The Church Council will meet Thursday to discuss the continuance of in-person worship and/or small group gatherings. This group, which consists of FUMC leaders, pastors and staff, will confer with the conference and local health officials on the best path forward for the Advent Season.
Dear Clergy and Laity of the Great Plains Conference,
Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Out of an abundance of caution I am strongly encouraging that in-person worship services for congregations located in counties identified as being in critical or dangerous statuses related to the COVID-19 pandemic be suspended until further notice. I fully recognize that this means worshipping physically apart from one another during the Thanksgiving and Advent seasons, including Christmas Eve, funerals, weddings, and other large group gatherings but I believe this is the most responsible action at this time to preserve the health and wellbeing of our laity and clergy.
We are living in difficult and uncertain times. I am aware that many of our Thanksgiving tables will be fraught with uncertainties and absent of our loved ones for a variety of reasons. I am aware that this Christmas season will be difficult for individuals, families, and our communities. But we are a people of relentless hope in God in times of darkness, danger, and despair.
Just because we can’t gather for worship in our church buildings in this season of pandemic like we are accustomed, it does not in any way mean we cannot worship. In fact, our inability to gather as a community of faith to worship should compel us to find new ways to worship until we are able to gather again.
Please support your local church’s online worship services. Use the Advent in a Box resources on our Great Plains website to help center and guide your devotional life. Follow an Advent Study with your family or with an online Bible study group. Avail yourselves with daily Advent Scripture readings using the 2020 Advent Lectionary Readings. Listen to and sing the hymns of Christmas. Continue giving generously to your local church and to mercy ministries that help people make it through this difficult season. Take spiritual responsibility for your friends, co-workers, clients, patients, and customers, pray for them and live your life in such a way that shows Christ’s outreaching love and care for them. Peaceably put an end to quarrels. Courageously name harm, relieve pain and suffering, and heal injury as you are able. This is the true worship God desires and chooses for us.
And please note that the conference is providing worship resources — including an entire service — on video that can be used either on Christmas Eve or Dec. 27. These videos will be posted to the conference website no later than Dec. 18.
Know that you are always in my thoughts and prayers.
Thank you for your loyalty to Christ, to The United Methodist Church you belong to and, as a disciple of Christ, your loyalty to and love of your neighbor.
Agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).
Ruben Saenz Jr.