Volume 50
Issue 16
April 16, 2020
              
From Our Senior Pastor
Church Family and Friends,

Here we are in day 1,073 of the COVID-19 quarantine. (Well, that's how it feels to me.) I have to say that during this time one of my favorite verses is 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." There are some days when I hold it all together, and there are other days when I don't know where to start. That is why this verse is so critical for me. It is now like a breath prayer, or a mantra that I say throughout the day as I move through Zoom, Teams, Webex, and FaceTime calls, phone calls, text messages, emails, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, family, checking on friends, suiting up for a run to a store, doing projects around the house (and then fixing the mess I make), etc. I know many of you have plates that are much fuller and nerves that are much more worn. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

Walter Brueggemann says "the Bible is a strange emancipatory voice among us that cannot be domesticated by any of our ideologies." In this moment the Bible is a strange emancipatory voice among us that cannot be domesticated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bible is a voice of hope and strength for us as anxiety continues to rise. Like our recent children's memory verse said, "Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord [our] God is with [us] wherever [we] go." (Joshua 1:9)

In the midst of this pandemic we are called to acts of faithful imagination as the church and to bold acts of caring. We have the opportunity to re-imagine church and worship for this season, and to learn from this going forward. We are called to be the church to each other, to our community, and to our world. That mission doesn't change just because of the pandemic.

We Are Still VHUMC. So we are seeing some amazing, imaginative, and caring ways that our church is being The Church. Last week was Holy Week, and on Maundy Thursday our church did something we have never thought to do before - we offered communion elements to be used at home. In a normal year, our Maundy Thursday service may have 300-350 people gathered in the sanctuary to remember the night when Jesus gave us the sacrament of Holy Communion. This year, we had over 1,000 people pick up elements, and others who baked their own and participated in the service online.

We Are Still VHUMC. Yesterday (April 15), our Food Pantry Team operated a drive-thru food distribution. Today (April 16), we partnered with the American Red Cross to host a blood drive in the Lighthouse. Each week, we have individuals, families, Sunday School classes, and Small Groups working with our Missions Team to help feed the homeless in the downtown Birmingham area. Many of our Conservatory of the Arts and Vestavia Dance teachers are teaching online to stay connected to their students. In mid-May, our Farmer's Market Team will hopefully be able to open at Scout Park - allowing our farmers a venue to sell their produce and giving us a chance to buy fresh and local. We have many members who are making masks in response to COVID-19, and we have others who have partnered with a group of engineers to use 3-D printers to make face shields for rural hospitals.

We Are Still VHUMC. We have more and more people of all ages gathering online to fellowship, study, and support each other. Our Sunday School Classes and Small Groups have seen a 50% increase in their average attendance. We have Student Small Groups for 6-12th graders. Little Lamb Preschool and our Elementary grades still have Sunday School. Each Sunday we gather around our televisions, computers, tablets, and phones as we worship together. Each week members are sharing the link on their social media, and our reach is extending farther and farther as people from across the country worship with us. Across the coming weeks, we will be able to share special music that was recorded by our Chancel Ensemble and our Praise Band. Both groups were generous with their time and recorded additional pieces of music for our worship celebrations.

We Are Still VHUMC. While our world is different, and we pray for hope, help, and healing for everyone affected by COVID-19, we "cast ALL our anxieties on him because he cares for [us]."

It is a humbling honor to be your pastor, and you always remain in my prayers.
Bill Brunson, Senior Pastor
COVID-19 Response Team Update
Our members and staff are continuing to reach out in many wonderful ways that extend far beyond our church walls. Together, we are lovingly connecting with those in need during this world-wide pandemic. Our web page, www.vhumc.org/coronavirus, has the latest information on what we are doing, ways you can help, links to the CDC and other health agencies, testing sites, and information about our strategic partners and agencies. You will also find worship information, small groups and Sunday School Classes, and direct links to staff members who can answer your questions. Please check this web page regularly.

