First UMC response to COVID-19

3/25/20

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church has asked all United Methodists to join with Pope Francis in calling people of faith to prayer today, March 25.  “We draw strength from the Annunciation (Luke 1. 26-38), as we are approximately nine months from the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We invite all to pray to God to rid the world of the coronavirus pandemic. 

All are urged to pray the Lord’s Prayer at noon (March 25) in their own time zones. In the words of Pope Francis: “We wish to respond to the pandemic with the universality of prayer, of compassion and tenderness.”  As we prepare to celebrate the resurrection at Easter, we have sure trust and confidence that God will hear the united prayers of the church across the world.”

Here at First UMC, we continue in a season of prayer, compassion and service.  Many of you have volunteered time to those who may need assistance getting groceries and other necessities.  Many are reaching out via phone, text, email, and social media to check in on one another and to stay connected.  And we thank you for your continued financial and prayerful support of our congregation.

Our Sunday worship services will continue online only at least through April and early May.  Staff and members have been able to assist many who needed extra assistance to get set up and connected.  We are grateful to be able to worship together in this way and all look forward to the day we are reunited in our beautiful sanctuary.  Thank you for your many expressions of support for our pastoral staff, tech folks, and musicians.

May the music of Bach, which we know as the hymn “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” bring peace and beauty to your day and draw us closer to God.  May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in the love and knowledge of God.  And may God who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer bless, preserve and keep you, now and forevermore.
 
– Rev. Patricia Farris

3/17/20

To the Beloved Community,

As our experience of the COVID-19 Virus continues to evolve quite quickly, our bishop, Grant Hagiya, has asked that all UM churches in the California-Pacific Conference not hold public worship services at this time in order to best safeguard the health of our members and to do our part to mitigate the spread of the virus in our communities.

We at First UMC are quite fortunate in that we have been offering our services via livestream for quite some time.We will still be able to gather in spirit Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. to worship God together in music, Scripture, sermon and prayer.  
Of course, we will continue to closely monitor the situation and reassess our ministries as things move forward.  For the time being, we will not be holding classes, groups or other activities at the church, including simple church and Messy Church. Our Preschool, now closed, plans to resume on April 14th.  While the church office will be closed, always feel free to leave a phone message (310-393-8258) or email message for any of the church staff.  Those messages will be forwarded to us and we will respond as promptly as possible. The Pastoral Care line (310-393-8258 and enter extension 1), will still be available for people to leave a message requesting care.

Instead, we will be creating new ways to be in prayer together, to meet via a variety of digital means, and to continue in love and service to one another and to our community. Many of our ministries will continue in new forms.  For example, our Prayer Quilt group has offered to make prayer squares at home. Lenten Yoga will continue via livestream.  Other groups may meet via Google Hangouts or in other ways. Donations to the Westside Food Bank, so important especially to families whose kids aren’t getting breakfast or lunch at school, may be made at their main location or at their drop-off sites.

Your continued financial support of the church is now more important than ever.  You may mail your pledge to the church or drop it into the mail slot of our offices any day of the week.  You may give on-line or mail checks through your online banking programs.  You may continue to earmark gifts for our various mission projects, including Pennies for Haiti.  You may choose to give an extra gift to our Nicodemus Fund which is a small fund set-up to provide emergency financial support to members in need.    

And—how fun is this?—if you continue to donate to the Flower Fund to remember or honor a loved one, your gifts will go to send flowers to some of our homebound members.

With some of our folks confined at home, it is more important than ever to stay connected.  Let’s reach out and check in on one another. Missing seeing someone at church? Give them a call or send them a note.  May love abound one for another.

More new ways to stay in touch and grow spiritually will be created in the days ahead.  The extra time we have together as families or the quiet time we have to read Scripture and pray can become a blessing. 

As always, we are here for you and for one another.  Please be in touch regarding any special needs or prayer requests you may have.  

As I write this on St. Patrick’s Day, I want to close with the prayer in the spirit of the season with these words, said to have been written on his breastplate.  May we write these words on our hearts as we walk together into a new future with hope:

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me…
May God bless us with deeper faith and ever-renewed hope.

