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12-28-20 FUMC Updates

How did it happen?  We waited, and prepared, and decorated and shopped and looked forward to seeing family and then … Christmas finally came, and it was over in the blink of an eye!  I had a wonderful visit with my family, and I am so grateful we were all healthy and happy over a joyfully chaotic few days! I hope you, too, had a wonderful Christmas, although I know some of you did NOT have a “normal” celebration … some in the hospital, some in quarantine, some unable to travel, etc. I pray the droplets of grace that surrounded you helped you ALL feel God’s presence in those difficult times.

I have sensed a continued weariness as we wait just a little bit longer for the COVID vaccines to get distributed and things to return to some normalcy. But please do not let down your guard because this virus is deadly and destructive, and it spreads very quickly. While we were fortunate to get out of the red danger zone in our 7 county area, I was sad to see Net Health reporting our numbers, the week BEFORE Christmas, went up. We know that after holiday gatherings we will likely see those numbers go up even more so please be diligent in staying safe. Our church will remain open with all safety protocols in place, including wearing masks through the service as attendance and cases pick up again. If anything changes, we will update you.

CORONAVIRIS VACCINES … I hope everyone has done your research on the vaccines (CLICK HERE for CDC info). Jimmie Davis has been in contact with Net Health and they will let him know when the vaccines are available in East Texas … right now, Tyler HAS received a shipment for the health care workers first, but soon, they will be available for nursing homes and seniors and Jimmie will keep us updated.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 3rd thru APRIL 4, 10:50 AM … THE GOSPEL OF MARK: this Sunday fasten your seatbelts for a fast-paced, teaching worship series on the Gospel of Mark! This gospel shares a vivid account of Jesus’ ministry, moving quickly from one episode and ministry to another, emphasizing more of what Jesus did than what He said. Mark shares a sense of immediacy, a sense that Jesus’s time on earth was short and that there was much to accomplish in His few years on earth. The forward motion in Mark’s writing keeps us continually looking ahead to the cross and the resurrection!  PLEASE SHARE OUR INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK posts on your pages – this is the kind of sermon series that appeals to people differently than a regular series … we’ll be in-person, with masks, and online!  Check out the MARK page on the website HERE.

MANY THANKS FOR MY CHRISTMAS EVE SURPRISE:  those of you who participated in the Christmas Eve service could probably tell how absolutely shocked I was to receive your generous Christmas THANK-YOU gift!  Joanna Horton, the Chair of our Church Council certainly had something to do with that so to any and all of you involved, THANK-YOU!

MANY THANKS TO THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CARES ACTS TAX BREAKS and GIVING BACK TO GOD: it’s not too late to take advantage of this unusual COVID-19 “gift” from the IRS!  Many of you are already scheduling regular giving on our website (we pay the fees!) but now, you can also give on FACEBOOK using the DONATE button at the top of the page and there are no fees at all! Check with your accountant for details but here’s the gist of it:

How does the Act impact taxpayers that itemize?

For the first time ever, donors who itemize their deductions can now deduct charitable contributions up to 100% of adjusted gross income (AGI). This change allows donors to maximize donations in a single year and have more control over the impact of contributions on taxable income. Previously, this limit was at 60% of AGI. Giving beyond this 100% limitation may be carried over and used in the next five years.

How does the CARES Act impact those that do not itemize?

Taxpayers who generally do not itemize on their personal return can take a charitable deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions to qualifying organizations on their personal return. This deduction will be an ‘above the line’ deduction and the maximum is $300 regardless of filing status.

 

DIRECTORY: The picture directory is available and list of active families in the church (or members) … PLEASE DO NOT SHARE THIS WITH ANYONE, it is for you only!  If you want a copy, let me know.  I have highlighted in YELLOW those names of people who do not get out or are in assisted living so you can drop a note or make a call … as hard as coronavirus has been on US, just imagine how it must be for those who can’t get out.  If you want to update your picture or information, please let me know! AND SEND ME YOUR BIRTHDAYS, PLEASE!

 
WON’T YOU PLEASE CONSIDER HELPING YOUR CHURCH? We have 4 opportunities for you to serve God in important ways …

1)    THIS THURSDAY, 12/31, 10-11 AM … please come help us take down the Christmas decorations so we can get ready to begin a new year!  We need a handful of people for ONE HOUR and please don’t assume that “someone else will do it”.  That someone else could be YOU!  Please contact SHIELA HAYNES, Worship Leader, if you are available.

2)    SUNDAY MORNINGS, 10:30 – NOON, USHERSthose of you who have been coming to church know that the same servant-hearted people have been greeting, welcoming, and serving our folks as usher and hospitality for many months.  We’d like to bolster our hospitality team and get ready for what I know, will be a deep desire for people to come BACK to church when this pandemic is over.  We would ideally love to have people rotate Sundays so let us know how often YOU’D like to serve, and we’ll try to be flexible.  Again, please contact SHIELA HAYNES, Worship Leader, if you are available.

3)    TUESDAY MORNINGS, 2-3 hours/week, OFFICE HELP … as you know, we decided this fall to begin using a CPA for our accounting and that allowed us to free up a budget for an office manager to use for a Social Media Director.  Sarah Sparks is now doing so much to help me with Facebook, the website, and our worship slides but I would love to have someone help in the office on Tuesday mornings for a few hours. If you are very organized and good at filing, please contact me directly … we only need 1 person.

4)    SUNDAY MORNINGS, 10:30 – NOON, CHILDREN’S CHURCH … we like to have 2 adults working together when our kids are gathering and now that the holidays are over, we hope the kids will come back when we start the NEW YEAR on January 10th. (The children join us for communion on the 1st SUNDAYS so there is no Children’s Church on the 1st Sundays.)  We will provide the Ministry Safe training and background checks and ideally, we’d love to have 3-4 adults who could join as “helpers”! (You don’t have to plan or organize, just be present!) Contact me please!

ZOOM BIBLE TALK STARTS BACK WEDNESDAY MORNINGS, 10 – 11 AM, January 13th … this winter we will study, in-depth, the 4th section of the Bible, THE CHURCH … what happened after Jesus ascended and how did the church grow from Jerusalem into all the corners of the world? The sign-in link is always on the website calendar (HERE) and if you still haven’t been willing to try ZOOM, now might be the time – and NO MASKS are required when you’re tuning in from your home! CLICK HERE for simple instructions if you want to join us!

PLEASE RE-JOIN THE PRAYER TEAM … I have sent a REMIND text invitation to everyone who I know was on the prayer team before we updated our text communication, but you will have to accept the invitation to get the texts. Yes, text messaging rates do apply so please feel free to disregard the invitation. Remember, this is ONE WAY COMMUNICATION, you will not be part of everyone all replying to the same text.  If you would like to join NOW, it’s easy … as soon as you click this link, you’ll be reconnected … SEE ATTACHED FOR DETAILS …

https://www.remind.com/join/pray-now

Don’t get text messages but want to get emails? 

Go to rmd.at/pray-now on a desktop computer to sign up for email notifications.  

 

I’m extremely excited about our NEW teaching series on the Gospel of Mark this Sunday … since many of you are still watching online, I’m including, again, the info HERE on how you might be able to watch on your TV at home!  If you have a SMART TV it’s simple but if not, an HDMI cable might do the trick!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
Pastor Debbie


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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

 


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