April 24, 2020
A Word from Pastor Thomas
Greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

I pray that you are safe and that you are being kind to yourself and others during these rather remarkable times. I pray for grace and peace in your lives as we continue to live into this pandemic and the ever-changing landscape we are having to navigate. The latest change in the landscape occurred this week when the Governor of the State of Georgia announced a phased reopening of Georgia’s economy beginning this Friday, April 24, 2020. In light of this, there are two things that I wanted to convey to you regarding this change. First, Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, Resident Bishop of the North Georgia Annual Conference, and her Cabinet have established that the more than 800 churches within this Annual Conference will remain closed at least until May 13, 2020. This decision was made several weeks ago and was in line with the direction originally set by the Governor.

Secondly, as your pastor, I reiterate that my principal concern is your safety and well-being. As such, even with the scheduled date of May 13th, I would not be comfortable reopening the doors of Ben Hill United Methodist Church. Because black and brown people and senior citizens have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic, and with all that is at stake, I am compelled to say once again what I stated in my previous letter: “We must police ourselves in order to protect and save ourselves.” To this end, not only will our building NOT reopen by May 13th but that the decision to reopen the economy, while meant to address the very real and valid pocketbook issues that people are having, I believe has the real potential to foster further destabilization. I am hoping for the best, but I am also aware of the risks. Over the next few weeks, I will be in conversation with the staff, the church leadership, and others as we navigate our way forward. During this time, I ask that you keep before you the words of the Apostle Paul found in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Finally, my heart is grieved by the fact that over 183,000 people (47,000 in the United States) have died worldwide during this pandemic. This is a sobering reality. I have heard some people speak of having a Resurrection Sunday whenever we first gather again. I hold to a different point of view. I think that it is more appropriate that we have a service to honor those who have died. If there was ever a time for lament that time is now. Grief is something that we all too often want to get past, to the extent that some even try to ignore its reality. To rush toward resurrection without honoring our grief is a failure to understand the importance of Holy Saturday – it is an occasion for mourning. The best of our faith does not ignore grief, rather, we honor and live into. We own it. We embrace it. Why? Because God is at work in our grief.

During this time it would do us well to listen to the wisdom and insight of the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:3-5: “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Instead of rushing to return to “joy,” I would suggest that we travel the road where the first leg of our journey leads to “endurance.”

Remember, remain safe, be good to yourself, and be good to others.
Peace and blessings,
Pastor Thomas
What to do if you cannot view the stream
Here are some helpful tips if you should encounter any issues with accessing Ben Hill's Live Stream:
  1. Try a different Web browser. Most browsers should work but if your Web browser is not showing the stream, try a different one. Windows typically uses Internet Explorer or Edge. Macs typically use Safari. You can try to download and install either Firefox or Google Chrome.
  2. Try going to the Ben Hill UMC Facebook Page and view the Live Stream there.
  3. Try the phone app. If you do not have the Ben Hill app, download it from your app store and view the steam from there.
  4. Access StreamingFaith.com as another option to view the live stream.

On Sunday mornings, live chat is available on the Ben Hill website if you should encounter issues and need additional help.

How to Connect on Sunday Mornings:
The Food Bank is accepting donations of food on Wednesday & Saturday 10:30-12:30. Donations will be accepted at the kitchen door, located in the Senior Parking lot (please see the red parking lot signs). If no one is available please leave the donations at the door or on the wall. 
We are in need of the following items:
  • Canned salmon
  • Canned chicken
  • Beef stew
  • Chili
  • Baked beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Lima beans
  • Hamburger/Tuna Helper
  • Macaroni & cheese
  • Canned soup
  • Cooking oil
  • Crackers
  • Granola bars
  • Popcorn
  • Canned fruits
  • Canned collards/turnip
  • greens
  • Canned spinach
  • Canned candied yams
  • Cold cereal (sugary & non sugary)
  • Grits (instant & regular)
  • Peanut butter & jelly
  • Juice
  • Hygiene items
  • Household items (dish soap, laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels)
Nothing can stop your accomplishments!  We want to honor not only our high school graduates but also our undergrads and postgraduates.  If you are in the class of 2020, please provide the following information: 1) your name , 2) the name of the school from which you are graduating , & 3) your degree to the Higher Education and Campus Ministry by May 6th to phendricks04291226@gmail.com . We look forward to celebrating your success!
Thank You to Our Volunteers
Do you want to recognize a special Ben Hill UMC volunteer or medical professional? We will feature those serving our communities on our social media pages each week. If you would like to highlight someone, please e-mail Kristan Jones-Scales at KJonesScales@benhillumc.org. Include a brief description of the volunteer and a photo.
Thursday Evening Bible Study
Join us for Thursday evening Bible Study at 5:45pm. We invite all participants to join the call early beginning at 5:30pm.
Dial (701)802-5043
Access code: 885690#
Once you join the conference call, please announce your name, MUTE your phone by pressing *6 or press your mute button. We look forward to you joining us.
May our Lord bless and comfort you and your family during this time of grief.
Please accept our sincere condolences.

John and Gail Mapp (M) on the loss of her mother
Annie (Jeanette) Williams (R)

Washaan Barnes (M) on the loss of her father
Robert Robertson (R)
Resources and Community Events
The FDA is working to address the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and keep you and your family informed on the latest developments. In case you missed it, here is the latest information for consumers on this important topic:

Fraudulent COVID-19 products can come in many varieties, including dietary supplements and other foods, as well as products claiming to be tests, drugs, medical devices, or vaccines. Because COVID-19 has never been seen in humans before, there are currently no vaccines to prevent or drugs to treat COVID-19 approved by the FDA. The FDA is working with medical product developers to rapidly advance the development and availability of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. 

The FDA is working in many ways to help keep people safe while the nation is coping with the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Food availability and food safety are vitally important to our well-being, and the FDA is working hard to help ensure the foods you, your family, and your pets eat are safe and available. 

Each of us can help stop the spread of COVID-19 disease by washing our hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds – especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that consumers use alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol. 
To learn more about these and other coronavirus topics, visit:  FDA Consumer Updates

National Minority Health Month
Make health and nutrition a priority during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. April is National Minority Health Month. Even as we practice social distancing, we should still stay physically active and healthy to support physical, mental, and emotional wellness.