July 29, 2020
 
Greetings Church!
 
We thank you for your grace and patience as we lead a way forward. The governor’s executive order for a mask mandate was issued on July 2. In following this mandate, you will see that one exclusion is “any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, but wearing a face-covering is strongly recommended.” Therefore, in adhering to this and to CDC guidelines, we continue to strongly recommend that you wear a face-covering at FUMC.
 
The next phase we are ready for is small groups. This includes Sunday School classes, lay leadership committee meetings, and small group studies. The leaders have been contacted and each group is deciding when they are ready to gather. FUMC now has Safety Actions and cleaning protocols posted in each area and room (see below). 
 
Your physical and spiritual health is of concern to leadership at FUMC. So, please take care of yourself, care for others and PRAY!
 
In Patient Pursuit of Community,
Pastor Karin
 
 
May 29, 2020
 
Greetings FUMC family!
 

Moving forward – – another exciting announcement! On June 7, the 11am Contemporary Service will begin meeting in-person for worship. Your safety is of utmost importance to us, so we are taking a prudent route in worshiping. We respect your ability to make responsible decisions regarding your own care.  Just as in the Traditional service, the Contemporary service will have the same responsible steps taken in order that we may worship as a community together.

In the same way you have been gracious and patient with us here at the church as we worked our way through worship online, and in-person at the Traditional service, please be patient and gracious as we begin worshiping in-person at 11am in the Fellowship Center. This means that there will be some things that are vastly different – at least for the time being. However, we still worship the same unchanging God.

Let me begin by saying there will still be online worship options available. If you want to wait a couple of weeks before attending, or are in the at-risk group, please consider continuing to join us for worship via the online options. For those who will be joining us in person on June 7th, we strongly encourage you to adhere to CDC guidance about staying home if you are sick. Remember to frequently wash your hands, and suggest you wear a mask. The staff and I will be following this advice as well. With that, let me share with you what we are asking you to do.

First, we will all enter through one door on 5th street which will open at 10:30 a.m. The Dining Room door off of the parking lot in the back will not be opened. There will be signage directing your way, and someone greeting you at the door. While waiting to enter from the outside, I ask that you maintain good social distancing (6 feet from those outside your family).

Second, we have taken careful steps to prepare the Fellowship Center for each of you. It has been thoroughly cleaned, and family groups of chairs have been set up 6 feet apart. Staff and volunteers will usher you to your seat.

Third, when we exit, I will ask those who are sitting at the back to exit first in order to limit the amount of potential contact with one another and to keep from congregating in a way that would subvert other efforts.

Last, we will not “pass the peace” as we usually have in the past. We will find new ways to greet one another! We also will not pass the offering plate. Instead, offering envelopes will be available in row of seats for you to put your offering, and at the end of service drop the envelope in the offering box provided by the exit doors. I also ask, even if you give on-line, please write your name and phone number on the envelope so we know exactly who was present. We do this in case we need to get in touch with every person present in the event there is a confirmed exposure.

For some, these measures may seem a bit extreme. I understand that. Please know that we want to err on the side of being overly cautious so that we can slowly continue to help our church and community return to a place where fellowship, worship, and ministry are able to be a consistent part of our lives again. Each week, we will evaluate and obtain guidance from medical and governmental authorities to make adjustments. We will make sure to keep you informed.

I want to thank each of you again, and to ask that you continue to pray for our church and one another. Continue to pray for the medical professionals that are working so diligently to keep each of us safe and healthy. Finally, pray that the decisions that are made by all leaders are guided by prudence, care, and loving wisdom of God.

May God bless each of you, and whether I see you this Sunday or sometime in the future, please know I pray for each of you! I know that no distance can keep us from the embrace of the Holy Spirit that binds us all together!

Pastor Todd

May 13, 2020
 
Greetings FUMC family!
 
It’s with great excitement that I email you today!  I am so excited to see those of you that are able to be here in church as we emerge to a new sense of normal!  I’ve missed all of you!  Your safety is of utmost importance to us, so we are taking a prudent route in worshiping on Sunday. We respect your ability to make responsible decisions regarding your own care.  
 
Over the past two months, our world, and the way we live our lives day to day, has been drastically upended.  No one could have foreseen what the spring of 2020 would look like just six months ago.  Nor can any of us gaze into a crystal ball and know the timeline or steps that will lead us to what awaits us on the other side of this.  What we do know is this, we will take steps each and every week in a responsible manner to worship as a community together, and eventually then add the other ministries we hold so dear!  While we may all want to flip the light switch and have everything return to the way it was in early March, we know that cannot be the case.
 
