Updated April 10, 2020
Dear church family and friends,
One reason I love Bath United Methodist Church so much is because our church family cares so much for the community around us. I believe this is inspired by our desire to follow the commandment of Jesus, to love God … and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40)
The rapid spread of coronavirus COVID-19 is a public health crisis that has the potential to overwhelm our healthcare system and community resources, which can disproportionately affect those who are most vulnerable. Though less cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Maine than in other regions at this time, we know that the virus spreads through person-to-person contact that is facilitated through public gatherings, and that the best way to combat the spread of the virus is to engage in social distancing.
The health and safety of those who are the most vulnerable in our church and community is our highest priority during this time. After prayerful consideration with leaders in the church, consultation with our District Superintendent and other pastors in the area, and in alignment with guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, we have decided to suspend all in-person gatherings until further notice. There are many resources and ideas being shared online; some of the most helpful from the Two Rivers Methodists in Charleston, SC from which some of this letter is taken with permission.
Here is the good news—I am absolutely confident the work of our church will not be adversely impacted by this decision. In fact, this situation opens possibilities for new and innovative solutions to engage with one another and our community while also taking action that we believe is in the best interest of public health.
Therefore, we have moved all of our in-person programming online.
Worship on Sunday Morning
We will pre-record our Sunday morning worship service and post on our Bath UMC YouTube every Sunday morning by 10:15 a.m. as usual. The format of these services will be different than our usual live stream, but the experience will be very familiar for those who have worshipped with us before. We will still engage in song, scripture, a sermon, and prayer. In addition, we will be posting weekly children’s messages and other uplifting videos on our YouTube Channel.
Our worship services are also being broadcast on local TV stations. Brunswick Channel 3 will air our service on Saturday at 7am, Sunday at 7am and Sunday at 5pm. Bath Channel 14 will air our service on Monday at 4pm.
I ask you to commit to tuning in to our worship experiences with your loved ones, if possible. You can submit prayer requests by contacting the church during the week. Even if we cannot be together in-person, we still can share the worship experience with one another.
If you don’t have access to reliable internet or TV, or if you are concerned about your ability to participate, please reach out to the church to figure out accommodations.
Bible Study and Prayer
Our life together isn’t limited to our Sunday worship experiences and, to that end, we’ll offer online programming throughout the week so you can remain engaged with others in our church family. We’ll expand our opportunities every week (we’re learning as we go, after all), but here are a few programs you can expect right away:
The Pastor’s weekly Bible study will remain on Tuesdays at 10am, but move online using a program called Jitsi Meet (like zoom but free) so we can see and talk with one another. The Monday and Tuesday evening Bible Studies are also meeting on Jitsi.
Care and Connection
After worship each Sunday we are meeting on Jitsi for Coffee Fellowship. In addition, there are ten Care Group Captains who are regularly contacting a group of parishioners in our church family to check on prayer requests, needs the church can help with and general updates.
Pastor Gwyneth is publishing regular emails to the church with prayers and updates. You can sign up for these emails at the Contact link.
As you probably already know, our church is facing some challenging financial times. We ask that you prayerfully continue to support your church family with your weekly giving, and as God allows, to increase your giving. Any amount would be helpful, and can be sent by check to the church, donated online at the church website, or set up through your bank for auto-payment. Please use our Give link to find out ways you can make a difference with your donation.
Drive-Thru Dinner Church
Although we aren’t hosting our “sit down” Dinner Church until further notice, we are serving hot “to go” dinners for people who stop by or who request delivery. We will give these out between 4pm and 5:30pm.
We are following all ServSafe guidelines as well as recommendations from the Maine CDC and other organizations. Pastor Gwyneth hosted a webinar on Best Practices for Feeding Ministries recently.
We are also providing some specific food and personal care items to community members who have a loss of income during this time. If you or someone you know needs help accessing food or other items, please reach out to the church. If you or your neighbors, coworkers, or friends are able to provide funds to make sure our friends are healthy and cared for, please also let us know.
Pastoral Care and Connection
Connecting with and caring for one another is one of our church’s highest priorities. Over these coming weeks, please reach out to each other via text, phone, email or social media.
You can reach out to me by any of these means as well, and stay connected through facebook, webpage and youtube.
To ensure that everyone in our church is connected, we have established Care Groups. Each group has a designated team leader to help communicate needs, joys and concerns, and ensure everyone is cared for. If you are not part of our regular worshiping community and would like to be added to one of our Care Groups, please contact us.
How Long O Lord?
We are making these temporary adjustments to how we conduct life together at Bath UMC out of an abundance of caution and because we believe this is the loving thing to do in the interest of public health. Please be assured that, as soon as it is safe for us to do so, we will be ecstatic to return to our in-person gatherings with one another.
Remember our exhortation from the letter to the church in Philippi: “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
These efforts we are making now are not made out of fear or anxiety. They are made with the full peace of God that guides our leadership and our community. Though we may be physically distant, we are connected to one another through God’s power, the gifts of technology, and our care for each other that surpasses any limitations.
Our core values remain the same: to follow the way of Jesus in ways that are creative, inclusive, sacrificial and authentic. I’m looking forward to seeing you all in person and greeting you with a big hug very soon—but until then, take care of yourselves, take care of one another, and take care of those who are on the margins.
Now go wash your hands. I’ll see you online!
Together in Ministry for Christ,