Register or donate today for Occohannock on the Bay Camp and Retreat Center's Polar Duck Dip happening on Sat., January 23! See below article for more information.
Gov. Northam’s Dec. 10 Executive Order Means Modest Changes for Virginia Annual Conference Churches
On Thursday, December 10, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 72 (EO 72) which instituted new, temporary restrictions due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases throughout Virginia. EO 72 goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14, 2020.
For churches in the Virginia Annual Conference, there are two notable impacts that change our practices.
1) Many non-worship gatherings at churches are now limited to 10 individuals. That means Sunday School, Youth Groups, Board of Trustees meetings, live nativities, etc. Other groups that use the church building are also limited to 10 or fewer people. The exceptions are to provide essential services for low-income residents (e.g., food pantries, homeless ministries with persons being lodged at the church, etc.) and for education instruction (e.g., preschool, Christian day school).
2) If a church is planning a late service for Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, the service must be concluded so that all members and guests can be home by midnight. The reason for this is there is a new stay at home order from midnight to 5:00 a.m.
Importantly, the new gathering size limitation does not applytoworship services. Remember, an indoor service is limited to 50 percent capacity of the sanctuary, chapel, or fellowship hall. However, the new gathering size limitation does apply to all other gatherings a church may sponsor, with the limited exception for ministries working with low-income residents of the Commonwealth, and for schools, as noted above.
Churches conducting in-person services must follow the Technical Assistance Manual (TAM), including health acknowledgment, distancing, and face coverings for all participants, together with leaders. Please review your approved plans and ensure that all the provisions are being strictly observed. The health acknowledgment, distancing, and face covering provisions are also part of EO 72.
If you have not already done so, please review the recently-released document on what to do in a COVID resurgence with your Healthy Church Team and church leaders. There are many additional helpful resources on the Conference web page here.
Thank you for your faithfulness, adaptability, and leadership in these extraordinary conditions. We are all looking forward to a time in the near future when we will be in a different environment. The vaccines on the way seem very promising. Meanwhile, stand firm, knowing that the God of all our Advent hopes is faithful and by God’s tender mercy, the Dayspring will break upon us from on high. [Luke 1:78]
Peace and Blessings,
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis
Retired Pastor, Rev. Travis DeLoach of Greenbackville, VA died in his home yesterday (December 11) surrounded by his loving family. Travis battled complications from Covid-19 for several weeks. He was released from the hospital recently and was in Hospice Care in his home. While appointed to the Eastern Shore District, Travis served the Guilford Charge (St. Thomas, Guilford and Bloxom churches) and Christ UMC on Chincoteague, which was his last appointment before he retired. Expressions of sympathy can be sent to his wife, Debby DeLoach at: 37311 Spar Court, Greenbackville, VA 23356.
As we learn of services we will share information. Please keep Debby and the family in your prayers.
Rev. Cathy Fielding, Pastor of the Accomack Cooperative Parish (Drummondtown and Metropolitan churches) recently underwent major surgery and is recovering at her daughter's home. Please keep Cathy and her family and doctors in your prayers,
In-Person Worship and Eastern Shore Covid Numbers
First, thank you for your faithfulness, adaptability, and leadership through this extraordinary time. You have shown great creativity and resilience and I’m grateful for you.
Below you’ll see an article from Shore Daily News for Tuesday, Dec. 8. It shows that the Eastern Shore is facing an unmistakable surge in cases with a test positivity rate of 17.7% (higher than the number I had when I shared it with the folks in Morning Prayer). Since this is above the 10% figure that many experts consider a significant number for virus spread, it should make us pay attention. So let me urge you to do the following:
1) If you have not reviewed the recently-released Guidance document from the In-Person Worship Work Group with your Healthy Church Team and church leaders, please do. It provides a decision tree method for evaluating where we are: http://doc.vaumc.org/News2020/HCTGuidance.pdf.
2) The first item in that document asks about how well your church is doing with the provisions in the Technical Assistance Manual (TAM). It is more important than ever that those provisions be applied within the framework of your plan.
