COVID-19 UPDATES

News from Pastors study
By: Pastor Alecia
May 29th, 2020

We are forming a Church Re-Entry Team, to assist in the decision making and creative thinking of how we live out our church life together. This team will: 

Take time to reflect, including praying, sharing and caring for one another and the church; Access helpful information, such as the guidance from the Conference Re-Entry team; Lead by looking at science and health data; and Know or understand the country, city and state regulations, along with insurance. 

This will be a weekly Zoom meeting for the month of June, with the understanding that monthly meetings will take place after that time or as needed. This group will have a small core, but will have sub-groups specifically thinking about their area of church life. A representative from each of the major teams or ministries would be needed to be on the team. Certainly we know most teams have already thought through ideas as to how to move forward. It is time to gather to think together. We are grateful for the strength of the laity at our church! If you are interested in serving on this team, please contact Pastor Alecia or the church office. If you are a team or committee chair, please let me know who will represent your group. 

ZOOM PARTICIPANTS 

If you participate in a Zoom group at the church, please update to 5.0 prior to May 30. According to Zoom, this is required for meetings after the date. Zoom has been updating their system to better accommodate groups. If prior to your next Zoom meeting the screen asks if you want to update to 5.0, click yes. 

Associate’s Corner
By Pastor Beth
May 29th, 2020

A new month, a new week, a new day. It seems like the days and weeks are running into each
other. I was completely shocked when I realized that we are coming up on having completed three
months of virtual church ministries. It doesn’t seem like it has been that long, yet it also seems like
it has been forever.


In the midst of all this chaos, we, as a body of believers, seem to be faring quite well. People have
been sharing their thoughts, their time, and their finances with our faith community. We still have
church Zoom meetings going on – committee meetings, Bible studies, children and youth activities
– all while sheltering in place, of course.


I have been deeply grateful that there are so many people working to keep our community of faith
alive and well. But as we begin to enter into phase two of our re-entry plan (anticipated June 1), I
find myself and others becoming more anxious: anxious to meet in person again, anxious to be
finished with ZOOM meetings, anxious to return to our old church life. We all long for worship,
community, and connection.


The plan for re-entry has been a constant conversation among our church leadership. As
clergy, Pastor Alecia and I look to the leadership of our Bishop, the Rev. Laurie Haller, and the Iowa
Annual Conference Crisis Operations Team, which has worked endlessly to develop a re-entry plan
for all United Methodist Churches across the state of Iowa. This re-entry plan is guided by John
Wesley’s 3 Simple Rules to Do no harm, Do good, and Stay in love with God. From here, the Crisis
Operations Team provided a plan on how to approach the re-entry process through a stoplight
framework. This 3 Level re-entry process is an intentional and careful model of care and
accountability.


The past two months we have been in level 3: Red Light Status. This is the “Stay in Love with God”
phase of re-entry, where all non-critical gatherings have been stopped, only essential staff is alowed
on the church campus, and all ministries have been moved online.


As I previously stated, we anticipate moving into Level 2: Yellow Light Status as of June 1. This
level consists of a cautionary return that is anticipated to span a number of months. This is the “Do
Good” phase of re-entry, with a gradual return to gatherings in a cautionary manner. This involves
congregations assembling a re-entry team to assist in the decision making of how we will do life
together through this Yellow Light Status. For more information on how this specific team will look
within our congregation, see Pastor Alecia’s notes in this newsletter.


As we begin to re-imagine and reframe what our church and its ministries will look like in this
Yellow Light Phase of re-entry, we ask for your continued support as a community of faith. There
will be a church mailing going out which will include a pamphlet with more specific details on what
this 3 Level Re-entry plan entails. Know that throughout all of this your church leadership strives to
do what’s best for our congregation as we continue to follow the guidance of health experts, our
conference leadership, and to truly live into John Wesley’s call that we as United Methodists do no
harm, do good, and stay in love with God.

