Ocala First Connection
Holy Week Schedule
April 7, 2020
Join us online this Thursday at 7:00 pm for a special presentation of "The Living Last Supper" drama in the age of social distancing!

On Friday, we will livestream a simple but meaningful Good Friday Service of Remembrance at 3:00 pm from our Sanctuary.

On Easter Sunday, join Pastors Anne and David on Facebook for a special Sunrise Devotional. Tune back in at 9 am or 11 am for the livestream of our Easter Services!

Remember to download the "Holy Week at Home" prayer guide on on website. The Prayer Guide is based on the Stations of the Cross. The guide outlines scripture readings and times of prayer in the morning and evening each day this week, but you can use the reflection according to your own timeline.

Though separated in person, we remain united in the Holy Spirit as we journey together to the cross and await the empty tomb.
Pastoral Discernment on Holy Communion

Summary
Over the past few weeks, we have been exploring ways to offer Holy Communion to our congregation during this time when we cannot gather in person. A fter much prayer and deep reflection, we have decided that the best practice for our congregation is to refrain from celebrating Holy Communion until we can meet together in person once more.

Our intention was to offer Holy Communion through video conferencing (Zoom). However, we have discerned that leaving out those in our church family who do not have internet access goes against an essential part of celebrating this Holy Meal.

We know some of you will be disheartened by our decision. The opportunity to receive would no doubt be a spiritual blessing to many of you during these troubling times. Our decision is based on what is best for the whole Body of Christ, requiring a sacrifice (a fast) shared equally by our whole congregation.

(Please read our full message below about Holy Communion)

We are living through a time in the life of our church that has few precedents, and none in our lifetime. In order to slow the spread of the pandemic, we remain socially distant, refraining from gathering in groups beyond our household, and maintaining safe distances when engaged in essential activities such as grocery shopping. As we know, these restrictions include gathering in person for worship. 

In these extraordinary times, we have shifted to worshipping together online and finding creative ways to stay connected as a church family. But what about Holy Communion? 

Our practice has been to celebrate the sacrament together on the first Sunday of each month, and on other special occasions such as Holy Thursday and Christmas Eve. During the pandemic, our Bishop has given pastors permission to celebrate Holy Communion using digital technology, as our abilities and pastoral convictions allow. 

We hold a high view of the sacraments, and our first concern is being able to celebrate Holy Communion in a manner appropriate for the sacrament.
We are not comfortable celebrating during a livestream service because we cannot see or hear the gathered community. Celebrating Holy Communion is a tactile and interactive communal experience. So we settled on the celebration through video conferencing (Zoom) where we could see and hear one another in smaller groups and take, bless, break, and share the bread and cup together at the same time. Certain this approach would be both faithful and spiritually meaningful, we began to announce these intentions over the past two weeks. 

However, a second concern has emerged for us – this one pastoral. Holy Communion is a community meal – a family meal. In the New Testament, the commemoration of the Last Supper was a central part of a common meal shared by each local church. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-33, we read about the divisions and problems that were happening in that particular church. A practice intended to draw people together as the Body of Christ instead led to division. Among the issues named was that many were being left out of the meal and the remembrance. 

Ordinarily, when we gather for Holy Communion, the sanctuary doors are open and all are welcome. For our homebound members, we have volunteers who take the sacraments to their homes so that they too may share in God’s grace and love. As we considered Holy Communion through video conferencing, we realized that only those with the technological means could participate. Those who do not have internet access are left out. With social distancing restrictions, we cannot bring Holy Communion to them safely. 

Therefore, upon further reflection, we have decided that the best practice for our congregation will be to refrain from celebrating Holy Communion until we can meet together in person once more.

We know some of you will be disheartened by our decision. The opportunity to receive would no doubt be a spiritual blessing to many of you during these troubling times. Our decision is based on what is best for the whole Body of Christ, requiring a sacrifice (a fast) shared equally by our whole congregation. 

If our social separation extends beyond a few months, or critical circumstances arise, we will, of course, revisit this decision. How sweet it will be when we can gather together once more around the table to celebrate the gift of amazing grace found in Jesus Christ. 

In Grace and Love,
Anne and David Fuquay


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FINANCIAL GIVING

An important part of worship each week is the giving of our tithes and offering. Giving is always a form of sacrifice, as well as, a source of great joy as we express our thanks and gratitude to God. That is never more true than in our current situation in this Pandemic, when our lives and livelihoods have been turned upside down. We know that many of you are not able to give as you desire or intend. Please know that does make you any less generous or faithful. We as a church family care about you, your family and our community. We know that you will give as you can and when you can.

If you are among those who are able to continue giving, we encourage you to do so that we may continue to support our staff, maintain our facilities, and extend the mission of our church in new ways. We will continue to receive your tithes and offerings by mail at our church office. And you can give online.

In March, we did have some who were able give extra gifts and pay ahead on their pledges. Thank you for all that you were able to do. We trust that God will provide as we enter a second month of being apart.


Gifts can be mailed to the church office.
(1126 E. Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala, FL, 34470)

You can also give online at any time!
PASTORAL CARE

If you need prayer or need to speak with our pastors or a member of our Care Team, please call the church office.

In-Person visitation is suspended for most care facilities, and we are all trying to practice social distancing to protect those most at risk from serious illness from Covid-19.

We will keep our prayer list updated. Our Pastors and Care Team will reach out with phone calls and notes.

We will provide in-person visits in an emergency.

All members are encouraged to check-in with one another regularly, particularly with those older members who are not online and may feel more isolated during this time.
LOOKING AHEAD

Given how rapidly things can change during a pandemic, our leadership and staff will continue to closely monitor the situation and adapt our plans as needed. We will keep you informed each step of the way.

Updates on our website:

Updates from the Florida Conference Website:

Visit our webpage for updates, sermon videos and more!
[352.622.3244]  [info@fumcocala.org]  [www.fumcocala.org]