The week after Easter is often the week of Spring Break, as it is this year. Combine that with the tradition of many churches to cease activities for the week after Easter, and this week naturally feels to many like a week of rest and even vacation. In fact, you may be on vacation when you receive this! If you are taking a few days to rest, be with friends or family, or enjoy the beauty of spring, I applaud you for knowing when you need a break! If you are not able to do that this week, I hope you will be able to find the time very soon to do so.
In the meantime, there is a lot happening in the life of Embry Hills UMC! This past Sunday, we celebrated Easter with our first in-person worship gathering on a Sunday morning in more than a year. Seeing some of your faces was a true gift! And we are planning outdoor worship again this Sunday, April 11. This time it will be at 11:00 am. Starting April 18, we are planning an indoor worship service in the Family Life Center. We hope to be able to continue indoor services each Sunday morning at 11 am. Sunday school for children and Youth Fellowship and Confirmation are beginning to start back with in-person meetings outside. All Sunday school classes and church groups (up to 35 people) can start meeting inside the building again starting in May. Youth Sunday is May 2. Confirmation Sunday is June 13. We've been working on getting the church property ready for spring and summer with some pruning and long-term landscaping plans. We're working on repairing and replacing systems in our building so that we can be safe and comfortable when we meet inside. Plans for summer activities with children and youth are underway. We are working on a plan to welcome back community groups to our campus as soon as we can safely do so. As we have done for the last year, we are purposefully and carefully planning ministry opportunities for folks of all ages to experience faith and community together on our property and beyond in the safest way possible.
Closing our building has helped us learn a lot about what it means to be the church. We have learned that the building is an accessory to what we are able to do together. There are ways it helps us, and there are ways we are called to live out our faith that have nothing to do with showing up at 3304 Henderson Mill Road. Creativity has been the name of the game since March of 2020, and that doesn't stop now. The gospel reading for April 11 finds the disciples all gathered, hiding inside a room together because they are afraid of what might happen in the wake of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. When Jesus appears among them, he tells them: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Jesus' ministry was not confined to one understanding of the Kingdom of God, and neither is ours. If there is a gift to receive from the difficult year we have experienced, it is a refreshing of our creativity around how to embody the gospel. Creativity can be exhausting, but it is also life-giving.
When Jesus breathed the Spirit onto those disciples huddled in fear, that same Spirit began to free them to move beyond the boundaries of faith life and practice they had known before. The book of Acts is our record of how they moved way beyond the Temple and synagogues to share grace with the world. Had they not done that, had they continued to do everything only as it had always been done and only in the ways and places it had always been done, we would not be a church today.
And what a church we are! As the children's song says, we aren't a building, a steeple, or even a rising place; we are "a people!" We are the Body of Christ, the embodiment of love persevering, and the work of God in the world. I'm grateful to be doing that work alongside you.
Please be on the lookout for more information about our upcoming in-person worship opportunities. Registration will be required. Safety protocols will be in place. Please help friends and neighbors you know stay informed, and help them make reservations as the information becomes available. And please remember that information on re-gathering may be fluid, so please read everything we send out.
It's a new day. Creativity abounds. The Spirit is moving us: where will we go next?
Upcoming Worship Opportunities as approved by the Administrative Council at the March 29th meeting: (Please watch all notifications from the church, our website, and our social media for information on how to register to attend worship.)
April 11: outdoor, in-person worship in the front lawn and parking lot, 11 am. Bring a lawn chair, or stay in your car and listen through our FM transmitter.
April 18 & 25: indoor, in-person worship in the Family Life Center, 11 am. There is a 70-person cap on all indoor in-person worship gatherings until further notice, which includes all worship leaders. CONGREGATIONAL SEATING RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED.
May 2: YOUTH SUNDAY, Family Life Center, 11 am. CONGREGATIONAL SEATING RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED.
May 9 & following: indoor, in-person worship in the Family Life Center, 11 am. CONGREGATIONAL SEATING RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED.
Dear EHUMC Community,
Last week marked the first anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown in the United States. During that time the church building has been closed but the missions and ministries of the church have continued inside our congregation and to the community. This has been a time of new practices and experiences as many of us have been isolated from friends and family due to socially distancing. What has not changed is the love of God for us and our concerns and caring for members of our church family.
A significant effect of the pandemic has been a weakening of our church’s giving and we are nearing a point where the church will need to begin drawing on our cash reserves soon. We are receiving significantly fewer tithes and offerings from the congregation. It is understandable that some members of the church have had reduced income or even lost their jobs. I am writing to encourage the rest of the congregation to prayerfully examine your pledge and your ability to resume or increase your normal level of giving. While the building has been closed, most of our expenses, including staff salaries, apportionments, maintenance and repairs, insurance, utilities, and other necessities have continued.
Our view of the future is very encouraging. Access to the COVID-19 vaccines has dramatically increased, many schools and businesses are reopening, and the stock market has seen the largest bull market increase since WWII. Our church is meeting outdoors and in person, weather permitting, see above for details. We are making plans to re-open the church facilities in the near future. This is the time to renew your commitment to the church to share the gifts you have received. *Remember, the church now has a secure, locked mailbox so it is safe to mail your checks or drop them off during the staff’s office hours.*
Jim Deichert, Finance Committee Chair