To connect with our online bible studies, follow this info graphic for instructions on the online platform, ZOOM.

March 26, 2020

Grace and Peace in our Lord Jesus Christ:

We are re-imagining church in many ways!  As your clergy, we are blessed beyond belief to be in this church.  We are encouraged by the out-pouring of spiritual gifts in action right now!  

·         80+ prayer shawls, blankets, quilts and prayer beads are being distributed to people in need.

·         34 people involved in Congregational Care on a weekly basis.

·         Audio-Visual and Social Media ramping up to meet greater needs

·         Staff moving into new responsibilities with creative thinking

·         Worship team of energized people seeking to connect us in new ways

We want to walk through the various happenings at your church, so you have a better understanding of your church. 

A Word on Outreach

QUARANTINE CARE KITS

100 Care Kits are ready to be distributed to people in our community. In partnership with the three area UMC’s (Coralville, Iowa City First, and St. Mark’s), our aim with these care kits is to be the hands and feet of Jesus to provide hope, encouragement, support, and care to those in our community who find themselves affected by Covid-19. Each Care Kit contains a prayer shawl or blanket, prayer beads, Bible, devotional, playing cards, a snack, a church brochure, and information on how individuals can request more assistance. Call the church office if you know of someone who might need a kit.  We are making more kits.

CONGREGATIONAL CARE

In an effort to walk through the next weeks together as a community, each household recorded in our system will be contacted by our Congregational Support Team (only those households which we have a telephone number or email will be contacted). We are excited to announce that there were over 30 people who followed the call and said ‘YES!’ to being part of this ministry team.  When you are contacted, they will check-in with you, see if you might need something, and ask for prayer concerns.  These are all active members of the church.  In fact, there is a good chance you will know the caller if you have been here for a little while.  Betty Mitchell, a Stephen Ministry Leader, is spear-heading this initiative with Pastor Alecia, and Bev Byram-Howe will be administrating this ministry.  That’s a lot of calling!  Our hope is that this congregational care initiative will be amazingly good for the spiritual and emotional life of the church throughout this time.

A WORD ON COMMUNICATION

AUDIO VISUAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

Fortunately we were in good shape prior to the hitting of Covid-19.  That said, Dale and Sharon Ingle have worked hard to make our live stream presence work well.  Pastor Beth and Church Communicator Jess Holmes are continuing to help our small groups and ministries move onto the online platforms such as ZOOM and Google.   Pastor Beth posted on tutorials on Facebook for Zoom.  Our Facebook page is “First United Methodist Church of North Liberty.”  There is significant work happening on the tech front. If you have questions, these four are the people to contact.

ONLINE PRESENCE:  

Use this link to connect you to NL Methodist Streaming: www.facebook.com/108329567465372/videos/  If you can’t watch “live”, then simply click on this same link and scroll through the videos.  Videos will stay posted for up to 10 days before they are deleted.  If you don’t have Facebook, no problem.  Just copy the above link into your browser, and it will take you to the site.  FB might indicate the video might not be of as high of quality, just ignore it.  The video will be fine.  

You can also watch from your phone or tablet if you don’t have a computer at home.  Just copy the link into your search engine.

A WORD ON WORSHIP

We are highly aware that Holy Week is approaching quickly; however, we are not anticipating being back as a worshipping community on-site at that time. We are making plans.  There will be a Good Friday service on-line.  On Easter morning, a few of us will gather around the fire at the outside worship area at sunrise, as is our habit.  Easter sunrise and 10:00 AM worship will be online.  If by chance the worship team is not able to host the service onsite, we are working on plans.  For you, the congregation, we will be live-streaming at 6:28 AM and at 10:00.  That doesn’t change.  In addition, we will host a large Easter celebration on the first Sunday we are back worshipping together!