In love,
Rev. Patricia Farris


March 12, 2020

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loves us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

– Romans 8:37-39

To the Beloved Community at First UMC,

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) begins to have an increased impact on our communities, we feel it is important to connect directly with you to share the steps we are taking to help keep you, our congregation, and our communities safe and healthy.

We encourage you to approach this public health concern as we are doing here at First UMC: by educating yourself, keeping up with the latest developments, and being extra careful about hygiene and cleanliness.  Thoughtful, well-informed, calm and non-anxious support will be one of the greatest resources we can offer in this moment.

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, held spiritual and social holiness together is a mark of Methodist distinction. He studied and wrote extensively about medicine and the importance of maintaining a healthful life both spiritually and physically. In following his example, let’s work together for holiness of body as well as spirit.

In the worship of God in this caring and compassionate community, we can find solace and reassurance in the midst of our fears. We know that whether we meet here in person on a Sunday morning or whether we meet in spirit, not one of us is alone because we have each other. We firmly believe that we are held in God’s embrace.  Out of concern for others, please worship at home if you or a family member is feeling ill.  We encourage you to join in worship through our livestream: Click here for the First UMC Facebook page: If you do not have a Facebook account, you can still view the livestream from your web browser.  (see image below)

If you need assistance, particularly if you feel ill and will not be coming to worship, let us know. We are here to help.

To maintain the health and safety of all worshippers, we have made some adjustments to our worship services. 

  • Welcome Ambassadors, Ushers, pastors and staff will greet you at the start and conclusion of the worship service with a loving Hello, a smile or an elbow bump, avoiding hugs and handshakes.
  • During the Passing of the Peace, we encourage worshippers not to embrace or clasp hands.  Instead, make eye contact, slightly bow your head, put your hand over your heart, or offer a warm smile and a friendly wave.
  • We will invite visitors to sign in on the pew rack Let’s Connect cards in place of passing the attendance pads.
  • In the sacrament of Holy Communion, worship leaders, after sanitizing our hands, will offer gluten-free wafers only to all worshippers.  We believe that the crucified and risen Christ is fully present in this one element.  This avoids any possible spread of germs through intinction in the common cup.  We will reevaluate this practice again in two months. 
  • Coffee Hour refreshments will be provided by the church only and not supplemented by food brought from home.  We ask that food preparers for other meals always wear gloves and follow basic sanitary precautions.

We have thoroughly reviewed our cleaning and sanitizing procedures of our high-traffic areas and shared surfaces.

Please do all you can to maintain your health and that of your family, friends, colleagues and fellow members of this faith community.

Most importantly, wash your hands. Thoroughly washing your hands is the best way to stop the spread of the virus. Use warm soapy water or hand sanitizer. Health experts advise a soapy scrub for about 20 seconds — about the amount of time it takes to recite the Lord’s Prayer.

Sneeze or cough into a tissue or your sleeve, replace handshakes with elbow bumps, and most importantly, check on your friends, particularly the elderly, infirm or homebound–to make sure they are stocked with food and medicine.   

Let’s lovingly care for each other in the weeks and months ahead. Interconnectedness may be a challenge for public health officials, but it is also the most powerful tool we have to fight against any threat, including COVID-19.

We are praying for all those affected, all those who are in fear, and all of the medical professionals and researchers and community members who are trying to find solutions.

We will continue to monitor this situation carefully and will adjust our responses as necessary.  I am reminded in this moment of how interconnected we all are and what a vital role this faith community plays in all of our lives. 

We are here for you.  If you have any pastoral needs, anxieties, questions, or suggestions on how we might be of greater service to you, please feel free to be in contact with me or with any member of the clergy or parish staff. 

Finally, I share this prayer from our neighbors at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church:

Merciful God, we know that your heart overflows with compassion for your whole creation.  Pour out your Spirit on all people living with this illness, or who are living with anxiety about this illness, for which there is not yet a cure.  Be with those who tend to the needs of the sick.  Strengthen us all in body and spirit, console us when anxious, comfort us in grief and hearten us in discouragement.  Help to remind us that you always claim us as your own, and you are with us wherever we go.  We pray this through Christ, our Savior and Healer.  Amen.

Faithfully,

Rev. Patricia Farris


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