August 17, 2020

Re. Updates for Fall Activities amid Covid-19

Dear Eatonton First UMC,

Our Start-up Task Force gathered for their fourth meeting today. I want to thank them straight away for their often thankless and stressful work that they continue to offer. They have continued to gather amid the difficulties we are all experiencing. They don't shy away from the task at hand.  

Today the task force made the following determinations for how we will proceed and why:

  1. We want to make it clear to our community that "We are open;  Everyone is welcomed." We have remained open and we believe that the congregation and the community are cooperating well to reduce any potential for any transmission of Covid-19. We will continue to worship and it is our desire to make that clear to everyone.

  2. Effective immediately, we will no longer ask for RSVP's for worship services. Attendances have been down and we believe that we should not require this any further.

  3. "Tushes Down; Masks Down. Tushes Up; Masks Up." Perhaps this is cheeky (couldn't resist), but know that as long as we are seated, we hope to encourage people to remove their masks. If we are standing, singing or walking, please leave your masks on.

  4. If someone needs help accessing online, we want to help. I hope that you will let us know who among our congregation needs assistance to connect for worship. 

  5. We are going to pursue starting back for Wednesday Night Suppers and Wednesday evening activities beginning September 16 at 5:00 p.m. This date was chosen so that we all can observe any potential spikes that may occur in our Putnam County Schools. The extra week will give us seven extra days to respond if something significant affects our students and their families and friends. We are planning to eat pre-boxed suppers and bottled drinks with more spacing for seating.  The children will eat suppers in the JYF, SPARK, and MYF areas respectively. There will be no nursery until further notice for Wednesday nights.

  6. Children's Choir will begin on September 16, too.  This will coincide with our other Wednesday night events.

  7. Children's and Youth Sunday School classes will return on September 13. This affords our congregation to have a handle on any potential outbreak that might occur following the August 31 start-up for Putnam County Schools.

  8. The Choir is asked to return to leading singing ASAP, so long as they are singing with appropriate distancing during the worship service. If someone in the choir experiences becomes infected, we will press the pause button until we understand that the choir and the congregation are safe.

  9. United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men, and all other groups are asked to not meet on campus until these above advents are first implemented.  

Our Start-up Task Force is scheduled to meet again on September 14 at noon in the Upper Room.  We are hoping that infection rates, hospitalizations and mortality rates for Covid-19 will remain low and stable in Eatonton and Putnam County at rates that will give us the confidence to gather confidently and courageously.  

Beloved, this stuff isn't easy, but we must seek to go forward in ways that "do no harm." There are several "harms" being done through this process and I am aware of several of them. There is potential for physical harm, both harm by Covid-19 and harm by reduced herd immunity. We are mindful of both and we truly seek to avoid both, but it seems to be a tricky balance. There is potential for mental harm, caused by our separation, isolation, and general debility therein. There is potential among us for spiritual harm spurned forward as we are not able to gather for the worship of God. I argue that we need to be present in body, mind, and spirit to be fully connected with God.

Finally, I am calling our Congregation to daily prayer beginning tonight. You are a praying church. You have proven that to me time and again during my first year serving with you. I am asking that together we pray for our Nation, greater Eatonton and Putnam County, and our EFUMC Congregation. Pray specifically for this with me and with our Congregation first thing in the morning and as you are going to bed. Pray with your children. Let's pray together from tonight until September 30. God can lead us further as he sees fit once we get to the end of September. May God hear our prayers.

Love in Christ alone,
Pastor David +