Volume 50
Issue 13
March 26, 2020
              
From Our Senior Pastor
Dear Church Family, 

Lent is always a special time in the life of the church, and we will never forget Lent 2020. Every year, Lent is a time of wandering in the wilderness to see how we might find God's grace, how we can experience God in new and different ways, and how we can find hope and help in times of stress and uncertainty. None of us would have ever thought we would also spend Lent wandering through the wilderness of COVID-19. 

When Moses was leading the Hebrew people out of captivity, they had to leave their homes, the things they knew, and everything was different. At one point, in Exodus 17, the Amalekites were fighting the Israelites in the wilderness. Moses decides that he will build an altar to God. He decides that he would have a place dedicated to worshipping God and centering their lives on the one who created them. He hoped that people would remember that God loved them, and that it was even possible to experience God in unconventional places.

In several ways we can relate to the wilderness wandering Hebrew children - we are outside of our comfort zones, we are existing outside of our familiar routines, and we are looking at anyone and everyone with questions and wonder. In accordance to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and out of our love for you our church and family, we have had to cancel and postpone things we hold dear. We have had to learn to use conference call technology to stay connected and to keep the ministry to the church moving forward. 

But none of this means that the church is closed. The building is closed - but the Church is the people. Our clergy, our staff, and our lay leadership are working together to find as many ways as possible to experience God in unconventional places. 

I hope that you will continue worshipping with us online every Sunday on Facebook, vhumc.org, or our church app. Join us each day on Facebook as we Journey to Jerusalem in a daily devotional based on the Gospel of Luke. Beginning March 29, we can all join Rev. Sherry Harris as she leads us through the Stations of the Cross. 

Things are different right now as we journey through this wilderness, but we are still the church and we are working to respond to every need we can. Beginning today, we will be providing food for the homeless in Birmingham every Thursday. Last week, our amazing Food Pantry team operated a drive thru for nearly 100 families. And as calls come to answer, "How can we help?" we do all we can to respond. 

We wander through the wilderness and we can't be physically together, but we are still the church. So, practice social distancing and hold one another, our church, our community, and our world in your prayers. You remain always in my prayers, and it is an honor to wander on this wilderness journey with you. 

Bill Brunson, Senior Pastor
A Different Notes
You will see some differences in our Notes this week. Our focus is on helping you through this season of change. Because we don't know how long Covid-19 will bring changes, we are not featuring our usual up-coming events. We look forward to the day that they resume and you find those activities listed here.
You May Be Missing Us
We are posting about the church daily on both Facebook and Instagram. Several members have recently reported that they are no longer seeing our Facebook posts. If you have not seen us recently and would like to get our posts, please open your Facebook account and type "Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church" in the search bar at the top to find our page. Click on our page (our church is the only option) then be sure that the "Like box" is set on "Liked." This is one of the best ways to stay connected with us during this Covid-19 crisis. Click on the link to create a Facebook account.


New Yard Signs
We hope you have seen our "How Can We Help?" 
banners across Vestavia Hills. We  now have the same message on yard signs. Will you help promote this by picking up a yard sign and putting it in your yard? We have put the yard signs in the ground in Dick Kelly Park - the area behind the Lighthouse near Vestavia Lake Drive. Please come by and take one of the signs for your yard. The help line is monitored continuously and we are already helping people in our community. We also anticipate the needs rising significantly in the days ahead. Thank you for your assistance in helping our neighbors during this time of need.


Online Resources
With all of us not able to join together as a community, we wanted to make sure you had all of the best resources to keep you connected:
Stay Connected for Free
Even though we are physically separated, it is more important than ever for us to stay connected. We have done our research and testing and are recommending Cisco Webex as a free app for connecting with your classes and groups.

The program has no time limit for up to 100 users. It features mute for voice and video, public and private chat options, a whiteboard, and recording. It also allows the host to see which participants have raised their hands to speak and allows users to make notes to save and/or send later. In the screen share feature, users can connect to the internet to show videos or online content.

Each participant needs to download the app to their computer or smart phone before their first meeting. The host has to schedule the meeting and send a link by email or text so members can connect.Please share your ideas and experiences of how you're staying connected with your classes and groups to Suzanne Scott-Trammell ( sstrammell@vhumc.org).


Continue to Give as You Can
Our finance committee is closely watching the income and expenses of the church, especially as we are now cancelling worship services. We are encouraged by the end-of-February reports which show that giving has increased and our staff are still tightly controlling expenses. However, we are still $158,747 behind our income budget since last June, so we have some catching up to do.

