COVID-19

Church Building to Remain Closed Thru July

For the safety of all, the First United Church Council has voted to have the building remain closed through July 31. The council also strongly recommends that all church business take place via virtual platforms. Our work as a caring community continues on Zoom through Sunday worship and lectionary study, and Tuesday’s Virtual Café and Adult Study class. For more details on these opportunities please visit https://firstuc.org/online/

Virtual Worship, 3/22/2020

We are going to try a Virtual Worship Service for First United Church this Sunday! On March 22, 2020 at 10:30 am, our normal worship time, you may participate via one of these three ways:

1. Click on this link from your laptop or desktop computer:  https://zoom.us/j/8305475285.  If you are using this technology for the first time, you may be prompted to complete a free download. If you have used Zoom previously,  select “computer audio” if you have speakers, and you will be ready to go.  With this method, you’ll be able to see and hear people, as well as see the bulletin we’ll put on the screen. The video feature can be turned off if you prefer not to use it. 

2. Install the Zoom App on your smart phone (free on iOS and Android), and then open the app.  When prompted, enter the meeting ID, 830 547 5285, or from the phone just click on https://zoom.us/j/8305475285 and the app will open automatically.  When prompted, select “computer audio” and you’ll be ready to go.  Also with this method, you’ll be able to see and hear people and see the bulletin on the screen. You do not have to use the video camera feature.

3. If you need to use a landline telephone or cell phone for audio only participation, just dial either (253) 215- 8782 or (301)715- 8592. (In rare cases, long distance charges may apply. Be sure to check your phone plan, especially if using a landline telephone). When prompted, enter the meeting ID:  830 547 5285# (remember to add “#” at the end.) You’ll be able to hear everything in the Virtual Worship.

With each of these methods, once you are in the “virtual” meeting room, you can use “chat” feature to submit your prayers requests (if using a computer) or simply speak your prayers and responses. Children are invited to participate in the children’s time. During the service, Rebecca Keith will be monitoring and helping to answer questions.  To be ready to go at 10:30, you are invited to log in at 10:15 am and get used to it!   Also, if you are interested in testing with Rebecca, call her at (812) 325-0145 to set up a time on Saturday March 21 and we’ll practice together.

This system is new, wonky, and experimental for our congregation – but we will have fun learning and trying it out. It provides an alternative way for us to gather for worship until we can be with each other in person. Please join us this Sunday!

And mark your calendar to participate in another Virtual Worship service — Lenten Vespers on Wednesday, March 25 at 7pm.  A link will be sent soon.

Church Closure, 3/13/2020

We have made the difficult decision to cancel worship, education classes, Lenten services, and child care/CLT beginning this Sunday, March 15th and continuing through at least April 5th. We came to this decision after learning that there are suspected exposures to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in the area and that MCCSC has closed schools effective today, Friday, March 13th for at least two weeks. The virus is here, is many times more deadly than the flu, and can lead to pneumonia, with possible serious complications even for those who survive. We should not underestimate this pandemic, and must proceed in accordance with best medical practices and with the health of the most vulnerable among us in mind. In times of difficulty, our faith calls us to come together for support, but a key way to slow the growth of COVID-19 is to socially isolate–a hard choice, especially when First United is already navigating so much change. In the coming days and weeks, we urge our members and friends to find creative ways to support each other and express the love and compassion we share, by telephone, through social media, or in other ways that do not involve gathering in groups.

We are working to offer pastoral worship meditations remotely on our church Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/firstuc/ and recommend to you the Sermon Archive on our church website ttps://firstuc.org/category/sermons/. We also hope to mobilize informal ways to check in with one another in the days to come. As church leadership makes difficult decisions on multiple issues, doing our best to respond appropriately to this rapidly evolving health emergency, we will continue to offer updates on our website at https://firstuc.org/covid19/ and by email.  

