Let's stay connected!

One of the best things about the United Methodist Church is our connection. Many may be feeling isolated, alone, and out of touch. Btrenda Capen is creating a page on the conference site (www.vaumc.org) especially for local church stories of how you and your church are keeping the connection alive and well during the coronavirus pandemic. You may inspire others to do the same. Please send stories (and pictures if you have any) of creative ways your church is keeping the connection alive to BrendaCapen@vaumc.org

Children's Ministries Resources

By Shari Parsons, Director, Children's Ministries, Ebenezer UMC, Stafford

I want to share some things we are doing at Ebenezer that may help someone else in Children's Ministries at this time. 
We have begun offering our Sunday School lessons online.  There is a lesson video for each age group and a Parent Cue Guide that our curriculum company offers us for free to use during this time.  They have waived their copyright laws to allow us and other churches who have a paid subscription with them to do this.  We post the lessons each Sunday morning on our Ebenezer UMC Kidz Rock Facebook page and our web site.
We are offering a 3 - 4 minute children's sermon during our church's online worship services.  The lesson goes along with our Sunday School lesson.  It's a brief overview of the theme and give families ideas of how to apply the Bible lesson to their lives.
We have also started a Daily Bible Challenge, Mondays - Fridays.  We post the challenge on our FB page each day and families can do the challenge and then post pics or videos in the comments section of the post.  The DBC is also posted on our web page under the Resources Tab and on our online worship service page for families.  These are fun, quick things children and their families can do at home.  Our goal was to not add to their already stressful lives of homeschooling, but to give them a fun alternative that could be part of their homeschool program or done just for fun.
Anyone is welcome to go and see what we are doing at http://ebenezerumc.org  or on Facebook at Ebenezer UMC Kidz Rock. 
I hope this helps some people as they navigate these waters.  If I can be of help to anyone, please have them contact me at sparsons@ebenezerumc.org

That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief

The Rev. Jack Martin, retired, shared a link to a resource, "That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief." 
From hbr.org: Some of the Harvard Business Review edit staff met virtually the other day — a screen full of faces in a scene becoming more common everywhere. We talked about the content we’re commissioning in this harrowing time of a pandemic and how we can help people. But we also talked about how we were feeling. One colleague mentioned that what she felt was grief. Heads nodded in all the panes.
If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it. We turned to David Kessler for ideas on how to do that. Kessler is the world’s foremost expert on grief. He co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. Kessler also has worked for a decade in a three-hospital system in Los Angeles. He served on their biohazards team. His volunteer work includes being an LAPD Specialist Reserve for traumatic events as well as having served on the Red Cross’s disaster services team. He is the founder of www.grief.com, which has over 5 million visits yearly from 167 countries.
Click here to read their findings. 