Authorities tell us that these next two weeks in April will be very important for our greater Birmingham community. Please keep doing these three simple things: Keep safe distancing. Keep loving on your family. Keep checking on your friends and neighbors. Your church is here to help you; so if you encounter needs that you cannot meet, please let us know by calling our COVID-19 Response Help Line at (205) 259-8835 or notify us by completing our easy Needs Request Form.

Thank You for Egging Your House
It was so much fun to see everyone egging their houses and hunting for eggs! We put names of everyone who tagged us and sent us photos in a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to The Ridge. Congratulations to the Kirkpatrick family for winning the prize!
My God Shall Supply All Your Needs
For the past several Thursday nights, different VHUMC volunteer groups have fed the homeless in Birmingham. Last week, some unusual preparations were perfectly in place to meet the need.

The call came on Wednesday night (not even 24-hours notice) with a specific request for at least 50 bags with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruit. Our member who took the call was able to share that her son had been sent to the store "for a few items" and just decided to load up on bread, peanut butter, jelly, and halos! It was clear to both the caller and our church member that God had just met the need in a perfect way. The possible catch was that the food had to be prepared with gloves and masks, but that was also on hand for our normal Thursday night homeless assistance.

That one family alone provided 30 of the 50 requested bags of food. Three other group members from VHUMC supplied the rest and many of those who sleep on the streets were shown the love of God through food and prayers last Thursday night - a great example of how VHUMC members were available and God provided for others through them. God always knows our needs, even before we know them, and HE always supplies and provides. Don't you just love to see God at work?
An Act of Worship
While we are separated from worshipping together, we have become creative in finding ways to remain connected. Our online worship services and our weekday video clips continue to nourish our souls. While we cannot all be together for worship, we can participate in an act of worship together- the giving of our tithes and offerings. Giving back to God what God has provided to us allows each of us to participate in the Glory of God. We give as a response to what God provides to us- grace, mercy, hope, resurrection. As we face these uncertain times, we are certain in the continuing presence of God, and for that we are grateful. Please take a moment this week as a response to the joy of Easter and share in the gifts God has given to you. Online giving is easy and safe, and will allow our church, God's church, to continue in the ministries we are called to each and every day.

Online Groups
You'll be glad to know, that of the 18 Sunday School classes that are meeting on Zoom or Webex each week, we have realized an average attendance increase of 59%. More people can watch from out of town and even some members who have moved can join in the discussions with their friends. It is easy to learn and implement. If you need help, please contact Suzanne Scott-Trammell (sstrammell@vhumc.org / 205-769-0136). She can talk you through setting these up for your group. The opportunities are limitless when we open up to people regardless of their physical location. Thanks for letting your light shine on the web!

Join a Virtual Group
If you're looking for a virtual way to connect with small groups, please contact Kelly Bottcher (kbottcher@vhumc.org). We're building these out and expanding the selection now. Please give your name, contact info, and the needs you have and she'll be in touch. 

Family Journal
During these unique times, we want to encourage you to join us in creating a Faith Journal. This is not an "Honors English" assignment, far from it - but simply another way for us to connect with and encourage each other. We hope you will take a few minutes to remember your own reflections with God in this sequestered time and then journal your reflections. Please email them to Kelly Bottcher (kbottcher@vhumc.org) who will compile a living document we can look back on and see how God led us through these waters. Below is Kelly's first entry into the journal.

April 1, 2020
My family in faith,
My name is Kelly Bottcher and I have recently joined the staff at VHUMC. It has been one of the greatest invitations of my life. Like you, I am at home. Maybe like you, I am weary of watching the news. I find myself "bracing for impact "against something I cannot see but newscasters liken to a tsunami, an ominous curve or a lurking "Boogie Man." Wow! I'm 59, I've raised three sons and a daughter, I started a master's degree last year, and I am a widow; I don't scare easily. But that was yesterday. Today, I'm determined to look at this time in the rearview mirror and say, "Oh, the COVID -19 weeks were the time I Iearned/discovered/grew in_____." How will I fill in the blank? How will I use this time, not just to cope in quarantined confinement, but become a better human being? What will be my resolve?

