Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Dear St. John’s Church Family,
Out of concern for everyone’s health and the recommendations from our government leaders and Episcopal leader, Bishop Harvey about social distancing and self quarantining, our church leadership has decided to suspend all church-related small groups, studies, covenant groups, meeting and face-to-face gatherings until further notice.
The church office will be open during regular office hours, Monday to Thursday, 9 am-4 pm and Fridays from 9 am-12 pm, but we discourage you from coming by the office. I am counting on you to join me, and all responsible disciples of Jesus Christ, to show our love of God and neighbor by adopting the guidelines of social distancing issued by the CDC. Please help us in limiting our staff’s exposure. We are available to you via email and phone, which we encourage you to use before stopping by the church. Additionally, we are inviting our staff to work from home as much as possible.
We are living into a new way of experiencing life and “doing church,” and I encourage you to be open to trying some new things in this season in which we find ourselves.
Here are a few ways to stay connected to your faith journey and your church family right now:
- On Wednesdays at 8 am and 8 pm and Sundays at 6 pm, Pastor Deirdre and I will offer a Live Prayer and Meditation on the church’s Facebook Page. We will be “live” for about 25-30 minutes, offering prayers, reflections and other readings to help us stay connected spiritually during this time of social distancing. You will be invited to comment with prayer requests that will be lifted up during our time together. Our Facebook page is www.facebook.com/stjohnsbr, and you won’t need a Facebook account to watch the video.
- Small groups, Sunday School classes, and other groups, including our committees, are encouraged to meet virtually, via Zoom, an online meeting platform. We will be contacting group leaders later this week with information about using our church’s new Zoom account and offering support in getting started.
- For those of you raising children at home, we invite you to join the new Faith Friends Facebook Group. This group will provide tools, ideas, and helpful hints on how to share meaningful and faith-filled experiences with your family. Join us as we share resources for keeping the faith and making it through homeschooling and long days of isolation. We will be scheduling Zoom gatherings for both Children & Families as well as Youth so our younger disciples can stay connected, too.
- We will worship virtually again this Sunday, posting a full worship service on our website and social media. We are also exploring streaming worship via Facebook Live. Stay tuned for more information soon about that. If you missed this Sunday’s worship experience, you can view it here. We celebrated the baptism of baby Lily, experienced beautiful music by Carrie and Terry, read scripture, heard the “Good News,” and shared in prayer.
- And lastly, you can stay connected to your faith journey and church family by continuing to give to the ministries of the church through your tithe and other offerings. Not only do we rely on your giving to support our missions, pay staff salaries, to keep the lights on, and to provide worship – even virtually, but your financial gifts are also one of the ways you offer your thanks and praise to God. Please stay current on your pledge to God’s work here at St. John’s and consider making an additional gift if you can. You can make a one-time gift online or set up reoccurring gifts on our online giving portal. We also accept checks and cash!
In this season of Lent, and COVID-19, we have been given the opportunity to slow down and reflect, remembering that Jesus himself was in solitude in the wilderness for 40 days. I hope that you will take this time to take care of yourselves and feel God’s comforting presence in simplicity and solitude.
I love you and miss you. May the Lord bless you and keep you. I am holding you in the Light.
All shall be well,
Monday, March 16, 2020
After consulting with director Theresa Sandifer, we have made the difficult decision to close The Shepherd’s Market until further notice. Stay connected with us via email, text and social media for future updates.
Thank you to our volunteers, donors, and supporters of The Shepherd’s Market. You were so flexible and helpful as we modified how we served our neighbors in The Shepherd’s Market on Monday. The drive-thru worked well, but we can’t wait to be back inside the market soon. Thanks for helping us! We will let you know as soon we are able to open the food pantry again.
Food Program for Children
The East Baton Rouge Parish School System’s Child Nutrition Department will be serving free, grab-n-go breakfast and lunch at seven school sites across the parish beginning Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
Grab-N-Go breakfast and lunch will be served at the following schools:
1. Northeast Elementary
2. Progress Elementary
3. Woodlawn Elementary
4. Wildwood Elementary
5. Capitol Middle
6. McKinley Middle
7. Park Forest Middle
While supplies last, families will be able to pick up pre-packaged breakfast and lunches for children 18 years of age and younger, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays during the mandated school closure period (March 16, 2020 – April 13, 2020). At least one child must be present in order to receive school meals.
To learn more about EBR Child Nutrition and to view the menu, please visit ebrschools.org/child-nutrition.
Friday, March 13, 2020
Dear St. John’s family,
One of the reasons I love St. John’s so deeply is because caring is at the heart of who we are – so much so, that it is one of our core values. We live this out by offering a loving response to the needs of all people through empathy and compassion. We are strongest when we hold ourselves accountable to this practice because we recognize that life is much larger than ourselves.
The health and safety of those who are the most vulnerable in our community is our highest priority right now. The rapid spread of coronavirus COVID-19 is a public health crisis that has the potential to overwhelm our healthcare system and community resources, which can disproportionately affect those who are most vulnerable.
After prayerful consideration, at the recommendation of Bishop Harvey, the appeal from Gov. Edwards, and in alignment with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our church leadership has decided to temporarily suspend in-person worship for at least the next two Sundays, March 15 and 22.
We know that the coronavirus spreads through person-to-person contact, which is facilitated through large public gatherings. One of the best ways to combat the spread of the virus is to engage in social distancing.
Here is the good news: I am confident the work of our church will not be adversely impacted by this decision. I can say that because I know you, and I know your heart. You have a great deal of love for God’s work happening at St. John’s, and you will do everything in your power to help ensure we continue to make an impact.
Please keep reading to learn how you can remain engaged with your church family.
