in-person worship registration
no longer required
Join us at 9:00 and 11:00 for in person worship
11:00 Livestream worship
10:00 Sunday school
11:00 Livestream worship
10:00 Sunday school
"Jesus wept." - John 11:35 It has been exactly one year since the world changed. I distinctly remember the second week of March, 2020. Sara's spring soccer season was under way, I was coaching her team, and we were excited about how good they looked. March Madness in NCAA basketball was just beginning as the conference tournaments, including the ACC Tournament with my Duke Blue Devils and the SEC Tournament with the Arkansas Razorbacks had their early round games played, and the better teams just about to tip off. My dearest friends were scheduled to come to my house for our annual fantasy baseball draft and dinner. We were hard into the season of Lent with Holy Week and Easter right around the corner. March is usually one of my favorite times of the year. Of course, we had heard about the coronavirus. We had seen the reports in January from Wuhan, China. We had witnessed the cruise ships that were having trouble finding a port. We heard about the first few cases in Washington state. And while it seemed so far away, in our closely connected world, it was looming. Yet somehow it almost snuck up on me. Did it sneak up on you? How quickly things shut down? At our last Wednesday Night Meal, I remember talking with Joe Archer and Seth Glaze about how we probably needed to be ready to close the building for worship on the upcoming Sunday (that would be March 15). While we all agreed that it might be premature to actually do so, we agreed that we should probably be ready. So, I chatted with David Puckett about what it would look like to do online worship. Thank goodness for David Puckett, Julia Stinson, Dana Teel, Robin Roark, and Rachel Wingate. Our worship team pivoted so quickly it allowed us to keep worshipping even if we couldn't be in the building. And then the Sheridan Schools closed. And everything else did, too. Even if you don't remember that week as clearly as I do (and I'm sure many of you do), we all remember the past year. Some memories of the past 365 days are clear to me, but many are hazy. I am also exceedingly mindful that whatever difficulties I have had in the last year, my difficulties are a vision of heaven for about 75% of the people on our planet. But that doesn't change how hard it has been for all of us. To date, over 520,000 Americans have died. To put that in perspective, that is as many war deaths as the US suffered in World War I and World War II combined (or as many as WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Revolutionary War combined). Every one of us knows someone who has either died from covid or knows a family who has suffered a covid death. Many of us have contracted the virus. We all know many people who have suffered from covid. Because of the nature of this virus, we have not been able to mourn those who have died, either from covid or for any other reason, in the way in which we are accustomed. We have not held a funeral in our sanctuary in a year. Families have not been able to gather in our Grand Hall to have a meal together. Friends, neighbors, and family have not visited in the homes of the families of those who have died. In so many ways, our grief has been practiced alone. This week, Governor Hutchinson announced the next phase of those eligible for the coronavirus vaccine shot, which included clergy and staff members of houses of worship. I received my first shot on Wednesday. Throughout the week I have seen my colleagues post on Facebook or text me pictures of them with their vaccine record or actually getting their shot. Many have commented about how emotional they were to receive it and how surprised they were that they became emotional. Perhaps it is not so surprising after all, as we have had an entire year of trauma and have not spent time to grieve. We have all suffered loss, even loss beyond the dead and the seriously ill. Think of all that we have missed! A class of seniors who did not have the final months of high school or college the way that they had hoped; no prom or graduation, no recognition for the completion of an academic degree. Sports seasons that were cancelled: from those who were at the SEC tournament last spring and came home without seeing a game, to those who missed playing soccer or baseball or other spring sports; vacations that were cancelled and the memories that weren't made because of it; meals that were eaten alone, meals that were eaten at home because the restaurant was closed; meals that weren't eaten at all because there wasn't enough in the wallet to buy groceries; jobs that were lost; job advancements that weren't made; jobs that had to be done at home in the dining room while kids were in the background; deals that weren't made because closing is harder online or on the phone than it is in person; learning that has not taken place because it is so much harder on zoom than it is in the classroom; teaching that wasn't accomplished not through lack of effort but because while zoom is a blessing it is also limited; holidays that weren't celebrated or were only celebrated in limited ways; elderly family who could not be visited in the nursing home; surgeries that have been needed, but have been put off; check-ups that have been skipped; hands that have not been