On Sundays:  

10:00 AM Worship in real time through our NL Methodist Streaming or copy link to your web browser.  If you don’t want to see comments appearing on-screen from viewers during the service, simply click on “Hide comments,” usually located at the bottom of your screen. If you don’t have access to the internet, then we have DVDs available.

We also have resources available for families with children or teens as we navigate these circumstances together. Our hope is to keep kids engaged and provide ways for them to grow spiritually while at home. Thus, we’ve curated online curriculum for kids through the curriculum which we have been using in Sunday School, called Go! Curriculum, which we highly encourage you to utilize. It is a great way for kids to do church online along with the rest of your family! On our website, head on over to the LEARN tab, then click on the Children’s Ministry tab. Each week we will upload a video lesson and recommended supplemental activities for families to do together. This information can also be found on the children’s ministries Facebook page, NLUMC Families. 

It is also very important to us that our teenagers remain connected during this time. Our hope is to keep them engaged with us and with each other while they continue to grow spiritually. We’ve put together online curriculum through ThinkOrange for families to utilize. Each Friday, we will upload a teaching video for our teens to watch. On Sundays, our students will be invited into Google Hangouts to for small group discussions related to the weekly teaching videos. Our youth group facebook page, EPIC Student Ministry, will also provide daily devotionals and other related content and activities to keep our students connected in the coming weeks. To be included on informational weekly emails related to our student ministry, contact Pastor Beth at nlmfamilies@gmail.com. You can access all youth/teen related content on our website by heading to the LEARN tab, then clicking on EPIC Student Ministries. 

 6:00 PM Evening Prayers.  A 15 minute segment of prayer and meditation.

On Weekdays:

11:00 AM Mornings at First. A 5-10 minute segment about church life.

Small Groups committee has been busy planning ways to continue our small groups. We now have things in line for the following studies: Pastor Beth is offering the Adam Hamilton book study FAITH OVER FEAR via ZOOM beginning May 21st at 7:30 PM! The study will run for 6 weeks. The session this week will be an introductory session, so if you can’t make the meeting scheduled at that time we invite you to get the materials and join us next week!  We will be studying a curriculum by Adam Hamilton called Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times. This was a curriculum written almost 2 years ago, but it is perfect for today! Beth is really looking forward to walking through this journey with you. I took the course that she offered in the mornings throughout March/April and found it so rewarding. It really speaks into the situation we are all now experiencing.  It is a great study for both men and women, couples and young adults. She is offering this study again to make it available for those who couldn’t attend the ‘day’ sessions.  Each session will be an hour session and a great way to strengthen your faith without leaving your home! If you have not yet utilized the ZOOM meeting technology, do not be concerned.  Beth will send info on how to access the application and you will soon adapt to this new way of ‘being together–while apart’!   Each session, except for the Thursday May 21st introductory session, will have a ~15 minute video with it that each of you should plan to view before each weekly ZOOM meeting. While the videos have free access, the book that goes with the study is available for everyone on Amazon- both in kindle format and print. You are  encouraged to get this book. But just in case anyone asks- it is not necessary to have anything or watch anything before we meet tomorrow.   To access the videos: https://my.amplifymedia.com/amplify/series/unitedmethodistpublishinghouse/14438-unafraid A Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Unafraid-Living-Courage-Uncertain-Times-ebook/dp/B071X2JTWQ/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2RYXOSB66TGH4&keywords=unafraid+by+adam+hamilton&qid=1584991037&s=digital-text&sprefix=Unafraid+%2Cdigital-text%2C798&sr=1-2  PLEASE CONTACT ME OR PASTOR BETH IF YOU WANT TO JOIN THIS GREAT SMALL GROUP STUDY! Beth’s email is: nlmfamilies@gmail.com  
Mine is slbetts@netins.net. You will need to let us know ASAP so we can add your name/email to the ZOOM meeting invite.  The Wednesday Evening Women’s group is beginning a new study on May 27th at 7:00 PM via ZOOM meetings.  The study will be based on the book called BROKEN CRAYONS STILL COLOR(From our Mess to God’s Masterpiece) by Shelly Hitz.  This will be a 4 week study. The book is a lighthearted read with great spiritual references.  The book can be purchased on Amazon for ebook or paperback.  Cost is $4.99 ebook or paperback cost is $13.78.  (There is another book by the same name so when ordering, please be sure to select Shelly Hitz as the author) There are reflection questions after each chapter, and coloring pages you can download or receive hard copy if you would like to engage the creative side of your brain. There are video teachings for each week that you can view once you purchase the book.   We will plan to read the chapters and view the videos each week prior to our Wednesday meetings and then discuss as a group.    Please email, me, Suzette Betts or call/text 641 919 1008 if you would like to join our study. We will need to have your email address to be able to send you a ZOOM meeting invitation so please reply by May 20th. Suzette will be hosting the meeting but this is an informal group with everyone participating. More instructions will be sent to all joining.   Hope these small group offerings perk your interest and that you will join us! Stay well and stay safe! 

