First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as…
From “The General Rules of the Methodist Church”
And just like that, the time got short. I’ve got three worship services left to lead here with you in Flemington. I don’t share this countdown to cause alarm or sadness. There will be Spirit-filled worship services here on the 20th and 27th of June without me, and then Pastor Chris Stanley will be charged with discerning just what the Lord has to say to this particular church community on all those future Sundays.
As I reflected on what there was left for me to say, I was reminded of the General Rules, those “Three Simple Rules” that shaped the practice of the first people called Methodists: in today’s language, do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. One rule per week, and then… well, then my packing and moving increases in intensity, and you will be blessed with a hope-filled future here with new leadership.
The first of the general rules reminds us to do no harm. If you read through the list linked to above, you’ll see things that apply to our present and some that are less applicable. The principle remains vital to faithful living, however: do no harm, do not be a stumbling block for anyone else in their walk toward faith.
This rule shaped our leadership as an Annual Conference within the UMC and my leadership here in our church over the last 14 months of COVID-19 precautions. We went online, we returned with caution, we went back online, and now I believe we are back for good. Along the way, we’ve had assigned seating, limits on gathering time, and more. At each step, we followed the guidance and followed the science to, again, do no harm as disciples of Jesus.
In reading through the specific guidance before us now, we can begin to relax our Sunday morning precautions, but with certain important, simple rules to abide by in this time of change.
First, people who are fully vaccinated can forgo wearing a face covering and be less mindful of maintaining social distance beginning this Sunday, May 30th. If you are not yet fully vaccinated, please continue wearing a face covering and maintaining social distance. We are not going to be checking vaccination cards – we trust you to be honest and to live in a way that prioritizes doing no harm to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Second, if you need help getting a COVID-19 vaccine, we have volunteers who will assist you in scheduling and transportation to and from. The vaccines are offered at no cost to you and, with approximately 1.74 billion doses already administered worldwide, proven to be safe and effective. Praise God for these life-saving tools!
Third, if you will be more comfortable remaining masked for the time being, we welcome and encourage your care and consideration of others. We will still provide masks at the door to all who wish to wear one, especially to those who are not yet fully vaccinated.
Fourth, we will continue live-streaming the entire Sunday service for those unable or unready to join in person for the time being.
Fifth and finally, this situation could change and we may need to return to more cautious behaviors in the future.
It’s OK to exhale and relax a little bit after the last year+. While the pandemic is burning hot in other parts of the world and we must remain in prayer for our neighbors elsewhere and active in encouraging our leaders to share our vaccine supply where it’s needed most, it is shaping up to be the best Summer we’ve had since, well, 2019 at least. I look forward to worshipping with you all these next three weeks, and to continuing to live as followers of Jesus who seek to be part of the solution and not the problem by doing no harm.
Keep the Faith,
Annual Conference 2021 Wrap-Up
If you’d like to catch up on the preaching, legislation, appointments, ordinations, and more of this year’s Annual Conference session, you can find links to videos of each session and summaries of the work here: https://www.gnjumc.org/2021-annual-conference/.
Pastor Ben Farewell Celebration – Saturday, June 5, 2021
Save the date! There are invitations in the bulletin in worship as well as coming to you in the mail. Beth La Penta is asking that everyone RSVPs whether you plan to attend or not so we have enough food for everyone. Thanks!
Upcoming Family Promise Help Dates – July 4th Weekend
Thanks to John Newton, Walter Maze, and everyone else who helped feed the family in our care with Family Promise this past week. The ministry has changed somewhat, but the goal remains caring for people and families experiencing temporary homelessness. We will be tasked with providing food for another family the first weekend of July. If you would like to purchase, deliver, or donate in another way, please let Walter know.
Fellowship Hall Possibilities
COVID pressed pause on our after-worship gatherings, but those gatherings will resume one day. Before they do, this is a good time to think about the possibilities of the space we have to bless our neighbors, too. Prior to COVID precautions, we’d welcomed Cub Scout Packs, Dart Teams, line dancers, church events, and more to the space. What improvements or repairs should be made in the coming months to better serve its purpose as a community space for Flemington? A survey will go out in the coming weeks – share and help shape the future of this church!
Thank You to Laura for Hosting Coffee Hour on Zoom
Every Sunday after worship for most of the pandemic, Laura shared a Zoom link and hosted a time for conversation to keep people connected during the pandemic. Now, as more people receive their vaccinations and can safely return to worshipping in person, she will no longer be hosting this Zoom. While we celebrate the positive turn in the pandemic’s course here, let’s also take time to thank Laura for helping people to thrive during the hard time behind us.
New Upper Rooms are Available in the Church Office
The new Upper Room Daily Devotionals are also available now. If you’d like to pick yours up, Gretchen is in the church office from 9am-noon Tuesday – Friday each week. Please call ahead so she can set whatever you are picking up out for you.
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