Masking Ourselves in Love

Masks.  They dominate our conversations.  Only if only it was just about halloween again.  I am sure we all find ourselves staring into the past to try to regain footing for these current moments.  I find myself reminiscing about simple conversations with my kids about superhero masks and alter egos and wonder when the coronavirus villain will be vanquished.  I look to the Bible and see most references to masks are about hypocrisy and false teachers.  I remember working in attics and wearing masks to keep my lungs healthy for future outings with my grandkids.  And then I am back again to our moment. Masks…everywhere.
 
Governor Holcomb announced this week masks would be required of all people in public who cannot socially distance.  I believe we at Central can continue to model this precaution for our neighbors.  No longer are masks ways to hide our identities (though I miss seeing you all face to face).  Now they are ways of showing our love.  When we think of Jesus’ words, ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,’  masks are but a simple step.  Many could not – can not – go out into spaces where people are not taking what has become a simple precaution.  Masks are a simple way to allow for us to continue to be present in our lives.  In this sense, social distancing might better be understood as healthy distancing so as to avoid the extreme of social isolation.  We want to continue to create space for those who are able to gather.  
 
To this end we are asking all who come to Central at any time to wear a mask while moving around the building.  This will allow us to continue to minister to all of our neighbors while continuing to fight the spread of the coronavirus.  Further, we will be returning to limited office hours (8-1 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Friday & 8-5 on Thursday) to provide flexibility and space for our staff to navigate these times.  The building will still be available for groups and appointments outside of these hours.  We continue to serve not just the discipleship needs of our members at Central, but also the broader community.  If you feel called to donate masks, we will continue to distribute them to all who come through the doors at 1425 E Main St.
 
Let us continue to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.  I will admit, I never thought masks would be a part of it.  But as Paul writes, ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.’
 
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Joseph

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A recent message from our Indiana Conference Associate Director of Leadership Development for Laity and Discipleship.

We are blessed to be part of a Global connectional church. Today’s post is a recent message from our Indiana Conference Associate Director of Leadership Development for Laity and Discipleship.
 
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! When I try to make sense of all that is going in the world today, I keep coming back to the imagery of a groaning world. The pandemic, political conflict, unjustified killings, and civil unrest are all reminders of the brokenness of the world. They are also reminders of the need for Christ’s reconciling work and the continuing movement of the Holy Spirit to redeem all of creation.
 
When we see the images and hear stories of brokenness and injustice, it is right to mourn and to feel righteous anger. At the same time, we have the hope of the promise that all things will be made new. God has recruited us to be agents of change in the world as we live in the image of Jesus. Mourning and anger remind us of what ought to be and should motivate us to take action.
 
We are all called to use the gifts we have been given to partner with God in the mission to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world. The transformation happens little by little and person by person. However, sometimes dramatic movements of the Spirit happen in moments of desperation when people will see what they have not recognized before. I believe this is one of those times. As such, it is up to the people of God to reach out to the scared and lonely, work to bring justice to communities, and meet the needs of the most vulnerable in the name of Jesus.
 
This work will look different in today’s circumstances, but it is just as necessary as it has always been. Take time to identify the needs in your community, especially those that have long gone unmet. Open yourself to making new friendships with those that God has put in your path and be ready to share the difference that Jesus has made in your life. There are many searching to make sense of the times. We must be ready to show them Jesus, who offers hope and healing.
 
R.C. Muhlbaier, Assoc. Dir. of Leadership Development – Laity & Discipleship

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The Journey So Far

Friends,

How are you?  No really, how are you?  So much has happened and is happening.  It is good to work through it all in prayer and conversation.  I miss having time throughout the week to sit and talk with all of you as you pass through the building.  Do you have a fellow Christian to talk it all over – to listen?  If not, let me know and we can remedy that shortly.  It is my hope all who have ever called Central home has a regular connection as we follow after Jesus in these strange times.