Suzette Betts, Small Groups Chairperson   

Tuesdays 7:00 PM Lenten Bible Study.  We have 2 more weeks to go!  This will be an interactive Bible study on ZOOM.  If you were part of the earlier Lenten series or simply want to join in a Bible study, please let Pastor Alecia at pastor@southslope.net. Begins 3/31/20.  This does require an RSVP as the forum will be on ZOOM.

Wednesdays 10:30 AM Faith Over Fear.  This adult Bible study takes place on Wednesday mornings, beginning at 10:30 AM.  The introductory session just began, so you haven’t    missed a Bible study session yet.  Contact Pastor Beth at nlmfamilies@gmail.com.  First     session begins on 4/1/20.  No fooling!  This does require an RSVP as the forum will be on ZOOM.

Wednesdays 7:00 PM Discipleship Pathway.  This group is led by Gary Vance and Laura Bibby.  It is an on-going Bible study and discussion group.  A new group will form in the   fall. Contact Gary Vance at gkvance@gmail.com to participate.  This does require an   RSVP as the forum will be on ZOOM.  This study begins 4/8/20.

Your church – God’s church—is alive and well.  Check with us often as we are adapting and changing as needed. How we deliver the message might look different; however, we are called to Follow and invite others to follow Jesus Christ.  And so we will!

Rev. Alecia Hilmer                                     Rev. Beth Graham

March 21, 2020

NL First UMC Family,

I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to update you on what’s happening at our church as we navigate the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in this part of the world which we call home. 

First of all, I want to say how proud I am of this church family. The donations and resources that have been given towards quarantine care packages and the prayers that have been prayed have been such an example of love in the midst of uncertainty. People of all ages are coming together for our neighbors, the next generation and those in need. Thank you for your courage and generosity.

Our staff has been working around the clock to create our online presence and move our ministries to a digital format. We’d love to share with you what is coming next. 

Online-Only Sunday Services

This Sunday, March 22, our services will be held online only, and we will hold one service only at 10am. Our hope is to be able to gather together on our church campus in North Liberty as soon as possible, but in the meantime, we believe we can continue to learn and grow together as a church by worshipping together in our homes with friends and family. And you can still invite your friends!  If you’ll be watching the livestream on Facebook, we encourage you to share it on your feed. 

To watch on Facebook, click here

For Families with Kids

Please know that your families will continue to be in our prayers as we navigate these circumstances together. Our hope is to keep your kids engaged and provide ways for them to grow spiritually. We’ve curated online curriculum for your kids through the curriculum which we have been using in Sunday School, called Go! Curriuculum, which we highly encourage you to utilize. It’s super easy to find and is a great way for kids to do church online along with the rest of your family! On our website, head on over to the LEARN tab, then click on the Children’s Ministry tab, or click here . Each week we will upload a video lesson and recommended supplemental activities for families to do together. 

