COVID-19 UPDATES

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.

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