Good afternoon 1st Church family!  
 
We want to thank you all for your understanding and support over this past weekend as we worked to make worship available to you through our online channels. We continue to work with our community leaders, following the recommendations of the CDC and SW Florida Conference as we move forward.
 
Please remember that all in-person classes, events, meetings, Bible studies, small groups and services on our campus are cancelled until further notice.  This includes the Men’s dinner scheduled for tomorrow evening and the Ladies Luncheon this Saturday. We will continue to send out updates as we have more information. The church office will remain open, and our staff will be available in case you are in need of any assistance.  If you are aware of any one who does not have access to Internet or email, please help us keep them informed as well, by sharing what you know. 
 
We have made our 9:15 am and 11 am services from Sunday, March 15 available on our Facebook page, https://facebook.com/whatis1st. We will also make them available on our website, https://whatis1st.com, tomorrow morning. When watching our Facebook Live services, we encourage you to click on the “share” arrow while we are live, to share our services on your personal news feed and invite your family and friends to join us for worship.  
 
Whether we worship in-person or online, our behind the scenes financial responsibilities remain the same. To continue your giving, please consider one of the following options:
 
  1. Personal Check – Mail a check to the Church office – 1st United Methodist Church, 507 W Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda, FL 33950.
  2. Online Giving through https://whatis1st.com  – Click on the “Online Giving” button home page of our website, whatis1st.com.  When you click on the button for online giving you will be directed to our online giving page, where you will be able to set up an account and set up an automatic pay schedule or one time payment.
  3. Automatic Withdrawal – Call the Church Office, 941.639.3842, and speak to our Business Office to arrange for automatic withdrawal from your bank account.
  4. Bill Pay – Access your bill pay option through your online banking app, and set up an automatic “payment” to 1st Church according to your normal giving calendar.
 
If you have any further questions or need anything, please do not hesitate to contact us at the church office, 941.639.3842.  
 


1st Church and COVID-19 Update

This week has been a week of firsts for many of us at 1st Church. As you know, the President has declared a national state of emergency in our country, and the CDC has asked the state of Florida to cancel gatherings of 250 or more as well as to implement screening procedures of smaller groups.

With this in mind, we are suspending all in-person worship services on our campus. We will broadcast our Contemporary service at 9:15 am and our 11 am traditional service on Facebook Live, http://facebook.com/whatis1st. Both services will be available on our website by Tuesday, March 17, https://whatis1st.com.

All in-person small groups, administrative meetings, Bible studies and activities on our campus are cancelled until further notice. Also, please note, the Ladies Spring Luncheon scheduled for March 21 and Fine Arts at First Choral Concert on March 23 have been postponed. Please maximize social media and other communication methods to stay in touch with each other. If you know of someone who does not have internet access, please pass on this very important information.

The church office will remain open this week during normal office hours should you need to reach your pastors or ministry leaders. We will make decisions about other gatherings on a week to week basis and keep you informed.

We want to encourage you to continue in our Lenten daily Bible reading Listen to Him. As we have said before, God is still on the throne. Use this time to spend time in the scriptures, listening to God’s voice and hearing what He has for you during this time in your life.



Church and the Coronavirus

Good morning, Children of God!

I want to let you know how we are handling the concerns about the Coronavirus here at 1st Church.

Let me begin with a story.

Stefanie, a friend, had just been diagnosed with cancer. In the middle of the shock and fear, Mary, her friend and a follower of Jesus, said, “Stefanie, remember, whatever happens, you win!”

While fears and anxieties swirl — stoked by hype and misinformation — Children of God, remember! Whatever happens, you win!

We will gather for worship, and we will honor and proclaim the God who raised Jesus from the dead, and who offers each and every person new life!

At the same time, we will also be smart about HOW we gather.

If you are sick, please stay home. We love you. We will miss you. But, be kind to yourself and one another by taking care of yourself and not sharing germs with others. Facebook Live will be available at 9:15. Join us for worship there. We will also have a video of worship on our website by the early part of the week.

Wash your hands. 20 seconds. Pray the Lord’s Prayer while you are washing them. This is the best protection against this and any other virus. It will also improve your prayer life.

Refrain from hugging and shaking hands. I know this is hard for many of us. Again, some things we just don’t want to share. So, elbow bumps or fist bumps, or just a friendly wave….

Wash. Your. Hands.

Our staff are being extra-conscientious and sanitizing surfaces with which you and others come in contact.

Did I mention that you should probably wash your hands?

Finally, we are working on improving our procedures for communion, especially in light of the health concerns of many. We will let you know soon what that will look like.

Our world has changed. We will all navigate it as best we can. We will do it together, the Lord being our helper.

May God help us as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Yours in the Cause of Christ,

Mike Loomis

 



P.R.A.Y

PAUSE 
 Ps 46; esp v 10 (Be still & know that I am God)

            Loomis translation – shut yo’ mouth, Mike!

            I like to talk. I am pretty good at it sometimes.

            Relax. Deep breaths.

            Prayer phrase – Lord’s prayer;

            Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner;

or, Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, your brother);

Julian of Norwich (All shall be well; and all shall be well; all manner of things shall be well.)