For Families with Teens 

It is very important to us that our teenagers remain connected during this time. Our hope is to keep them engaged with us and with each other while they continue to grow spiritually. We’ve put together online curriculum through ThinkOrange for families to utilize. Each Friday, we will upload a teaching video for our teens to watch. On Sundays, our students will be invited into Google Hangouts to for small group discussions related to the weekly teaching videos. Our youth group facebook page, EPIC Student Ministry, will also provide daily devotionals and other related content and activities to keep our students connected in the coming weeks. To be included on informational weekly emails related to our student ministry, contact Pastor Beth at nlmfamilies@gmail.com 

You can access all youth/teen related content on our website by heading to the LEARN tab, then clicking on EPIC Student Ministries, or click here

Mid-Week Programs 

Our midweek programs typically consist of on-site small groups. During this time, we will be offering small groups through an online platform called ZOOM. For now, we are offering two small group options: 

  1. Lenten Study with Pastor Alecia
  2. Faith over Fear study with Pastor Beth

        Contact the church office to get connected with these bible studies.

Opportunities to Serve & Give

While the impacts of the coronavirus mean some changes to our daily lives, the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of people have not been put on hold and we must continue to care for those around us. We are assembling quarantine care kits in an effort to meet the needs of those in our community who find that they are unable to leave their home. In addition, we’re constantly praying and looking for ways He would have us serve the people of our community during a time when many of them are feeling fearful and isolated.

Even though we’re not gathering in-person for church, you still have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others by giving your tithes and offerings through our giving page, located under the DONATE tab on this website. Please continue to give, because if our own budget is squeezed because people are staying home and not giving, we won’t be able to minister to needs as they arise through this pandemic. Giving is easy to set up and can be done through our online system or through your bank. That way, even when we have to cancel in-person services, we’re still financially able to minister to our congregation and community. When you take this step, you’re telling our finance team that it’s okay for them to release funds to spend in crisis situations like the Coronavirus outbreak, because they know that it won’t leave the church totally depleted.  

Final Thoughts

Even though our world has changed, the power of God has not changed. The truth of Scripture has not changed. The hope of Jesus has not changed. Our mission as a church has not changed. Let us not give in to fear. Rather, let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

In Christ,

Rev. Alecia Hilmer            Rev. Beth Graham 

March 12, 2020

First UMC Family,

It’s been quite a week with COVID-19 in Johnson County. We’re continuing to pray for wisdom on how best to prepare and respond to the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in our area. We sent an email out earlier today with a more detailed approach on how we are responding and doing our part to keep our campus safe and clean. In the meantime, we’ve been praying and thinking about ways we can be together for our neighbors with all that’s happening. We’ve been in touch with the North Liberty Community Pantry, the Coralville Community Food Pantry, and other area pastors to discern the greatest need.

We are excited and encouraged to be able to offer COVID-19 Quarantine care packages for those in Johnson country who find themselves facing quarantine. Our aim with the care packages is to help brighten their days through this difficult time.

If you’d like to help out, here’s what you can do:

1. Please bring items to fill the care packages to the church between now and Sunday. Here’s a list of suggested items:

–       Playing cards/jigsaw puzzles/puzzle books (word searches, crosswords, sudoku, etc.)

–     Non-perishable snacks (granola bars, fruit snacks, crackers, canned drinks, etc.)

–       Hand lotion

–       Fuzzy socks

–       Magazines

–       DVDs/Blu-rays

–       Children’s activity books & games

–       Premium facial tissues (the kind with lotion to soothe irritated noses)

–       Please DO NOT bring any homemade food, items with nuts, or used items that could carry germs or allergens.

2. If you feel healthy, please join us at 10am Tuesday in Fellowship Hall to assemble initial care packages, which will be delivered by church staff as they are requested. Childcare will not be provided to assemble the care packages, but older children with supervision are welcome to help assemble the packages. We will hold an additional packing session the following week after Spring Break.

