Thank you! You have shown over past several weeks that the Church truly is the people. As I talk with church members, I get the sense that people are protecting their own health, finding new ways to thrive, & purposefully looking to apply their Christian faith. All the while, First United Methodist Church members love their Church... meaning, we look forward to gathering back as soon as possible. We are eager to be together!
In this eblast, I will address the WHY, HOW, and WHERE of worship in the immediate future. The answer to WHEN we may gather is not yet clear. Nonetheless, clarity on these other questions will help us be ready to worship together safely as soon as possible. On April 29, I held an ad-hoc Zoom meeting with some church leaders to discuss our church's approach. What follows here is a summary.
Please read this thoroughly & let me know what follow-up questions you may have.
WHY We always need to start with "why?" so that we are sure about our purpose. Gathering for worship in person is intrinsic to Christianity and our long heritage traced through the Old Testament. Our mission, "to make and nurture Christian disciples..." calls us to be gathered together in person whenever possible. The COVID-19 pandemic brings unprecedented challenges & opportunities. As we look toward worship, the Church must be faithful. This calls us adapt to ensure people's safety and the Church's compliance with guidelines. As such, the church seeks to stay in step with the CDC's recommendations by asking, "how do these recommendations translate to our people, facilities, and way of gathering?" This means that we will keep with social distancing practices; make adjustments to account for cleaning with the COVID-19 disinfectant; and monitor highly touched items (e.g. bulletins, hymnals, offering plates, door handles, etc).
The following flow chart describes more detail To answer some quick questions: Yes, family members can sit together. Yes, we will explore the use of screens for projecting words & reduce the need for printed bulletins. And yes, the "Worshipful Moments" videos will continue for those who need to stay home. For those needing to stay home, and for those itching to break loose, we want to provide our church members longing for a sense of community.
Let's together keep up our adventurous spirits and caring nature.
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10
Easter blessings, Pastor Mark
March 25, 2020 Church Wide Email
Ways to Connect This Week
Praying Together TODAY (Wednesday, March 25) at 12:00 pm, NOON Friday, March 27 at 10:00 am
Pastor Mark Conforti says, "Our 'Year of Prayer' has taken on an altogether new tone, hasn't it? Today at Noon, let's pray with Christians across the world for the end of the coronavirus. In different time zones, in different languages, Christians praying together... try to imagine that with me. While you're praying, be sure to include 'The Lord's Prayer.' Then on Friday, let's pray again -- that day, at 10:00 am, with fellow FUMC brothers and sisters. I'm grateful for Brenda Loflin, our church's Lay Leader, for inviting us to this prayer time together. Even though we are not physically in the same space, our hearts and minds can be united in prayer."
Bible Study on YouTube Live TODAY (Wednesday, March 25) at 4:00 pm
Pastor Mark Conforti says, "Join me again for a live Bible study (10-12 minutes long), looking closely at Jesus' parables. The text for today will be Luke 15:8-10; click HERE. And click HERE to watch at 4:00 pm or a later time."
Kids Connection Zoom Meeting TODAY (Wednesday, March 25) at 6:15 pm
Click HERE to join the Kids Connection Zoom Meeting.
Give to Support the Church Thursday, March 26, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Drive through the church's porte cochere on West Fisher Street to drop off your financial gift with Becca Blackmon, Business Administrator.
Other ways FUMC Salisbury members can make a financial gift include sending a gift via the US Postal Service, online bill pay with your bank, or give online HERE.
Worshipful Moments Sunday, March 29 at 10:00 am
Join Pastor Mark Conforti & Pastor Stacey Lundy for "Worshipful Moments." Click HERE to watch on the church's new YouTube channel.