shaken, necks that have not been hugged. So much more. So much more. This past year we have done our best. We have adjusted. We have kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept slogging on. What else could we do? We had to keep working, to keep parenting, to keep educating, to keep living. While we could shelter in place and quarantine, we couldn't permanently shut everything down. So, we haven't taken time to grieve everyone and everything that we have lost. When we do not properly grieve, a few things happen. We sink into acute depression, we run the risk of self-blame, we risk acute anxiety, and all of these things lead to the risk of serious health and lifestyle diseases. We do not all grieve the same way or at the same pace. Kubler-Ross has the five stages of grief, but these need not be accomplished linearly or in succession. But we all must grieve loss. And we have all, every one of us, lost someone or something (or perhaps many of the above) in the past year. Even our Lord grieved. His friend, Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, got sick and died. When Jesus arrived at their home, he wept. Jesus grieved. Why, if he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, would Jesus grieve? What was so sad for Jesus if he could bring his friend back? Let us remember that our Lord was just as human as you and I. Grieving loss is one of the key parts of being a human. Even if Jesus could (and did) resurrect Lazarus, death had visited his inner circle. No matter how you cut it, that is devastating. We could hardly know Jesus as fully human had he not grieved his friend's death! Though it is the shortest verse in the Bible, it is one of the most comforting to me. "Jesus wept" tells me that Jesus intimately and fully knows what grief feels like. Jesus has experienced that awful feeling of emptiness in one's stomach. Like me, Jesus has sobbed uncontrollably. The God we worship is one who reached a point where he could do nothing other than weep, because his body would do nothing else for the sadness and loss he felt. I am still not sure how to grieve an entire pandemic or an entire year. I do not know exactly how to mourn something that is still ongoing, even if we hopefully see an end to it. Clergy and pastors far smarter and more creative than I continue to try to figure out how we can help our churches and faith communities through “all of this” even as they/we try to figure out how to help one another mourn. All I know right now is that first, it is ok to not be ok. Second, our Lord knows what we are going through because he has gone through it, too. I am praying for each of you, my dear friends in Christ, and I am praying for us. In the midst of all of this loss, I weep with you and I love you. If you are not weeping now, that is ok, too. What is on the other side of this pandemic, the end of this pandemic, is not that "everything will be all right," because it is over, but rather that in the fullness of time we will be restored to wholeness and wellness through our shared grief with one another and with our God, not in spite of our grief that we let go unacknowledged. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’” Revelation 21: 1-4 -Pastor Todd-Paul
As we are all aware, our country, state, and community are in the midst of another surge of covid cases. Even as the vaccine(s) is being distributed, infections, illnesses, and deaths are on a steep upswing. Our church formed a Task Force over the summer, when we were only worshipping online, to monitor not only the information from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, but to receive guidance from those bodies and from the Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church. The Task Force has continued to work to set in place safety protocols as advised by the top medical institutions, government agencies, and from the Conference. The Conference Task Force has recently updated its guidance to include data that is highly localized and makes use of the best information from the top infectious disease experts in the country. This week our own Task Force met again to discuss what (if any) adjustments that FUMC, Sheridan should make in light of the information and data that we continue to receive.
The Task Force believes that we should follow the best practices as prescribed by medical science, particularly during a global pandemic. We are grateful that as the pandemic has run its course that experts have tuned the data more finely and are providing guidance on a local basis. We appreciate that the Conference has given leadership in helping us to discover resources to help us make decisions. In particular, the data on covidactnow.org speaks not only to the status of the pandemic in Arkansas, but indeed even to Sheridan and the 72150 zip code. The particular data points of new cases per 100,000 people; positive test rate; and infection rate speak loudly to the condition of our community. We think that the ICU bed capacity is more of a state-wide issue (and that data is provided as well). Furthermore, the Task Force appreciates that the recommendations for action from covidactnow.org come from leading medical and scientific experts (Georgetown Medical Center, Harvard Global Health Initiative, Stanford Medical School) and independent government agencies (CDC and White House Coronavirus Task Force and Harvard Global Health Initiative).
