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12-14-20 FUMC Updates

What a strange 9 months it has been! Since we closed the church the first time on March 15th we have all done our best to protect ourselves and protect others from what we have learned is an insidious, harmful virus. I told one of my daughters this morning that some people probably think I’m “obnoxious” about my diligence and she replied, “You ARE obnoxious, Mom!” … my other daughter gave me lapel buttons that say, SIX FEET PLEASE … she said it was a joke (but there was some good-natured kidding in that gift!)

Likely today, we will probably cross the grim milestone of more than 300,000 deaths in the United States alone.  There have been almost 17 million people who have been infected.

Today, I have become part of that statistic … today I received a positive test result for COVID-19.

I have THANKED GOD I have not had trouble breathing like so many people have, and since my mild symptoms began last Wednesday night with a sore throat and cough (and lasted LESS than 48 hours), my isolation period will be over this Saturday, December 19th. 

I decided to go to the CVS in Winnsboro to be tested last Thursday when I woke up coughing with a mild sore throat because I am so rarely sick, and I didn’t want to risk being infected or infecting anyone else with so much going on.  I even spoke to Brother Henry to see if he could be on standby in case my symptoms got worse, but by Friday night I no longer had a sore throat OR a cough so I assumed I had a good ol’ common cold. Even so, in these last 4 days, so as not to take any chances, I did my best to remain masked and even MORE distant from people than I normally even would have.

Last night, I was looking forward to a delicious dinner that someone dropped off for me and I wondered why it had NO TASTE AT ALL … when I couldn’t smell my beautiful balsam Christmas candle and my coffee tasted like water this morning … then I knew …

I realize some people think this virus is a “hoax” – I heard people say it would be over after the election – I know some people do not agree that a mask can protect them or anyone they are with – someone even asked me why I kept asking for prayers for people with COVID and I told them I would ask for prayers for people even if they wanted prayers for a cold.

I also know that many others see things very differently … I think you all know that I am one of these people.  Please … let us not bully each other about our decisions and agree to make the best decisions we can for ourselves and agree to disagree with those who feel differently.

Our Church buildings WILL be open this Sunday, December 20th, and we will continue to be diligent about keeping those who do choose to come SAFE!  We will continue disinfecting hands in and out, sitting a minimum of 6′ apart from each other, and, until the infection numbers begin to go down again, everyone will be required to wear a mask while in the buildings. Believe me, I dislike this as much as EVERYONE but I encourage those of you who feel safer not coming, or who refuse to wear a mask while in the buildings to continue to worship with us online. And please know, I will completely support your decisions to stay home OR to come!

THIS TOO SHALL PASS!!  Our loving God walks us THROUGH the valley of darkness, He doesn’t leave us there!  The vaccines are shipping out all across our country as I write and treatment for those who ARE suffering has improved tremendously!  Our Great Physician has been hard at work and the Spirit of HOPE is strong so let’s continue to pray, diligently, together for this virus to be GONE!  We WILL look back and see all the droplets of grace falling all around us … keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open!

THANKS FOR GIVING TO THE BACKPACK FOOD MINISTRY: I will announce the total this Sunday so you still have time if you want to go on our website or drop an envelope in the mail slot. Your generosity is DELIGHTFUL!  And by the way – sadly, the Community Resource Center is shut down because a volunteer tested positive for coronavirus so all volunteers are in quarantine.  The Blessing Box, however, is still providing food to those in need, another AMAZING organization!  Pray for all these selfless volunteers!

THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTMAS ZOOM BIBLE STUDY: Wednesday, December 16th, 10 AM …the evening group will be joining the morning group this week as we dive into the joy of RECONCILIATION!  It’s really easy to join … I’ll open the class link at 9:30 am so you have plenty of time to join early and give it a try! CLICK HERE 

CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24th, 5 PM … the church will be open for Christmas Eve service and, if you will be watching from home, please plan to have your candles ready!

I look forward to “SEEING” you all, from a distance or virtually, this Sunday!