Recently, we concluded the book of Proverbs in our Wisdom Study (resuming in August).  In it, there is a centering line in Chapter 3 which reads:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
 
Though this is true in all circumstances, I have been surprised at how often I want to lean on my own understanding throughout the pandemic, the rising conversation on race, and movements in the streets.  God’s shalom has been broken anew.  Rather than finding eyes to see the Spirit’s new work, I rush to return to what worked before in my understanding.  Every time I do, I find it no longer holds like it used to.  Every time I do, I find myself humbled anew.  Every time I do, I find how foolish I was to ever turn from awaiting for God’s beckoning – from trusting God’s timing and action.  Still, his grace overwhelms me as again and again our Lord allows me space to return to the straight path.  

 

This is the path I pray we at Central maintain in the weeks ahead in both our peace-making work and in our continued vigilance with the coronavirus.  Our drive down this path has shown us much, but still much remains to be revealed around the coming bends.  Indiana is doing well with its coronavirus mitigation as we continue on a downward trend.  Wayne county and its health professionals have done an even better overall job of keeping our community in one of the lowest per capita case rates of any county.  Still with so much still unknown, we will still be proceeding with the following measures on Sunday mornings.

• We are asking you to continue to wear a mask to worship on Sunday mornings..
• We will continue to offer communion outside for both those attending and drive thru.
• We will continue to tape off rows.
• We will continue to offer more meditative music opportunities throughout the service.

If you will be rejoining us for the first time come July 5th, you will notice several other changes with an eye towards keeping any possible transmission at bay.   We continue to encourage anyone who is feeling even the slightest symptoms or who is at risk to join us in worship online through Facebook on Sunday mornings at 10.  If you are in need of face to face conversation, please call and I or another of the good people at Central will come and sit socially distant in the driveway for a good chat.  We are in this together.  God is still good.  We can lean into his solid Word.  He continues to call us to holy work in our lives, our homes, our community, and beyond.  Let us walk faithfully down this straight path.
 
Yours in Christ
,
Pastor Joseph

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Central’s Future

Greetings in the name of Christ! 

I am so grateful we share the journey ahead together as the people of Central UMC here in Richmond.  Thank you all for your prayers and efforts in this time.  This letter is a travel guide for how we go forward together as we again begin to gather in the coming weeks.

The road ahead has not yet fully revealed itself, yet I have no fear for I know where we have been together.  My family came here a mere 10 months ago and has so appreciated the welcome and work accomplished on our journeyed so far.  Just a few months ago I was eager to walk through our first Holy Week together.  That newness seems decades ago.  The blunt reality of the spread of the coronavirus has changed so much.  There will be more pain ahead.  Still, just as the headlights reveal the next part of the visible road and move with every turn, so also this guide will illuminate the path we hope to follow and shift with every change.

We know the timeless words of Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It is a word of scripture I still pray over Central.  But did you know this verse is part of a larger vision letter to the Jewish people?  It was sent to them in exile, far from their promised land.  It begins by saying they will not return for 70 years, but pivots to hope as God invites them to return to the activities of life to be blessed and be a blessing to others.  This verse encompasses those plans.

The letter goes on to say as the people of God turn in prayer and seek Him, they will find God in new ways.  It is my prayer we at Central continue to be a people who seek Him.  I believe as we are faithful, we will find Him.  We the church are the called-out people of God.  We will again gather, but we know there is a lot we do not know. We may not know, but we have faith.  We can dream about where we will be based on where we have been. So let’s raise our eyes and look to what the light illuminates.

Our Bishop and our Governor continue to update us with guidelines.  We will adjust as they share more.  We acknowledge those who are at a greater health risk will stay home and encourage those who continue to do so.  Please continue to reach out to one another and your amazing church staff for ways we can come alongside you. For all below, additional measures of sanitization and social distancing will be implemented. Hopefully, we can begin walking this road wisely…

  • Starting next week, we will be reopening our childcare to come alongside the businesses which will be reopening.  Additional precautions have been added to protect families and workers. 
  • Starting May 4th, we invite those who are able and willing to begin gathering in homes and at public locations in small groups.  This could be getting together to serve, bible studies, Sunday morning watch parties in homes, dinner church, or just enjoying one another’s company.  Again, please do so mindful of best practices and only assume the risk as you are ready to do so. Zoom options will continue.
  • We will resume in person worship at Pentecost, May 31.  The sanctuary will be limited to 100 people.  Livestreaming will continue as a permanent service to those social distancing, sick, away from home, or just not able/ready to come. Those who come after the other spaces fill will be asked to view it remotely in the fellowship hall (limit 1 family per table – 50 people total. 
  • Sunday school will start again on the 31st and rooms will be limited to 10 people. 
  • All summer camps have been postponed until July.  Check with Central staff for further information.
     

We are still open 9-1 Monday-Friday for your various needs.  If everything continues as expected, we will send another update to our road ahead the last week of May.  Keep on checking our Facebook page and website for updates.  God is good.  Keep on calling one another and serving where called.  Be the body of Christ wherever you find yourself.  

We are in this together.  Together, we will go far down this road.  We may have to wait for a season longer than we would like, but let’s remember the words of another Hebrew prophet, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Joseph


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Central Updates

Dear friends,

Greetings in Christ’s name!  I pray you and yours are participating in the grace and peace of our God.  I give thanks for our Lord’s provision and steady presence as the world we have known changes before our eyes.  We are hemmed in, but our light still shines brightly.  I have been blessed to hear of stories of Central members reaching out to neighbors, seeking out ways to serve those on the margins, and rekindling old relationships.  I have been humbled at how our staff has stepped up again and again to take on the ever arising challenges of ministry under social distancing guidelines.  I am hopeful for the good news of Jesus and His love to spread through Central’s love in the coming weeks.

With these constant changes continuing to pile up, we wanted to update you on the happenings here at Central:

With the new restrictions imposed by the state, we have clarified we are an essential entity and will be at the building for emergencies as they arise.  We are encouraging people to call into the office from 9-1 or email us for communication.  We will continue in serving from 1425 Main, in our homes, and in the community.

  • To this end, if you are feeling called to assume the risk and serve in these times, we are asking for servants to staff the Food Pantry.  We have been able to be a part of opening back up this vital resource to our neighbors. This will involve either isolated shifts inside the building of 3-4 people to sort and bag groceries or curbside service.  Please call Dave Shaw (765) 966-2770) to sign-up.
  • We have many ways to gather online via Facebook, Google Hangouts, and Zoom.  Several small groups are continuing to meet.  If you are interested in hosting or joining a study or small group, please contact the office.  Here are Central’s regular online gatherings in the coming weeks.  
    • Sunday – Worship – 10am, TRIBE with Sheri on Zoom @ 5
    • Monday – Bible in One Year study with Pastor Joseph on Zoom@ 1:30
    • Tuesday – Morning Worship with Madeleine @ 10am
    • Wednesday – Midweek Connection with Staff @ Noon
    • Thursday – Afternoon Worship with Madeleine @ 2 pm, Thoughtful Thursdays @ 8pm with Pastor Jen and guest

Please continue to lift one another up in prayer.  I am asking we all take a minute at 7:00pm (19:00 for Covid-19) each night to join the world in prayer for our response to Covid-19.  Let us pray for those suffering, those without access to medical care, those who have lost their jobs, those who don’t know how to find resources, the heroes in the medical field, those serving in essential services, families spending more time together than ever before, families divided by quarantine, those feeling alone, those not regarding guidelines, those risking all to serve the least of these, and those on your heart each day.  We are together in this fight.

 

May you find God’s love in every breath today.

