Update from Pastor David McEntire
First United Methodist Church of Lakeland
Coronavirus Update  3/27/20

Dear Friends,

I pray you are healthy and following the safety protocols.  Please do not underestimate this virus and put yourself, your loved ones or neighbors at risk.  We have had one church member who was diagnosed with the virus.  Thankfully our protocols kept anyone from being exposed at the church and our friend is now recovering at home.  While it may seem extreme to pause all church activities and gatherings, we have prevented the spread of the virus through our church events with the precautions we have taken.  It is important that we continue to do so until it is safe for us to gather again, and we will.

In the meantime, I am thrilled to see Sunday school classes, small groups, age level ministries, staff and committees meet online (most are using a free online video tool called Zoom) or through conference calls.  We are blessed to have technology readily available to us.

As I mentioned in the previous email to you, we are following the warnings and directives from Public Health and Governmental Officials and the Florida Conference of the UMC.  This week, our Bishop, Cabinet, along with public health officials asked that churches remain closed to all onsite activities through April 12.   We will continue to suspend all onsite activities and worship through and including April 12.   We will evaluate this decision each week and will let you know once it is safe to gather onsite once again.  This is hard for us all, especially as that period includes Holy Week and Easter.  

If you know of a need or if someone is sick we ask that you call us and let us know.  This is very important.  Please take a moment to read through the following update about the ministry of your church.
General Considerations:
1.       Wash your hands and don’t touch your face, eyes or mouth.
2.     Maintain social distancing.  Keep six feet or more between you and others.  Observe the guidelines and directives for self-isolation.
3.     Stay home if you are sick.  Call your health care provider or ER before you show up.  They will give you appropriate instructions before you arrive.
4.     Stay connected via phone, video chat, social media and other such virtual methods.  Encourage one another, check on friends and family.  A 30 second phone call can encourage.  Pray for and with one another when talking.  Share encouraging scriptures and postings on Social Media, you do not need to add to the fear.
5.     Be careful of fixating on the news.  Information is important but the constant barrage of news can be overwhelming and cause fear and depression.  While it is common to turn on the news as soon as you wake up, I would recommend that you pause.  Have that cup of coffee, eat, open a window, listen to the birds, read scripture and pray. Then you will be ready for updates with a prepared heart.
6.     Be very careful of misleading and false news and scams.  Already there have been malicious rumors created to worsen people’s fear of the pandemic.  Lies which blame and misdirect people often create panic and inappropriate, even harmful responses.  There are people trying to take advantage of fear.  Beware of scams and false advertising.  I have noticed that our local grocery stores are now fully stocked with most items, which a week ago were in short supply.  You can often get what you need locally.  Supplies will continue to be restocked.
7.     Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.  Hand washing will preserve your hand sanitizer.  Stay safe, stay healthy, stay compassionate, stay wise.

Online Worship and Bulletins:
We Livestream our worship.  Please  click here to access Livestream.  Once there, simply click on the Livestream icon.  Explore this page.  You will find current “live” services at the top of the page and archived services farther down the page.  We have many years of archived worship services which you can still access. 

You will have the opportunity to comment during our Livestreamed worship services. This is where you can interact with your fellow worshippers, and let us know that you’re in worship with us.

To comment on the Livestream, click on the “Conversation Bubble” icon located near the top right corner of the screen. The chat box will open to the right of the live video (or below it in some cases). Type your comment in the white box that appears. If you have a Livestream account, you can choose to log in so that your name and profile photo appears with your comment. Alternatively, you can comment as a guest by clicking “Guest” to join the chat. Type in your name, then click Join. You can now chat on the event. For more information,  click here .

If you would like to create a Livestream account, you can do so by following the steps   click here .

We have added a Facebook Live feature to our streaming.  This means that our worship service will appear on the church Facebook page.  You can go to  click here .  You need a Facebook account to access the Worship Service through Facebook.  Please “like” our church Facebook page “First United Methodist Church of Lakeland (Florida)”.  Liking the page helps ensure that it is more likely to appear in your feed.  You will also see a “Watch” icon on the page.  This allows you to watch live events, such as our service.  You can also go to the church Facebook Page to watch the service live.  Let us know if you need help connecting.

The virus has impacted each of us in similar ways.  But, the financial impact has hit some much, much harder.  I am grateful that our heart and intention has continuously been focused on serving and helping others in need and distress.  This is now much more important.  Some in our congregation are already out of work and might need our support.  Others are having to be more frugal, utilizing reserves to get through this time.  Some, while impacted, have deeper resources.  I have been humbled and thankful that many in our congregation have already asked, “How can I help.”  This includes some who are facing difficult challenges.  You can give easily by using any of the following methods.

a.       Check.
b.       EFT/EBT: through the use of your online banking account.  
c.       Give Online:    click here .  
d.      Text to Give:  Text the amount you would like to give, beginning with the $ sign, to 863-617-7899. 
Contacting Pastors and Staff:
Staff can receive your voice mails through their email accounts.  If you need to speak to one of the pastors or staff, call 863-686-3163.  You will hear a recording with updates and how to contact staff voice mails.  Once the recording starts you can reach the voice mailboxes of the following by pressing * and the extension number.

Rev. David McEntire - *215
Rev. Melissa Stump - *220
Rev. Andy Whitaker-Smith - *214
Rev. Lee Lallance, Minister of Fine Arts and Music - *239
Harriet Mayes, Church Administrator - *217
Fred Murphy, Director of Facilities - *261 
Nicole Wood, Assistant to the Pastors - *219
Cherry McClellan, Preschool Director - *355
Cristi Moore, Children’s Director - *226
Dave Jans, Youth Director - *253
Warren Pattison, Director of Adult Ministries - *227
Diana Russell, Director of Newcomer Ministries - *223
Forrest White, Director of Missions - *224
Sean Hults, Director of Neighborhood Ministries - *242

Once you leave a message on voice mail it will be sent as an email to that person.  We will check emails several times a day.  You can also press *653 and then leave a voice mail for the pastor on call, who will return your call once they are able.

Sunday school, Bible Study & Spiritual Resources for Children, Youth and Adults:   click here .  This is a great resource for you, your family and your friends.  Please share the link with others.  We will update it frequently.

Continue to pray for each other:  I am praying for you, every day, throughout the day. I am praying for those who are finding ways to destroy, control and fight this virus. I am praying for those who care for those infected by the virus. I am praying for reason, patience, education, compassion and caring. Please join me in praying for God’s presence, strength and guidance. This challenging time will end, we will adjust and become wiser. Stay safe, stay healthy, compassionate and wise.

Peace and Grace,
David McEntire, Senior Pastor