Hello, my friends, my hopes and my prayers are that you, your families and friends are well. Because it feels like we are being pulled further and further away from each other (physically anyway), we need to be more aware of how God is calling us to use our individual gifts to stay deeper connected with each other.
First, an update on Howard B. He is still in a medical induced coma; he is holding steady. I talked to Shelley (their daughter) this morning. She said the report she received last night said he is doing a little better in some areas and holding in others, please keep them in your prayers.
I talked to Mel (Lorraine’s sister) yesterday, Lorraine is still in the hospital, they are keeping her for a while longer to make sure everything is working after her surgery last week.
Second, received news last evening from the Conference office…
LOVING GOD WHILE PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH
Suspension of In-person Worship and Other Gatherings through April
As your bishop, I am charged to lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of The United Methodist Church. For the love of God and of our neighbors in every place, today I am directing continued suspension of in-person worship through April 30, 2020. This directive is in effect for United Methodist Churches across the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and anywhere in the Greater Northwest Area served by United Methodist clergy under my supervision. This suspension of worship includes Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. It applies to both indoor and outdoor worship, weddings and funerals and to all days of the week. Please continue to conduct worship, bible study, prayer groups, and fellowship groups if you can do so remotely.
The virus is spreading in every state in the country in an invisible, vicious cycle. When a person becomes infected, symptoms don’t appear for up to two weeks. If they don’t follow hygiene and social distancing guidelines, they will expose others, who won’t show symptoms for two weeks, while they, in turn, expose others. In order to slow the spread of the virus, and to protect health care systems from being overwhelmed, each of us must take precautions to protect ourselves and others as if we are carrying the virus ourselves and as if the people around us are infected. This is what loving ourselves and our neighbors looks like for the foreseeable future, no matter where you live or whether you know anyone who has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
So that would be another 6 Sundays…I know that this e-mail will not be able to be seen by all of our congregation (no computer, e-mail etc.). So, if you are a leader of one of our Call Trees, please share this info with anyone you know falls in that category, thank you so much…
Last Sunday at 10:30 am you were all invited to either follow along and read thru our weekly bulletin and link to a few songs on YouTube, so that we could share a time of worship together though apart. You were also invited to join Audubon UMC and to link in with their Sunday morning worship. I wonder if any of you did one or both and would love some feedback from you. Did it help? Did you feel connected? Are there other ways we can connect with each other in a meaningful way until we are back at Fowler UMC for worship? I really need to know how you are feeling about Sunday morning, so that we come up with the best solution on how we will be creating worship over those next 6 weeks.
I also e-mailed out The Rest of the Story, from what would have been my message last Sunday.
We have created a Call Tree, and I hope that all of you received a call, txt or e-mail…please let me know if you haven’t. We want to stay connected with each other, but this is new for all of us, so please be patient and kind and treat each other with grace and respect…even if we are nervous or afraid.
Diane is sending out e-mails 3 times a week, sharing prayers, scriptures and good thoughts with each of you.
I know times are hard, different, and painful in so many ways. But this is not a time to throw in the towel and give up. This is a time to stand strong in our faith…As Christians, we have an opportunity now to be bearers of hope and authentic witnesses to the ways God continues to work in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of community under stress. We are in a stressful transition period time at the moment. The uncertainty of “transition periods” in the church’s life can be regarded as a kind of “wilderness” journey. It’s appropriate that it overlaps with the Lenten season. This is a time for spiritual discernment, a time of prayer and fasting. Remember it is God who is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46).
We all have been graced with different kind of gifts. In Ephesians 4, we see the entire church coming together in a five-fold ministry "to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ." What does it look like for each of us as the body of Christ here at fowler UMC, and how are is God calling us to use our individual gifts at this time and this place with the unique challenges we are facing today?
Ephesians 4 - Unity in the Body of Christ
4I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’
9(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
How does that break down for us today?
Q5 put it this way…if you are an…you should…
• Apostles innovate ideas for how this can bring about positive change and creative solutions to make this work for people in new ways.
• Prophets help us to pray, to be reminded of faithfulness to God’s word and also to care for the marginalized, poor, and those oppressed that this will hit hardest.
• Evangelists think about how we can be a peacemaking presence, good news, connectors, and encouragers in the midst of bad news.
• Teachers work on how we make sure people have up-to-date information, data, know how to respond, and help to make good decisions.
• Shepherds concentrate on how we can love, care, serve, connect and unite the community at this time.
This is a time for the whole church to come together. A time for the church to innovate, collaborate, and support one another. A time for us to boldly proclaim, "But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” (Ps 31:14).
Take a look at your own gifts and graces. Ask yourself, where do I fit in that list, what could I be doing to keep the body connected during these uncertain times we are sharing with each other.
Please pray with me…
Be with us this day, cover us with Your grace
Help us to stay strong and to overcome
Our trust and our faith is in You
That is all for today…
Thank you all…may the peace of Jesus Christ be in your hearts…I look forward to hearing back from many of you with ideas, questions, and prayers…peace, René