My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:1-4 (NRSV)
I started sharing the sermon portion of our worship over Facebook Live sometime last fall. At the time it was an opportunity to introduce ourselves and share the life and hope we share in Christ with people who may not have a church of their own. It was also a means of sharing some of our gathering with friends and members who, for whatever reason, weren’t able to be here on a given Sunday. Some people let me know they appreciated these videos, but also wished there were a way to get the music and other parts of worship, too. I understood this desire: they wanted to be a part of everything.
When we moved online in March, we still gathered together in an initially unfamiliar digital space. Now for the first time, we will have two parts of our church family experiencing things differently. My hope is that as we move to a scaled-back in-person worship service this Sunday, we are able to remain one church meeting simultaneously in these different modes, neither above the other. We will make adjustments each week to improve both experiences, but it’s important that I remind myself and others that there is no “better” or “truer” way to participate. If you are not ready to come in person for any reason, you remain an equal member of this community.
I’d like to share some “what to expect” type guidance for this coming week, for both in-person and online.
I’ve measured seating positions in the sanctuary to maximize our ability to sit individuals and groups with a minimum of six feet between each group. This has resulted in 20 numbered seating places. We will have opportunities to adjust if this proves below our current need.
When you arrive, you will find the Maple Ave and Main Street red doors open for you. There are marked spots to wait on if there is a line as people are greeted and shown their seats. We will seat from the front of the sanctuary to the rear, and then leave in reverse order.
In each entryway, there is a table with a hand sanitizer pump placed on it, as well as disposable face masks if you for some reason forgot yours. If you are not ready or willing to wear a mask during worship, please do not return to in-person worship yet. Additionally, if you plan to hug, shake hands, or other signs of greeting, please do not return to in-person worship yet. It is our goal to worship God and encourage one another without getting anyone sick.
There has been a lot of back and forth on singing and responsive prayer. At this time, what we will attempt is the invitation to sing along very, very softly, under your breath, the way you might sing in the checkout line at the supermarket or while doing dishes, while wearing your mask. If I can hear you in the pulpit, you are too loud and we may have to reconsider. The same goes for prayers: we will pray together, but again, barely above a whisper. This is all a way of again honoring God while being good keepers of our brothers and sisters.
Also in your pew you will find, well, nothing. They have been emptied out. This is a good time to develop the habit of bringing your own Bible to worship or, alternatively, we will continue projecting the Scriptures on the screen for you to read along.
We will collect tithes and offerings from a basket left at the rear of the sanctuary. Bulletins will be left in each seating area for this Sunday’s worship. Restrooms are closed except for emergencies. If you have more questions, please reply to this e-mail. It sounds like a lot, but really, it’s going to be great. You will be greeted, ushered to a seat, and it will all feel normal very soon.
We will send out a worship bulletin for this week’s service ahead of time over e-mail and Facebook. You are then able to print or keep this open on another device while you watch the live stream. We will include the words to songs in the bulletin again, as well as on the projection screen from the sanctuary.
Some shared that it was hard to see the words on the screen last week. We are trying several different color patterns to see which one shows up best on your screen, so please let us know which worked best for you. Additionally, if you are able, it may be a better experience to watch on the largest screen you can, be it a tablet, laptop, computer, drive-in movie theatre projector, whatever you’ve got. If it’s just not possible to get a good look at the screen and participate that way, we may move to some different camera angles.
Please continue writing out prayer requests, greetings, and more in the Facebook comments. Let us know you are with us!
It’s important, always, to remember that this period will come to an end sometime in the next year or two, a true ending where the virus is gone and no longer a threat. I pray we continue growing in understanding and learn the important lessons from this time: everyone matters, no matter how old or young, and we as a community must find ways to widen our welcome.
Grace and Peace,
Courageous Conversations on Race and Racism
We are going to attempt a first conversation in Fellowship Hall this Sunday following worship, approximately 11:15 or so. We will host other events over Zoom and with ways for more to participate. It’s difficult to have these conversations in the best of circumstances, and it’s important to remember that people will probably say the “wrong” thing in a real conversation. Because of the need to be comfortable, we will not be livestreaming this meeting, but may, if group members feel it is helpful, post a video of the meeting later. Part of the conversation will center on our goals for this work: what will Flemington UMC look like, and how will we grow? What will we learn to see, and how will we intervene? What does progress look like here? These goals will be shared with those who are not able to be here, and open for further refining and dialogue as we move forward.
Please Send in Photos and Participate in a Visual Directory
All are welcome to send in a picture and some contact information that we can use in a document shared with participants and members in this church to better stay in touch. Please e-mail your photos to Gretchen in the office. While voluntary, this will help us remain better connected in a challenging time.
Worship with Flemington UMC on Facebook
Each Sunday at 10:30am, reach for your phone, tablet, computer, or other internet-connected device for a time of music, prayer, scripture, and preaching. Watching live gives the opportunity to comment in real-time with prayer requests, updates on your life, and more, but if you view the service later you can still comment and share prayer requests and experiences from your life with your church.
If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can simply visit the church’s Facebook page:
The videos are all accessible there without the need to create an account or login. If you have technical questions, please reach out.