Just as you have been gracious and patient with us here at the church as we worked our way through the obstacles of moving worship online, I ask you to be patient and gracious as we start back to weekly worship.  This means that there will be some things that are vastly different – at least for the time being.  However, we still worship the same unchanging God.
 
Let me begin by saying there will still be online worship options available.  If you want to wait a couple of weeks before attending, or are in the at-risk group, please consider continuing to join us for worship via the online options.  For those who will be joining us in person this Sunday, we strongly encourage you to adhere to CDC guidance about staying home if you are sick.  Remember to frequently wash your hands, and wear a mask.  The staff and I will be following this advice as well.  With that, let me share with you what we are asking you to do this Sunday.
 
First, we will all enter through one door on Lee St. (the east side of the church).  This door will open at 8:30 a.m.  There will be signage directing your way, and someone greeting you at the door.  As such, you might want to arrive a little earlier than usual in order that everyone can get in the building prior to the beginning of worship.  While waiting to enter from the outside, I ask that you maintain good social distancing (6 feet from those outside your family).
 
Second, we have taken careful steps to prepare the sanctuary for each of you.  The sanctuary has been thoroughly cleaned, and areas have been cordoned off to maintain distance from one another.  We will only sit in every other pew with a six foot section in each pew that we will not sit in.  Depending on the number of people that are able to come this Sunday, we may utilize the balcony more than usual.  There will be staff and volunteers that usher you to your seat, so this might mean not sitting in your usual spot.  I apologize for that, but it will be fun to worship from a new perspective!
 
Third, when we exit, I will ask those who are sitting at the back of the sanctuary to exit first in order to limit the amount of potential contact with one another and to keep from congregating in a way that would subvert other efforts.
 
On Sunday, we will not “pass the peace” as we usually have in the past.  We will find new ways to greet one another!  We also will not pass the offering plate.  Instead, offering envelopes will be available in every seat for you to put your offering, and at the end of service drop the envelope in the offering boxes provided by the exit doors.  I also ask, whether you are putting something in the envelope or not, for you please write your name and number on the envelope so we know exactly who was present.  We do this in case we need to get in touch with every person present in the event there is a confirmed exposure and we need to get hold of you.
 
For some, these measures may seem a bit extreme.  I understand that.  Please know that we want to err on the side of being overly cautious so that we can slowly continue to help our church and community return to a place where fellowship, worship, and ministry are able to be a consistent part of our lives again.  Each week, we will evaluate and obtain guidance from medical and governmental authorities to make adjustments.  We will make sure to keep you informed.
 
I want to thank each of you again, and to ask that you continue to pray for our church and one another.  Continue to pray for the medical professionals that are working so diligently to keep each of us safe and healthy.  Finally, pray that the decisions that are made by all leaders are guided by prudence, care, and loving wisdom of God.
 
May God bless each of you, and whether I see you this Sunday or sometime in the future, please know I pray for each of you!  I know that no distance can keep us from the embrace of the Holy Spirit that binds us all together!
 
Pastor Todd
May 1, 2020
 

Dear First Odessa Family,

I want to let you know about the conversations and plans that are being made to begin the transition to “in-person” worship and ministry here at FUMC. First, let me thank each of you for the prayers, support, encouragement, and extremely hard work that so many have demonstrated in this unparalleled time and event in our lives. Your patience and care have been extraordinary. The staff and volunteers, who have made worship possible the past six weeks, have stepped up above and beyond what any of us could have rightfully expected! You are all appreciated!

The process of re-opening the State begins on May 1st. I know it goes without saying, but this process will be fluid and adaptive, maybe even on a day to day basis. I ask that you continue to pray and be patient with all of us.

The decisions and process we are beginning to undertake has been influenced by local government leaders (mayor and city council), medical professionals (namely Dr. Saravanan), and the elected lay leaders of the church. We are constantly receiving new information and guidance to help direct our actions and plans.

As always, your safety and health are of paramount importance to us. At the same time, we are a people created for community, and our mental, spiritual, and economic health are also vital for holistic living. All of these factors play a role in how we will begin the reopening process.

So, in consultation with leadership here at the church and beyond, we will begin in-person worship on May 17th. As with all aspects of ministry though, we will do this in phases. So, through May, we will offer one service live at the church while maintaining the other service online. We will send more details about that next week, as well as a rationale, but there are a number of steps that I want you to be aware of as we transition to being back together again.