Finding Ways to Help
Even though it is difficult, many on our congregation are finding ways to help address others needs in the COVID-19 pandemic. Christopher McClurg, who is a software engineer and has his own 3D printer, has teamed up with his brothers, Macy, a Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Alabama, and Houston, who is an eighth grader at Pizitz Middle School. Through the Alabama Productivity Center at the Culverhouse School of Business at the University of Alabama, they are networking with a group of engineering volunteers to produce parts for hospital face masks.

Their clasps for mask straps move the pressure from the ears to the back of the head, making it easier to wear masks for extended periods. So far they have produced about 200 clasps. Our VHUMC Missions Department is paying for the plastic spools needed as the "raw materials," and production is going on 24 hours a day.

If you have a 3D printer or know someone who does and would like to participate, contact Kipp McClurg (kmcclurg@vhumc.org) for more information.
Text Your Attendance
When watching our services online, please text "worship" (no quotes) to 205-683-2631 to record your attendance. In our first week, this past Sunday, we had 444 people respond in this way which helps us know how many are worshiping. Please list all of your family member's names in the name field. Thanks!
Vestavia Hills Farmers Market
Great news! Our farmers market will officially open as an essential service on Wednesday, May 13 to provide critical food access for our community. We encourage you to stay heathy and shop safely, while supporting your community of local farmers and food makers. The market will be open from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm every Wednesday through August 26 and will be located right off of Highway 31 in Scouts Square. Mark your calendars and come see the seasonal goodies from local producers. The farmers market is an outreach ministry of the church, and monies obtained from the fees (paid by the farmers) are used to buy fruit and vegetables that are given to the VHUMC Food Pantry for distribution.

Boomers and Beyond  Online Bible Study
Our Boomer and Beyond ministry will continue meeting online on Thursday nights at 6:00 pm. This week, we will be studying "The Way Back To Mayberry," watching an episode of The Andy Griffith Show and discussing it online. To join the Webex online meeting, please click the link below. For more information, contact Jim Frazier (jfrazier@vhumc.org / 769-0126).

Not on Social Media
We are posting church videos and content about the church on social media (currently Facebook and Instagram) every day. For those of you who do not follow social media, we want to offer you the same information and videos. If you're not on social media and would like to have major announcements and videos emailed to you, please send your name and email address to Suzanne Scott-Trammell (sstrammell@vhumc.org). When items are posted online, we will send it to you by email.
Helping Your Children Through This
We miss seeing children at church! During this time that our lives have been put on hold, we want to show our children that God is still with us. Even though many activities have been canceled, learning about Him and growing closer to Him can still go on.

Preschool and elementary parents, check your email for weekly newsletters updating you on what will be provided. You will also receive Sunday School lessons on Sunday mornings. These will be simple lessons you can do as a family. Let Anne Strozier (astrozier@vhumc.org) or Jamie Meeks (jmeeks@vhumc.org) know if you need anything!
Prayer 2020: This Week in Prayer
As a church, VHUMC is uniting, each of us in our homes, at 8:00 am for daily prayer. Our weekly fast is from Tuesday pm until Wednesday pm as we journey in prayer together.

"He (Jesus) told them (the disciples), "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sin will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." - Luke 24:46-49

Thank you, Lord for being the Light in the darkness. We praise you for sending your Son to die for our sins and for pouring out your Holy Spirit upon us. Let us bear witness to the mighty things You have done. Let us never forget how the transformational power of the resurrection of Jesus brought Light into the world. Let us remember your grace and all your daily mercies so that we may glorify you by sharing this great news. Thank you for being our anchor in the storm, the God of miracles, the God of salvation, the God of transformation. We know that if you are our focus that you alone will anchor us through any storm. And when we get through the storm, let us shout your praises to the world that it was indeed you who got us through it.
Members Help Sew Face Masks
We are grateful for so many in our congregation who have aided the face mask efforts benefiting first responders by donating needed resources. Over the past two years, our VHUMC Fidget Mat Ministry has collected over 1,200 yards of elastic and bias tape. Now that these items are needed for masks, they have become difficult to find in the Birmingham area. Thankfully we had these on hand for our many new mask-makers and have even been able to share these supplies with other mask-makers! Thank you all for helping in so many creative ways. To learn more about this effort, please see bhamfacemasks.com.
Weekly Memory Verses
While we aren't able to attend church, our 1st - 5th graders will have the opportunity to memorize a different memory verse each week! Once they have memorized the verse they can email Jamie Meeks (jmeeks@vhumc.org) a video of themselves saying the verse for a chance to win a swinging tent at the end of the year assembly!

This week's verse is: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
Little Lambs and Bible Pathfinders
Wednesday night Bible Studies are a time when we learn so much and have even more fun! We plan to bring that fun home each Wednesday during our social distancing. Our Little Lambs will be receiving Lamb Lovey bags that will contain a devotion and some activities so they can have their own fun at home!

Parents of elementary children, you will receive an email each Wednesday that contains a lesson about Incredible Faith. Each week we will look at a different hero from the Bible who showed incredible faith. You will be able to download a skit for the kids to perform, a lesson, discussion questions, and an activity. You won't want to miss our lesson this week about "Professor Positive!"

Please email Anne Strozier (astrozier@vhumc.org) and Jamie Meeks (jmeeks@vhumc.org) with pictures of your children doing these activities. We would love to see them in action!
Ongoing Outreach
Food Pantry
We had a wonderful day yesterday distributing food to our families under the Lighthouse portico. Our next distribution will be in two weeks on Wednesday, April 29. Please pray for our families during this difficult time.

Our Mission Partners Need Us
As we continue to stay at home to flatten the curve, we will continue to post ways you can serve to help support our mission partners. Each week, we will highlight a few of our partners and their needs for the week.

Urban Ministry
Urban Ministry needs canned fruits, canned meat, rice, and soup. Please call Urban Ministry to discuss drop off.

First Light
Shelters are not allowing anyone to come in or out, during this crisis. Our VHUMC ministry team is still delivering dinner meals to the door. Because no one can leave, the shelter now needs help with lunches, too. If you would like to volunteer to prepare lunches, deliver them, or find other ways you can help First Light, please email volunteer@firstlightshelter.org.

Rise Against Hunger
Unfortunately, our Rise Against Hunger event has been postponed. We are working a re-schedule date and are working with Rise Against Hunger on other ways we can help support them besides a meal-packing event. Please be on the lookout for more opportunities to support their efforts to end hunger in the weeks to come.

Thank you for always being the church to so many. Even if our church looks different at this time, we can continue to be the hands and feet of Christ wherever God is calling us.

Bunny Aid Delivery
On March 8, before all the Corona-19 virus began in Birmingham, our youth on their serve night made 25 Easter baskets to help support our Bunny Aid project through Hands on Birmingham. Well, Bunny Aid was canceled at Hands on Birmingham, but our bunny helpers did not give up. They reached out to our mission partner, Urban Ministry to deliver the baskets made by VHUMC youth to deliver with the Easter bunny to families in the Birmingham community. Thank you to all who made this possible! A special thank you to our Bunny Aid team who makes Easter a little brighter for so many each and every year.
General Fund Fiscal Year 2020
 
Donations this past week
 
July - February 2020
Donations
Other Income
Total Income 
Actual
$59,290
 
 
$2,640,151
$99,534
$2,739,685
Targeted  
-$10,107
 
 
-$164,869
+$6,122
-$158,747
 
(+) Better or (-) worse for the church than our target
Care and Support
Congratulations, hospitalizations, and sympathies

Prayer Requests
Please be in prayer for the following persons: