“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
The last few weeks have been the most remarkable in my 12 years of ministry. Our social media accounts and news stories are replete with people acting selfishly, empty grocery store shelves, frustration with government officials, economic ruin, and rising infection and death rates. Nevertheless, it has been a blessing to see our Bethel family continue following Jesus by loving God and loving our neighbors. We have continued to be about the mission and ministry to which God calls us.
This week we have seen Gov. McMaster and state officials begin to roll back some quarantine measures. Regardless, we are still being asked to exercise social distancing. This means limiting the number of people in buildings to 20% occupancy or 5 people per 1000 square feet. It also means maintaining six feet of distance from people who are not part of your household.
Yesterday, Bishop Holston, in consultation with his Cabinet, and in compliance with the most recent information shared by public health officials, strongly recommend that every local church continue to suspend all in-person worship services, gatherings, meetings and events through May 20, 2020. He said, “The time will come when we will be together again physically. We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder again, praising our Savior in word and song. In the meantime, I know that you will remain persistent in finding ways to be in community with your sisters and brothers in Christ.” You can read his full statement here: https://www.umcsc.org/bishop-holston-suspend-in-person-worship-through-may-20/
I am also mindful of John Wesley’s first General Rule – do no harm. From a practical standpoint, it is impossible for us to hold in-person worship and resume normal church activities in compliance with these guidelines. From a spiritual standpoint, it would be harmful to members of our church family if we were to go against these social distancing guidelines. As such, we here at Bethel UMC will continue virtual worship and meetings through May 20th. The situation remains fluid and we may adjust these plans going forward. Please continue to monitor communications from the church office.
The words of Romans 8:38-39 have been my comfort throughout this difficult time: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I do not know when and I do not know how, but I know this pandemic will end. I know this because I know nothing can separate us from God’s love. Until then, let us rest in God’s love and live in love with one another.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Julie Belman