March 17, 2020
Hello O’Fallon First Friends,
After much discussion, prayer, and some mandate by state and federal agencies, and under the advisement of Federal, State, and local governments such as the CDC and the St. Clair County Health Department; there will be no gathered worship services or group meetings at the church (Bible study, prayer groups, etc.) until at least March 30.
These changes are difficult, especially when “connecting” is such an important part of who we are and what we enjoy doing as a community of faith. That’s why we’re working hard to find creative ways for us to stay connected with one another.
We will have online worship through our church website at 8:30am and 10:45 am each Sunday, and you can always view the services once archived throughout the week.
You can also continue your regular giving online through our website, or if you’d prefer you can mail your tithe/offering directly to the church office, attention: Diane Cooper (Comptroller): 504 E. Highway 50, O’Fallon, IL 62269.
Penny Pejka and her team will continue make the Wednesday night dinner for pick-up or delivery from 5:00—6:00pm. This week’s menu is ham and scalloped potatoes, salad, vegetables, and a dessert. Please email Emily George (Office Manager ) at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office (618-632-2354) to reserve a meal. To pick-up, simply pull up under the portico entrance, and there will be servers to hand your meal to you. (You don’t even need to get out of your car).
Pastor Becky is working with staff and volunteers to reach out and connect with everyone who is a part of our church. We are making phone calls daily until we’re able to connect with everyone, and we have volunteers ready to help if you need someone to run an errand for you or pick something up for you. Just call the office, and we’ll do what we can to help.
Jordan is connecting with our children and their families through video, email, and social media posts, Pastor Brad is posting videos with helpful tips for parents and families of our Jr. High and High School students and connecting through social media too.
For those involved in the “Let’s Talk” series, we will continue to present the talks and create questions for discussion through video and PDF Files. The video will be made available through email and our website.
Finally, we’re also working to stay connected to our community by doing what we can to assist with the needs that arise. Linda Kahley (Feed My Lambs) has been working with the school districts, the YMCA, Cornerstone Church, and others to make sure breakfast and lunch are being provided to students who may otherwise not eat because they’re missing the meals at school. Likewise, we are monitoring for needs that may arise in the coming days.
Again, I know these are unusual and confusing times, and they can be frustrating times, but as someone recently asked, “what if…” What if through this time we discover the good and seize the opportunities to do new things we otherwise would not have done? The challenges are real, but so are the opportunities. My prayer is that we take the opportunity to connect in new ways with new people, and maybe rekindle old connections in new ways.
Grace + Peace,
Don E. Long, Jr., Senior Pastor
O’Fallon First United Methodist Church
Dear Brothers and Sisters of O’Fallon First United Methodist Church:
We regret and apologize about this late notice, but as we continue to track Center for Disease Control, and Illinois Health Department recommendations regarding the (COVID 19) Coronavirus, we have decided to cancel live Sunday worship services and all Sunday activities this week, and we anticipate doing so through the end of March. In lieu of our live worship experience, we will be providing for worship through our Website and Social Media.
It has been reported today that St. Clair county now has two confirmed cases of the virus. Most of you are also aware that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker had closed all private and public schools in the state beginning this Tuesday, March 17 through March 30. Currently, the CDC is recommending that all gatherings larger than 250 be cancelled. (In addition, it is recommended that persons over 65 avoid crowds larger than 10 people.) While we don’t have a single worship service that contains 250, we do see over 250 people in our building between two services and Sunday School.
We will be providing an online worship experience this Sunday, and on any future Sundays as needed. We will post this recorded worship experience on Facebook, YouTube, and at offumc.org Sunday morning. We encourage all our families to join together in worship from their homes at your normal worship time.
At this point we are unsure as to what will happen with the many weekly Bible studies and meetings that take place in our church building. As our staff gathers Monday, we will work to bring clarity to our upcoming schedule. In addition, we will be discussing the anticipated pastoral care needs of our community as we navigate this pandemic, and develop plans for helping to meet those needs. In the meantime, if you have any current needs, please feel free to contact the church office, or our pastors.
We realize anxiety and fear is running high during these uncertain times. In this we would remind you of Hebrews 6:19 where the author boldly proclaims, “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” We know that we are anchored in Christ and we are firm and secure in his love. We will pray for all of you, and appreciate your prayers for the community.
May God’s Grace and Peace be with you in these uncertain days,
Pastor Don Long
Pastor Becky Williams
Pastor Brad Lewis
“Don’t Look Now…” Those are the words uttered by Ernie the taxi driver in It’s a Wonderful Life when a run on the banks ensues. Now, I know the movie reference is a little out of season, but as one of my all-time favorite films, I think there’s a lot we learn from it as we deal with the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. George Bailey, in an effort to save the Bailey Building and Loan, teaches us four important lessons: Do not fear, think clearly, prepare well, and remember, we’re in this together, and that’s how we’ll get through it.
1.) Do Not Fear
Borders closed, travel impacted, empty stadiums, closed parks, and cancelled seasons and schools… daily life is changing quickly, and the pace quickens as shelves empty and stocks fall.Fear can easily take hold of us, but as Christ followers we’re called to walk by faith. Philippians 4: 6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
2.) Think Clearly
It’s important to stay informed with accurate information.Proverbs 18: 15 says, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.”Don’t let yourself be consumed by sensational news stories or overwhelmed by the latest posts and tweets full of misinformation and speculation.
Today I met with leaders in city government, healthcare, schools, churches, and local business from all over O’Fallon, and we heard the latest news about the virus and our community’s preparedness for whatever may happen here. Some of the good news is there are NO reported cases of COVID-19 in St. Clair or Madison County, our schools remain open as leaders continue to evaluate the situation in collaboration with local and state officials, and You can also stay informed by checking out excellent resources like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).
3.) Prepare Well
Some of the best and simplest things you can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is wash your hands thoroughly, cover your coughs, avoid touching your face, stay home if you’re not feeling well, and avoid crowds if you’re among the more vulnerable segments of our population, including older adults, those with suppressed immune systems, and those with other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, etc.
We’re implementing some precautionary practices at church. 1) No “passing of the peace,” 2) Our communion practices will be changed significantly, 3) we’ll be wiping down doorknobs, handrails, and other common surfaces frequently, 4) hand sanitizer and wipes will be readily available for all to use, and when necessary, 5) activities will be cancelled when necessary, like “Be Like Jesus.”
Our leadership will continue to monitor the situation, and adjustments will be made as necessary.
4.) Remember – We’re In This Together
You may be thinking this situation is really being blown out of proportion.“I’m health and strong, and everyone I know around me is fine, so why are the things I really want to do being cancelled?” I read an article titled, “This Can Be Our Finest Hour-But We Need All Of You,” by Gretchen Schmelzer, in which she wrote, “this isn’t like other illnesses and we don’t get to act like it is. It’s more contagious, it’s more fatal—and most importantly, even if it can be managed. It can’t be managed at a massive scale—anywhere. We need this thing to move slowly enough for our collective national and worldwide medical systems to hold the very ill so that all of the very ill can get taken care of.” The extra caution is our national and global effort to keep this from becoming something even worse.The more we do now to prevent the spread of COVID-19 the better our world will be later.Am I willing to be inconvenienced to help the most vulnerable among us stay safe? You bet I am. The Apostle Paul teaches us that we are the body of Christ, and as such, “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
In seminary they never taught me how to pastor a church through a pandemic. Things are happening fast and changing all the time. Where and when will it end, I don’t know. But as George Bailey said, “we can get through this thing alright… we’ve got to stick together.” As Scripture says it, even though we are facing many hardships and danger… “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37) For nothing life throws at us will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Pastor Don Long