El Mesías UMC – Response to the COVID-19 / Coronavirus

Dear ones,

On Friday, March 13, I was privileged to meet with representatives from Mission Consolidated Independent School District and clergy members from Mission, Alton, and Palmhurst to discuss efforts to prevent COVID-19 (coronavirus) in our communities. I have also been receiving communication from Bishop Schnase and leaders in the Río Texas Annual Conference regarding best practices in our congregations to “flatten the curve” – stop the spread – of this virus. While we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Río Grande Valley, there are 39 confirmed cases in Texas as of March 13, not counting travelers being quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. This may seem like a very low number of cases, but this virus is highly contagious. We must take seriously the nature of this pandemic, working to prevent and to prepare for cases in our community.

On Friday, Governor Abbott declared a state of emergency for all Texas counties, followed by a national emergency declaration by President Trump. During a press conference yesterday, Governor Abbott made this abundantly clear: Everyone must participate in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. While you may not personally be at risk, you have family members, fellow church members, friends, and neighbors who are. As Christians, we are called to live out the Greatest Commandment: to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In the Gospels, Jesus cares for the poor, the vulnerable, and the sick, teaching us to care for the “least of these” because when we do, we are caring for Christ himself (Matthew 25:31-46). Now, more than ever, is the time to practice this by putting the needs of others before our own.

In light of all of this, we will be making the following changes to worship:

  • We will refrain from handshakes and hugs during passing of the peace. Instead, you may place your hand over your heart as a gesture of love.
  • We will refrain from passing the offering plate. Instead, you may come forward during the offertory and place your offering in the designated basket. If you are unable to come forward, simply raise your hand and the pastor will collect your offering and place it in the basket. Hand sanitizer is kept in the pulpit in order to ensure that the pastor has clean hands.
  • We will have designated greeters to open doors in order to ensure that only clean hands touch the main entrance and Sanctuary doors. All greeters will wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before passing out bulletins or opening doors.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available in the entry to the Sanctuary, but please note that washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds is the most effective method for preventing the spread of disease.
  • The pastor will refrain from handshakes or hugs at the door when people are exiting after worship services.

In addition to these changes, we are suspending all small group meetings outside worship until further notice. We are also implementing a stringent cleaning policy to all areas where people gather and to our kitchen and restrooms. We are paying particular attention to door handles, light switches, tables and chairs, and the Sanctuary pews, disinfecting these regularly according to Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Most importantly, if you are sick (fever, chills, cough, runny nose), please stay home. Help us protect other worshippers by taking time to rest and recuperate. Likewise, if you are uncomfortable about attending worship due to health concerns, please don’t hesitate to remain at home. We offer a Facebook Live stream of our 10:45 AM worship service on Sundays so that those who are unable to attend in person may still worship. During the offering, you may give your tithes and offerings online through the GivePlus app or at our website under the “Donate” tab. You may also mail your offering to the church at P.O. Box 4787, Mission, 78573. If you are unable to join our live stream, read a Psalm and a Gospel text and spend time in prayer. Listen and sing along to hymns or contemporary Christian music. Talk with your loved ones about how you have seen God at work in your life. All of these are ways to be worshipful.

At the pastor’s discretion, Holy Communion and/or worship may be postponed should the need arise. This will be done in consultation with the District Superintendent and El Mesías’ Administrative Council. Please be assured that I am in contact with the appropriate church, community, and conference leaders, as well as consulting the Texas Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control for reliable, updated information. As this is a constantly changing situation, please subscribe to our Facebook page (@ElMesiasUMCMission), Instagram feed (elmesiasumcmission), or visit our website elmesiasmission.org for updates. You may also contact Pastor Amelia at (956) 203-0431 for more information.

As the Body of Christ, we believe in God’s goodness and grace. We believe in God’s healing power and God’s ultimate wisdom. During times like these, God calls us to exercise good judgment and to care for the vulnerable around us, while trusting in God’s love and provision. As God’s people, we find our hope in the One who offers us abundant life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whom God sent into the world not to condemn it, but to redeem it. Let us be in constant prayer for our world, our nation, our leaders – global, national, and local, all of those who have lost loved ones, and all of those affected by COVID-19. Let us pray for God’s healing, protection, and wisdom.

In Psalm 46 we read, “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves.” It may feel like the world is falling apart, but in fact, we are seeing blessings in the midst of this great challenge: unity instead of division, compassion instead of indignation, humor instead of despair. God is at work in even the darkest of times, shining the light of peace, hope, and eternal life. May we be beacons of this very same light all to the glory of God.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Amelia