Updates on Worship and Coronavirus

Come here to find all of the updates on events and worship services during this time of uncertainty

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Update as of 4-28-20

A letter from the Bishop of the Holston Conference:


Dear Holston Friends,

 

We are all in this together. Holston Conference has churches in three states with three different governors which causes a lot of confusion. The confusion is created when some government officials state that everything can be reopened by May 1, 2020. Other health and government officials have disagreed with that timetable. There are so many things that we still do not know about the Covid-19 Virus. We do know that certain populations are more at risk. We do know that social distancing is making a difference. We do know that persons may not have any symptoms of the virus, but may be spreading it to others. We do know that there is no vaccine or treatment to date. It is important not to quit, after we have come this far. We do know that a Life Care Facility in Athens, Tennessee has fifty residents who have the virus. That came from somewhere.   

 

Today in a Zoom meeting with the district superintendents, I learned that our United Methodist Churches are just as confused by the mixed messages as everybody else is. Please hear me. This is not an easy decision, but the Cabinet and I do not want our United Methodist Churches to be open at this time. Lives in our communities need to be protected. This virus has taken the lives of little children, medical personnel, young adults, older adults, African Americans, Hispanic persons, those with compromised immune systems, and so many more. Our United Methodist Churches are not to be open. We will reopen our churches when it is safe to do so across the entire Conference. We all yearn to be able to gather together again. 

 

I have been to the funerals of two family members and they were very limited graveside services. I have spoken with Bishops in other denominations about the need to continue to practice sheltering in place. They indicated that they were not going to reopen their churches at this time as well. It is just difficult when there are competing reasons to reopen everything. 

 

As states begin to loosen “Stay at Home” orders and phase in the reopening of businesses and organizations, there will continue to be differing opinions on the best process to follow that will keep communities safe while, at the same time, provide economic stability. As an Annual Conference, we are aware that many people in our churches will have differing opinions too.

 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Conference has worked to keep health and safety as the top priority when making decisions pertaining to church, district, and conference activities.

 

Keeping those priorities in mind while, at the same time, realizing a continued rise in case numbers and deaths, and realizing that people can be carriers of the COVID-19 virus without knowing it or exhibiting any symptoms, the Cabinet and I continue to believe that church buildings shall remain closed to the public until further notice. This applies not only to times of worship and church activities, but also to outside organizations as well, such as, but not limited to day cares, preschools, support groups (AA, NA, Al-Anon, Grief Share, Etc.), food pantries, and Scouts. 

 

I know that pastors are being pressured to reopen daycares for parents who are needing to go back to work. Friends, our schools are closed across Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia for a reason. I know that our United Methodist Churches are committed to doing incredible outreach in their communities. 

We understand that people are eager to worship together again. We also know the Holston Conference encompasses three different states in which the Governors of those states are not working on the same timeline for the reopening of their states. We feel the best decision for the Conference is to “reopen” in a unified and measured manner. Even then, it will not automatically be back to being fully open from the start. We will work on and submit guidelines to implement a gradual reopening so we can continue making the health and safety of our church people as well as our communities the highest priority. As Conference leadership, we do not take this responsibility lightly. We have to look at the bigger picture.

 

We understand these are difficult times but we also know we have a witness in our communities even in these uncertain times. Thank you for the creative and innovative work you are doing to keep the church together during this time of separation. Your ministry is allowing the church to be a bright beacon of light to guide God’s people through this challenging time.

 

Please know that your Cabinet and I are praying for the pastors and congregations across our beloved Holston. We trust that you are praying for us as well.

 

God’s grace, mercy and peace are always more than sufficient,

 

Bishop Dindy Taylor

Holston Conference

The United Methodist Church

 

Update as of 3-24-20

Dear Friends,


We will make a few changes at church this week. All of the regular staff will be working from home beginning today to limit exposure to sicknesses. Though we are not physically in the building all of the time, we will be accessible to you. If you call the church, the phone will be answered by Bindy Lewis. If you would like to bring something by the church, please call first and we will arrange to meet you. If it is something that you can mail, we will be checking the mail daily. If you need to talk to a member of the staff, please call one of the numbers below:


Jessica Brackett, Director of Children's Ministry: 423-637-1461

Rev. Rachel Collins: 423-521-2388

Dr. Tony Collins: 423-536-8840

Casandra Karl, Director of Youth Ministry: 956-358-0369

Matt Kelly, Director of Music Ministry: 423-364-7262

Bindy Lewis, Office Manager: 423-842-4219

Rev. Beth Sullivan: 423-834-7120

Brena Toscani, Business Manager: 423-619-1302

Laura Wilson, Child Development Coordinator: 423-842-1177


The church staff is working very hard to be in contact with everyone during this time of uncertainty. Let us offer our love and prayers to each other.