3. If you’re unable to drop off donations or help us assemble care packages, you can donate to our efforts. Simply write in the memo of your check, “Care Kit” donation.

4. At this time, we do not need items for care packages to aid the sick/ill. Our care packages will have a form for those quarantined to fill out indicating their highest and most specific needs, which we will work through our community pantry partners to supply as many of those needs that we are able to fulfill to those in quarantine.

It’s part of our DNA as a church to be together for our neighbors, the next generation and those in need, so that the Corridor can flourish. We believe God calls us to be agents of love and care for those who are hurting, especially in times like this. This is our chance, First UMC! Thanks for being part of helping those at risk, however you can.

Rev. Alecia R. Hilmer                                     Rev. Beth Graham

__________________________________________

March 12, 2020

Dear First UMC Family,

I want to update you on what’s happening at First UMC in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in our area. Like you, I’ve been following this evolving story with great concern. Beth and I also reached out to local city officials and have spoken with a number of other pastors in the area to gain perspective on how to best move forward. Please read through this entire email as it contains detailed plans for keeping our campus safe, and how you can help.

At this time, officials are not recommending the cancelation of public events or Sunday church gatherings. First UMC will remain open and we will continue to have services on Sundays as well as midweek programming. In the event that local and state health officials do recommend closure or we determine it is in the best interest of our First UMC family to close, we will inform everyone to the best of our abilities through our website, emails, and social media. If you do not follow the church Facebook page, we strongly urge you to do so in order to have access to the most up-to-date information on our church’s COVID-19 decisions and actions.

During this time, here’s how we are committed to keeping our campus clean: 

1. We will sanitize highly touched surfaces before and after every service such as doors, handles, tables, check-in stations, and sinks.

2. Our staff and volunteer teams will wash their hands frequently and stay home if they are sick.

3. We will provide additional hand sanitizer stations around the church for everyone to use.

4. Offering plates will be relocated to the front of the sanctuary so you don’t need to pass them down the row. Remember, you can also give online.

During this time, we are asking you to help stop the spread of the virus in the following ways:

1. Stay at home when you or a family member are sick.

2. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

3. Cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue or your arm.

4. Get in the habit of NOT touching your face so often.

5. Forgo shaking hands at church for a wave or a friendly smile.

6. If you or someone you know tests positive for COVID-19, please let us know so we can find a way to help, pray for everyone involved, and take any necessary precautions here at First UMC.

Watch  First UMC Online:

This is still developing.  Watch for upcoming announcements.

For families with kids:

In addition to keeping our campus clean, we will be taking extra care of our kids’ spaces. Kids’ toys and rooms will be sanitized before and after every service. Starting Sunday, March 22, 2020, we will also have online content available for children and youth who need to stay home.

Three ways you can help:

1. Pray – Pray for those impacted by the virus, as well as their families and loved ones.

2. Give – In the coming weeks, we’re looking to help those affected in our area. If you’d like to join us, you can donate by heading to nlmethodist.org/donate.

3. Serve – As we’ve been praying and thinking about ways we can be together for our neighbors in the midst of this outbreak, we have been brainstorming with other area leaders to see how we can safely and physically live into our mission as a church to serve those in need. As a result, we will send out an email later today detailing our plan to prepare and deliver COVID-19 Quarantine care packages to those affected within our community.

Questions or concerns?

If you’d like to share your thoughts, concerns, questions, and ideas with us as we navigate our response to this situation, we’d love to hear from you. Your input and feedback are truly important to us. Please email us or write a note on the church Facebook page.

While we cannot control the virus, the spread or the impact it has in our church, we’re doing everything we can to make this campus as safe and clean as possible. We appreciate your cooperation and commitment to help us do just that. We must also remember that God has not called us to live in fear but in faith. As the apostle, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” My prayer is that God will fill all of us with these three gifts, no matter what comes our way.

Peace, Rev. Alecia R. Hilmer and Rev. Beth Graham