 

Shalom,

Pastor Joseph


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Ways to Engage

Friends, the unrelenting news and reality of the spread of the novel coronavirus and our countermeasures have brought us to an unprecedented time in our lives. Countless families have lost loved ones and are awaiting outcomes for other members. We have lost the ways in which we normally gather, shop, recreate, create – live. The raging seas of fear and anxiety threaten to unmoor us. The darkness seems to gather, yet I cannot help but see a light growing.

There is hope. We may have had our habits altered, but that does not mean we have lost our humanity. We do not know what comes next, but our God remains our rock and refuge.  He still whispers to us in the midst of the storm, calling us forth.  There is much to be about until social distancing drops from our daily vocabulary. Together, we at Central can shine our ever strengthening light to one another and for our community.

For those sheltering in place:

  • Make a habit of calling others, writing letters, video chatting with loved ones – they want to hear your voice. We all need connection.  Contact Linda Jennings if you would like to connect with those under mandated social distancing in Senior Living facilities.
  • Pick up that book you always wanted to read. You have the time.
  • Try out a new skill – yes you might fail today, but set aside time to make regular, disciplined efforts and the results will follow
  • Take time to actually be in solitude. Turn off all devices and just be present in the moment. The updates you miss will be updated anyways. You will be amazed at how refreshing this is and how many thoughts will pour forth. Peace will come and go, but keep working at it – this is a discipline as well
  • Call the office (765-962-8543) with any needs or call for assistance.  There are many able to go about who want to be there for you.

For those essential workers and willing to run errands

  • Call neighbors before going forth to see if others have needs to help limit trips for the most vulnerable.  Let Pastor Joseph know if you would like to pick up or deliver for members beyond your neighborhood.
  • Patron local small businesses. Let your canned food sit until you need to use it. We need them now and they have taken a hit.
  • Look for blood drives (Central is working on hosting one in early April – stay tuned), food donations, and service opportunities. I know we are not supposed to gather, but the needs have not gone away and they are taking the best measures they can. Fully understand the risk and step forward with what you discern.  Our Community Food Pantry on 19th street needs volunteers.  Contact Dave Shaw if you feel called.

For all of us:

  • Follow the CDC guidelines the best you can.
  • Refrain from judging those who will not come out and those who feel called to go forth and risk. We don’t know their full stories.
  • Read your Bible.  You can download the YouVersion App for various Bible Studies or join the rest of the congregation in Reading the Bible in One Year with the Read Scripture
  • Join a digital small group.  We are working on resourcing small group leaders with various means of digital conferencing.  We will have a list of various opportunities come Sunday morning worship.
  • Pray. Pray for all those people on the front line – the doctors, EMT’s, janitors, administrators, nurses, factory workers, government heads – the list goes on. Pray for those in the midst of the disease. Pray for those who are suffering from other sicknesses. Pray for our neighbors who don’t know what’s next. Pray for our youth who have lost significant life experiences to cancellations. Pray.  We can be together before our Father’s throne.
  • Let us all love well. It is my hope and prayer to help all know they are loved by an amazing God. I don’t care who you are, you are loved – let us try to let that love in. When we know we are loved it is easier then to love with abandon. To love our neighbors – even the ones who leave bikes in their yards and never bring in their trashcans. Even the ones who are not responding to this as we would like them to. This can be a phone call or shared food from your pantry or playing your guitar outside to bless the neighborhood or some other idea you uniquely offer.  Let us offer love.  Let us be the church.

You are all in my prayers. Keep the faith, Cling to hope. Let us love. God is still good. Together, we will get through this. Shalom.

 

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Joseph


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Easter Lilies

While we may not be able to meet in person for Easter Sunday, we want to keep with the tradition of celebrating with Easter Lilies but with a twist! Since we won’t be able to enjoy them at Central, Jack Daggy Flowers has offered to deliver any Easter Lily order anywhere within Richmond and is waiving the delivery fee!

