|Dear Clergy and Laity of the Florida Annual Conference:It has been a year since we first asked you to suspend worship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, you have been doing the work of innovation and providing virtual and safe in-person gatherings. We continue to applaud your efforts to provide ministry online and to safely return to in-person activity using the guidelines we have created after discernment with your church leadership. We know every context is different. We continue to promote shared leadership among clergy and laity as you continue to reach the needs of your community.|
We know there will come a day when the CDC will make changes in their recommendations for indoor gatherings. Vaccine distribution has increased and positive cases have decreased. The light at the end of this tunnel is getting brighter. Thanks be to God!
We will continue to monitor the latest guidance from the CDC. For now, we ask you to continue to practice these essential guidelines:
Our COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines are connected to the ongoing guidance and recommendations from the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. Although they have updated their guidance related to persons who have received the vaccine and for schools, their guidance for gatherings related to churches remains the same. Without knowing the vaccination status of all parishioners, continuing the aforementioned protocols will be the most responsible action.
We encourage local churches to continue the offering of online worship. We pray for patience as some persons return to in-person worship, while others await the vaccine.
We know some of you are beginning to plan summer activities for children and youth. We are pleased that we will be able to host summer camp at Warren Willis Camp this summer as they follow the strict guidance from the American Camping Association. Information about the Warren Willis Camp guidelines can be found here and you can register here. Your church should plan to follow similar guidelines as you plan your summer.
All of our previous updates and resources are found on our COVID-19 website and in our FAQ section. If you have questions or we can help interpret these guidelines, please reach out to your District Superintendent or contact the Episcopal Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We appreciate your perseverance. We are a people of hope who continue to press on as we remain On Mission Together.
The Peace of the Lord,
|The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church|
450 Martin L King Jr Ave, Lakeland, FL 33815
Faith, hope, love and the vaccine - December 22 2020
December 22, 2020
By Dr. Frederick Southwick and Rev. Kenneth Carter
A medical staff person acknowledges that she will not take the vaccine, because of her understanding of the Book of Revelation. She has chosen to ignore the robust studies of thousands of volunteers revealing that 94 out of 100 recipients who received the vaccines are protected from contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus and 100% are prevented from developing a serious disease.
|Bishop Kenneth Carter|
Although longer duration studies will be needed, to date there have been no serious side effects other than rare hypersensitivity reactions within minutes of receiving the vaccine. The two vaccines recently approved for emergency use by the FDA are highly effective and safe. Our tradition teaches us to read Scripture alongside our human reason, and to see the perseverance, sacrifices and gifts of scientific innovation as a gift of our Creator.
The infrastructure and skills required to develop a vaccine within 9 months are unprecedented and many regards this remarkable accomplishment as a scientific miracle.
Our faith should help us to overcome our fears and accept this lifesaving gift.
We have now witnessed the deaths of over three hundred thousand persons in the United States from COVID-19. In the midst of suffering, grief and lament, there is also confusion. As a physician-scientist and a minister-Bishop, we have also witnessed suffering and death firsthand.
Our hope is in the orderly process of the distribution of the vaccine, and we plan to take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to us.
In fact, one of us (F.S.) has already received his first injection.
This hope overcomes exhaustion. We see the light at the end of the tunnel and can envision a world where everyone is immune to the ravages of this deadly virus and where we can once again gather physically for worship without endangering ourselves and our loved ones.
|Dr. Frederick Southwick|
Our encouragement to now take the vaccine is consistent with our guidance over the past nine months to wear masks, physically distance and avoid large gatherings.
At a fundamental level, this is about how we express love for our neighbor, a commandment deeply rooted in Jewish and Christian faith traditions, and a practice that motivates persons of goodwill.
The vaccine and its gradual effect on our society will enable us to reassemble in families, workplaces, communities and congregations.
We know for this to be possible at least 60-70% of the population will need to be vaccinated in order to generate herd immunity.
Just as the virus spread incrementally, the healing of our state and nation will be accelerated or delayed, based on our participation, one person, one family, one community at a time. This love can overcome our own personal preferences to go our own way and ignore the recommendations of scientists.
How will we receive the gift of the vaccine? We believe all that went into the historic development of the vaccine, whose timing is miraculous, is nothing short of a gift to us, a gift for our healing. The gifts of faith, hope and love open us to the receptivity of these gifts. Religious communities have an opportunity and a responsibility to lead in behaviors that promise to heal our communities.
Dr. Frederick Southwick is a professor of Medicine and a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of Florida. Rev. Kenneth Carter is Bishop of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Come to The Gathering! on Sunday Mornings, at 10:00 am - a socially distanced, masked in-person blended worship service as well as our online Home Worship. Also:
- Individual Prayer in the Sanctuary: we welcome you to pray in the sanctuary on Wednesday mornings from 8:30-11:00 am.
- The Oceanview Waves our monthly newsletter is published on the first Thursday of the month and sent primarily by email, but you may register to receive the Waves in the postal mail by calling the church office 561.626.2500 or send an email email@example.com.
Please review these protocols below that are put in place to keep you safe and healthy when you come to the property.
“Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.” -Philippians 2:6
Here are some things you can expect on a Sunday morning.
You will be asked to wear a face-covering "I wear my mask to protect you, you wear your mask to
protect me. "
There will be no singing either in the congregation, choir loft, chancel area
When you arrive, you will be asked to socially distance yourself before taking your seat on one of the pews. An usher will guide you.
When the service has concluded, and it's time to leave, the ushers will guide you so that we can be
socially distant when exiting the sanctuary.
The Gathering service will be abbreviated, lasting around 45 minutes.
On communion Sundays, the individual communion elements will be previously placed in the pews. The offering will be collected in the lobby/narthex as worshipers exit the building or done as TEXT to GIVE.
No Coffee or snacks will be provided or offered; however, you are welcome to bring your own.
Families will sit together as Kid's Church is suspended until further notice.
The sanctuary will be disinfected before service. The Church Office is now open Monday-Wednesday from 9:00 am to 12 noon. As always, appointments may be made to meet with pastors anytime.
Please do not let our return to an in-person gathering pressure you into attending if you do not feel comfortable doing so. All acts of worship are by invitation, meaning it is not required nor compulsory that you attend. Home Worship on the website will continue indefinitely. If you need assistance accessing the internet from your home, let us know we are working on solutions for the few that have these limitations.
Your love and support mean so much during this time. The church is here for you, whether in person or not. Please reach out with any needs 561.626.2500, the church office, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Covid-19 precautions for groups using the facility
1. Maximum capacity for fellowship hall space is 30
2. Groups may not enter or use the kitchen area
3. Leave nothing behind. If you store materials at the church, make sure they are put away before you leave.
4. Maintain social distancing 6-10 feet apart at all times.
5. Wear face coverings when meeting and on the property (out of car mask on)
6. Wipe down all common surfaces (handrails, tables, chairs, restrooms) with furnished cleaning supplies.