Dear Church family,
After both worship services last Sunday, 3-16-2020, many felt very positive and hopeful. I went away thinking that we would offer services this coming Sunday. But that afternoon, strong voices were urging the suspension of our public worship services beginning next Sunday. Government officials were discouraging gatherings of 50 or more and that seniors 65+ should self-isolate. I also heard that someone from Orcutt had been diagnosed. So I had a change of heart and mind. As I write this, the capacity guidelines for gatherings and the age ceiling for self-isolation are getting lower and lower.
In the evening, I was more and more convinced that we should suspend, so I emailed our Church Council members and the paid and volunteer staff to listen to their thoughts. Those who replied agreed that we should suspend.
Then I received an email from our Bishop Grant Hagiya. He says,
“…we are being instructed by our local authorities to limit exposure and not meet in groups larger than 10… Therefore… we are instructing all of our churches in the California-Pacific Conference not to hold public worship services. We firmly suggest that those over 65 years of age, or who have underlying health conditions, stay at home and not attend church worship services or meetings. We also suggest that church gatherings over 10 people not meet, and if you do meet… that you allow a safe distance of 6 feet between people. We hope that you can livestream or use internet meetings…we must ensure the safety of our congregations and shut-ins.”
(Instruction to pastors) “We are recommending that you do not physically visit nursing homes or the elderly to limit their exposure, unless it is a close to death experience or hospice situation where they would like to see you. We recommend regular phone calls to parishioners, and you can expand upon this to organize phone/email trees…”
Thus I’ve decided that we are not offering Sunday morning worship services beginning this Sunday, March 22. What is the timetable for resuming? I saw that one of my colleagues in Los Angeles, at a large size congregation, stated that they are not having services for 8 weeks. I’m not putting a timetable right now. We just have to take it one step at a time and to just wait until further notice. I’m thinking that we may have to miss Easter service gatherings.
We will offer online worship with a sermon at the usual Sunday worship times of 8:45 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Will there be music? Choir anthem? The usual prayers? What about offerings? The exact format is yet to be determined. We offered livestream last Sunday and the majority of comments were positive, although we need to work on sound consistency. We may pre-record the music and/or the message and play it on Sundays. I haven’t gotten that far yet. If you would like a transcript of the sermon e-mailed to you, just let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org With regards to your offerings and pledges, you can mail them in. We will be doing some research into online giving and hope to come to a decision soon.
Prayer requests can be emailed or texted to me and we can circulate on the all church email group if you wish.
Our website: santamariafumc.net
Facebook page: Santa Maria First United Methodist Church
YouTube Sunday Service: Santa Maria First UMC
With regards to our office, we will still have Dora come as usual 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday to receive regular mail, attend to e-mails, take phone calls and messages, produce newsletters, and deal with other administrative needs. I would recommend calling if you plan to drop in. I’ll be keeping to my usual office time of coming in around 10 a.m. and staying until about 1 or 2 p.m., depending on the week, Tuesdays through Thursdays. I’m flexible on Fridays and Saturdays.
Weekly/monthly gatherings: Ladies of Faith, Choir Practice, Country Oaks Ministry, Youth Group, Children’s choir, and play rehearsals are on hold.
With regards to committees, we will call meetings as needed and/or conduct meetings and make decisions via e-mail or phone calls.
If you need to contact me, my cell number is 626-487-2329 or email me email@example.com
If we don’t have your email address or not sure if we have it, please contact us at the office so that you can be added. Also, if you have a cell-phone # that you wish to share with us, you can also give it to us.
I’ll be posting more often on our Facebook web page: Santa Maria First United Methodist Church, and sending out more announcements and content each week.
We will send this communication out via regular mail to those who we know that don’t have a computer or are not online. If you know someone in our church family who doesn’t have a computer or is not on the internet please pass on this information or call them on the phone to keep contact.
(signed) Pastor Bob Isip