First, I want to tell you what is going on within our church.

Your Healthy Church Team has been meeting and has come up with a plan to return to in-person meetings within the church buildings. As soon as the D.S. approves our plan we will begin holding meetings. The youth group, Bell ringers, Praise team and other groups that are willing and able to adhere to the protocols in place, will meet in person. These protocols contain such things as wearing face masks, maintaining safe social distancing, no exchange of any items or paper products. There can be no paper agendas, bulletins or anything of a nature that would require handling by more than one person.

We have made great strides toward coming back to in-person worship, but we are not there yet. The survey, to which you responded, indicates that the majority of you would rather NOT come back until we know more and more is being done to keep us safe. 

Your leadership and music folks are very grateful that you are being blessed by the online services we have been bringing since this pandemic began. You know, we have not missed a single Sunday of worship together. 

I ask you today to be patient! I know it’s getting more and more difficult to do that. Some of you are struggling with the solitude of quarantine; others are quite content to be at home with no particular demands of them. 

As a church family, we have been extraordinary in our support of the church’s financial picture. We are in good shape right now. Our mortgage is under an extension, we received a Payroll Protection Loan and are assured of paying salaries for staff and clergy. Since we will use the funds for precisely what they are meant for, the loan will be forgiven and considered a grant. I know you join me when I say it’s very comforting to know that God’s provision has been present every step of the way, as we have managed this difficult time of separation.

So, in summary, rest assured that our church is O.K.! Hang in there a little longer as we near the point where we will have a solid plan to safely return to worship together.

On a personal note, I want to use this time and this medium to say a few things to you. 

On Sunday, I will preach my last sermon as pastor of Mechanicsville UMC. I would never say that the year 2020 has been easy so far. Quite the contrary, it’s been crazy! A new pastor, changes here; changes there, we were barely getting into what may happen at General Conference, when – BAM! – The Corona Virus hit our country. Who could ever have seen that coming. We had to take immediate action to keep one another safe and, as a result, DOING CHURCH HAS CHANGED FOREVER!

I have to say, for those of us who were not accustomed to the technology needed to offer worship services online, it has been challenging. 

However, we have done it! And we have done it better each week. Recently, I was talking to my oldest son, who is part of a very large church in Ashburn (NOVA). They are doing exactly the same things we are doing to bring worship to their folks. 

When I have scanned some of the other church services on Sundays, I come away thinking that we are doing a great job! We have our praise team, some of our choir singers, accompaniment, servants praying, servants reading, pictures of some of our members in their everyday lives and (I hope) meaningful sermons. I know, it’s not the same, but many of you have expressed your desire for it to continue, which it will.

The dedication of a few people behind the scenes has made it possible, especially Kelly DeLaney and Ashray Namala. Sam has been a huge part of the technology effort as well and, now that we are obtaining additional equipment, the live streaming of our worship will be top-notch!

I, for one, am very proud of the job they have done and will continue to do. In fact, I am very proud of all of you for your willingness to embrace change, which is not always easy to do. Working with you has been a joy and a privilege.

Many have said to me things like: “I bet you wish you had never said yes to coming to MUMC”. My answer and my feelings are this: I am grateful that I came when I did. Not to brag, but to have had a person at the helm who didn’t understand the present situation and have some knowledge as to what to do could have been problematic. God has provided me with valuable experience when it comes to working with a church that has troubles. You all made the work much easier. Since day one, I have found you to be cooperative, loving and very attentive to the real needs of the church. I have tried to practice transparency and you should expect the same of a new pastor. You have responded to that transparency by working diligently to solve problems and move forward. 

And, we have come a long way in a very short (and difficult) time. 

As a church, you are stronger and better than you think you are! The love of God and a keen desire to serve God by serving others is your trademark! I know you are anxious to get back to helping others. 

I have come to love you as brothers and sisters in Christ. I have sincerely enjoyed your love in return. I will miss you and will never forget the good things and good times we have had together. You represent some of the finest people I have had the pleasure of serving! 

In the future, Kerin and I hope to “pop in” on you from time to time. 

I support your new pastor, Amy Johnson. I have known Amy for most of her adult life and know her heart. She will be a good fit for the church and, in my opinion, will be a joy to work with. God equipped Amy and gifted her before God called her to ministry. She comes ready, willing and able to be a good pastor to good people. I hope you will work with her and, together make MUMC even better.

I so wish that I could SEE all of you one more time; but this will have to do for now. As Judy Broughman says so eloquently, “I miss my hugs!” I do too!   Remember, God loves you and so do I!
Pastor Bill