Shalom,


Pastors Tony Collins, Beth Sullivan and Rachel Collins

Update of 3-20-20

Dear Friends,


We are coming up on our second Sunday without in-person worship at Burks UMC. Unfortunately, Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor has announced that our churches must continue this practice until further notice. If you listen to the news, this is one of many reasons for our anxiety to grow in the world today.


We will continue to worship together in whatever ways that we can. You will receive a link on Sunday morning that will send you to this week's worship service. It will also be available on Facebook. Please take time to watch this worship. I encourage you to share it with your family and friends. We could all use a word of hope during this time of increased isolation.


The staff at church is very busy. This week we planted seeds for our Ministry Garden. Three days later, some of them are already germinating and poking through the soil. These plants will be transferred to the garden out back when the soil is prepared there. It is amazing how such small things can turn into food that will nourish those who are in need. I have a feeling the need will be greater this year than ever before. Planting seeds is one of the most faithful things that we can do. Seeds of love, kindness, compassion, etc. are all signs of God’s continued love for us all. Help us plant seeds of hope in a world that is progressively getting more distant. Reach out to your neighbor, especially if you don’t know them. Stay six feet away for good measure, but offer them hope and help. Be a seed of faith in their hearts.


Shalom,

Pastor Tony

An open letter from the Pastoral Team 3-13-20:

Dear Friends,

           Things are changing very rapidly these days. Last night, Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor instructed the churches of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church to close for worship for the next two Sundays. Therefore, all worship services and Sunday school classes and youth meetings will be cancelled for March 15 and March 22. Burks staff are available! Contact staff and employees by phones or email which are available on burks.org/staff.

           The pastoral and ministry staff are coordinating to provide online services. A Sunday morning service will be available at 11 am. You will receive an iBridge link where you can watch directly or you can view on Facebook and YouTube. The good news is that if you are reading this then you have the capability to be involved in worship. For any questions about how to view or share this link and information feel free to contact Rev. Rachel Collins at rev.rachel.collins@burks.org or call her at (423) 521-2388.

           A vital part of worship is tithes and offering. While we will not be in the building to worship together, we hope that you will continue to give generously during this time. Online giving for a one time gift or a recurring payment can be set up quickly and securely at burks.org/give. If you have questions about online giving please email brena.toscani@burks.org.

The future of events is fluid at this time. A few definitive statements can be made at this time.

           - The Men @ Burks Breakfast on Saturday morning will continue. The Rise Against Hunger event that was scheduled for Saturday morning at Hixson UMC has been cancelled.

           - Wednesday Night Connexion meals and classes are CANCELED for two weeks. Reach out to your course director to see if your course will be meeting via email, text, or phone conversation. Continuation of virtual learning is at the discretion of the instructor.

           -Choir and Praise Band rehearsals are canceled.

           - Our preschool and PMO programs will be closed starting Monday for the next two weeks according the Hamilton County School Schedule. Staff will work during this time to disinfect the classrooms and do some other projects.

           - We will continue to host the Family Promise families this week. If you have volunteered to help with this, please continue to honor that commitment. If you have to change for any reason, please call me or the church office. The church office will remain open for essential services during this two week period. If you want to make sure to contact a staff member, call them to make sure they will be here when you need them. 

           Our website, burks.org and our Facebook page will be the best, most accurate source of information about church events. Please check in there for breaking news.

            We ask that Sunday school teachers act as point persons for the needs of your groups. If you are in a small group work stay in touch with one another so that everyone is cared for as this situation continues to develop. If someone in your class is in need, let us all work together to help meet the needs of the community. While social distancing may seem very isolating, remember we are community. Strive to communicate love from a distance and care for your neighbor in ways that are safe for you and your family.

           As we walk through this time together, Burks is committed to the spiritual welfare of the community. Mrs. Jessica will be providing helpful activities for children and Casandra will stay in touch with youth.

           Please be safe. Wash your hands. Stay in touch with each other and the staff. Through this unsettling times, let us continue to rely on the healing power and abundant life of Christ in our service to God and one another. Remember with me Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and took away all my fears.”

 

Shalom           

The Rev. Dr. Tony Collins    

The Rev. Beth Sullivan         

The Rev. Rachel Collins