Being Church during Social Distancing in the Staunton District

By Beth Christian

The Rev. David Vaughn at Calvary UMC is sending out weekly e-newsletters to keep people connected. A small team is equipping the church for livestreaming worship and bible study. In preparation for this week’s sermon Pastor David asked for input on 4 questions pertaining to the sermon and also mentioned that comments during worship on Facebook were encouraged.
  The Rev. Andrew Baek of the Hot Springs Charge is sending a newsletter to the congregations by mail. The letter includes a note of encouragement, bulletin and message for family worship on Sunday at home, guidelines for prayer time, and announcements.  He is also making a phone call to members in order to keep having a social closeness. A prayer partner ministry is in the works and will start soon.
The Rev. Chuck Cole at St. John’s-Staunton is livestreaming worship for a congregation that doesn’t participate in much social media. He writes: I have just learned that a member watched the livestream from St. John's the first Sunday (March 15) and forwarded it to young unchurched relatives in Texas who watched it. They then watched the livestream for this week (the 22nd as well). That is exciting and I pray as you do that ultimately it might lead them to a connection with a local body of Christ at the appropriate time. It is exciting to see God working.
St. Paul’s-Staunton has a team ready to grocery shop and run errands for older members. James 5: 14 says, “If anyone is sick or weak, let them call on the elders of the church.”
The Rev. Joe Cailles at Trinity UMC is sending daily devotions via email and posting to Facebook that include daily prayer, Scripture, a short message, an anthem via YouTube, and a benediction.
The Rev. Bill Bearden from the Collierstown Charge offered excellent Zoom worship in a very rural setting.
The Rev. Jenelle Watson at Embrace Community Center has teams of two canvasing the neighborhood to see what people need. She then matches those needs up with her team that is ready to help by grocery shopping, picking up medications, doing laundry at the center, connecting these low-income neighbors with resources they may not know exist.
From the Rev. Nancy Palmer at Callaghan Charge: Many of my folks don’t have computers so I wrote letters copying what I put on the Callaghan Facebook page. Then I mixed up their names and teamed each person up with another person from their church. I am asking them to call the other person once a week. I also included five Bible trivia questions. This week from the gospel of John. Next week Psalms. For answers I just gave the chapter not verse.
From the Rev. Valerie Ritter at Fairfield UMC: Went on a Walmart run for snacks to give to children coming in for learning packets at Fairfield Elementary. Started calling through church directory. Volunteering at Food Bank in Lexington.

Desserts and Devotions

By the Rev. Justin Allen, D.Min., Associate VP for Student Life, Dean of Spiritual Life, Director of the Institute for Church Professions, Shenandoah University

Last night we held a Zoom Desserts and Devotions.  Usually students come over to my house on Tuesday nights at 9pm for some time together and a quick Christian devotional with some desserts (cookies, cakes, brownies, ice cream, etc--something different each time).  We extended it to current students or alums that had ever been to my house for a previous small group meeting (it was previously called Home Sweet Home).  I published something about it on Facebook yesterday afternoon and was happy to see so many alums join the group.  The alums seem to not be burned out by Zoom meetings and are looking for connection.  A few mentioned that this was the high of their last week.  I think our current students (mostly first-year students) that were on the call enjoyed hearing about our alums (the ones on the call were in Indiana, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia) (graduation years from 2012-2019).  We talked about the fact that when Jesus walked the earth, it was perfect timing (safety of roads due to Pax Romana so that the message of Christianity could spread), but that the people of Israel were probably were not happy with being ruled by the Romans.  Then we talked about the timing of this Great Connection (not wanting to call it an isolation, I am going positive).  If this had happened 10 years ago, there would be no Zoom, no Facebook Live, and no FaceTime on our phones.  We can handle this because we can be connected.  Then we talked about Scriptures that we were leaning on during this time (Psalm 23, John 10:10, Psalm 30:5, Acts 2:43-47, etc).

Live phone conference call worship
By the Rev. Betty Jo Sims

McKendree UMC, Rappahannock River District, hosted live phone conference call worship using freeconferencecall.com   Church members called in to a unique toll free number (set up for our church) at 9:40 a.m. March 22.  I had 29 callers and @ 50 people on the call for about 35 minutes as we worshiped together.  I read Scripture and had a short message.  Then everyone was asked for new prayer requests or updates on existing ones.  I prayed and we all prayed the Lord's Prayer together.  Then we chatted for a time.  Some dropped off the call sooner than others.   It was great to talk with one another.  Spirits remain high!
We plan to do this again next Sunday.  And I am working on other ways to use the conference call line as it was so successful.  We do not have live streaming capabilities.  My church is rural.  98 percent have email but internet service is not good. I have been sending regular email updates plus texting with some. We call the few people who do not have email to keep them informed.
We had conference call Bible Study this morning (Wed.) and I have a special call with the children tomorrow afternoon (Thurs.)

By Rev. Dr. Bill Olewiler, OSL, Retired
Our local church work teams are meeting on Zoom, able to see each other and to know who is speaking.


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