We also recognize that the pandemic has not only caused untold suffering and death as well as economic loss in our country, state, and community, but that the effects of this have weighed heavily on our souls and emotions. We know that people desperately need the comfort that our spiritual community provides. We need our church! We need one another! We need to worship the God who loves us through this pandemic! In particular, the Advent and Christmas season draw us ever closer to the God who is known through the Incarnation of Jesus, which we celebrate at this time of year. Every member of the Task Force recognizes that our church provides a place for people to know and worship God and that this particular time calls for us to take extraordinary measures to safely provide that sanctuary from the world's woes.
In light of all of this information, the Task Force has set the following as the schedule that we will be following through the beginning of the year:
Sunday, Dec. 20 (10am) - In person and online worship; Sunday School following
Thursday, Dec. 24 (6pm and 11pm) - Online worship ONLY; Carols, Candles, and Communion - have Holy Communion elements ready at home.
Sunday, Dec. 27 (10am) - online worship only; NO Sunday School
Sunday, Jan. 3 (10am) - online worship only; Sunday School online only
Sunday, Jan. 10 (10am) - resume in-person and online worship and in-person and online Sunday School
The Task Force recognizes the increase of intensity of the covid pandemic in Sheridan at this time as reflected by the data. Furthermore, the Task Force hopes that taking 14 days over the Christmas break, when many people in our congregation will be gathering with family and friends outside of their immediate household, will give our church some slack during this time when we are all even more vulnerable to the spread of the disease. The Task Force intends for our church to resume in-person activities including worship on January 10, but will continue to monitor the data and will make adjustments as needed.
Grace & Peace,
To view a message from Pastor Todd-Paul regarding the upcoming weeks in our church, visit https://www.sheridanfumc.org/videos.html
We are so excited to begin in-person worship on October 11! Please watch this short video and read the protocols before pre-registering. A seating chart is provided to assist you in choosing a place to participate in worship. You will need to pre-register each week or you can reserve for any Sunday up until the end of the year. We will see you Sunday!
FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF SHERIDAN
PROTOCOLS AND PROCEDURES FOR INDOOR/IN-PERSON WORSHIP DURING COVID
The Sanctuary has been divided into three zones with “bubbles” within each zone:
At least two Usher/Greeters will staff the narthex. The Usher/Greeters will direct persons entering to proceed directly to their bubble, be seated, and remain in place for the duration of the service. Usher/Greeters will also instruct persons entering the building to be seated immediately and (attempt) to have a maximum of two families entering the narthex at any time. A box will be kept in the narthex for persons to leave an offering. The stairwells to the balcony will be one-way traffic only (indicated by signs), with one stairwell to go up and one stairwell to go down. Usher/Greeters will indicate that persons must wear a mask that covers mouth and nose in order to enter the building.
Signs will be posted on the two outside doors to the narthex indicating that masks are required; persons with Covid-19 symptoms in the past 14 days to not enter; and encouraging persons with underlying conditions to not enter. Signs will be from the Arkansas Department of Health. The men’s and women’s restrooms in the narthex will have signs directing only one person/family in the restroom at a time. A hand sanitizating station will be at each entry point. Usher/Greeters will have extra masks for persons without one. The doors from the sanctuary to the hallway leading to the church offices and choir room will have signs indicating that they are for emergency exit only. Persons will be discouraged from entering this area. The outside door to the area with the church office will have a sign indicating that it is not an entrance for Sunday morning.
The Order of Worship will be consistent with the order that has been conducted for online streaming during the pandemic in order to keep the time of service to 35-40 minutes maximum. Only two hymns will be sung (generally with only two verses). Congregants may sing, but must remain masked. Prayer requests will not be taken from the congregation during the prayer time. Children will be encouraged to stand in place during the Childrens’ Moments. On Sundays on which Holy Communion, self-contained packages of the communion elements will be placed in each seat for persons. Holy Communion will be partaken in pew seating only.
At the conclusion of worship, each bubble will be dismissed from back to front by an indication on the screen(s). When one’s bubble is dismissed, persons are encouraged to immediately exit the building. Persons may park in any of the parking lots, however, each family will be asked to leave a space between vehicles.
Seating for B1 and B4 are permanently reserved for guests. Please only sign up for C1 or C4 if you need wheelchair-accessible seating. You may pre-register by filling out the online form on SignUp Genius at www.signupgenius.com/go/9040A4CA4A822A3F58-inperson