The Pastor's Page

Dear UMC Madison friends,

I hope this email finds you healthy and well. I am emailing you today to follow up on some information you may have received regarding preventative measures campuses in NJ are taking in light of COVID-19. This is not to alarm you, but to keep us all informed and healthy.

As some of you may already know, Drew University is taking preventative measures over the next three weeks to contain any potential viral outbreak on campus. This is to mitigate the higher risk of infection and spread due to elevated concern in the state of NJ and students and faculty returning to campus after spring break. As far as we know, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus, however, the university is moving all of their classes and business to a virtual format, and is requesting that students and staff practice "social distancing" on the campus until Friday April 3, as are many other universities in the state of NJ in response to Gov. Murphy's state of emergency declaration. At this time, this is all we know.

As such, I want to make you aware of the following precautions that UMC Madison has decided to take for the safety and well-being of our own congregation through Saturday April 4, as there is a great deal of partnership and crossover of ours and the Drew community: 

1. OFFICE HOURS: The church office will remain open M-F from 8:30-2PM and normal staff will report, unless exhibiting symptoms of illness. All staff are expected to sanitize hands regularly, and practice healthy habits. During office hours, the sanctuary will also be open daily from 8:30AM-2PM for prayer.

2. WEDNESDAY NIGHT PROGRAMS: All Wednesday night dinner and programming will be cancelled until Sat. April 4th, or until otherwise notified. In light of this, the pastors will be setting up three separate Wed. night Zoom calls on Wednesday nights, beginning Wed. 18th from 7-8PM that people can sign up for to get FaceTime with the pastors, receive prayer, and find community with each other. Tonight's (Wed. 11th) programming is cancelled. 

3. OTHER PROGRAMMING: For all other programming, you can expect to receive follow up in the coming days with information from staff and lay leadership about plans for the next three weeks and in what capacities these ministries will function (ie. choir, Monday night young adult group, kids ministry activities, nature walks, etc.).

4. MEETINGS: All March church meetings and staff meetings will either be cancelled or moved to virtual options. You can expect that your committee chairpersons will follow up with details on specific meetings already scheduled, after a conversation with Pastor Kate and the staff has happened. 

5. WORSHIP: Our regular 8:30AM and 10AM worship services will be temporarily suspended for the next three Sundays, with the intent to resume normal worship on Palm Sunday, April 5th. Instead, we will be offering an Hour of Prayer from 9-10AM on Sunday mornings beginning this Sunday, 15th. The sanctuary will be open for anyone who would like to come and receive prayer and have a time of informal worship. The pastors are committed to be present. Pastor Kate will also be video recording her sermon and it will be sent out via email, as well as uploaded to Youtube and Facebook for your remote access on Sunday mornings by 8AM. The Mission Month Lenten speakers series is postponed until further notice. The Gathering is postponed until at least Saturday, April 4th.

6. FOOD: We will not be serving food with our fellowship until further notice. Please refrain from bringing food to share until otherwise advised. 

7. AA/COMMUNITY GROUPS/OUTSIDE USE OF BUILDING: Pastor Kate is working with community groups to determine preventative measures we can take in partnership to reduce the spread of germs. We will limit renting out space to large group events over the next three weeks, aside from weddings and funerals -- and assessing event requests case by case going forward. Additionally, we will be taking extra precautions with sanitary measures. 

8. SPIRITUAL RESOURCES: The pastors will be taking turns writing devotions that will be sent out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We hope this will help you find direction, comfort, and hope in this time of difficulty and change.

9. DREW RESOURCING: Scott and Taylor will be working together to determine how we can continue to best be a resource to students and staff in this stressful time. We may be taking up donations for food, toiletries, etc. while student resources are limited on campus. We will follow up with further details on how you can serve in the immediate future.

10. PASTORAL SUPPORT: Kate, Scott, and Taylor will be on hand to offer in-person pastoral support and visitation as needed, while our community is in this time of transition. The staff will also be checking in on congregants over the next three weeks via phone and email. We would also invite you to be checking in on and taking care of each other, as well as checking in on your pastors and staff. In many ways, we are called to pastor one another in times of need and uncertainty. We are still a community, even if it looks a little different for a time. 

11. FINANCIAL SUPPORT: You will receive a follow up email in the coming days from the finance committee about how you can continue to offer your financial support to the ministries of the church for the month of March. Your contributions are vital to our ministries and we continue to rely on your giving to do important work in the community and globally, even in this time.

I will be following up with additional emails on new information we receive and plans beyond Sat. April 4th, as we have them. My commitment to you is to give you timely and comprehensive information that will keep our community safe and well-connected. I reiterate that these plans are in place until Saturday April 4th, with the intent to resume all church operations on Sunday, April 5th unless otherwise notified. 

Please feel free to email Natalie at her email or any of the pastors directly with follow up questions and concerns. Additionally, if you find yourself in need of support, we would like to be informed and will remain present in the office and on Sunday mornings, as always.

In times of uncertainty, my prayers are with each of us. I do believe God is present to us even in these times, and I would encourage us to resist the temptation to panic or overly worry, as is possible this time with media coverage, and heightened measures being taken. Our plans are simply contingencies to ensure that our church community - particularly the most vulnerable - will remain healthy in the next three weeks. Please take care of yourself and practice healthy hand-washing habits.