Christmas blessings,

Pastor Debbie


12-11-20 FUMC Updates

Christmas is inching closer and closer and while our church buildings will be closed this Sunday, December 13th, we plan to be, and are excited to be, open next week just in time for Christmas on December 20th and 24th! We are READY, thanks to Amy, Danny, J.A., JaneAnne, Glynda, and Shiela who came and decked the halls to welcome the baby King AND to welcome YOU! Remember, even when the sanctuary has been open, 50% of our church family has remained safely at home, but we’ll always do our best to maintain worship and some of the traditions of Christmas the best we can virtually so we can all be “together”!
The Advent wreath is a good example of an important Christmas tradition! This was originally a German and Scandinavian devotional practice used in homes to mark the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas … families would light a candle for each past week then for the current week at their dinner tables. The configuration of candles, whether in a line or a circle, didn’t matter, neither did the color of the candles (all colors are used in homes in Europe) … what mattered was the marking of time and the increase of light each week in the face of increasing darkness as the winter solstice approached.
As Advent wreaths began to be used by congregations on Sundays in Europe and America in the late 19th century, adjustments were needed for the larger worship spaces. Candles needed to be larger and some felt a need to be more uniform in color to fit with other liturgical colors in the sanctuary.
Purple, and more recently blue, has become the basic color of the candles … purple symbolizes repentance and fasting, with a focus on denying oneself to show devotion to God and prepare our hearts for the arrival of Christ. At FUMC we use purple to prepare for Easter and choose, instead to use blue for Christmas.
Deep blue is the color of the clear, predawn sky, the color that covers the earth in the hours before the sun rises in the east and this is, after all, the season of expectation and anticipation of the dawn of Christ! Of course, penitence and spiritual discipline is part of Advent, but by using blue we like to emphasize the hope-filled and faithful watch for Christ! I read it beautifully described like this: “Blue is also meant to inspire in us the hope of faith, and to encourage us to keep watch for the promised light of Christ to break over the horizon, changing night into day, darkness into light, and filling our lives and our world with a holy and righteous splendor.”
Over time, Advent candles took on particular Christmas themes of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace but the true meaning comes in the readings as we mark time while the light increases! Today we await the day described in Revelation 21:23 when: “The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” and we celebrate that in Christ, “The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
DANIEL DAVIS’ CELEBRATION OF LIFE: Sunday, December 13th, 2 pm at Beaty Funeral Home …Losing someone you love in the midst of a pandemic is so very difficult because of the changes in the way the grieving process takes place these days … please reach out to those you know who are mourning, especially the DAVIS FAMILY as they plan their son/brother/grandson’s service this Sunday at Beaty Funeral Home. (Click here to see his obit.)  We pray for Steve and Debbie, Dustin and SaraNan, and Joyzelle and PeeWee, and please honor their request for no visitation before the service … we’ll support them with our presence, safely distanced, or watch together on the Beaty Facebook LIVE STREAM here. After the service, there will be graveside committal at HARMONY Cemetery.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20th, 10:50 am WORSHIP, in-person and on Facebook LIVE! Our Advent series, Under Wraps, continues this Sunday with a look at something about God we tend not to talk about – do YOU see God as a JEALOUS GOD? If you have missed the 1st two Sundays of Advent you can watch the services on Facebook or YouTube or listen on our website. We realize that the COVID infections and hospitalizations are rising rapidly but we pray that those who should be more careful will heed the advice of the CDC and worship with us on Facebook Live instead. If you do decide to come on the 20th, we’ll continue to disinfect your hands and keep half the pews closed, but we will also require that everyone keeps their facemasks on throughout the service as an additional measure of safety.
THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE GIVEN TO THE FOOD PANTRY’S BACKPACK MINISTRY, the deadline is this Sunday, 12/13: Jesus asked the question: “when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?” If you haven’t yet done so, you can answer this question by saying: Lord I have given to you today!  Many of you have picked up your M&M’s from the drive-thru (which is now stopped) or from the red bin by the office door and filled them with quarters and returned them, but it’s not too late to help feed the children in Winnsboro who will not be getting food at school over Christmas. While this Sunday is the deadline, you can go on our website right now, and donate to the BACKPACK MINISTRY! Jesus was a newborn baby – born hungry, thirsty, naked, and unable to care for himself, helpless without people to take care of him and we are still helpless without HIM! But we aren’t helpless to show our expression of love for Him by giving to our neighbors!
PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY ABOUT YOUR 2021 COMMITMENT TO GOD … most of you received a letter a few weeks ago inviting you to make a PRIVATE and PERSONAL commitment to God in the new year. We asked you to consider how you want to grow in your faith through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. When you mail those back to us, we will hold them and give them back to you NEXT November … they will remain unopened by anyone but YOU! So far, we have only received 6 cards back from the many we mailed, so please take time to have a talk with God about your future faith walk!
CHRISTMAS EVE, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24th, 5 PM … yes, for those who feel safe coming, we will not only worship on this oh, most holy night in the sanctuary, but we will also have overflow in Wesley Hall, also set for safe distancing. Yes, our same safety measures will be in place and the service will be LIVE on Facebook, so make plans now to be part of the celebration!
I cannot imagine what these last 9 months have been like for all of you! The anxiety, the isolation, the loss, the frustrations … it has been a difficult year, but I know God has been extremely hard at work to be present in more ways than we could ever imagine! I also believe He is lighting the path for the unprecedented speed of distribution for this new coronavirus vaccine. I pray it will bring HOPE and LIFE to a weary world and I pray for all those who continue to work tirelessly caring for those who are sick, dying and struggling!
I am so incredibly grateful to our church leaders who have led the way and worked to keep everyone connected and safe: Joana Horton, Danny Moss, JaneAnne Newton, Mary Tom McLemore, Cyndie Ewert, Sandra Strickland, Ted Haynes, Brad Scharf and, Ken Ragsdale … we are NOT alone!!
Christmas blessings to all!
Pastor Debbie



