This past Sunday, there was an anonymous letter to our bishop in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from a group called “United Methodist Laity for Openness and Transparency.” The letter addresses a list of 18 questions and grievances, asking for a meeting with our bishop and stirring up a lot of negativity. There are no names attached to this letter, so it is essentially anonymous. If a person or group doesn’t have the courage to follow the teachings of Jesus and go to the other person or group believed to have caused them harm and try to settle their differences, then as far as I’m concerned, they aren’t trying to reach a resolution but are rather just trying to stir up trouble.
While I don’t want to give this fire any more fuel, I do believe that trying to respond to any questions that may arise for you could be helpful. I cannot speak to the motivation of this letter without speculating, and since there are no names attached to it, we cannot ask for a representative of this group to communicate with us about it. I have already heard more than a few lay folks across the Annual Conference say that this letter and/or group does not speak for them, so it is unclear what group of people is represented.
But I'm not sure that even matters.
What is most important is that we stay informed about what is happening in our denomination. There hasn't been a lot of news to report until very recently. So, I have asked our Lay Leader, Rachel Fullerton, to speak at an in-person information session on Sunday afternoon, May 23 at 3 pm in the Family Life Center. Please make a reservation for this event by following this link: www.embryhillsumc.org/event-details/information-session or by calling the church office. Not only is Rachel a life-long United Methodist who is active in our congregation, but she is also on the staff of another UMC in the area and is a member of the delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conference from the North Georgia Conference. If these words are confusing or unfamiliar to you, then please plan to attend the information session! The purpose of it will be to share what is happening with the Church now and what decisions lie before us as a denomination. It is important that we all have the opportunity to be well-informed.
Unfortunately, this may get uglier before it gets better. Thankfully, God's grace abounds. As your pastor and as a Christian, I pray every day for the strength and patience to see God’s presence in this ugliness. I believe God is leading us through to a better future for the UMC.
I thank God every day for this congregation and the hard discussions you’ve had over the years that have helped you to be clear about your reason for being and God’s calling and purpose for you in the world. I also thank God for your willingness to have hard conversations, to intentionally NOT demonize one another or anyone else, and to try and find a way to participate in the body of Christ together beyond your theological and political differences.
Serving with you has given me a glimpse of what healthy dialogue and careful Christian community looks like. Let's keep at it.
It is great that we are starting to get back to in-person worship and I know that many of you are looking forward to a return to a more “normal” worship and fellowship experience here with our “church family”. I am also very grateful for the work that our congregation, led by Lisa and Paul Jones, has completed in the renovation of the FLC and the Education Wing entry. This is a beautiful accomplishment that was so well done, and I am thankful that we all have the chance to appreciate and enjoy this space now.
At this time, we are planning to continue to utilize the FLC as our primary worship space for several reasons. The FLC affords us the flexibility that we are looking for as we begin the regathering journey. We are constantly evaluating the status of the community needs and trying our best to balance our resources with our needs. A primary constraint to our ability to use the Sanctuary at this time is the condition of the HVAC unit that controls the temperature and air circulation in that space. This unit is in need of replacement, and we are not confident that we can ensure proper airflow and temperature control given the condition of the unit. Additionally, the roof over the education wing is also in need of replacement.
The Trustees, after careful consideration, have made the determination to prioritize the replacement of the roof over the education building ahead of the replacement of the sanctuary HVAC. We are hopeful that with faithful and generous giving, as well as prudent budgeting – we will be able to replace the HVAC unit in the Sanctuary in the winter of 2021-2022.
We are blessed to have the renovations and upgrades to the FLC complete, and we look forward to being able to responsibly plan for the replacement of the HVAC as our budget allows.
On behalf of the Trustees of EHUMC,
Inside/Outside Update The Re-Gathering Team and the EHUMC Staff thank you for your participation in our return to in-person events and for your comments and suggestions for continued improvement. We have been monitoring multiple sources of health information for our county, state, and nation. The increasing number of vaccinated individuals is encouraging while the numbers of new cases hold steady or with a slight decline. We continue to monitor both sets of numbers from outside the church and we feel comfortable making additional updates to our process inside. Here are the changes we will put into place. What is changing about Sunday worship?
Starting May 16th: we will still require registration for worship www.embryhillsumc.org/in-person-worship but will expand our capacity to 85 people. If indicators continue to improve, we will expand to 100 people for Sunday worship starting in June.
We will continue to assign seats to help map attendance and aid in contact tracing if necessary. **We invite you and others you "pod" with to register for worship in a single registration. To do so please have one person register and list those who will sit with you under the “guest” tab. Please limit "pods" to 5 persons unless you are a family unit.**
Please feel free to gather under the portico starting at 10:20 am prior to worship to (socially distantly) fellowship outdoors if you desire. Please check-in at the table outside under the awning. The FLC will open for seating at 10:50 am.
We will no longer require a temperature check at the door. (Of course, if you feel feverish on any given Sunday, we request you worship from home.)
At the conclusion of the service, you may exit the Family Life Center through any exit. (We have done a good job of avoiding congestion and exiting through the entryway will be easier for those parked on that side of the building).
We continue to encourage but will not require masking outside after the service where social distancing is possible. In times where social distance cannot be maintained masks must be worn. (Helpful note: If you are close enough to need to say “excuse me” passing by, please have a mask).
Youth and Children’s ministry will implement outside masking protocols to their comfort level and the comfort level of families participating in the programming.
When can we be back in the Sanctuary?
Currently, we have several opportunities to improve areas of our campus that must be prioritized. Over the last several years we focused on replacing air handling units all around our building. We replaced the Family Life Center unit 2 years ago, the Chapel unit last year, and most recently, the two HVAC units that provide for the Education Wing. Our plans for this year originally included the replacement of the Sanctuary unit, a complicated repair that will require demolition and structural remodeling. However, these priorities have recently changed. The roof over the Education Wing has had several repairs over many years and is now in need of total replacement. The Trustees, after careful consideration, have chosen to prioritize the replacement of the roof over the replacement of the Sanctuary HVAC. This decision will mean that we will need to continue to utilize the FLC as our primary worship and large gathering location for the remainder of this year, or until we can responsibly incur the cost to replace the HVAC unit in the Sanctuary.
What about our staff?
Susan, Victoria, Laura, and Susannah will be in the office on Mondays and Tuesdays with appointments available from 10 am- 2 pm. Appointments are necessary for anyone who would like to come to the church office so we can avoid crowding and waiting.
Lee, Dottie, and Lori will continue to work remotely and come in on an as-needed basis.
Please always feel free to reach out to the office to set up a time to talk to staff.
What about Vacation Bible School?
VBS 2021 will be a one-day event for families on July 10th, 9 am-12 pm.
The Children’s Council has worked very hard to prepare a careful event with families in mind, watch for details soon!
What about small groups?
We are happy to announce that we are preparing for small groups and Sunday school classes to meet in the church building, on a by-reservation basis. To prepare, please contact Laura at the church office and provide the name, approximate number of people, and preferred day and time. We will collect the level of interest and work with groups to arrange a space. Note: “Sunday school” doesn’t necessarily have to be on “Sunday”, and you may be assigned to a different room than you are used to in order to provide enough space for distancing.
What about community groups?
We are phasing in participation by community groups.
Camp Buzz is confirmed for weekdays June 7th-25th and July 5th-23rd. Visit https://camp-buzz.weebly.com for more information.
EPiC will conduct some outdoor rehearsals.
Additional outside community groups will be held to the same space restraints as our other activities, for example, no more than 85 in the FLC for May. Interested groups must reserve space and time with Laura