We are the church, together in spirit. Mary Peckham, PresidentRob Potter, Immediate Past PresidentTom Busey, Vice President

Letter from Pastor Monica, 3/12/2020

As we confer with our denominations and other local churches, the shared response is that this pandemic is new territory for all of us, including healthcare professionals. The best way to approach this public health crisis is to be informed, prepared, and to adhere to facts and recommendations from organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Indiana State Department of Health. In trying to mitigate and contain this virus, it is important for us to adapt and change as new information is available.

The following events on the listed dates are canceled until further notice:

  • Play Friday (Friday, March 13)
  • NO Funeral services for JEAN PERNEY (no visitation on Sunday, March 15 and no funeral service on Monday, March 16. Memorial Service will be scheduled later in June 2020)
  • Church Potluck (Sunday, March 15).
  • Choir rehearsal (Thursday, March 12, 2020 AND Sunday, March 15, 2020)
  • Kuksundo (week of March 15, 2020)

Church precautions:

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching common surfaces or if preparing food. Alcohol-based sanitizing hand gels are available throughout the church facility at worship services, other church gatherings and in classrooms. Hand Soap dispensers and disposable towels are available in all bathrooms.
  • Shaking of hands and hugs during the ‘time for greeting’ is discontinued. An alternative greeting such as an “elbow bump” is encouraged.
  • We will follow basic precautions when making pastoral visits by paying attention to the advice of hospitals and care centers about whether visits in those facilities are advisable. Ministers of Care will discontinue visits temporarily but will stay in touch with our home-bound members with regular phone calls.
  • To minimize contact, we are making changes to communion practices and how we receive the offering during worship. More details will follow.
  • Hard surfaces that are frequently touched (e.g. door handles, hand-rails, taps, pews) will be cleaned regularly with a household detergent or disinfectant wipes.

What you can do:

  • If you are ill with a fever, cough, or other respiratory symptoms, we advise you to not attend worship services and other church events. We encourage those at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness to self-monitor and be especially vigilant.  Those at higher risk are older adults and people who have chronic medical conditions.
  • Read and follow the instructions in the COVID-19 bulletin insert and the CDC signs posted throughout the church facility.
  • Check the First United Church website for regular updates
  • Continue to lift up prayers for everyone affected by this pandemic (e.g. healthcare personnel and people in their care, people at higher risk for getting the virus, low wage workers as the economy declines, and for our Asian siblings who are experiencing heightened racism)

The psalmist writes in Psalm 46:1-3: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.  

There is a lot of anxiety as the world is shaken by the rapidly evolving effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. But our faith reminds us that God is “… a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear…”

Council Motion (approved 3/12/2020)

In light of the rapidly evolving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation globally and declared public health emergency in the state of Indiana, a temporary group as allowed for by the Constitution and comprised of the Congregation President, Vice President, Immediate Past President, and Interim Minister – in consultation with any parties it deems appropriate – is temporarily granted the authority to:

1) postpone, cancel, or otherwise modify current or proposed official First United Church activities;
2) consult with First Christian, First Presbyterian, and First United Methodist Churches before reaching a determination about postponing, canceling, or otherwise modifying the Community Good Friday Service;
3) consult with third parties using church facilities about postponing, canceling, or otherwise modifying current or proposed activities; and
4) consult with and offer resources and material support to Head Start

through 11:59pm on Sunday, April 12.

Any temporary adjustments to policy and procedures [excluding the constitution and bylaws] and/or budgetary or extra-budgetary expenses related to the COVID-19 response (ex: temporary paid sick leave; increased cleaning expenses) are approved without additional Council vote through 6:29pm on March 25, 2020.

The temporary group will communicate expenses in a timely manner to Council as well as report changes in operations to Council and the Congregation. Nothing in this motion should be construed to: 1) convey formal voting authority to any current ex officio members or unelected parties that may participate in or be consulted by this temporary group; or 2) convey any permanent authorities to this temporary group. Unless reauthorized by Council this temporary group will dissolve at 11:59pm on Sunday, April 12.