 

So how will this work? All members who would like to order Easter Lilies, are asked to call Jack Daggy Flowers at 765-962-5596. Make sure to let them know you are a member of Central United Methodist Church. You may choose to have the lilies sent to your home or have them sent to friends, family, or anyone that could use a little bit of extra love during this time. All that they ask is that wherever they are sent, is within Richmond city limits.

 

If you would still like to honor someone, whether they are celebrating at home or celebrating with Jesus on Easter Sunday, Please let us know and we will honor them on Easter Sunday.

 

Jack Daggy Flowers will keep track of all orders and will bill Central after deliveries have been made. To pay for your order, please send a check to Central, or drop it off in the office during our modified office hours of 9am – 1pm. The cost per lily is $13.50.

The deadline to place an order through Jack Daggy Flowers is March 27th. Orders will be delivered the week of April 6th. If you have any questions, please call the office at 765-962-8543.

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Realm Access

Through OnRealm.org or the Realm Connect app, every member will have access to their own information through our private domain. By the end of the day on Wednesday, March 18th, everyone will receive an invitation via e-mail to access their realm accounts. This launch is going to happen sooner than we would have originally liked but felt it was important for all of us to stay connected during this time. There might be a few bumps, but we are all learning new things together in this time. There will be aspects of the website and app that are not fully functional and will seem confusing. We understand that there will be questions. Please direct all of those questions to Christin at christin@richmondcumc.com. While we will not be able to answer every question individually, we will communicate those answers via the Central Blog and Facebook. Below are instructions on how to set-up your account and how communication will work

 

When we send out your invitation to join, you will receive an email that asks you to join our online community. Click on the link next to “Create an account.” Here you will be asked to create a password. Once you have done that, you will want to check your email for a second email that asks you to verify your email address. Click the link next to “Verify your email.”

 

Once your account is set-up, you will be able to edit your contact information or manage your privacy settings. If you would like to change how much information other members can see, you may do so on your profile page. To access this, you will click the down arrow next to your name in the top right of the page.

 

The default setting of Realm is to notify you of new messages or content posted on Realm via email. If you would like to change these notification settings, click the down arrow next to your name on the top right of the page, and select notification settings.

 

On the website, you will see “Giving” on the left hand side. This is where you will be able to see your private giving statements and pledges. This information can only be accessed by the account holder and the finance team. I know many will be mailing their weekly giving/tithe to the church. However, if you would like to utilize Realm Giving, just click the “+Give” and follow the prompts.

 

Also on the left hand side, you will see “Directory.” This is where you will be able to see other members contact information. When you first get on and start exploring, you may notice that there are members missing or members with no information. This is only due to those members not signing up yet or deciding to not share their information.

 

If you would like to chat with someone through Realm, you may search their name in the top right corner or select “chat” under the Communication tab on the left hand side. You will only be able to chat with those who have accounts set-up.

 

Again, we understand that there will be questions about using the website and app. Please feel free to email Christin at christin@richmondcumc.com with any questions and we will do our best to answer them in a timely manner.

 

In the process of creating events and learning how the site works, we inadvertently created a second worship service. We will be removing it from the event page but want you to be aware that you may receive an email stating that worship service is cancelled. Please know that this is not the case and we will be having the planned online service on Facebook and our website as mentioned in Pastor Joseph’s email.


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Central Events Update

To keep in the practice of social distancing and avoiding unnecessary travel at this time, all Central UMC events and gatherings have been cancelled until the end of March. This includes the “Meet the Ad Council” scheduled for Wednesday, March 18th, and the UMW Meeting scheduled for April 9th. If you have any questions about your group meeting, please call the office at 765-962-8543. 
 
As mentioned in the last pastor’s update, this cancellation includes the physical gathering of worship service for the next 4 weeks. We will be utilizing Facebook live on Sunday at 10am to share in this time together. Make sure to like the Central United Methodist Church page to get notified when we go live and to stay up-to-date on all things Central. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the church office at 765-962-8543

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Update from the Pastor

Greetings in the name of Jesus.  I pray this email finds you well in the grace and peace of our God.  This is a longer email, so please read to the end. 
 
