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Suspension of All Programming

Dear <<First Name>>,

Yesterday, I reached out to you suggesting that you consider abstaining from worship this Sunday if you are a member of a vulnerable group or in contact with one who is. As the day wore on and more and more information came to light about the measures that members of our communities and our nation are taking to slow the spread of the COVID-19 infection, in consultation with our lay leadership, I have decided that we will suspend all programming at Cheltenham UMC for two weeks, including services scheduled for this Sunday, March 15 and next Sunday, March 22. We will reassess that week and make a decision about worship on the 29th.

I do not take this action lightly and am loath to cancel any worship service (I once trudged 4 miles through a blizzard to ensure that my congregation had Sunday services). But I make this decision because, as the one whom the Discipline and the Bishop entrust to be responsible for worship and for the well-being of the congregation, I am compelled to do so out of consideration for the welfare of the members of our congregation and those they come into contact with regularly.

However, I understand that this represents a disruption of something that is exceedingly valuable—our loving, close-knit community at Cheltenham UMC. Knowing this, we are taking the following steps to help to provide a continued sense of community and common life.

Sunday Worship

We will hold Sunday worship online through Zoom and Facebook live. To find the Facebook live stream, go to This will allow you to watch the service (by which I mean, me reading the prayers, readings, and sermon from home!)

You can also use Zoom to participate in the service. This will afford a greater opportunity to participate. You can use your computer to join in or call in by phone. The instructions are as follows:

Sunday Worship, March 15
Time: Mar 15, 2020 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Use your computer to join the  Zoom Meeting (recommended option as it is free):

Meeting ID: 286 301 975

Or dial in by mobile phone. You can click right on this number from your mobile phone to dial in:
+16465588656,,286301975# US (New York)
+17207072699,,286301975# US (Denver)

Or you can use your landline phone to call in using this number:
        +1 (646) 558 8656 US (New York)
        +1 (720) 707 2699 US (Denver)
Meeting ID: 286 301 975
There can be long-distance charges for calling these numbers. If the cost is prohibitive, email me about getting help with payment.
To find your local number:

In addition to virtual worship, the prayer list and sermon, as always, will be included in the regular Weekly E-pistle.

Bible Study

The Pastor's Bible study will take place at its regular time, Tuesday, March 17, at 9:30 a.m. online. We will use Zoom for this as well and the login instructions are below. If you're teleworking from home or are at work with access to the internet and have never been able to join us before, now might be your chance!

Topic: Pastor’s Bible Study
Time: Mar 17, 2020 09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 456 431 396
Password: 743852

One tap mobile
+16465588656,,456431396# US (New York)
+16699009128,,456431396# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location
        +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
        +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID: 456 431 396
Find your local number:


Monday Methodists & Knitting Group

One of the most cherished community gathering times is Monday morning, during Monday Methodists and our Knitting Group. If participants are interested, we will set up a conference call option so that people can come together in prayer and fellowship during this time. If you're interested in this possibility, email me at

We can make similar arrangements for Church Council and the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) if the leadership of those bodies desires to do so.


During this time apart, the lay leadership and I will be reaching out to you directly to check on you as members of the community. We want to be sure that you know that this remains a community, even if we are separated from each other by the necessities of prudent public health practices


Finally, we should view this challenge as a spiritual opportunity. We need not look at this as an expression of fear run amuck, but as an opportunity take care of one another and ourselves, by doing something that our lives often fail to afford the opportunity to do: sabbath rest. And so, to that end, I leave you with this poem offering a reflection on the spiritual possibilities that these strange days ahead may yet offer us.


What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now, 
on trying to make the world
different than it is. 
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

—Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
author of Bread and Other Miracles

As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at

With prayers for your well-being, and the healing of all that are sick, I remain

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Mark Schaefer
Pastor, Cheltenham UMC

Why We Engage in “Social Distancing”

Absent a vaccine or martial law, the coronavirus is going to continue to spread. But there are some things we can do to slow down the spread of the virus. You might think, ‘We’re all going to get it; why not just get it over with?’ The reality is, even if ultimately the same number of people get infected, it matters when they get infected. If a lot of people get infected right away, it can overwhelm the healthcare infrastructure and there won't be enough hospital beds or ventilators for the very ill. However, if we take prudent measures, such as avoiding large crowds, cancelling large gatherings, washing hands, and other steps, then we “flatten the curve” and give the healthcare system the space it needs to treat everyone in need. 
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