I write today to give you an update about our operations at FUMC. As more and more people receive vaccines, we anticipate that you will have questions about changes to our ministry opportunities, and we want to keep you updated as we go. Our Executive Team is meeting monthly to discuss changes and make decisions that ensure safe ministry operations.
Let me remind you that our church’s ministry has never ceased–only adapted! In reality, that has been the way of God’s people since our beginning: we adapt to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, trusting God to guide us and make a way. In that Spirit, here’s where we are right now:
- The Executive Team is utilizing Austin Public Health risk-based guidelines in conversation with CDC guidelines to make decisions. Per these resources, Austin/Travis County is currently in Stage 3, in which all persons are encouraged to avoid social gatherings of 10 or more.Based on these guidelines, we are allowing groups smaller than 10 for meetings or events inside the building. Our ministries with neighbors experiencing homelessness, staff operations, and worship recordings meet this requirement. We are able to perform wedding and funeral services at this level, as well.
- Whenever possible, we encourage groups to meet outside. In the last couple of weeks, our “Cheers” group and ASP team have held successful events outside in our parking lot. Our youth ministry has even taken the creative step of holding small group gatherings on the rooftop of Whole Foods Market!
- We’re waiting to reopen the Sanctuary for Sunday morning worship. Gathering inside as a large group for an extended time is one of the highest-risk activities one can take right now. In a step of solidarity and inclusion, our Executive Team is committed to reopen the Sanctuary for worship only after all adults are eligible to receive a vaccine if they wish. Again, this will be done in careful conversation with the APH guidelines, with safety protocols in place. When we shift to holding in-person worship in the Sanctuary, we will also shift to livestreaming our services (instead of pre-recording), so those who wish to worship from home will still be able to participate.
- All are welcome for in-person outdoor worship opportunities for Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Holy Communion. (Registration will be required for Easter Vigil and Holy Communion.) Click Here for more information about all Holy Week activities.
I anticipate that some of you are feeling more restless and desire to be back to our full operation. I understand–no one wants to be “back” more than your Pastor! As we marked one year since the pandemic arrived in Austin, I looked back at one of the first emails I sent to the church, on March 13, 2020. Even as so much has changed this year, I am still filled with these same convictions:
“It is difficult to hold the tension of current events. From moment to moment, we can easily swing back and forth between fear and fatalism, panic and apathy. I believe our call is to live in the middle, which means living in the tension. While God assures us that we are freed from the need to let fear drive our lives, we still hold responsibility—both as individuals, and as a church family in partnership with our wider community.
We are making decisions with that responsibility in mind, along with our desire to serve, drawing on Paul’s admonishment to “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” This is a time for setting aside preferences and desires for the sake of the most vulnerable; many of you have had to adjust precious plans, vacations, and important events in order to be a “team player” as a member of the community. We will do the same as a church.”
Your commitment to one another and to set an example in our community have been an incredible act of love. I have hope that we are on a steady march toward a new normal; we’ll get there! What’s more, I have confidence that God is guiding us each step of the way. I invite you to pray for our leaders as we move forward.
With abundant gratitude,