Bethlehem Market Place has been an annual project that Beth Eden UMC has humbly undertaken for many years. This year we are unfortunately not having Bethlehem Market Place due to complications with the pandemic. However, we look forward to bringing the experience back to life next year.
2 Chronicles 7:14
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
I humbly ask that you would join in a time of prayer Wednesday between 10-10:15 am. Pause to pray for our nation and people everywhere.
Pray for unity and solidarity in our nation: peace, justice, and prosperity.
Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord said, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “
Let us not hinder this plan with hardened hearts, or bias that keeps us moving forward together. Please pause to pray tomorrow wherever you maybe. Thank you, and God bless you.
Greetings to Everyone,
I hope that this letter finds you well. Our church has gone back to just “Online Worship.” With the recent announcement on Nov. 17th by Governor Pritzker that Illinois is going back to Tier 3, we will only do online worship until further notice.
The office will remain open on the regular schedule Tuesday through Thursdays from 9 am to 2 pm. Monday and Fridays via appointment. If you need to reach the Pastor or the Prayer Chain, please email the church at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the main office (815-877-9237) and leave a message.
Our Livestream for worship will continue to broadcast at 9:30 am every Sunday on our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BethEdenUMCRockford
I pray that you all stay healthy and safe. Please continue to pray for the development of a vaccine and the well being of people everywhere. Please wear your masks for your safety and others. God bless you, and we hope to see everyone in person again soon.
Beth Eden Team
I’m writing to inform everyone about the news that we will start holding in-person worship once more. However, this news might come as both good and hard to take. Let’s start with the “Hard to take” part.
The news will be hard to take for some because in-person worship will not, and I repeat, will not be the same routine that we are accustomed to before the COVID19 pandemic.
The “Return to Worship” plan was created following: State, County, and UM Conference safety and health guidelines. The idea is the culmination of strategies that other UM churches have implemented and have been successful. So with prayer and discernment, we put the plan together.
Some of the concerns that have arisen due to plan are: Why only 24 people in the sanctuary? Why do we need to reserve a spot for worship?
The short and straight answer is for safety. After measuring up the sanctuary, I felt that it is better to be safe than sorry. We cannot fit 50 people in the sanctuary without breaching safety rules. To measure how many people we can safely seat. I decided to start with 24 people. If we find that we can safely accommodate more, we can increase seating. But only if it is safe to do.
Reservation is needed so we can account for spacing. If 24 people end up being too many people to be safe, I have the Eden Cafe as a flex space to accommodate folks who couldn’t fit in the sanctuary.
The key to coming back to worship is safety. I know wearing masks isn’t the greatest thing in the world. These restrictions seem hard to deal with, but the biblical truth behind all of this is – love your neighbor. Going back to church for in-person worship is scary for some folks, even for those deciding to come back for worship in person. I humbly and kindly ask, please don’t make it tenser by not giving this adaption a try until things are safe for everyone once more.
To those who choose not to come back at this time, that is perfectly fine, and I understand. Health and well-being are a priority for everyone, and it is one of mine as we moved forward in this crazy time. We will continue to stream worship every Sunday. We continue to keep things moving with our online community.
I humbly ask that you continue to pray for healing and a vaccine for Covid-19 and other diseases that hold the world captive. Continue to pray for guidance and the prosperity of God’s people everywhere that we can always have on our minds that the people we encounter every day are our neighbors. God loves each person and us; if God can pour his grace on all creation, let us do the same being keep each other healthy by wearing a mask, washing hands, and doing the small adaptions to stay healthy and help others do the same.
God bless you all; please stay safe and stay healthy.
Back to Church on Phase 4
Ushers & Greeters
Greeters: 1 or 2 Greeters at the front of the building. They are greeting and reminding attendees to wear masks. If someone doesn’t have one, the greeter gives them one.
Ushers: 2 Ushers, one who will lead people to their seats in the sanctuary. The other will line folks up to enter the sanctuary.
Once the Sanctuary has reached capacity, Ushers will seat any remaining visitors in the Eden Cafe.
Visitors in the Cafe will dismiss first, then the people with assistance in the sanctuary, then the remainder of the sanctuary folks.
