August 27, 2020
Dear Church Family –
I pray this letter finds you well and the joy of the Lord, is upon you and your families. As you know, we have longed to gather together for in-person worship since the beginning of COVID-19 and the leadership of Cokesbury has sought as much as possible to protect our faith community. As United Methodists, we feel a strong burden to live into the first General Rule to “Do No Harm” after all, with privilege comes responsibility.
You may recall a letter from our Resident Bishop David Graves, containing protocols and guidelines with regard to in-person worship. In this letter, Bishop Graves recommended churches consider postponing all in-person gatherings until after we experience a two-week consecutive decline in COVID-19 positive cases. As of today, the cases in Escambia County continue to fluctuate and we have yet to experience a two-week decline in positive cases.
Therefore, out of an abundance of caution and with the number of COVID-19 cases still concerning, until we see a two-week decline in COVID-19 positive cases, we will not resume in-person worship through the fall and perhaps through the remainder of the year. The leadership teams and I have spent much time in planning, prayer, and discernment as we determine the appropriate time to gather in person. As with many aspects of the world right now, this situation is fluid and we ask for your continued patience and grace in light of rapidly changing situation.
I know that we all desperately want to worship in person again – no one wants to resume live worship more than I. Worship is a part of who I am and I miss you all so very much. In all honesty, this is a very difficult letter for me to write. As you know, making the decision to return to in person worship is an awesome responsibility and I am grateful for our Moving Forward Team as well as our Cokesbury Committee Leaders to help us navigate this situation together.
As servants of our Great God, Cokesbury Children’s Center remains open to provide childcare for families who have had to return to work and jobs to teachers as we continue to serve a community in need. As we answer the call to Bring Christ to People and People to Christ, we will continue to distribute and deliver food, serve on community boards, and fulfill missional projects. Though we may not “gather in person,” we are answering the call to serve God and community with amazing grace and abundant love. As always, we are here for you.
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Grace & Peace-
Pastor Sheila Bates, Lead Pastor