  • Everyone will be welcome in worship. We do ask though, if you are feeling sick, please wait to return until you a feeling better.
  • The use of masks is strongly encouraged, but not required.
  • If you are in an at risk category, please consider waiting to return to worship until guidelines suggest it is safer for you to return.
  • We will ask people to enter and exit at specific doors to limit the amount of space that needs to be cleaned and disinfected each week. This also limits the potential to disregard social distancing guidelines.
  • We will not have nursery, childcare, or Sunday School classes for at least the first few weeks.
  • Unfortunately, we will not have the coffee bar until guidelines dictate it will be safe to do so.
  • For the first week or so, there will not be a paper bulletin handed out. All liturgy and transitions will be directed from the chancel and put on the screen.
  • We will not pass offering plates. Instead, there will be boxes located outside worship for your offerings to be placed in.
  • We will not be able to pass the peace in the manner we are accustomed. We will find interesting ways to celebrate being together with one another!
  • All families, including children, will sit together. Since there will not be nursery or child care for the first few weeks, all are welcome in worship!
  • Please maintain six feet of distance between individuals or family units.
  • Wash your hands regularly!
  • If you have knowingly come in contact with someone with COVID 19, please continue to worship remotely. Let us know as well so that we can offer prayer and support.

This is a long list I know, but again, in beginning to gather together, we want to take extra precautions in order that we don’t need to revert back to a solely remote worship experience. There is one more request I have of us when we return to in-person worship together – please register your attendance and drop that in the offering boxes. The reason I ask you to do this is purely precautionary. If there is an exposure to someone with COVID 19, we need to be able to contact you to alert you for your own safety.

I so look forward to seeing each and every one of you! I know that some will take their time returning to church, and that is both understandable and prudent. And while it will be different to not hug and shake hands in the manner we did the last time we met, I am confident that the Holy Spirit will fill the gap that many of us have experienced being apart for so long!

As people of faith, we were created for community with God and one another! The lack of interaction that we have experienced helps us to understand our need for one another. So, as we return in joy, let us continue to care for one another by reintegrating carefully, intentionally, and with the love that surpasses all understanding from God that sustains us through all of this!

Please continue to join us online for the next few weeks! Pray for our return on May 17th! And may the peace of Christ surround you now and always!

Pastor Todd

March 20, 2020
 

Dear First UMC family,

Much has changed in past week. As a world, country and community, we are quickly adapting to ever changing circumstances for the health of ourselves and others. Please know that your health is of utmost importance to us as well. Additionally, the staff and leadership have been in conversation with one another and other communities as to best care for the spiritual health of our churches and communities. We are taking a variety of steps daily in order to do this for each other.

Most of us are aware that Governor Abbott has made an emergency declaration that supersedes the declaration Mayor Turner made on Wednesday. In accordance with the governor’s orders, there are some changes that will take effect tonight at midnight that will affect the norm of how we gather as a church.

First, we will not gather as a congregation at the church Sunday morning. Instead, both the 9 and 11 services will be made available through live-streaming. Click the button below to be directed to the page. If you don’t have access to these tools, maybe plan to gather with another family or member to join in worship. We may not be together in person, but we certainly can in Spirit!

During the traditional service, David Corman, Shari Santorelli and Jeb Harris will join Pastor Todd to lead music and prayers along with a message from Pastor Todd that will offer a word of hope in these fluid circumstances. In the 11 o’clock Contemporary service, music and prayers will still be led by our amazing praise band and Pastor Todd will offer a live message and meditation there as well.

The prohibition of gathered groups greater than ten will also have an impact on Sunday School, choir practices, mid-week ministries, etc. While we won’t be gathering at the church through at least April 3rd, there is nothing that prohibits you from gathering in small groups to pray and study God’s word together. I know of one Sunday School class that is planning a watch party for Sunday morning to gather for worship on Facebook with their church family! Praise God!

One specific area to mention is our Children’s Center. The employees have worked tirelessly to deep clean the area and make it safe for the teachers and the students! They have done amazing work! As of right now, they remain open to provide childcare for those who need to go to work, including our great medical personnel! Please keep them in your prayers!

Also, the church office will remain open, though many of the staff might be working more from home. We are working on ways to maintain contact with each of you in a meaningful way, and we will communicate with you as often as possible.

Lastly, many of you have asked about how you might continue to help the church and be of service in the community. You can certainly give to the church online, like many of you already do. The staff and ministries are still operating, though in new and dynamic ways. If you are unsure how to donate online, snail mail is still an option as is dropping off your offering at the church.

In the coming days, we will send more information inviting us to serve and stay connected with one another. In the meantime, please call one another and ask if there are things you can pray for or even possibly run errands for one another.

Surely this is a tumultuous time in our lives. But we will emerge from this, and God will be with us every step of the way. And no matter what, may our proclamation be that “for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

 

Blessings and Peace,

Pastor Todd