12-2-20 FUMC Special Update

In spite of a pandemic in our world, WE ARE A PEOPLE OF FAITH who, in the waters of BAPTISM, are claimed as children of God, as part of His family!  This means we do not live in this world SEPARATE from each other – we weep together and laugh together and we worship together in all circumstances!  For everything there is a season … a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. (Ecclesiastes 3)

We have made the difficult decision to close our buildings for another week.  We will evaluate the increasing COVID numbers and hospitalizations each week and update the prayer chain and email you as soon as decisions are made.  We will also do everything possible to prepare our buildings for a safe return as soon as possible!  Your church leaders are exceptional people who have prayed diligently together as decisions have been made and I applaud their character and decision-making in these difficult times.

Because it IS important that we DO weep and cry and worship together we will, of course, continue to broadcast live at 10:50 on Sunday mornings – this Sunday we will also have communion together so please prepare your sacred space and have your elements ready.

Wayne Horton’s CELEBRATION of LIFE will take place this SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5th, NOON at the Old City Cemetery (enter from the Blackjack gate) … it will be different from what we hoped it would be but we will STILL honor Wayne and support his family and friends with our prayers and, some of you, with your presence.  

Let us pray!
Pastor Debbie


12-01-20 FUMC Updates

It’s ADVENT!!  ‘Tis the season of preparation for the birth of Christ which comes no matter what’s going on in our lives or what’s going on in our communities!  Jesus is the HOPE in uncertain times, and He is the peace that gives us comfort when life is painful and difficult!  We need Christmas now more than ever and because it is a season of the HEART!

We are all watching the State of Texas and Northeast Texas Department of Health reports on COVID cases in our hospitals and communities and the leadership team will be deciding tomorrow, Wednesday 12/2, as to what our reopening plans are.  I’m sure you’re watching the NetHealth positives and the hospitalizations, as well as the State Department of Health numbers, so LET US ALL PRAY the numbers go down as we wait for the vaccines!

In the meantime, we are planning with anticipation and many thanks to Julie Lewis and Elaina Ragsdale for the beautiful Advent altarscape – it’s just wonderful!  We also have a small team of volunteers who will be completing the decorations in the church tomorrow, Wednesday morning at 9 am.  If you want to be part of that, contact SHIELA HAYNES.

I am also grateful to Pastor Sue for stepping into the drive-through yesterday!  While I am still in quarantine and feeling fine with no symptoms of coronavirus, I know that the virus can be present asymptomatically, so I am being faithful to the CDC guidelines to remain away from people until Saturday.  Thanks to all of you who came by and got your M&M tubes and/or brought them back, filled with quarters (or cash or checks!) for the Backpack Food Ministry.

UPCOMING LIFE CELEBRATIONS:  We continue to be flexible in the ways we serve these families and in the arrangements being made to honor the people we loved and will miss!  Memorial funds have been set-up for WAYNE HORTON and DANIEL DAVIS at the request of their families.  CLICK HERE and choose which FUND you’re giving to – we will thank the family on your behalf.

Wayne Horton:  Saturday, 12/5, NOON, Graveside service at Old City Cemetery (by the Church), then following the service, (pending the church re-opening, we’ll inform everyone tomorrow), a Celebration of Life will follow at the Church at about 12:30.

Daniel Davis:  Sunday, 12/13, 2:00 pm, Beaty Funeral Home. CLICK HERE for details.

ADVENT ZOOM BIBLE STUDY STARTS TOMORROW, WEDNESDAYS 12/2,9 and 16, 10 am or 6:30 PM … I’m very excited about our 3 week Advent Study, THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTMAS, that will be on ZOOM on Wednesdays at 10 am and 6:30 pm … no reservations necessary and your friends are welcome – you can find the sign-in on the posts on our homepage OR the calendar on the website … you just need a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop preferably with a camera and you can join us!  A daily Advent prayer journal is available on the Christmas webpage also … there is one for each week for the next 3 weeks.  Here is the link for ALL these ZOOM studies … CLICK HERE.  NEW TO ZOOM?  Give it a try!  Go to their website here.

