COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Updates

We’re working to make sure Whitehouse UMC is able to continue in it’s mission of loving Christ, serving Christ, and sharing Christ during this unprecedented season. This will mean finding creative ways to build our community and reach out to those around us. This page will host every update on the church’s ministries and plans as it responds to this public health concern. Please be sure to read the most recent updates, as plans ,ay change as the situation continues to shift.

July 4, 2020

As I’m sure you’re well aware, COVID-19 cases have continued to rise in Smith County and the surrounding area over the last several weeks. For a time it looked like the pandemic wasn’t going to have much of a direct effect in our community, but that is no longer the case. In addition to these rising numbers, Governor Abbott has promulgated a mandatory mask-usage order for public spaces and businesses across our state in counties with more than 20 active cases of COVID-19—as of Thursday afternoon, there are 402 active cases in our county. While his order does not apply to houses of worship, it serves as another sign of the seriousness of the situation.
 
Before continuing, I want to encourage you to hold our county, our hospitals, and our government and public health officials in your prayers. Communities can only navigate these kinds of turbulent waters when everyone comes together around our shared humanity and the good of our society—it is my prayer that this will be the case in Smith County.
 
WUMC leadership has discussed what our congregation’s response should be given the increase in cases in our area. We have decided that WUMC will be returning to online-only worship for the time being.  While it had been such a joy to welcome people into the sanctuary again, the fact remains that this disease is most easily spread when people spend extended periods of time together in an enclosed space. We have been observing safety precautions these last few weeks, but our congregation’s leadership feels that, at this time, a stronger response is needed. In my view, returning to online-only worship is an act of love and courage, as we give up something that means so much to us for the sake of our community’s continued health.
 
The logistics for this shift will be much the same as they were from mid-March through May. Here is some specific information about this round of online-only worship:
  • As has been the case since March, worship will be streamed live on our Facebook page. Service will begin at 10:00 a.m., Video of the service will remain on the Facebook page, and will also be posted on our church website.
  • On Communion Sundays (including tomorrow, July 5), we will offer drive-through communion. This will be handled in the same way as it was on the first Sunday of June. I will bless the elements during service, and if you’d like to receive communion, come to the church between the end of service and 12:30 p.m. I’ll meet you at the porte cochère to give you the sacrament.
  • Sunday School will be held on Zoom following the service, beginning at 11:00 a.m. If you missed last week’s announcement, our class is currently using the book When Did God Become A Christian
Thank you for your support as our congregation does its part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

As always, if you have any questions or need any more information, you can contact me by email or phone.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July!

In Christ,

Pastor Trey

June 5, 2020

As you’ve heard in our announcements during recent services, we’ll be resuming in-person worship this coming Sunday, June 7. While things are looking up in Smith County and the surrounding areas with regard to COVID-19 cases, that doesn’t mean that it’s time to throw caution to the wind—there are still active cases in our county and as more restrictions on business are lifted, there’s a good chance those numbers will increase. This document is meant to provide some more insight into what exactly this first step of reopening means for WUMC.

WHAT’S RESUMING AT THIS STAGE?

            Right now, we are only reopening in-person worship. All other regularly-scheduled activities (ministry groups, classes, outside groups that use our church) are still going to be meeting virtually or taking a hiatus. Exceptions made be made on a case-by-case basis.

WHAT WILL SUNDAY MORNING LOOK LIKE?

            For the most part, worship will remain the same. We’ll start at 9:30; we’ll sing hymns; we’ll read Scripture. However, in order to make sure we’re appropriately considering our community’s health, the following rules (and some suggestions) have been put in place:

  • There will be no fellowship + coffee + donut time after service.
  • Sunday School will still meet virtually (class is taking a break for June 7).
  • No one will be turned away, but we ask that you honestly assess your health on Sunday morning. Take your temperature, note any unusual aches or pains. If there’s a possibility you might be sick, please stay home!
  • No one is required to attend church. We will continue providing the live stream for the benefit of anyone who does not feel comfortable attending in person or is unable to do so.
  • In order to minimize the amount of sanitization needed after service, only the door facing Main St. and the door under the porte cochère will be unlocked. Even if you have your own key, please only use these two doors.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available in the narthex, and you’re encouraged to apply it when you arrive at church and as you’re leaving.
  • You are encouraged to wear a mask.
  • We will observe appropriate physical distancing during worship. This means:
    • We will keep 6 feet between household units. Pews have been taped off to show where household units are expected to sit.
    • We will not observe a passing of the peace.
    • Offering plates will not be passed. A covered box will be placed in the narthex for those who wish to bring an offering on Sunday morning. Alternatively, you can mail in an offering or give online at com/donate
    • You are asked to remain in the sanctuary or narthex during your time at church. If you need to use the restroom, please only use the ones by the church office.
  • Children’s packets will still be provided, but there will be no children’s moment.

WHAT ABOUT HOLY COMMUNION?

