Letter from Pastor Joseph
Dear Church Family,
Our Leadership Team met on Wednesday evening for a long, but helpful meeting to plan the next few months of life in our church, particularly focused on Sunday morning worship. After some great discussion and some evaluation of the continued guidelines for hosting in-person worship, we arrived at a similar place to where we were at the beginning of May. We simply can’t ensure the safety of everyone attending in-person worship while meeting three core priorities: 1) being faithful to the guidelines for distancing, 2) making sure all have a chance to worship in-person, and 3) not over-taxing our staff and volunteers.
But, we were able to set a target date of August 2nd, for when we hope we might be able to gather again. Of course, we will continue to reevaluate this decision as the situation changes, but it seems best to the leadership team that we give space for 60 days to pass, in hopes that the situation will allow for different guidelines by then. A more in depth discussion on the challenges we face can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page (http://fumcw.org/faq/).
However, if you find yourself craving the community of the church, and feel comfortable meeting in a small group, we want to encourage you to gather in “home church” settings to participate in online worship while being in community with others. We would like to test this out on June 7th with the idea of celebrating Communion together within these “home churches” (more to come on Communion in the week ahead). This would have to be an organically driven thing, since the church staff and leadership doesn’t have the capacity to organize this. Ideally, someone who is comfortable having others in their home would invite a safe number of people to gather on Sunday morning for worship. This could be family, close friends, people in your geographic area, or somebody new to the church that you have been wanting to get to know. I’ve given a deeper description of this, and the reasoning for “home church” within our FAQ page (http://fumcw.org/faq/).
It very well could be that you are neither comfortable with gathering in “home church,” or your health requires you to stay isolated. Please know that you are making the wisest decision for yourself, and nothing will change for you as you experience worship on Sunday mornings. We are making plans for you to be able to receive Communion on June 7th, as well, and will have more details about that within the next week.
Personally, I want to express my deep gratitude for the encouragement I continue to receive from many of you, and the trust you have given to me and the leadership team as we try to lead the church forward during this unprecedented time. I find a lot of comfort in the fact that God has helped us stay connected, and has used each of us to encourage and care for one another. I’m extremely proud to be your pastor!
Frequently Asked Questions
Regarding Phase 1 of Re-Opening Texas
Why would we not meet if the Governor gave us permission?
In the documents detailing Phases 1 and 2 of reopening Texas, Governor Abbott (in consultation with the CDC) has continued to place some restrictions on in-person worship gatherings, to protect our community (particularly those most vulnerable). In that document the most important, and impactful guidelines are as follows:
Indoor spaces are limited in capacity.
Worshippers will continue to practice 6 ft. separation (except for family units).
Every other pew will be used to aid in separation.
Masks and gloves should be worn.
Worshippers aged 65 and over should be encouraged to stay home and worship online.
Anything that can be done virtually should still be done through that medium to aid in stemming the spread of the virus.
This means that in our sanctuary that has a capacity near 225, we would only be able to have 50-60 people in the space at one time. That might work for our 8:30am and 9:45am services, but it would mean that less than a third of our 11:00am service would be able to attend worship.
Why not schedule or reserve space so that a few can worship each week?
Limiting our worship to a few has two hazards to the commitments of our church:
We are not in the practice of limiting worship to only a select few people. It goes counter to the hospitality we hold dear.
We cannot ensure that things would be able to be cleaned and prepared properly between services, not to mention the hard realities of making sure that all participants (everyone) keeps their distance even though they desire to hug and hold those they have missed so much.
What would change about the on-line format if we begin to have in-person worship?
Technically speaking, not much would change about worshipping online if we begin to have in-person worship. You would still find it on Facebook Live or on our website (https://www.fumcw.org/worship-media/live-worship/). However, the experience would most likely feel much different. With only those helping to lead worship in the sanctuary, right now, all of our focus and attention is on you, as we look into the camera. But introducing a congregation back into the sanctuary means that our attention will naturally shift to those in the pews. If you can imagine with me, this means that the experience at home will shift from me being in your living room, to you watching through the back window as others worship. That’s a completely different experience.
Why not gather as a larger body if we are willing to gather in smaller groups?
Just like the government guidelines are different for local businesses and restaurants when compared to concerts and sporting events, we feel that smaller gatherings in “home churches” create a safer, less risky environment than a large group gathering in the sanctuary. Guidance on safe gatherings suggests that the risk to a few “known entities” is much lower than that of larger, less manageable gatherings.
Is there a projected date for returning to in-person worship?
With so much constantly changing, we are reluctant to name a target date. However, we are hopeful that about 60 days from now (August 2nd) we will be able to gather for in-person worship with lighter restrictions.
What would a “home church” gathering look like?
We aren’t exactly sure (which is why we are just in the exploring stage) but these gatherings would need to be small enough to provide participants enough room for practicing the recommended 6 foot distancing wearing masks and gloves. The goal would be to allow others to worship in community, reach new people (by focusing on our neighborhoods) and create some space for practicing Communion.
How can I keep giving?
You can keep giving in two primary ways:
Click on this link or visit fumcw.org/give to give through PayPal directly to our church.
Send a check to FUMCW at 301 S. Main St., Weatherford, TX 76086.
What is the best way to stay connected?
You can best stay connected by:
Joining us for Morning Watch every week day at 8:00am on Facebook Live through our church’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FUMCWeatherford/
Calling 3 people every day to check in and make sure they are doing okay.
Making “porch visits” by going to visit someone at their home and talking from the yard to the front door.
Having online interactions through web conferencing platforms like FaceTime and Zoom that can allow multiple people to meet at once.