Read the latest email update from Church Council Chair John Curtis (July 1, 2020).

Members and Friends of First UMC,

Our most recent Executive Committee Meeting was on June 24th. We met to address some “bumps in the road” that were impacting our intention to reopen the First Steps Preschool.

Due to staffing challenges, both medical vulnerabilities and also exposure to the Covid-19 virus, we must delay the opening of First Steps. For now, the tentative date is set to coincide with the planned opening of the public schools, receiving children on August 3rd.

These past two weeks since our previous meeting have seen a sharp rise in the incidence of COVID-19 cases in Polk County. Each day seems to record a greater number of new cases than the previous. This is in stark contrast to the leveling off we witnessed earlier in June, a leveling which gave us some security in our decisions to move forward with the reopening of some of our outreach ministries.

Regarding Neighborhood Ministries, Sean Hults told the Committee that his staff has been working toward a July reopening. He will continue to do so if that is the will of the Executive Committee. However, Sean also expressed concern about the sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, as well as the impact that could have on the children, their extended families, and our own staff. For now, those children and families are stable in their childcare needs; that will change when school reopens. The Executive Committee has decided to tie the opening date for Neighborhood Ministries to the Polk County School Board Calendar, which would indicate a tentative opening date in early August.

The Summer Feeding Program operated by the Neighborhood Staff is underway and progressing well with a few more meals distributed each week. This program will continue.

We also authorized Sean Hults to organize some “special events” later in July and when appropriate. One such event might be an offsite picnic where school supplies could be distributed.

What we are experiencing here locally is typical of what is going on in most of the United States. The time for responsible concern for our own health and for the health of those around us continues. This is probably a good time to re-check our own efforts, especially as the momentum of the reopening of the economy and our society at large increases day by day.

My prayer is for each of you to be responsible examples of how good citizens should act in our changing world, both in terms of protecting your own health, and in terms of how you can show the love of Jesus Christ to those around you, however few or many they may be.

In Christ,

John R. Curtis, Chair, Executive Committee


Due to public health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are suspending our large gatherings, including worship, until further notice. Please continue to monitor public health announcements and adhere to CDC guidelines for combating the spread of COVID-19.

We are hosting services online via Livestream on our Worship Now page and on our church Facebook page. Both live and archived services are available. Our Contemporary Service will be live streamed at 9:30am Sundays and will be ASL interpreted. Our Traditional Service will be live streamed at 11:00am Sundays. Please join us online from your home.

Online and downloadable faith formation resources are available for all ages. These include Bible studies, at home activities, and streaming video resources. We hope these will provide you with ways to stay connected and grounded in these days.

Worship
We continue to worship together online. You can also go directly to our Livestream page where you can find upcoming and previously-recorded archived services. You can also participate in worship on our church Facebook page.

At this time, planning is underway for future worship so that it can be started promptly when that time arrives. Toward this end, David McEntire requested that the Executive Committee approve the concept of two types of worship services when we do reopen. One service could be performed for the online streaming broadcast (with no live attendees) and include singing, creeds, music, communion, and other elements we see now in our online worship. Other services would be planned specifically to accommodate live worship attendance in accordance with social distancing and other in-person worship guidelines that our Worship Committee will develop.

Sunday School and Small Groups
Face-to-face Sunday school classes for all ages are suspended for the time being. Many adult groups have moved to conference calls or Zoom video conferencing for their class sessions and continue to stay in touch via email and phone. Please contact your class leader or Warren Pattison for information on how to stay in touch with your group. Children’s resources are available on our online faith formation page.

Children, youth, and adult programs, Bible studies. and small groups are happening online.

Small Support-Related Groups and Serve Groups
A reopening committee has prepared a “template” to be used by small groups engaged in community outreach. Such groups include local feeding programs (Kids Pack, Mulberry Food Bank), Children’s Clothes Closet, Tuesday Tigers, AA, NA, grief support, and other similar groups. Each group will prepare a plan specific to their activities and complying with the general requirements of the “template”. Plans will be approved by church leadership (Church Council Chair and Vice Chair, Senior Pastor, Facilities Manager, and Church Administrator).

Previous Updates

 

72 Lake Morton Drive
Lakeland, Florida 33801
(863) 686-3163
Fax (863) 686-8614

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