The original advisory from Bishop Leeland said to suspend worship for March 15 & March 22. Since then, as we all well know, the federal & state precautions have become more strict. Yesterday, Bishop Leeland issued another advisory, including both an indefinite suspension of "all in-person worship and gatherings," plus a temporary provision for the Sacrament of Holy Communion from home. Yes, you read that correctly! Click HERE for Bishop Leeland's full statement. Salisbury Youth Zoom Meeting Sunday, March 29 at 5:30 pm
Bible Study on YouTube Live TODAY (Wednesday, March 18) at 4:00 pm
Pastor Mark Conforti says, "Join me for a live Bible study (10-12 minutes long), looking closely at Jesus' parables. Have your Bibles open to Matthew chapter 7, or click HERE to read the parable for today. Be sure to click HERE for the church's new YouTube channel to watch at 4:00 pm. We will keep the video posted on the channel for a few weeks, so you can watch later or share with a friend."
Kids Connection Zoom Meeting TODAY (Wednesday, March 18) at 6:15 pm
Bailee Weisensel says, "Join me as we virtually meet from 6:15pm – 6:45pm for Kids Connection via Zoom! We will discover how each one of us is so valuable and so precious to God. God wants to make sure we know that He loves us and that we are never lost. Not only does God love us a lot, but God will never stop loving us. This is geared towards K-3rd grade, but all are welcome!"
Click HERE to join the Kids Connection Zoom Meeting. Follow the steps, & within moments you will be connected. There is also an APP you can download and add to your phone. This is 100% free. This will include video and audio.
Give to Support the Church Thursday, March 19, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Drive through the church's porte cochere on West Fisher Street to drop off your financial gift. Becca Blackmon, Business Administrator, will be there ready to greet you personally and receive your contribution.
Join Pastor Mark Conforti & Pastor Stacey Lundy for "Worshipful Moments" to help bridge the gap between now and when we can gather back together for Sunday worship services. Click HERE to watch on the church's new YouTube channel.
Steven Aycock, Interim Director of Music and Organist, offers this encouragement: "Since we can't go to church, you might consider using these forms for prayer in your home. If there are two or more, you can divide the readings and other parts of the service. As music is the handmaid of the liturgy, you can listen and pray the canticle as the choir sings." Click below.
Bailee Weisensel says, "Join me as we virtually meet for Club45 via Zoom! All 4th and 5th graders are welcome! God made each and every one of you to have your own unique gifts, abilities, interests, and talents, and God wants you to do amazing things with them because God made you to do great things.
Click HERE to join the Kids Connection Zoom Meeting. Follow the steps, & within moments you will be connected. There is also an APP you can download and add to your phone. This is 100% free. This will include video and audio. Salisbury Youth Zoom Meeting Sunday, March 22 at 5:30 pm
Jenni Fogt says, "Youth group, just online! The current health crisis will be preventing us from meeting in person, but we can still be the church. Salisbury Youth will meet over zoom calls on Sunday nights, at our regular time. I invite all of our youth to participate and find a source of connection during this period of isolation. Our hope in Jesus is bigger than this moment in time, and we look forward to the day when we can meet in person again. Wash your hands, and meet us on Zoom. 😊"
Zoom, FaceTime, and phone calls are also going to keep us in touch in small groups and one-on-one. Watch our Instagram, and the church’s Facebook page as we will continue to post updates there as well. If you/your student wants to be part of a small group, let Jenni know!
In the meantime, our youth packed 282 pounds of rice and beans for Rowan Helping Ministries when we met together last! These staple supplies were delivered just in time! The church also collected 46 jars of peanut butter and jelly during Love Week. These donations are already blessing our community! If you still have peanut butter you intended to donate, we will deliver it to RHM at a later date. Consider Love Week extended, and take on the challenge of sharing the love you have received with others who need to know God is still at work within the world.
March 16, 2020 Church Wide Email
One evening long ago, when Jesus & his disciples were in a boat together, a great storm arose (Mark 4:35-41). The disciples were overwhelmed with worry. In a desperate panic, they sought out Jesus, supposing that he did not care. But of course, Jesus' care ran much deeper than the disciples could fathom. Jesus rebuked the wind and told the sea, "Peace! Be Still!"
This same Jesus, in the midst of today's storm, speaks those same words.
"Peace! Be Still!"
