Harrodsburg UMC back together as a worshipping community.