            News—all shall be well; politics—and all shall be well;

            Chicken Little—and all manner of things shall be well.                                            

            Repeat as needed….

 

REJOICE 1 Th 5:16—18 (Rejoice…; pray…; give thx in all circ)

            Ps 136 (his love endures forever); Ps 143:8 (Let the morning…) 

            Songs – hymnal; CD/download to phone (sing along)

            Count your blessings; give thanks (Name NAMEs)

 

ASK 
 Jn 14:14 (Ask anything in my name…)

            NOT some things; not proper things; all things.

            Don’t give up. “shameless audacity”

            Ask; seek; knock…again and again and again and…

            Prayer is like chucking rocks in a swamp (Frank Laubach); repeatedly

            And, eventually, one of the rocks starts to break the surface of the water.

            Winston Churchill gave a commencement address years after WWII:

            “Never, never, never, never, never quit….”

 

      PICKAXE… keep striking at the rock again and again and again and again…

YIELD 
 Rom 12:1 (Offer **every part of** your self…)

            Listen. Prayer is a conversation.

            What does God want to tell YOU?

                  Confess. (examine your heart; test your heart) Ps 24, 51, 139

                        What do you need to surrender? Relinquish?

                                    (What do you need to let go?

                                    Who do you need to forgive?

                                    What habit do you need to stop?)

                  Offer (How might you offer yourself? Your time?

                  How might your attitude need to change?

                  What might you need to do differently with your money?)

What is God telling you to do?

  •             Now?
  •             Today?
  •             Tomorrow? 

It is so very simple. But, it is not easy.

      It is a practice, a lifestyle, a habit.  



In the Mud

In the Mud  
 
What just happened with General Conference and the LGBTQIA vote?   
 
Hold that question for a moment, please.  
 
Years ago, when the kids were little and we were broke, we went on vacation to North Carolina. Generous church members offered us their cabin on a mountainside at a price we could afford — FREE!   
 
The cabin was brand new. Never been lived in, slept in, cooked in, pottied in (THAT story is for another time).   
 
Did I mention it was on a mountainside?   
 
There was a long, steep drive to the front yard, completely composed of Carolina clay.   
 
Then the rain began. And, it continued. Nothing of biblical proportion, but lots of rain. Mixed with lots of clay.   
 
To get up the hill, you had to get a running start from the street that ‘T’d’ into the driveway.   
 
To get down the hill, was another story.   
 
Did I mention the cabin was on a mountainside?   
 
The car slid down quite easily. Quite easily…into the ditch. Buried up to its axle in Carolina clay mixed with lots of rain water — slippery, orange mud.    We ended up trying to dig the car out — with a spoon. In the cold. And the rain. The spoon was all we had. The emotions that day ranged from angry and frustrated to punchy and hilarious. The results? We were covered in mud. It wasn’t pretty. But, eventually, we dug our way out.   
 
So, what just happened at General Conference?   
 
Today, the United Methodist Church covered itself in mud. (Insert other euphemisms here at your will.)   
 
When the vote of the delegates affirmed a 2,000 year old understanding of human sexuality, ministry, and marriage, and its place within the Church, many LGBTQIA individuals felt demeaned and disenfranchised. People hurt. And were and are angry.  
 
Others sought, sincerely, to be faithful to the foundational understandings of the Christian faith. Few on either side, I have to believe, intended to be mean or hurtful. But, the result was that most left the arena, covered in mud, and blood, and bruises.   
 
Some, in this process, got down in the mud. Others slung mud. In what looked far more like a bar fight than a church meeting, mud happened. Sometimes the nastiness was intentional. Sometimes it wasn’t. Either way, mud happened. 
 
And, while mud washes off fairly easily, it doesn’t go away when you keep wallowing in it.   
 
Which is almost certainly what will continue to happen.    Please, know this:   
  • No one won. No one came away feeling victorious. No one felt holier. No one felt more hopeful about healing our divisions. There will be much discussin’ to come. Perhaps even some cussin’ to come. Progress and reconciliation, while not certain, will hopefully come — even if it is a spoonful at a time. 
  • Nothing has changed. Jesus Christ is the same. The same way of doing and being church that existed before General Conference will be how we do and live as the Church of Jesus Christ now that General Conference is over. 
  • In the meantime, we, at 1st Church, will continue to do what we did before General Conference: 

We will Offer New Life in Jesus Christ to ALL. 

We will worship our Heavenly Father. And ALL are invited. 

We will study to seek the mind of Christ. And ALL are welcome. 

We will endeavor to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. ALL may join us. 

We will serve. And ALL are included. 

We will love because the love of Christ compels us — we will love EVERYBODY. 

We will bless and not curse. 

We will be prepared to answer with gentleness and respect. 

We will seek grace and truth. 

We will be meek (and that don’t mean weak). 

And, we will pray.   
We will pray that the God of grace and truth, love and holiness, will use us to be ambassadors of reconciliation in this fallen, broken, hurting world…just the same as we have always been called to be and to do.   
 
In the Name and Cause of Jesus Christ,
Mike