Those who wish to attend worship on Sunday Morning must call the office during the week, Monday-Friday, from 9-2 pm.
Likewise, please send in Joys and Concerns to the prayer chain to be lifted during Sunday worship. Since we cannot pass the microphone around, I would still like to raise joys and concerns to be prayed over.
Service at 9:30 am – 10:15 am (Live Stream at 9:30 am)
Clean Up: 10:15 -11:00am
Each service we can fit 24 people in the sanctuary and 10 people in the Eden Cafe. Service will be Live Streamed on the TV in Eden Café.
Enter, Seating, Exit
Folks will enter in the center aisle—exit side aisles.
Folks who need assistance can enter and exit the center aisle.
Ushers will seat folks from front to back if someone has a wheelchair, walker, or needs assistance getting in – people in need of assistance are seated first, followed by other visitors.
If a family arrives, the family is to be seated together. That family will then take up the whole pew for themselves.
People arriving alone, in pairs, and trios will be spaced accordingly. (6ft between each person or group)
People will exit the sanctuary back to the front—people who need assistance leave first.
Adjusted Worship Service
Please keep in mind; we will not conduct worship as we are accustomed to it. We have made changes under safety and health requirements from the State, County, and UMC Conference directives. Here are some significant differences:
- Face Masks: We are all going to be wearing masks in the church building.
- Social Distancing: No physical contact during worship.
- No Bulletins, Bibles, or Hymnals: We will be using the overhead projector to show the bulletin for worship service.
- No group singing: Because of air particle issues, we will have a single soloist, who is set apart from the crowd who sing the songs during worship.
- Usher Seats You: To adequately accommodate people and safe distancing, Ushers will seat you. Seating people front to the back of the church.
- No coffee bar
- No handshakes or hugging during the passing of the peace.
Again, the service will not be like it was.
The flow of Worship:
• Prelude (Barb)
• Welcome/Announcements (Pastor)
If you need to have something announced, call and let the office know ahead of time. Then Pastor can announce it. I would use the ongoing concerns list from the prayer chain for prayer requests. We cannot pass the microphone around.
• Peace (Turn into Waving to neighbors)
• Opening Prayer (Pastor or Liturgist)
• Call to Worship (Pastor or Liturgist)
• Opening Song (Soloist facing away from the congregation)
• Prayer for God’s People Everywhere (Pastor)
• Scripture Reading (Pastor or Liturgist)
• Sermon (Pastor)
• Offering (Piano Music/Soloist)
• Doxology (Soloist)
• Closing Song (Soloist)
• Benediction (Pastor)
Communion Sunday: We will have the elements placed at the entry of the sanctuary. The communion element is a prepacked wafer and juice cup combo. Attendees will take the element, with them to their seats. After blessings elements both in church and online, we can partake of the elements together.
Offering Box: We will not pass an offering plate. Place any offering in the offering box before entering the church or upon exiting.
No childcare during Worship: The Nursery is closed. We are asking parents to have children sit with during worship.
Washrooms: The washrooms will be open, only on the main floor—one person at a time.
Just the main floor: We will be using only the main floor of the building.
We pick a spot outside with plenty of shade, have people bring their lawn chairs. We space out 8ft apart.
We follow the flow of Worship as we would inside (as above).
Church Through the Week
Office: We will open the office back to regular working hours. If you need to meet with the Pastor, please call ahead and schedule a time to meet with Pastor.
Meetings: Meet in Eden Cafe, safe distance apart with masks. Have Zoom going for those members of committees who don’t want to come in person.
Bathrooms: Washrooms on the main floor only.
(Message from the Bishop Sally)
We’re starting our second week of “sheltering in place.” Most churches have had at least two if not three Sundays of only online worship or some other means to reach out spiritually to our congregations. We’ve got this week to prepare for Holy Week and then…Easter!
Let me just say, given the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in Illinois and the extension of the “stay-at-home” order, I am still suspending worship in our churches indefinitely until we are given a green light to gather in community again.
But that doesn’t mean our Holy Week and Easter are a loss. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that many are being more intentional about preparation for and anticipation of a very meaningful Holy Week and Easter in new ways!