            We have come up with a way to more safely celebrate Holy Communion. For the time being, we will celebrate the sacrament according to the following plan:

  • Individual pieces of bread and individual servings of grape juice will be placed in small, easy-to-open plastic containers prior to worship. The persons preparing these containers will put on gloves after washing their hands and will wear masks while they work.
  • Baskets of these containers will be placed in the narthex on Communion Sundays. When you arrive, pick up a serving of bread and a serving of grape juice.
  • When it’s time to celebrate Holy Communion, Pastor Trey will lead us in the liturgy as usual, asking the Father to send the Spirit upon the elements to impart upon our servings of bread and juice the presence of Jesus Christ.
  • Once the elements have been consecrated, we’ll take communion in our seats using the servings we picked up on our way into the service.
  • For those who don’t feel comfortable attending worship but would still like to partake of Holy Communion, Pastor Trey will stay at the church until noon on Communion Sundays. You may drive up to the porte cochère any time between the end of service and noon so you can receive Communion in your car.

A WORD OF THANKS AND NEXT STEPS

As your pastor, I want to sincerely thank all of you for your grace during the last few months, and for your willingness to connect with WUMC virtually. I know this hasn’t been church like we’re used to it, but I hope we’ve all been able to feel God’s presence in our lives, perhaps in new and different ways. I’m sure some of the decisions taken could have been made differently, and if there were any missteps along the way, I can only ask for forgiveness!

            We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in our area over the coming weeks and months. As more parts of the church’s life shift back to in-person activities, we’ll update you accordingly.

In Christ,

Pastor Trey

March 13, 2020

To the Whitehouse UMC family,

Greetings in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who walks with us through life’s storms. By now, you have probably heard that there are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 (commonly known as the Coronavirus) in our own Smith County. You may also have heard that Whitehouse ISD has cancelled classes for the coming week as part of widespread efforts to “flatten the curve”—or mitigate the spread of the disease—by removing opportunities for transmission. Since this disease is now in our backyard, I wanted to update you on our congregation’s plans with regard to this serious threat to public health.

John Wesley, the most prominent of Methodism’s founders, laid out three General Rules for the life of Methodists in the 18th century; we still carry these rules in our church today. These rules stated that followers of Jesus ought to 1) do no harm, 2) do good, and 3) attend upon the ordinances of God (which means engaging in practices that help us connect with God, like attending worship,  praying, and reading the Bible). In this turbulent moment, our congregation is seeking to live into these rules in the way we respond to the possibility of COVID-19 in our community.

Because the transmission window for COVID-19 can last up to 2 weeks, even in persons who show no symptoms, we are choosing to do no harm by taking up precautionary measures that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recommended to lower the risk of transmitting the virus. First and foremost, we will be increasing our cleaning regimen to ensure we are more frequently disinfecting surfaces and common-handled items (door handles, light switches, etc.).

We will still gather for worship on Sunday, March 15, however, the following protocols have been established:

  • We will not meet for Sunday School, so as to minimize the number of surfaces that may become contaminated.
  • We will not hold a formal fellowship time following worship for this same reason.
  • During worship, we will not have a time for the passing of the peace.
  • Offering plates will not be passed around the sanctuary during service. Instead, offering plates will be placed at stations in the sanctuary for those who wish to bring an offering.
  • We are encouraging family units to observe the 6-foot recommendation of “social distancing.” We will mark the sanctuary to give guidance on how far apart each family unit ought to be separated from other family units.
  • We encourage any who feel sick in any way, or who feel uncomfortable attending worship due to increased risk on account of age or other health concerns, to not attend worship until this danger has subsided.
  • Please also note that Family Ministry Night on March 18 will be cancelled. Our garage sale, originally set for March 21, will be postponed until a later date.

We will review the wisdom of holding future worship services with special attention to recommendations from our local public health officials, North East Texas Public Health District (NET Health). You can find their most recent updates at mynethealth.org

Attending upon the ordinances of God is an important part of following Christ. Participating in worship is one of those ordinances, but being physically present in the sanctuary isn’t the only way to live into this rule. With regard to our worship services, our Sunday service will be livestreamed on our Whitehouse UMC Facebook page for those who wish to participate virtually. We can all also seek out God’s grace through engaging in other spiritual practices, such as reading Scripture privately, praying alone or with our loved ones, and fasting.

Lastly, I encourage our church family to do good by seeking out ways to care for those in need in our community. Check in on neighbors who may not have much of a support system. Consider donating money or supplies to local non-profits that may see their resources stretched during this time, including our Whitehouse Food Bank. Most importantly, pray for our community, our healthcare workers, and all whose lives are affected by this outbreak. These may be frightening times, but we know “God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Show love to our community by helping mitigate the spread of this disease. Practice self-discipline by taking care of yourself and your loved ones. And remember the power of our God, who is with us every moment of every day.

If you have any comments or concerns, please feel free to send them to info@whitehouseumc.com

In Christ,

Pastor Trey