In these strange times, remember, God offers truth and love to the depths of our souls.  As all else that we know crumbles into the raging sea, let us not forget God’s love for us, for our neighbors, for our world.  A world for whom he gave His Son and showed us all true love bleeds.  In pursuing and receiving that love – in living that love – we are together at Central.  This is a bond which unites though we may be absent in body from one another for a season.  It is a love which allows us to bravely face the stark realities we find today.
 
Our world this morning was not the world we woke up to at the beginning of the month, nor even one week ago.  The rules by which society operates change by the hour.  It is scary, but we are in this together and will be together on the other side.  The latest we have heard here in Indiana is that we are not to gather in groups greater than 50.  Our first presumptive case just arrived at Reid this morning.  The restaurants are only offering drive-thru services.  Other social gatherings spaces have been shut down.  Our community members are losing their jobs.  Our neighbors may not be sure how they will get through this unknown reality.  What we are seeing is unprecedented in our lifetime and its effects will be far reaching for a long time.  I do not know what news may come next, but I do know one thing from my short time here in Richmond – a loving response will rise from the good people of Central UMC.  No matter what may follow your Godly love and wisdom will be expected and needed from a community in desperate need of it.
 
For now, I wanted to share the following measures being taken by Central UMC.  At this time our doors are still open for Childcare and day to day operations.  However, it is with a heavy heart, I must share we will be moving our ‘public’ worship to online spaces for at least the next 4 weeks.  Furthermore, we are asking all groups to consider alternative gathering arrangements for at least the next week as we monitor the ever changing reality we find ourselves within.  This is a great loss.  Your faces and laughs will be missed by many.  My heart hurts at the thought of our building not being full.  But we are not standing still.  We are praying and discerning how we can be Christ’s hands and body and feet in the midst of the storm.
 
On the other side of this, I am excited about what is coming.  We are organizing.  We are developing neighborhood communities. We will have a revamped Facebook Live service on Sunday morning at 10.  You will be able to message us both before and after the service while sharing thoughtful comments along the way to one another.  We are working with local agencies on how we as a people and our building could be leveraged to help those who are disproportionately affected by the closings.  We are developing a pick-up and delivery system for those who cannot go out. Right now you can coordinate with Linda Jennings to write or call those in forced isolation.  More to come soon (stay tuned) –  Facebook Live for various offerings throughout the week, small group studies and conversations via Google Hangout (Instructions here for group leaders – feel free to call Pastor Jen or Joseph for further steps), live worship concerts, and roll out of our online communication portal Realm Connect.
 
Yet we are in this moment.  God is still good.  Let me share again what I offered on Sunday.  We have experienced the overwhelming love of our savior.  We respond by following Jesus and sharing His love – with redeemed spirits and disciplined bodies.  We draw closer through the Spiritual Disciplines – prayer, fasting, reading Scripture, Christian conversation, solitude, worship, simplicity, etc.   Public worship is but one of these Spiritual Disciplines.  We have a time before us when we can build up our other disciplines.  We can lean into one another and our households as we walk through this together.  Here are a few resources (we will be sharing more in the coming days):
 
Right Now Media – Our church has a subscription to this discipleship service.  You can access Christian movies, children’s shows, Bible
Studies, and other studies to go over during this time with your household and others you are in connection with.  If you are not
already signed-up, please email Christin at christin@richmondcumc.com.
You Version Bible App – Several
The Bible Project – A great treasure of videos, blogs, and podcasts all about God’s word.  
Methodist Prayer – A daily arrangement of the prayer offices for those seeking disciplined practices at home.
 
Thank you again for your prayers – they are essential.  We will be sending another update soon.  Until then, know you are loved – by your God, by your Central staff, by me.  Know you all are being held before our Father in prayer by us.
 
In Christ,
Pastor Joseph

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