M&M’s FOR OUR BACKPACK FOOD MINISTRY:  this wonderful ministry, part of the Community Resource Center (Food Pantry), sends food home with students who may not have enough to eat while the schools are closed for Christmas … we’d love to have all donations back by December 13th please so if you didn’t get to the drive-through the last 2 weeks, you can decide what to do … 1st, we DO have MINI M&M tubes for you!  I will put some in the red tub by the office door if you’d like to pick one up but the whole point is this … we’re collecting money for the Backpack Food Ministry so after you eat your M&M’s you can fill the tubes with $12-$13 worth of quarters!  You can drop off your filled tubes at the mail slot or bring them when the church reopens (cash or checks fit too!) OR you can give online HERE.

MEET SARAH SPARKS OUR NEW SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR:  Sarah was raised here in Winnsboro, (she graduated with Ken Ragsdale!) and has a regular full-time job but she has done website and social media work for several churches and non-profits and she is passionate about using her skills for Christ!  Sarah will be working only 10 hours a week and will help me keep Facebook and the website updated, help me with the slide presentations in worship and she has even already started posting the message on YouTube for those who do not have Facebook!  She has also connected our Instagram account so if you prefer that.  Let your non-FB friends know they can watch the sermon on our YouTube channel which should be posted by Tuesdays.  If you have suggestions, thoughts, or comments you can email Sarah HERE.  (Remember she only works 10 hours a week, evenings, and weekends so you may not hear back instantly!)

Sermons and Devotionals will now be available on YouTube:  Sarah will now be downloading sermons and devotionals from Facebook and uploading them to YouTube … this is predominantly for the few of you who do not have Facebook.  When you open the page, save it as a favorite so you can find it.  CLICK HERE for YouTube main page or the most recent devotional and sermon here:

YouTube or Facebook Devotional

YouTube or Facebook Sunday Message

Audio sermons are on the website, HERE

THIS SUNDAY our Advent worship series, UNDER WRAPS continues with a look at Great Expectations! Luke 1:39-45.  It is Communion Sunday so if we are not open (check tomorrow!) or you are watching from home, please have your sacred space and simple elements ready so we can be “together” no matter what!

Grace and peace!
Pastor Debbie


11-23-20 FUMC Updates

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! With our church buildings closed again, at least through November 30th, it was fun being in the drive through again … thanks to all of you who came by! I will also post devotionals on Facebook again (click here to watch it or you can listen on the website here.) It is also attached if you want to read it. My thoughts are of you all this Thanksgiving!

M&M’s for our BACKPACK MINISTRY … with so many kids in our own community who will not have access to school breakfasts and lunches during Christmas, we’re very excited to share a gift of mini-M&M’s with you and give YOU the joy of returning it with quarters ($10-$12) for the BACKPACK Ministry!  Come drive through on Monday and I’ll give everyone in your family their M&M’s, and then just return the container with your quarters, cash, or check, make checks payable to FUMC. Please return your donations by December 13th!

A PURPOSE DRIVEN CHRISTMAS … OUR ADVENT BIBLE STUDY STARTS WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2nd, 10 AM and 6:30 PM… please plan to join our 3 week ADVENT Bible study at either 10 am or 6:30 pm on Wednesdays, December 2, 9, & 16 via ZOOM … here is the link to join but it is also on the website calendar each day.  This 3-week class will focus on the purpose of Christmas: a time for celebration, a time for salvation, and a time for reconciliation and I’m really looking forward to this very interactive conversation!

HOW CAN WE GET THROUGH THE NEXT PHASE OF COVID? Please take this ANONYMOUS 4 quick question survey and help know your thoughts in moving forward. CLICK HERE

PRAYING FOR OUR COMMITMENTS TO THE LORD in 2021 … 2020 has been a blur and I’m sure we’re ALL looking forward to a wonderful NEW year!  If I didn’t see you in the drive through yesterday, we mailed your cards today so please give some intentional thought to how YOU want to grow in your faith in the new year.

This Sunday we begin ADVENT … Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (December 24th). The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival” and the focus of the entire season is preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ in His first coming, AND the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in His second Advent. Advent typically reflects an emphasis on the second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.

Now more than EVER we need Advent, a season marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. Yes, we have a yearning for the coronavirus to be GONE and for our lives to return to “normal” but let’s turn this yearning into a deeper desire for JESUS!  The spirit of that expectation should be captured with a joyous sense of expectancy and we should celebrate with joy and happiness as we await the coming of the King!!

Join us on FACEBOOK LIVE this Sunday at 10:50 and let’s sing some Christmas songs and praise the newborn King!  Please let us know you’re there so as I read your names, we’ll know we’re together! 

Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel!

Pastor Debbie