If you wish to use a video I made for a local church reading the gospel of John’s story of Easter (20:1-18), it is available on the NIC website at umcnic.org/videos. I’d be happy to have a virtual appearance in your church’s worship!
Now for a more complicated topic: online communion. Many have been asking whether they have permission to consecrate the elements during the livestream of their worship service. I, for one, am not ready for online communion…at this point. Like other denominations, I recommend that we fast from communion until we can gather and see each other face to face and rejoice in knowing that we are “yet alive.” Then we can break the “fast” of communion together.
But I’m not taking a hard line about it. I think every clergy should be in conversation with leadership in the church about what to do during Holy Week in terms of communion and make an intentional and informed decision about it.
I am pleased to hear about some churches who are planning worship services in the parking lot! The clergy radio broadcasts to the congregated drive-in worshipers for prayer, scripture, a sermon and communion. More than anything, I get the sense that the “passing of the peace” is the anticipated moment when everyone honks their horn to each other! Elements are bagged and dropped off at each car with care in their preparation.
I would discourage drive-by and pick-up communion, where parishioners drive by the church and pick up a paper bag of elements that have already been consecrated. This is a kairos moment when we need to ground our sacrament in prayer and deep reflection on scripture and liturgy in light of the experience that we are going through with some personal connection.
I would also consider a Love Feast on Maunday Thursday, or as worship designer Marcia McFee calls it, “Comfort Food for Holy Week and Easter.” A love feast isn’t overly familiar to most of us so it would be a special but also traditional way to come together online over the sharing of food. But it’s not communion. I like the way her liturgy in particular asks people to share something about the food or drink they have prepared for themselves.
However, there are more traditional Love Feast liturgies that can connect people in the sharing of grace with each other. You can find an explanation of the history and theology of the Love Feast, along with prayers and scriptures for it, in the Book of Worship pg. 581. It has a section of “testimonies and praise” which are doable on Zoom or a comparable video-conferencing platform. The Love Feast could be an opportunity to actually eat together as the dinner table appropriately becomes an altar of sorts.
But if after informed discussion between the leadership and clergy, a church truly desires to do online, livestreaming worship, I would ask you to think about these things:
- Read widely—at least for a few hours—about both the pros and cons of online communion. If nothing else, it will provide a greater sensitivity toward those in your congregation or your colleagues who wouldn’t choose this route. Trust me: I’ve found this to be true already! See below for some resources that you can find; most of them on the Discipleship Ministries website. There are reasons why the UMC has discouraged online communion over the years – primarily because our tradition, theology and polity emphasize celebrating it in the midst of a gathered community.
- Embed the communion in teaching on its unique meaning in light of our experience and the story of our salvation with the use of the rich liturgy in our hymnal. This is not an occasion for a casual approach but a profound moment of grounding ourselves in “this holy mystery.”
- This is an act “in extremis.” As a colleague friend of mine pointed out, “in extremis” is a Latin term that began during the plague of the 16th century; it means that it’s an extraordinary time that calls for extraordinary measures that don’t apply afterward. If you practice online communion, understand that it is not now a regular practice of the UMC.
No matter what you decide, in providing any of these “means of grace,” please give great thought to the preparation and any distribution of the elements—the bread and cup, how to provide them or instructions for supplying one’s own.
Finally, but especially, don’t let our differences about online communion now drive a wedge of conflict and division between us. Let us all practice the “means of grace” in a gracious way toward others!
As I said earlier, this may be a year in which our Holy Week and Easter services are more intentionally prepared, led, and experienced by all.
Know that in this week of preparation you are all in my prayers. Many of us are now hear of people we know and love who are developing COVID-19. We pray for them and their loved ones who are not able to be with or at least close to them or with those who are dying of other reasons.
So I want to quote Marcia McFee’s benediction:
May you shelter not only in place, but in peace. May the peace and comfort of Christ be present with you now and forever more. Amen.
Although we are all shut in, thank God for technology, because we can still stay connected.
We are streaming live every Sunday morning on Facebook Live at 9:30 am. As we near Easter Sunday, we will also stream on Maundy Thursday (April 9th) and Good Friday (April 10th) at 7 pm.
As a reminder, all in church activities have be postponed until further notice, but we will keep everyone informed as news of reopening arrived.
God bless you all, be safe out there.