3) If you determine, by reviewing the document, to return to virtual methods of worship only, you have my support. That may be the most faithful step for your church to take right now. I would certainly consider it given the current surge.
4) If you determine to continue in-person worship, consider whether there are additional steps you might take to mitigate risk. The provisions in the TAM are designed to help you worship safely, but you can reduce risk further by, for example, limiting the numbers in worship, adding additional services, reducing the length of services, and increasing required distancing from 6 feet to something greater. I’m available to you to help talk through decisions.
A few points to remember:
—masking is required in all settings, including worship leaders and preachers. This is a provision of the TAM and of the governor’s most recent executive order
—food should not be consumed on-site
—please report any church event COVID exposures to me and to Rev. Tom Joyce, the Bishop’s assistant
There are a lot of helpful resources on the Conference webpage at vaumc.org/return.
We are all looking forward to a time in the near future when we will be in a different sort of environment. The vaccines on the way seem very promising. But for the next few months our motto should be: Stay calm, stay connected (to God and each other), and look for what God will do.
So what comes next? The pandemic has presented a lot of challenges and the environment for doing ministry has changed considerably. But the mission of making disciples remains the same.
The Eastern Shore District is happy to welcome Paul Nickerson back to work with churches that would like to move into ‘what comes next.’ Paul coached several churches on our district a few years ago through “How to Reach New People” coaching.
The introductory workshop on January 16, 2021 is titled "The New Reality: how to make changes and reach new people in your community". This online workshop will run from 9:00 AM to 12 Noon and will be followed by 6 months of group coaching. Topics will include:
How to connect with people both online and face-to-face
Developing "mission alignment" to make the best use of time and resources
Living into the new reality of the digital mission field
A Team of a Pastor and at least three lay members is required. The cost of the workshop and 6 months of coaching is $395. Scholarships may be available.
Freezin for a Reason!
Occohannock on the Bay Camp and Retreat Center is hosting another Polar Duck Dip on Saturday, January 23, 2021 at the camp! Doors Open & Dipper Sign-in is 11 am. Dippers' Picture & Costume Judging begins 11:30am. Parade to Waterfront will be at 11:45 am and the "Dip" will begin at 12 noon. Registration Fee is $20 per participant (includes Lunch and Polar Duck Dip Shirt). *Register by January 15th to receive a free commemorative long sleeved shirt*. Don't want to brave the chilly creek waters? Make a donation or if you know someone who is "dipping" you can support them. Please support the camp for this important fundraiser!
Mental Health Resources Clergy– we KNOW that these are difficult times for you and for those to whom you minister. We have compiled some mental health resources to help you continue to navigate this difficult period. For more information and resources go to https://novaumc.org/mental-health-resources/
Guilford Charge Food Pantry Team serving local families at Bloxom Mission House of Prayer. Bloxom on Monday during this year's first sign of snow!
Christmas Fundraiser for All God's Children Camp
All God's Children Camp is hosting a fundraiser on their Facebook page. We have a goal of $5,000, which would send 12 kids to camp. Please help us meet our goal by donating any amount you can! Camp was canceled in 2020 and we are looking forward to being back with our special young friends in 2021! If you would like to donate on facebook, go to the link below. If you do not have a facebook account and would like to donate, you can send a check to: All God's Children Camp, P.O. Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23060, Attn: Becky Tate. If you have any questions please email Lori Smith at email@example.com
UNITED METHODIST NEWS --United Methodists aren’t thrilled about observing Advent and Christmas seasons amid COVID-19, but many are looking at ways to safely add personal interaction to virtual worship. “It’s very challenging,” said the Rev. Sheron C. Patterson, senior pastor at Hamilton Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, informally known as The Park. “People are fatigued with Zoom and webinars. Getting people in the Christmas spirit with the COVID is challenging.” Fatigue or not, Zoom, Facebook and other Internet portals will be the pipeline through which many experience church during Advent and Christmas this year. But there are efforts afoot to find creative ways to augment and enhance the experience. Read more...