A letter from Pastor Tim Ozment

A letter from Pastor Tim Ozment

June 3, 2020

When will Peoria First UMC be open?

A week ago, the President said that houses of worship were essential for the spiritual welfare of the people.  He requested that Governors allow churches to reopen for worship services with appropriate guidelines. While the sentiment is appreciated, the fact is a simple declaration is far easier than the reality of reopening. The guidelines currently in place require congregations to not gather until stage 4 of a 5-stage plan.  When we get to stage 4 only 50 people or less can be in attendance in any single setting.  That means we could potentially have up to 12 worship services to accommodate a regular Sunday morning crowd. Rooms will have to be cleaned in between services. Six feet of social distancing must be maintained. Masks will have to be worn. There will be no children’s church or activities, no nursery, and no in person Sunday school of any kind.  Choirs will not be allowed to sing as they are “super projectors” requiring 14 feet of social distancing. Congregational singing won’t be allowed due to the possible projection of the virus.  None of that sounds like worship as we’re used to.

Here’s what we’re working on:

1. We’re in deep prayer that God’s work will continue. We are developing a Return Team who will investigate the numerous guidelines we’re receiving from the CDC, our UM conference office, insurance carriers, and more.  This is not an indication that we will return soon, but we want to be prepared.

2. We’re committed to providing a meal and food for the least among us. Loaves & Fish offers Saturday pickups, while operating with a crew of ten or less. Backpack Buddies continue to prepare and deliver food to the grade school throughout the summer.

3. We’re improving our on-line worship experiences and zoom groups.  We have an amazing team – and the right team for this hour – to put out quality on-line services and ministries.

4. We’ve asked a team of phone callers to make a connection with our congregation, to pray for them, to check in on them, and to care for their needs as best they can.  

5. Kara Bushong, Carol McPherson, Sue Koeppel, and their team are going to offer a combined on-line VBS/6Ways2Praise this summer.  Each Wednesday (June 17 – Aug. 5), there will be a virtual gathering of children to participate in the activities. Sign your children up now via a link on our website: www.fumcpeoria.org/children.

6. We’re planning for our future. Since the church has been disrupted, now is a good time to prayerfully evaluate, adapt, and prepare for life beyond the virus.  We’ve engaged the Unstuck Group to help us assess our church and ministries.  A team of 12 people from our church have been invited to participate in the first round of discussions, the church council has taken the appropriate surveys to determine where our church is on the life-cycle, and staff are preparing to help develop the strategies we will need to carry us forward into the mission and vision God is giving us.

My prayer is that we will be back soon. But, it may be a while before we’re able to worship in person again. When we open the doors, we will take appropriate precautions and ask you to do the same. We will again gather as the people of God for prayer, praise, and worship.  We will gather for discipleship, Bible studies, and small groups.  We will be the church that stands together physically and spiritually. Until that day, may God give us the grace and clarity we need to live for Jesus wherever we are, and may we take advantage of all the resources God is giving us to be the church.

Grace & Blessings

Pastor Tim Ozment
Directing Pastor Peoria First UMC