Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This has been an unusual time in our community of faith, in our nation, and in our world. In our own community, our expectations went from “See you next Sunday!” to “Maybe try to stay away if you’re in a vulnerable population or in contact with someone who is” to “Services are canceled” in a matter of days.
That can be disorienting and upsetting. And it can feel unreal, like this has all got to be some kind of mistake.
But the news out of Italy, France, and Spain is enough to give us pause. As one of my colleagues in ministry said, “If it feels like we’re overreacting and being silly, that’s the right time to do it. When it feels like it’s necessary, it’s already too late.”
And so, first and foremost, I am grateful to you, the members of Cheltenham UMC for your patience, your willingness to try new modes of worship and meeting, for your sacrifices, and for your compassion. For in our willingness to separate ourselves from the things, people, events, and gatherings that we love, we demonstrate a profound love for those who by virtue of age or medical condition are the most vulnerable among us. I am proud of your witness.
I also know that it hasn’t been the easiest time, especially if you are one who loves community and human contact. We want to ensure that you continue to feel connected to this community and to one another. So here are some ways to do that:
You don’t have to be tech savvy to be connected to your community. You can do so right from your landline telephone or mobile phone.
- Dial in to Sunday Worship. Call (301) 715-8592 and then enter the code 418392652# on your touch-tone telephone. This will allow you to listen to the worship service and contribute by sharing announcements or prayer requests.
- Hang out in Office Hours Wednesday Afternoon from 2–4 p.m. Call (301) 715-8592 and then enter the code 493671679# on your touch-tone telephone. This will connect you to our conference call where you can talk with the pastor or anyone else who’s connected.
- Ask the pastor to call. If you’d like me to call, respond to this e-mail and let me know a time that works for you. You can use the website https://markschaefer.youcanbook.me to do it online, or you can just call me at (202) 486-6061.
By Smart Phone/Computer
If you’re comfortable using technology, there are some other options available.
If you have tried the technology and it didn’t work for you, please let me know. I am, and others are, happy to help folks to set up their phones and computers to get connected. These are stop-gap measures we’re taking, to be sure, but even in temporary circumstances, we don’t want anyone to be left out.
- Watch worship on Facebook Live. You can watch our Sunday worship services on our Facebook page at facebook.com/CheltenhamUMC. You don’t need to have a Facebook account to do this, as our page is public and the live-stream is public.
- Participate in Sunday worship via Zoom. The Zoom app (download here) allows you to join in worship in a group video conference call. This allows you participate in the service by sharing announcements, prayer requests, etc. Now, you do not need to be visible (you can turn off your camera) and you cannot be seen on the Facebook live feed (that's a different camera we’re using). If you choose to be visible on Zoom, you can only be seen by the other participants in the group. To join in next Sunday’s worship through Zoom, visit https://zoom.us/j/418392652
- Hang out in the Office Hours Wednesday Afternoon from 2–4 p.m. You can use Zoom to join into office hours. This is a fun opportunity to connect with me and with others who are calling in or Zooming in. If you use Zoom, either on your phone or computer, you can turn on the camera and we can all see each other. You can also use it without the camera on and be no less connected.
We will be looking at doing other programming online as well, with a possible hymn sing, or evening Bible study, or other such opportunities just to hang out together, virtually, if we can’t yet do so in person.
I know this is an uncertain time. And I know that the uncertainty can be the worst part of the whole experience (see, my blog-post essay below). But ours is a community with a strong faith, a deep well of compassion, and a heart full of love and grace. Those gifts will help us weather any storm, ride out any uncertainty, and will keep us connected through all the days ahead.
With continued prayers for you, our community, our nation, and our world, I remain
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Mark Schaefer
Pastor, Cheltenham UMC