Sunday Worship & Spiritual Growth
Though we are unable to worship together, we will offer a weekly online worship experience beginning Sunday, March 15. We will work to have the video up on the church’s Vimeo channel by 11 a.m. Sunday morning, when many of us normally worship.
The format of these services will be a little different, but the experience will be very familiar for those who have worshipped with us before. We will still glorify God through song, scripture, a sermon, and prayer. I encourage you to commit to engaging in this new online worship experience on Sunday. You can also access our sermon archives on our website at any time through this link: https://www.stjohnsbr.org/sermon-videos/
Additionally, we will go Live on Facebook for Prayer and Meditation on Sunday evenings at 6 p.m. and Wednesdays at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the church’s Facebook page.
You can watch Facebook live videos from any device – phone, tablet or computer. You don’t even have to be a Facebook user to go to the church’s Facebook page and our view videos/photos and other posts. At the start time (Sundays at 6 p.m. and Wednesdays at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.), go to St. John’s Facebook Page. The top post on the page will be a link to the live stream for you to click to start viewing. Once you are watching the Prayer and Meditation live stream, you can comment with prayer requests that we will lift up during our time together. This is a new thing for us (we’re learning as we go, after all!), but we anticipate our time of sharing prayer will last about 15-20 minutes.
We will continue to offer a weekly devotional guide for you to use each day during Lent. You will find a link to the Week of March 15 Devotional at the end of this letter, and we will also post the devotion each morning on the church’s Facebook Page. You may also come by the church office to pick up a printed copy of the devotion during office hours.
The church is not closed. At this time, the church office will remain open during our regular hours of Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m. to noon.
Some of our programs, covenant groups, and Bible Studies will continue meeting. Please be wise and prayerful when making the decision to gather. If you have questions about your specific group, please contact your group leader. I will send an update on Tuesdays through the Inside St. John’s email. This new email is in addition to Friday’s weekly e-newsletter and is geared toward our active members and friends. It includes prayer requests, birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, memorial and funeral announcements, and other St. John’s family news. If you would like to receive the Inside St. John’s email on Tuesdays, please contact Lynn Cooper, our Administrative Assistant, in the church office.
The Shepherd’s Market
The Shepherd’s Market will be operating with a modified distribution plan in the parking lot, similar to the Great Turkey Giveaway. Volunteers will be needed on Mondays at 3 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m.
Even in the absence of worshipping together, please continue your financial giving to support the church’s ministries. You can do that online through our giving portal. You can make a one-time gift or set up recurring donations through a bank draft, credit card, or debit card. If you have questions about how to do this, please email LeAnn Davis, Manager of Finance and Facilities.
Also, nothing beats a good check in the mail or dropped off at the church – our address is St. John’s United Methodist Church, 230 Renee Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70810. Thank you in advance for your faithful and consistent support.
Congregational Care and Connection
Connecting with and caring for one another is one of our highest priorities. Over these coming weeks, please reach out to each other via text, phone, email or social media. If you become sick, please let members of your Sunday school class, small group, or one of your pastors know so we can offer you prayer and support. In fact, if there’s anything at all that you or your loved ones need during this time, please let us know. Not all of our congregation is able to physically or financially make preparations for a potential extended stay at home, and there may very well be children who experience food insecurity during school closures in our area. With this in mind, we are assembling a team of people that would be willing to deliver essential needs door to door (bring groceries to a doorstep, pick up medications, etc.) for those who otherwise can’t get the help they need. Also, with visitation restrictions at hospitals, nursing facilities and other homes for care, there will be many who will experience isolation from a lack of visits over these next weeks. We have a chance to help the Congregational Care Team write cards, make calls, and connect with those that might experience that isolation. If you would like to help with any of these efforts if/when the need arises, please email Pastor Deirdre.
One last thing…in Paul’s letter to the Philippians he writes, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
These efforts we are making now are not made out of fear or anxiety. They are made with the full peace of God that guides our leadership and our congregation. Though we may be physically apart, we are connected to one another through God’s power, the gifts of technology, and our care for each other, which surpasses any limitations. Please be assured that as soon as it is safe for us to do so, we will be ecstatic to return to our in-person worship and gatherings with one another. I’m looking forward to greeting you with a big hug very soon – but until then, take care of yourselves, take care of one another, and take care of those who are on the margins.
Thursday, March 12, 2020
Dear St. John’s family,
Out of an abundance of caution for our church family and our community, at the recommendation of Bishop Harvey and with the support of St. John’s church leadership, it has been decided that all worship services and Sunday activities will be canceled for the next two Sundays, March 15 and March 22. Additionally, we will postpone all large group gatherings until further notice, which includes the postponement of the UMW Garage Sale and the General Conference Forums. The Boy Scout chicken dinner and the Bloodmobile will be also be rescheduled.
We still have a food delivery from the Food Bank tomorrow, Friday, March 13 and volunteers are needed around 8:00 a.m. Through the end of March, the Shepherd’s Market will be operating with a modified distribution plan in the parking lot, similar to the Great Turkey Giveaway. Volunteers will be needed on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, however, if you are not feeling well, have been advised by the CDC to limit your mobility or feel uncomfortable, please do not hesitate to stay home.
The leaders of our Bible Studies, classes, and our community partners will decide individually whether to continue gathering. We encourage you to be wise and prayerful when making the decision to gather. Faith Friends will not gather this Saturday.
Please take note that because we won’t gather for worship we also won’t be taking up a weekly offering. However, the church still relies on your gifts to continue our ministries and missions. Even in the absence of worshipping together, please consider giving online. Your generosity always amazes me, and I believe God will do amazing things in and through us during this challenging time.
We will send additional information out tomorrow about worshipful ways we can remain connected with one another in these days. Though we must limit our time spent together, our love for one another remains strong.
Take care, Pastor Lane