Dear South East District Friends,
I am grateful to be writing to you as a new month begins and fall is upon us (not the weather, of course, but the sights and smells of fall like pumpkin patches!).
It seems there is much energy in the life of our churches these days. I am excited to be out visiting again and doing so safely in worship services, meetings, and events. You are holding anniversary services, homecomings, youth events, and re-learning how to do in-person worship while also preaching, singing, and praying to a camera. I appreciate so much the creativity of your ministries and the way you are relaunching worship and ministry safely and with passion.
There are common themes I am hearing around the district as challenges to our ministries in this season and with an ongoing pandemic. Let me name a few to help you see if they resonate with your church:
- Sunday School, youth, and children’s programming needs to begin again as our young people are back in school safely. However, adult volunteers are hard to find who are willing to return.
- Preschools are challenged by departing teachers who are seeking employment elsewhere. There are also continued challenges with classroom closures due to Covid positive cases.
- In-person worship attendance is still less than 50% of pre-Covid numbers for most churches. This is hard on visitors and those who attend as sanctuaries feel empty.
- It is difficult to know which meetings need to happen in person and which ones can be accomplished via ZOOM. (The district and conference struggles with this same question!)
- How do we continue to build community in this ongoing season of isolation?
Friends, this is a challenging time. Yet, I see energy and excitement all around the district. Events and activities are happening, safely, in our churches. If you feel your church is not actively making plans to re-engage the community after this long season of isolation, I urge you to build a team that will discuss with frequency what steps you are taking to engage your membership and reach out to new people.
We are aware that the pandemic has hit some people and families harder than others. Persons who have been able to work from home and easily engage technology have fared better. Many of them are our church members. And many are still comfortable staying home and staying virtual. However, there are children, teens, seniors, and families in each of our communities that do not have the luxury to stay home and stay virtual. They are in need of community for spiritual, economic, and relational reasons. We exist to care for our “parish” and the world is our parish as John Wesley was known to say. How is our part of the world experiencing the love of Jesus at this time through our ministries?
Please know I am here as a resource to you as you navigate these waters. All of our sixty district churches are also here for you as we share in this work through creativity, prayer, and the wisdom of our faithful God.
Grace and peace to each of you,
Cynthia D. Weems