Paris First United Methodist Church is discovering 'terrific epiphanies' during this COVID-19 pandemic

4/8/2020

Paris First United Methodist Church is located in Paris, Tennessee, in the Tennessee River District of the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church. (website photo)

By Dan Weathersbee
Dan, a retired elder, is married to Rev. Joy Shelby Weathersbee, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Paris, Tennessee

In our unsolicited Sabbath of social isolation, the importance of forging novel ways to maintain and foster growing community is vital. During such a terrorizing, terrible time, though, there are epiphanies that are rather terrific! 

Not only are assumptions about "normal" and "priorities" and "comfort zones" under reconsideration, but the Church is in the process of redefining what it means to be IN Christ's Body!

In Paris, Tennessee, during this pandemic attack, the family wagons are circling tight and Paris First United Methodist Church (FUMC) is pioneering, The church is located in Paris, Tennessee, in the Tennessee River District of the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church.

On Palm Sunday, worship was broadcast via Facebook ("LIVE from The Parsonage") after Sunday School classes met via Zoom video conferencing. For those who had zero experience beforehand, just "seeing everybody together" felt like virtual hugging: Passing the Peace. As a result, one class even made plans to meet for a Wednesday evening online party. To know that others share grave concerns, to know that "their hearts are as mine" is to tighten tissue threatened to be torn by terror.

Notifications, prayer concerns, worship order and hymn lyrics were already in the hands of this generation's diaspora, thanks to the church's weekly newsletter sent via email!
   
Most committee meetings have continued uninterrupted, though carefully rescheduled using Zoom. (Security cautions have been, and are continuing to be, addressed,)

Conversations by landline phones, mobile phones and Facetime video calling are proving convenient, more spontaneous and surprisingly beneficial  IN conversation, IN digital community, IN Christ, people are called to wonder: 
  • What will be -- after this?!
  • What will The Church... and The World be like, POST-pandemic? 
  • What, considering Sunday's coming, will come... out from this darkness?
Everything is changing fast, and it seems the tremendous transitions are just beginning. Segments for Easter worship are being recorded on phones and computers to be sent to Paris FUMC's identified best computer geek for compilation and broadcast. Sunday will almost seem like a time warp! On local television and Facebook, people will share Resurrection Light.

Daily noon Lenten devotionals, led by downtown Paris pastors and coordinated by Paris FUMC, have been posted on the Paris Downtown Association Facebook page. Every day at 7 p.m. church bells ring to remind ALL to stay in prayerful solidarity with those who struggle and suffer with those on the front line of COVID-19. 

In the parsonage neighborhood come Sunday, there will be a motley strand of singers,  s.a.f.e.l.y  s.p.a.c.e.d, "making The Loop" of an embracing, walking track, circle--caroling as an ecumenical Easter choir!

The Church is not a building; the Church is not a steeple! How Do we sing The Lord's Song--in a strange land? We RE-member: God IS with us!  Amen!

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How is your Memphis Conference church/congregation adjusting & adapting to social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic? What new ways have you found to worship, share devotions & hold Bible study? How are you continuing to serve & reach out to your community? What new technologies are you learning & embracing to communicate & maintain your connection? Share your stories & pictures! Any word count is acceptable, but 100 to 200 words is ideal. Please include who, what, when, where, why & how. Email communications@memphis-umc.org

Memphis Conference COVID-19 Resource Page: CLICK HERE