As we have cancelled worship services due to COVID-19, we are very concerned that giving will decrease. We are already taking all the steps we can to reduce utilities and other variable costs, but we are still doing ministry which means:
  • We still have numerous fixed overhead expenses to pay (like copier and van leases).
  • Our mission partners need the funds we have committed to them more than ever - some actually need more to care for their constituents during this crisis.
  • We still have to pay our staff working from home or in the building preparing for upcoming events.
  • We are still planning for and ordering supplies for Easter, Vacation Bible Camp, Summer Days, etc.
Your donations allow us to keep doing these things, so we hope you will take steps to continue your giving to the church. If you usually give on Sunday mornings, you can mail your check to the church or put it in the office door drop box. You can also easily give online though the link.

Please keep our church finances in your prayers in the days ahead.

Hank Patterson, Current Finance Committee Chairman
William Hocutt, Jim Harper, Gary Westbrook, Margaret Powell, Former Finance Committee Chairs


Dropping Off a Check 
Many of you have dropped off donation checks at the church. Thank you! Since our office is closed, please use the drop box in the main office door. That box is locked on the inside so your check is secure. You don't need to follow-up to see if it was received.
Mel Sparkman Scholarship
The Mel Sparkman Memorial Scholarship Fund was created in honor of a faithful youth volunteer to assist deserving students through the award of a general scholarship grant. Scholarship applications must be completed and e-mailed to the Student Ministries office by April 15. Scholarship applications can be downloaded using the link below.


March Memory Verse
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 we want to encourage them to email Jamie Meeks (jmeeks@vhumc.org) a video of themselves saying the verse for a chance to win a grand prize at the end of the year assembly. The March memory verse is: Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs." - Matthew 19:14
Nursery Worker Needed
We need more help when our worship services resume. Our Nursery ministry is looking for someone who loves young children to fill a job opening in the toddler room. The hours are Sundays from 8:00-12:15. This person needs to be loving, nurturing and have a passion for children! If you know someone who would be a good fit for this, please contact Anne Strozier (astrozier@vhumc.org).
Save Casserole/Soup Containers
Please be saving any containers in which casseroles and soups could possibly be stored. We are working to produce and store three simple meals and three simple soups for those in need, and we may need thoroughly cleaned 7" and 9" aluminum pans and plastic soup containers for storage. We have found a limited supply from vendors, so we may need to collect these from our congregation in a crunch (health department permitting). So, please don't throw those small take-out containers away. We will let you know if we need them
Biblical Resources
Please continue your online Bible studies and classes by accessing these free online resources:

RightNow Media: the "Netflix of Bible Studies"  - now free to you from VHUMC, with over 20,000 videos, movies, interviews, Bible studies, and more. You'll find great content for Sunday School classes, Bible studies, kids, students, young adults, parents, married couples, teens, and more searchable by topic. Go to: vhumc.org/rightnowmedia or text "rightnow vhumc" (no quotes) to 41411 for your free registration link.

The Bible Project:  videos and podcasts sharing information on books of the Bible, themes, word studies, Old & New Testament, and daily readings. Go to:  youtube.com/thebibleproject

The Chosen:  the first-ever multi-season series based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Watch the first eight episodes for free at:  thechosen.tv/app  and on Facebook at:  facebook.com/The Chosen .

Storytellers Live podcasts:  a gathering of women who share real and personal stories of encounters with God. This curriculum was used in our Storytellers women's small groups this spring. You can access these online at:  storytellerslive.org  or on Facebook at:  facebook.com/storytellerslivepodcast.

I Still Believe:  this new movie, an inspiring true story of faith, hope, and love, will be available beginning tomorrow, March 27. Since movie theatres are closed, they are offering a special, limited time viewing on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, Christian Cinema, and other platforms. Once you order the movie, you have to view it within 48 hours.
Lenten Offering
Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Many miles from Vestavia, our neighbors are counting on us to do just that. Our Lenten offering this year will support our efforts to pack 300,000 meals during our Rise Against Hunger meal packaging event. You can easily give online. Just choose "Missions" and "Lenten Offering" in the "Give to" box. Nourish your soul by providing nourishment for those who need it the most.


Ongoing Outreach
Food Pantry
In the interest of safely, the Food Pantry will not be assembling and distributing food until further notice. Please pray for our families during this difficult time.

Oak Mountain Mission
OMM is now temporarily closed. Please do not take items to them at this time.
General Fund Fiscal Year 2020
 
 
Donations this past week
 
July - February 2020
Donations
Other Income
Total Income 
Actual
$41,620
 
 
$2,640,151
$99,534
$2,739,685
Targeted  
-$18,082
 
 
-$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: