LATEST UPDATES FROM BELMONT UMC
May 22, 2020
Sunday, I stepped to the pulpit, anointed my hands with sanitizer, and fumbled with how to best remove my mask before preaching. We are wearing masks to model compassion and identify with our vulnerable neighbors. The mask is an outward sign of our inner commitment to "watch over one another in love." Unfortunately, my mask's ear loop was caught inside my glasses frame creating a three pronged tangle of elastic mask straps, steel glasses frame, and a tiny silicone microphone chord tucked behind my ear. I silently repeated Dr. Bill Cooper's mask removal recommendations: "Disinfect hands, slide your fingers up the elastic, lift away from your face, do not touch the center of your mask, place it down, disinfect hands." I slowed down to do my best, confident that Belmont's congregation is full of kind and patient people who want us to get this right.
For over a month, a Regathering Task Force appointed by our Executive Committee, has been pondering and planning the best practices for Belmont UMC to re-enter shared public worship space together. On May 21, Bishop McAlilly announced that in-person worship would be suspended until June 21. We want to ensure our return is safe and aligns with our core values of hospitality, nurture, diversity, and mission. We are committed to making decisions rooted in data and best practices, not our desires. In a way, we are in the midst of a spiritual test, engaging in a kind of fast from our beloved congregating. May the day we can all embrace each other and sing together be better than chocolate on Easter. In this in-between wilderness, let us find nourishment in gathering online for worship, Zoom groups, daily spiritual practices, and in due season, socially-distanced smaller gatherings.
There are challenges to coming back into shared space. The Regathering Task Force is looking at ideas such as reserving a spot in worship via Realm, checking symptoms at home, arriving 30 minutes early, wearing masks, checking in through our Community Center, taped off seating, ensembles instead of choirs, softly humming hymns in a mask, greeting each other at 6-10 foot distance, observing creative solutions to avoid traffic bottlenecks within our 100-year-old building, only sitting with whom we live, not passing the offering plates, and taking our conversations outdoors immediately after worship. Indeed, until we get the green light from our Conference and health and governmental leaders, smaller back porch gatherings in which we partake in online worship together, Communion in the park, or small groups singing on lawns must bring a sustaining joy.
Our return will be fluid and move in stages from smaller gatherings to larger groups. We will also need to give each other grace as we will get some things wrong and learn as we move forward together. Each returning stage will offer a chance for us to practice, evaluate, build up, and perfect safely sharing worship space. As with any new habit or practice, there will be a learning curve. Therefore, we will recruit an initial band of less vulnerable folks to learn best practices and serve as guides for the later pilgrims. This core group of guides will help evaluate and model new gathering practices. We will only step into the next stage of return when we feel we have mastered our previous stage and see improving community health trends. As we slowly regather, we envision taking turns attending. The Mayor's Nashville Roadmap recommends smaller returning bands of 10, 25, 50, and then 100 worshipping in the sanctuary. These smaller bands will not replace the thriving online worship experiences that are currently sustaining our Sunday morning rhythms. Online worship is not going away; it's a newfound tool to connect us when we are unable to physically be together due to geography, health, or schedule. June's worship theme is "Christ's Kin-dom: On Earth- Right Now- Among Us" (Matthew 10:7) and will focus on supplementing and strengthening home and small gathering worship and discipleship practices.
Finally, I must confess that most of this letter was lifted almost whole cloth from Jeff Sheehan's email to our Regathering Task Force. I am so deeply thankful for Jennifer Bagwell, Angie Slade, Susan Fagan, and Jeff who have made this difficult and fluid planning process deeply joyful. It is strange how fully we can lean into each other, while standing 10 feet apart. I am so honored to pastor such a compassionate, considerate, and Christ-like congregation.
May 8, 2020
Dear Beloved Belmont Friends,
The early Methodists knew seasons of suffering, stigma, and separation. For two centuries, Methodist Conferences have opened singing Charles Wesley's hymn:
"And are we yet alive, and see each other's face? Glory and thanks to Jesus give for (God's) almighty grace! Preserved by power divine to full salvation here, again in Jesus' praise we join, and in (Christ's) sight appear. What troubles have we seen, what mighty conflicts past, fightings without, and fears within, since we assembled last! Yet out of all the Lord hath brought us by (God's) love; and still (God) doth (Christ's) help afford, and hides our life above."
In our sanctuary in February, the Reconciling Ministry Network's Connection 2020 centered each worship service with this hymn. Church leaders who knew the sting of alienation and separation shared how we come alive as we see God in each other's faces. We long to regather with unmasked faces and embraces. And yet, God's divine power preserves and empowers us in our daily struggles, fears and fight to flatten the curve.
We are learning how technology can connect us. We have welcomed a youth temporarily stationed in Bulgaria into our Zoom confirmation class! Many longtime members and recent guests limited by health or distance are worshiping with us each week. A survey was sent to about 200 senior adults on behalf of our Encore ministries (formerly Senior Adult ministries).
Over four weeks ago, Belmont UMC's Executive Committee established a Regathering Team, who, along with staff and lay leaders, is working to ensure our regathering upholds best practices. Our regathering will come in phases as guided by health experts. Our constitutional rights allow us to gather for worship as we please, but we answer to God's higher calling: love of neighbor, personal sacrifice,and protection of the vulnerable. We agree with Mayor Cooper's dictum: "data not date". Safety matters more than speed as we return to our sanctuary.
Please be looking for an electronic congregational survey next week. Know that our staff loves you and is here to assist you. Do not hesitate to reach out to us. Do not forget the financial needs of the church are ongoing. We are proud to be assisting people in need, supporting a global church during a global pandemic, and supporting our workers' families. Thank you for continuing to give to God through Belmont UMC. Please consider setting up electronic giving (https://onrealm.org/BelmontUMC/-/give/now) since it will be a while before we can physically pass the plates! As we move through troubles and fears, know God is with us.
April 24, 2020
What a special feeling there is from these Sunday mornings. For our class, for the worship service that follows, we can’t be together — yet we are together! Last Sunday, as I hummed along to the service’s closing hymn — a nearly 200 year-old Beethoven melody that he likely never himself heard — I said a thankful prayer for all the forces that make it possible for us to hear and see and participate in these special moments. (recent quote from a Sunday School class email)
I am so deeply thankful for our living-streaming team of Cindy Caldwell, Mike Graves, Marty McClearen, and Bruce Williams who have put in many long hours each weekend to build and install a new system and constantly improve our online presence. I am so thankful to innovative, dedicated, and creative church laity, clergy, and staff who are prayerfully crafting new ways to worship and do ministry in uncertain and evolving times.
I am grateful for your generosity. A timely memorial gift allowed us to invest in new streaming technology and build on planned recent improvements to technological interface upgrades. We have received gifts of people’s stimulus checks given to help others hurt by this pandemic. Belmont’s richest asset is our people. I give thanks to God for you all!
Belmont’s executive leadership team is reviewing Mayor Cooper’s “Roadmap for Reopening Nashville” which was released April 23. The Nashville Roadmap will reopen businesses, churches and schools in four measured phases. The Roadmap recommends a gradual return to worship with 10 worshippers in phase one, 50 masked worshippers in phase two, and 100 in phase three. Currently, Metro leaders in consultation with health experts have not recommended moving us from “sheltering in place” into the first phase of reopening. The Nashville Roadmap recommends moving into the next reopening phase only after 14 days of positive improvement in COVID health metrics. Our leadership team is developing plans to reopen giving consideration to best safety practices, the benefit of neighbors, and in consideration of witness, mission, and commitment to justice. In this strange wilderness season, let us find new ways to welcome, nurture, embrace and serve, seeking to “mission in place.”
Know that you are deeply loved, and we long to connect with you in the way we can. See you Sunday on Facebook live for worship at 8:15am and 10:30am.
Love and Peace,
March 23, 2020
In keeping with the mayor's "Safer at Home" directive, the church building is closed. Staff will be checking phone messages remotely. If you need to contact staff, contact information is available on our staff webpage.
The work of the church offices continues during this period of physical distancing. Thanks to the generosity of Belmonters, tithes and offerings continue to come in that need to be recorded and deposited, with more attention being given to processing the increase in online giving. Bills are still being paid. Payroll and benefits are being paid and managed, including for our Weekday School staff, to whom the church has made a commitment to continue to pay during their closure. Financial reports are being run and analyzed.
Technological needs are increasing ten-fold, including setting up and managing video conference calls for our staff, committees, and other groups, as well as improving and increasing our live streaming services. If there are ways we can help connect you to the church and each other through technology, please let us know by replying to this email.
Additionally, we are ensuring that church communication (newsletter, updates, social media, etc.) continue. If you wish to be added to our mailing list, have questions about an existing subscription, or need something communicated to the congregation, please contact Angie Slade (email@example.com or 615-830-6045).
We are also coordinating the cleaning and disinfecting of the building by our custodial staff and providing administrative support to our clergy and lay leaders.
For more info on how to give to the church which, among many other things, enables this administrative work to continue, visit Give to Belmont UMC.
March 23, 2020
Encore Ministries and our Congregational Care teams are fostering lay and clergy congregational connections and care in many ways. Think of who you are missing and call them!
Wednesdays at noon, join us for the Great Thanksgiving via Facebook live.
Everyday at 11:00am the Upper Room is offering a time of prayer via Facebook live.
It is a great joy to see the amazing way Belmonters are staying connected. We're all learning new ways to be in community.
Carolyn Primm, chair of Congregational Care, is working hard to help us keep track of each other! If you are feeling isolated, if you need groceries or a pick up from the pharmacy, or if you want to reach out to someone, please let us know!
Each week we are sending sermon copies and bulletins to those who can not join us and who are not online.
I'm so grateful we are the church together!
March 20, 2020
Sunday morning, Pastor Darren Mayberry Wright will be at the computer, where he will be personally greeting you during the 8:15am and 10:30am live-streamed services. Darren will gather prayer concerns from the comments section and incorporate them into the pastoral prayer. We are grateful that through a generous donation, our Properties Committee has begun upgrades to our video streaming capabilities that should be in place soon! During our live-streamed service on Facebook, click "like" (or "love") so we can know that you are here! At the beginning of worship, we invite you to light a candle at home as a sign of Christ's constant presence with us.
Our church staff is managing many of the same day-to-day challenges that you, our members, are. We are now the primary caregivers and educators of our children during what would have been their school day hours. We are experiencing the same concern for our immediate and extended families and friends, many of whom fall into the high-risk category for this virus. We are seeing the same empty shelves at the grocery stores. We are feeling the same loneliness and anxiety of facing days and weeks of physical isolation. As we work to continue the ministry of the church in new and creative ways, we appreciate your prayers and understanding as we navigate this challenge both as church staff and as individuals.
That being said, I want to assure you that our staff is working so very hard during these challenging days. Even with the building closed, they are answering the phone, checking their emails, and are ready to assist you. We have worked hard all week to consider how to be the church during this challenging season. I have never had more Zoom calls or been prouder of a staff.
If you have any pastoral care needs, concerns, or questions we are here for you, as are our small group and Sunday school leaders. You can always reach our staff with a phone call, email, or text.
Stay tuned for updates from other pastors and staff in the coming days.
March 17, 2020
Perhaps, it has never been more true that the church is not the building. Please know our clergy and staff are working extra hours seeking to be the church as we move through this season of unprecedented closures and cancellations.
We want to encourage you to reach out to our church clergy and staff during this difficult season. Staff contact information is listed below.
Due to our desire to help protect vulnerable people from the spread of the coronavirus, Belmont UMC will be following the lead of Metro Public Schools and cancelling all activities (meetings, dinners, studies, rehearsals, etc.) through April 3, and will reevaluate the situation on or before then. Therefore, we are closing the building. If you need to access a classroom, meet with one of the pastors, or drop off a check, call the church office at 615-383-0832.
We continue to encourage you to worship from home and utilize the resources available on our website. Services will be live-streamed. On Wednesdays at noon we will offer the Great Thanksgiving through our Facebook page. We encourage you to join us virtually as we remember Christ's promise to always be with us in the power of God's Word and Holy Spirit.
Paul Purdue, Senior Pastor
615-383-0832, ext. 12
Heather Harriss, Pastor of Congregational Care and
615-383-0832, ext. 27
Darren Wright, Pastor to Young People
615-383-0832, ext. 26
Kate Fields, Pastor of Children's Ministry and Discipleship
615-383-0832, ext. 19
Gayle Sullivan, Director of Music Ministries
615-383-0832, ext. 29
Robbie Jones, Organist
Amy Cooper, Director of Children's Music
615-383-0832, ext. 20
Sandy Sakarapanne, Pastor of Karen Language Service
Anne Hoback, Membership Secretary/Administrative Assistant
615-383-0832 ext. 15
Susan Fagan, Business Administrator
615-383-0832, ext. 11
Mark Hagewood, Financial Administrative Coordinator
615-383-0832, ext. 16
Angie Slade, Communications and Facility Use Coordination
615-383-0832, ext. 23
Lennie Minter. Property Manager
615-383-0832, ext. 14
March 12, 2020
Update regarding worship on Sunday, March 15
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky writes: "We know that life depends on spiritual health, and also on physical well-being. The world is watching a dangerous disease spread. We don't know how widely or quickly the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will spread. I do know that we want to help limit its spread for the health of one another and the whole world." (umcdiscipleship.org)
At Belmont UMC, we are wrestling with our need to be part of a worshiping community and the importance of helping slow the spread of the virus. Avoiding large gatherings of people and maintaining social distancing of at least six feet helps reduce spreading of the virus for which there is no vaccine and that none of us has yet developed immunity towards. Our love for our neighbors calls us to be mindful of the ways our actions affect the most vulnerable among us.
With all this in mind, we want to encourage you to worship from home this Sunday. Our sermon from Matthew 4:1-11 and Romans 5:1-4 will focus on the spiritual practices that uphold us during difficult seasons. You can worship from home in the following ways:
- Sunday morning, go to our Upcoming Worship Services webpage and download a bulletin
- Download a home worship kit, complete with prayers, sermon text and ways to serve (also available on our Upcoming Worship Services webpage)
- Watch the live stream at 8:15am or 10:30am
- Watch Godly Play Lenten Lesson 2
Worship is not cancelled this Sunday, knowing that some may need sacred space and communal worship.
- Children's and youth Sunday school are cancelled for this Sunday, March 15. Although it appears the risk for children and youth is low, we want to be especially sensitive to our teachers and leaders who are more vulnerable to the virus.
- Adult Sunday School classes will need to check with their class leaders to see if the class will still meet. We encourage classes to make wise decisions and not meet if needed.
- There will be no choir at 10:30am due to spring break and virus related social distancing concerns.
- We will have worship at 8:15am, but we will not observe Communion.
Please remember our financial needs continue whether we are physically present, present in spirit, or worshiping online. Here are several ways you can still contribute your offering:
If you have prayer concerns, please respond to me by replying to this email. These are difficult times, but we will get through them together as we pray, practice and persist.
Love and grace,
March 11, 2020
A word about COVID-19 and Belmont UMC
As I'm sure many of you have been doing, we have been closely monitoring information from health officials about a disease caused by coronavirus (COVID-19), including recent cases identified in middle Tennessee. Within Belmont UMC, the pastoral staff and leadership team have been making plans that align with recommendations and best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and other sources.
We know these are anxious times and we want you to know that our first priority is the health and safety of our members, guests, staff, and their family members. We have developed specific plans for making collaborative and proactive decisions about day-to-day operations, meetings, worship services, and other events held in our building. At this point, based on the guidance we've received, we will continue operations with minor adjustments as needed based on best practices. We will follow recommendations for frequent cleaning of doorknobs and public spaces. If you see new faces around the building, it is because we have hired extra helpers to assist us in disinfecting the building.
We understand that the situation could evolve rapidly. If we do need to make other modifications, we will keep your health and safety foremost in our mind and proceed in a way that will also consider our overall mission to provide a place of community, worship, and forgiveness.
Recognizing that each individual will need to make decisions based on their own circumstances, we will redouble our efforts to offer access to worship services and other gatherings using the best technology possible, including our Facebook Live broadcast of worship services. Please note that you do not have to have a Facebook account in order to view our videos. When it asks you to login, scroll down and click on "Not now."
We will update you at least weekly and more frequently as needed.
In the meantime, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family is what you would do to help prevent the seasonal flu:
· Wash your hands well and often.
· Keep your distance from those who are coughing, sneezing or have flu-like symptoms.
· If you have such symptoms, keep your distance from others.
Thank you for your patience and support as we take the time to thoroughly evaluate this rapidly evolving and complex situation. If you are feeling concerned or anxious or just need someone to pray with you, please know that we are available at any time and can communicate in a way that you feel most comfortable using.
Pastor Paul Purdue
Administrative Board Chair Jennifer Bagwell
Lay Leader William Cooper MD, MPH