May the loving presence of Almighty God grant you a profound sense of calm and peace. And may this same God continue to watch over our church's ministries, that we all continue to grow in our Christian discipleship. After all, there are new conditions restricting the way we customarily "do church." Bishop Leeland's advisory came Thursday, then on Saturday came Governor Cooper's executive order. Just recently, the CDC says that there should be no gatherings greater than 50 people for the next 8 weeks, and today the White House advises groups of 10 or less. As a result, many special upcoming events, such as the United Methodist Women Spaghetti Luncheon, will be postponed.
In light of these rapidly-changing and challenging conditions, here is an important update on First United Methodist Church of Salisbury:
Please let me or Pastor Stacey Lundy know directly about any needs. We are ready to respond by telephone, since we are not permitted to visit the hospitals or nursing facilities. We could also set up a FaceTime or Zoom call. Just let us know. Along with our Sunshine Visitors, connecting with our home bound members is a top priority.
The next "Worshipful Moments" will be Sunday, March 22 at 10:00 am. Click on the church's new YouTube Channel to watch. Subscribe & share this link with others, so they can watch too. Also, look for more information about worship beyond next week!
On the church's page, look for Pastor Stacey's daily Lenten messages. On the Children's Ministry page (Kids First in Christ), look for Facebook Live events with Bailee Weisensel. Simply click on to watch & participate; invite others, too!
Ways to Connect
In the coming weeks, look for more eblasts with inspirational messages, video announcements, more messages via YouTube livestream, and virtual meetings. Jenni Fogt will be creating Zoom meetings for the youth to gather, as well as some encouraging videos that will be sent out on social media!
Drop off your offering on Thursday, March 19, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm at the porte cochere on West Fisher Street. Just drive through, and Becca Blackmon will be there personally to receive your offering. Of course, you can always mail your gift to the church or make an online contribution. But we want to offer this drop-off opportunity on Thursday, because we know how you want to support the church. After all, your continued generosity is needed because the church's expenses continue.
The church office plans to stay open through the week. Also, the entire building is being cleaned with CDC-approved disinfectant.
Let us know your questions, and together we will continue to be the Church.
May Jesus, who calmed the sea long ago, bring peace to our hearts today.
Grace and peace, Pastor Mark
March 12, 2020 Church Wide Email
Our worship services, Sunday School classes, and most other groups will not meet over the next two calendar weeks. For details, including worship resources to help bridge the gap, keep reading below.
These measures are in response to the COVID-19 (aka "coronavirus") situation. We are living in strange times, aren't we? While washing our hands, monitoring our health, and caring for our loved ones, we are also trying to stay up-to-date on pertinent news. Since last Tuesday, March 3, when I sent a church-wide eblast about this matter, the situation has developed quickly. Today Bishop Paul Leeland's message urges all Western North Carolina Conference churches to suspend worship over the next two weeks. So we are wanting to keep in pace with this advisory, along with public health official's guidance, such as avoiding large gatherings. We are making these plans to love one another well.
Women's Beach Retreat -- STILL ON
Scouts Roanoke River Platform Trip -- STILL ON
Preschool, Children's Development Center, and After-School Childcare -- STILL FOLLOWING ROWAN-SALISBURY SCHOOLS CALENDAR
Sunday, March 15 -- No worship services, Sunday School, Confirmation, or Salisbury Youth bowling (I am working on creating a YouTube livestream for Sunday morning at 10:00 am, so that we can use technology to worship together. Look for more info in an upcoming eblast!)
Monday, March 16 -- No scout meetings
Tuesday, March 17 -- Trustees meeting TBD
Wednesday, March 18 -- No Midweek@First Dinner, Lenten Prayer Service, Kids Connection, or Forgiveness class Chancel Choir Rehearsal STILL ON
Thursday, March 19 -- No finance committee meeting
Sunday, March 22 -- No worship services, Sunday School, Confirmation, Club 45, or Salisbury Youth; the second Visioning Day with Mr. John Dyer will be postponed, date TBD (Again, I am working on creating a YouTube livestream for that Sunday morning.)
Tuesday, March 24 -- Church Council meeting postponed until Tuesday, March 31
Wednesday, March 25 -- No Midweek@First Dinner, Lenten Prayer Service, Kids Connection, or Forgiveness class Chancel Choir Rehearsal STILL ON
Although most programming has been stopped, the church office will be open during regular hours, Monday through Friday. We continue to implement disinfecting practices throughout the building to ensure cleanliness for everyone. Also, let's keep following the CDC's recommendation for "social distancing" to help prevent further spread of any illness.
Pastor Stacey and I are certainly available for pastoral care. Please call us as needs arise! During these times, we will follow the visitation guidelines of the hospitals and nursing care facilities.
Also please know that our church expenses continue. Your ongoing offerings are much needed and deeply appreciated. You can make an online contribution HERE or mail your gift to the church office: 217 South Church Street, 28144.
Thank you for your understanding and patience as we navigate all of these issues together. We will continue to update you with any changes.
Grace and peace, Pastor Mark
March 3, 2020 Church Wide Email
I am writing to you about two items directly related to our church making disciples: a) the coronavirus b) giving money to support missions
These two important topics have something in common: the needs are overwhelming, yet we are called to be hopeful, loving, and vigilant.
The Coronavirus (If you haven't read the church-wide email I sent Tuesday, let me know and I'll send you a copy) Over the past several days, shoppers have bought out the hand-sanitizers and cleaners. Planned events, such as the March Madness basketball tournaments, are thinking of contingency plans. And churches such as ours are preparing to take precautions. There are no known cases of the coronavirus in Rowan County. Yet we are needing to be proactive. Please know that your church is stocked up with hand soap & sanitizer. Mike Fansler, our Building Superintendent, consistently does an excellent job cleaning our entire church facility using a hospital grade disinfectant. This week, he has been extra thorough, and will continue.
Your help is needed to help prevent the spread of any illness. Click HERE for preventative measures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Church is still open, and we want you to be part of the action! When you greet people while on the church campus, for the time being let's warmly and loving do so from a distance without physically touching. This will be a challenge for me, because I always enjoy giving hugs and shaking hands with you. Let's keep washing our hands, covering our sneezes and coughs, and yes, realize the need to stay home when we are ill. Together, we can be hopeful, loving, and vigilant for the sake of the Kingdom.
Giving Money to Support Missions Coming up we have several marvelous ways for you to participate in the church's effort to share God's love with our local community and around the world. We typically use the word "mission" to describe our overall purpose of disciple-making. And of course we also use the word to describe our efforts beyond the church walls to heal the sick, comfort the lonely, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and seek justice.
Please make sure that all of these exciting and fun events are on your calendar:
Boston Butt Sale (tickets on sale this Sunday, pick up on April 3), to support many mission efforts, especially feeding ministries such as Rise Against Hunger
United Methodist Women Spaghetti Luncheon (March 29), to support local efforts and youth mission projects
Palm Sunday Breakfast (April 5), to support the two summer mission trips
We need a broad base of church members in helping to make missions happen!
Meanwhile, Sunday, March 22 will be "UMCOR Sunday," formerly known as "One Great Hour of Sharing." Those special gifts offered to support UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, go a long way! United Methodists' gifts from around the globe on that day will provide the infrastructure so that we can respond immediately when disasters strike. For example, have you learned about the devastating tornadoes that recently hit Nashville, Tennessee? One my dear friends, Dietz Osborne, just shared the following photos of his church, East End United Methodist Church in Nashville. Can you imagine if this was FUMC of Salisbury? That historic pipe organ in the photo was installed in 1912 for $2,000 -- thanks to a $1,000 gift from the Carnegie family and $1,000 raised from those church members. Today's church members are grieving the loss of their facility, the devastation of their community, and most importantly the loss of life. All of the people are heartbroken and overwhelmed. Thankfully, UMCOR is already active on the ground with the clean up and recovery effort. One hundred percent of every gift you offer goes straight to the effort, thanks to UMCOR Sunday on March 22.
Together, we can be hopeful, loving, and vigilant for the sake of the Kingdom.