Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What a week?!? Schools have been closed and our children still have homework (much to most of their chagrin), a friend of the church and Trinity UMC pastor’s wife (Mrs. Margo Strong) is very ill in the hospital near Little River, and our bishop has STRONGLY recommended that all SC churches cancel ALL meetings and public gatherings including worship (which we are honoring) through March 31st.

Restaurants are closed to dine-in service, and in the number of phone calls I have been having for the past couple of days, it is very clear that emotions of people from our church range from fear, frustration to what my 10-year-old says, “This is boring!”

Wherever you are – whatever you are feeling, God made you and blessed you to faithfully follow the instructions He has laid on your hearts. Through His love and strength, we will emerge from these challenging times with a battle-forged faith and a new appreciation for all the little blessings we often take for granted in our busy and frequently hectic lives. Put a different way – this Lenten Journey will involve cross-carrying for every single one of us, whether we wanted to participate or not.

I invite each of you to embrace even this storm, this social isolation, as Jesus willingly did when he began His public ministry by traveling the wilderness and trusting that God will once again deliver us. As I like to say, “whenever the Lenten journey gets you down … never forget that Easter is coming!” Even death can’t win, nor fear, nor grocery store hoarders, nor still-got-a-lot-to-learn Spring Breaking college kids. Easter is coming and God always wins!

So in this time of challenge and change, I am going to throw a couple of announcements your way. First off, I have talked with Nancy Tindall and have cancelled the Easter Cantata that was being planned by our choir. I do very much appreciate the talents and hard work our musicians were putting into this work of praise for Easter, but since they can’t practice further until early April at a minimum and no one knows what will happen in the next two weeks, I wanted our musicians and congregation as a whole to be intentional and focused on the needs that emerge in the here and now.

I would ask everyone to keep each other in your thoughts and prayers and invite you to share prayer concerns with all of our congregation by posting them on our Facebook group page. (If you have a special prayer of concern that you do not want to share with everyone, please contact me and I assure you it will be prayed for and held in strictest confidence by me). On that note, in talking with Mrs. Kathy O’Connor, we are all asked to lift up and pray for her brother Tim Volpone, who is in critical condition in the ICU at Cleveland Clinic, as well as her mother who is currently staying with Kathy and Jim. Please lift them all up in prayer! As was mentioned, Pastor Kim Strong has asked our district to lift up Margo Strong in prayer, she is critically ill with pneumonia, a blood clot and is suspected of having the Covid-19 virus.

In addition to prayer, Rev. Tim Rogers (our Marion District Superintendent) suggested that we join with him fasting on Friday and the remaining Fridays in Lent. As he texted me, “Let us make Fridays a day of fasting – knowing that each of us may choose our own form of fast – and recognizing that no one should endanger their health through a fast or by any other means.”

I intend to join him and suggest (if you are physically able) that you join in as well. If you have never fasted before, I can assure you it can be a very spiritually eye-opening practice in encountering / glorifying God through sacrifice.

Some of you have asked and YES, we will have a live stream this Sunday from Union UMC’s sanctuary. The service will be a sharing of scripture/sermon and time of prayer so it will probably only be 30 minutes or so beginning at 11 am. I have asked Tina/Keith Anderson to help me broadcast, and I believe we will be able to maintain a comfortable social distance from each other in a sanctuary that seats 140+. I will miss seeing your smiling faces but please know that each of you are in my thoughts and prayers.

On that note, I would invite you to contact me if you have any needs, questions or concerns via my cell phone (864)245-1173, e-mail CEArries@umcsc.org. I would prefer you call our home phone (843)488-4179 because the cell tower is right next to our house and that makes cell service very spotty in our neighborhood. I would love to hear from you.

If there are needs, please share them with me. A couple of our church family members have asked me how they could help and what could they do. They would be happy to run to a store and get groceries or whatever you may need (but I can only point them in a direction if I “know” about the need).

One further request/need. Please don’t forget to support our church financially with your gifts, tithes and offerings. I know with the economic upheaval going on in our country you may be concerned about your own needs or might even forget when we don’t meet in worship to drop in your offering but our church still has bills, utilities, mission commitments such as Apportionments and staff needs. You can mail a check to the church address (4491 Hwy 701 S, Conway, SC 29527), and I am working on a conference recommended avenue to accept gifts on-line but as of right now, do not have it yet set-up.

Don’t forget Mrs. Kathy has prepared children’s church in a bag for our children that is located in the Garden (please call me if you don’t have a key that would get you in – and I would be happy to help you in) and Mrs. Tina Anderson shared with me today that she and Mr. Keith are editing some Alive-like videos to share with our congregation when they are completed.

Please remember that being the Church is our most visible witness to our faith. Even if we can’t be AT church – Christ is still present with us and through us as we go through our days … in Lent … Easter … and EVERY day. I pray you stay healthy (wash your hands ), are not bored, and that you experience God’s presence even when everything else seems like it is changing every second.

Grace, peace and God’s blessings be with you all!

In Christ’s Loving Service,
Pastor Chris

PS: If you are aware of someone who is not able to access this message because of technology, I would encourage and invite you to share this information with them … and maybe, if you talk to them and they share they have a need, you could let me know.

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