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First UMC and the Life Center Family,

For the last year, we have made difficult decisions to ensure the safety of our neighbors. We followed the recommendations of our community health officials. We closed the buildings for some time so that our neighbors would know we love them (all of them, including their health.) We transitioned to outdoor worship for the summer so that we could show God that we love Him too by joining as one to worship His holy name. When we finally opened the buildings again this spring, we opened wearing masks and socially distancing so that we might demonstrate our love for one another as we loved God together. If Jesus were to ask me today if we have loved our neighbors well over the last year in the way we have handled COVID, I would proclaim with joy, “Yes, Lord!”

I am also joyful today that those same community health officials have found the available vaccines to be proficient in turning the tide of COVID. Considering these findings, they announced that the fully vaccinated can return to life without masks or distancing in public. Many of you have been vaccinated and rejoice in this news. Some have chosen not to get the vaccine, which is, of course, your decision to make. The vaccine is available to all people, and we must all choose for ourselves which path we will take. If you want it, you can receive it. I trust you have weighed the risks of both sides of this decision.

Therefore, knowing that most of you have chosen to be vaccinated, it is now time to say with joy that we will no longer be requiring masks or distancing at either of our campuses effective immediately. If you feel safer continuing to wear your mask, please continue to do so. I trust you will find no judgment either way in these places from your brothers and sisters in Christ.

I encourage you to remember that it has been a year full of changes, not only to our ministry and the way we do things but also among the staff. Things such as the choir and bulletins will take some time to get back, so choose grace and patience. In the meantime, I urge you to join our e-bulletin, The Loop, by sending us your email address, and to be the choir in your pews each Sunday, contributing your voice to the voices of others around you. After all, God desires for each of you to worship Him, not relying on a choir or specific singers to do it for you but lifting your own voice in harmony to bless His name. May we do so “lustily and with good courage,” as John Wesley wrote in his Directions for Singing.

Take heart, church family! The best is yet to come!