I want to share with you that our leadership is hard at work developing guidelines and protocols that will govern our approach to reopening the FUMC building in the future. Our approach is cautious; we are taking very seriously the call to “Do no harm,” so even if the law allows us to offer in-person worship, we will not do so until the conditions in Austin meet criteria recommended by physicians and public health experts. As our Bishop has reminded us, the church is essential; meeting in person for worship is not. We can be church from home—you are already proving that!
Our approach is phased, and will involve a return of office staff and smaller activities first, with larger gatherings following at a later time. We are determining the safety and cleaning protocols needed for when the time comes. Later, if conditions in Austin worsen, we’ll be ready to revert to earlier phases again. I am blessed by wonderful, growing relationships with the Pastors of other mainline churches in Downtown Austin; we have become fast friends and are working to coordinate our responses as much as possible.
To continue to meet the church’s needs, we are adapting to offer online opportunities for worship and small groups, even after our buildings are open and operating again. We see this as an essential part of our ministry for the future, and we are acquiring the equipment, software, training, and staff that we need in order to integrate these components into our ministry for the long term.
FUMC is blessed by thoughtful, knowledgeable leaders who are eager to help the church flourish and wise in managing the way in which we do it. I am grateful for their leadership throughout this time, as well as your support for all of us who have challenging decisions before us. Throughout all of it, we maintain our primary focus on our mission to build a community where all people are invited to know the love of God and sent to join God in transforming the world.
This work is all the more essential and possible in a time of pandemic. I pray that you are finding ways to connect with God and one another in ways that sustain you through these days.