In-person worship has long been at the heart of Christian community. However, recent times have changed that reality. You likely heard our governor yesterday say that churches are allowed to reopen as long as they can safely maintain social distancing guidelines. While I know many of us long for the day that we can return to in-person worship, at this time that is simply not possible. The risks for the health and safety of all people are too high.
The father of Methodism, John Wesley, had three simple rules. One of them was “Do no harm.” We as United Methodists still seek to follow this rule today. That’s why our Bishop and her leadership team recommended this past week that United Methodist churches continue to suspend in-person worship until at least June 1. While I’m sad that we are unable to worship together at the church, I agree with the Bishop’s decision. The health and safety of all people is of the utmost concern, and we don’t want to harm anyone. Thanks to technology, we are able to continue to worship with one another safely even though we can’t be together physically. Our Zoom worship services are going well thanks to the creativity and adaptability of our Organist and Choir Director, Richard Byrd, and several talented and dedicated lay volunteers. They’ve truly been a blessing to me as we work to make this time together meaningful each week. We also had a great first Zoom Bible Study this past Wednesday evening led by church member Joyce Couch. In addition, our Director of Children and Family Ministry, Randi Turner, holds weekly Zoom calls with our children, and she is working with a team of Children’s Ministry Directors from around our conference so that we can have a virtual VBS this summer.
As we shelter in place (or shelter in love as UMCOR has put it) I’m putting together a small team that will begin thinking about how we might reopen safely whenever that time comes. This team will research best practices and health expert recommendations in order to develop an Avondale UMC-specific plan. We will share this information with you once we put it together.
A few other important updates …
- Our PDO Board made the difficult decision for PDO to remain closed for the summer months. The Board hopes to reopen the school in August if the church has been able to safely reopen and if they feel that our preschool can safely operate. In the meantime, our teachers have been meeting virtually with our preschool kiddos to stay connected and let them know they are loved.
- Our newest ministry of feeding Avondale School families is now feeding 50 families each week. This ministry began as a dream of church member Kacy Sesser-Dorne (who oversees the ministry now), and became a reality thanks to the financial generosity of many of you along with friends and neighbors of our church.
- We had an awesome day Thursday for the Mobile Food Pantry. We received thousands of pounds of food from the Food Bank to pack 200 forty-pound boxes. Along the way, we were connected with a nonprofit (The Common Market) that’s working to connect local farmers with organizations that are trying to feed hungry individuals and families. Thanks to this new partnership, we added fresh produce to the boxes we handed out. Then a neighbor who lives in Crestwood saw our sign for the mobile pantry in our parking lot, and he wanted to give back. So he drove to BreadWorks, bought several loaves of fresh bread, and brought it to us to hand out with the boxes. Pretty cool!! There are probably some other connections I missed along the way, but this is a substantial part of how it came together. I’m so proud of the amazing work our church is able to do for our neighborhood through Avondale Samaritan Place, and I’m thankful for the leadership our ASP Director, Mike Higginbotham, has brought to our efforts over this past year.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or prayer concerns you may have. Also know that I pray for all of you on a regular basis. May we all continue to seek God’s guidance, and may God comfort us in this time of uncertainty and strengthen us on this journey.
Rev. Malinda Weaver