Sunday Morning In-Person Worship Cancelled Until Further Notice

Out of an abundance of caution, onsite worship is cancelled for this Sunday, July 5 until further notice. Read this letter that was emailed to our congregation for more information:

A Letter from Rev. Brady, Senior Pastor | July 4, 2020

Dear Ones in Christ,

As you are all aware, positive cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in Louisiana and in East Baton Rouge Parish in particular. Several members and friends of First United Methodist of Baton Rouge have also recently tested positive for the virus. Out of an abundance of caution, therefore, our church’s leadership has decided to cancel onsite worship for this Sunday, July 5 and until further notice. I know this is disappointing and feels like a step backwards, but as Methodists our first General Rule is “do no harm.” This decision is a good faith effort to live up to that aspiration. We will continue to offer worship online at 8:30 am, 9:45 am, and 11 am at: 

FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/fumcbr
CHURCH ONLINE https://firstmethodist.online.church
YOUTUBE https://www.youtube.com/fumcbr

As we celebrate the 4th of July today, I am reminded of a quote by Rev. Peter Marshall, who was the Chaplain to the U.S. Senate from 1947-1949 (when he died of a heart attack at age 46), “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”

I hope you all have a good, and safe, 4th of July celebration!

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Brady

Mid-Week Prayer Services in the Sanctuary

Where: First United Methodist Church, Sanctuary
When: Wednesday at noon
Reserve Your Seat Here: https://bit.ly/FUMC-BR


A Letter from Rev. Brady, Senior Pastor | June 23, 2020

Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

Like many of you, I was hopeful that Louisiana would be entering into Phase 3 next week and that we would all then watch COVID-19 disappear in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening. Instead, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Louisiana and we will remain in Phase 2 until at least July 24. This means First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge will also continue in Phase 2 (see what that means below).

On June 21, for the first time in three months, we held on-site Sunday worship services and had over 300 people attend over three services. It was a joy to have people back on campus for worship but I sure missed those who weren’t able or ready to attend. If you are planning to attend onsite worship we ask you to please let us know by making a reservation at https://pastorstoolbox.com/save-a-seat/4e770f09-a033-42a5-bcac-339966dda39b/186 . We will also continue to offer online worship for those who are not able or ready to return. This will be our routine for the foreseeable future.

Our Children’s Ministry, under the direction of the fabulous Sirena Brock, offered online Vacation Bible School last week to over 200 participants from as far away as Chicago, IL! Families not only dove into what it means to trust God to overcome tough times but through mission challenges spread that message to essential workers, neighbors and family. Thanks to all of the volunteers who helped to make this year’s VBS a great success! (You can see more in the montage video included below).

On Sunday, I made a commitment that our church would participate in an anti-racism effort being led by our United Methodist Bishops called, “Dismantling Racism: Pressing on to Freedom.” This effort will take place over the next year and include local and national worship services, town hall meetings, online courses and other opportunities. You can find out more at UMC.org/EndRacism. We will also participate in some local efforts around this topic.

I am aware this is a controversial and difficult subject on which people have a variety of opinions. The fact that it is a difficult subject, however, does not mean we should avoid it. People are hurting in our nation and community. It’s important for us to listen to one another and then roll up our sleeves to join in the healing that needs to take place. Our congregation is full of smart and compassionate people who love Jesus, and I am confident we will be able to participate in this effort with both wisdom and compassion. I hope you’ll join in.

Be good to yourself and others. Stay safe and sane!

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Brady


May 27, 2020 | Update From Rev. Brady Whitton, Senior Pastor

Dear Ones in Christ,

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday! Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and is often called “the birthday of the Church.” But listen up, it’s not like God’s Spirit had been absent before that day in Jerusalem. Even a casual reading of the Hebrew Scriptures shows God’s Spirit was a major player in the lives of the Jewish people long before Jesus. So what’s different about the coming of the Spirit upon the early Christians? In the Hebrew Scriptures, God’s Spirit came upon “special” and “chosen” people – judges, kings, prophets. It is God’s Spirit that empowered them to do the great things they did for God. But skip ahead to Acts 2 and what you see is not God’s Spirit descending upon one or even a few special, chosen people. What you see is God’s Spirit coming upon them all! Peter even reminds them of what the prophet Joel said, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Acts 2:17-18).

So here’s what you need to know: as a follower of Jesus Christ, God’s Spirit resides within you. A Spirit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). With God’s Spirit in you, you are called and empowered to do great things for God. You are God’s special and chosen one! Yes, you!

One of the clearest places I’ve seen God’s Spirit at work through you is how you have continued to be The Church in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. You all have been faithful to worship, to leading and attending classes and groups, to Bible study, and to serving others in love. You have offered worship to your neighbors, called and sent cards to the lonely and vulnerable, and made thousands of cloth masks! See, I told you. You are God’s special and chosen ones.

Two things I ask you to be attentive to this week:

• We will begin our Mid-Week Prayer services in the Sanctuary on June 2. You’ll find more information below about times and making a reservation. I know venturing out makes some of us nervous and I don’t want you to feel any pressure. If you feel the need to come to the church for prayer, we have made a way and place for you.

• This Sunday, we are going to take up a special offering for the Spirited Stitchers. This is the group of church members (and others) who have been tirelessly sewing cloth masks for distribution to hospitals, retirement communities, and anyone else who needs them. The masks are given away free of charge and so far they have made and distributed over 14,000 of them! As we journey through Phase 1 and (hopefully) prepare to enter Phase 2, their work is far from finished and they are in need of financial support for fabric and others supplies. You’ll find more information about this offering below.

While I’m cautiously optimistic about what the next few weeks will bring for Louisiana and our church, I know that whatever what comes our way the people of First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge, full of God’s Spirit, will rise to the occasion.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Brady


May 19, 2020 | Update From Rev. Brady Whitton, Senior Pastor

If you’re like a lot of people you’re overwhelmed with digital communication right now, so I’m going to do everyone a favor and keep this short and sweet. I’m super excited about the mid-week prayer services we’re starting in the sanctuary the first week of June. We are hard at work ensuring as worshipful and safe an environment as possible and can’t wait to see your smiling faces (or at least your smiling eyes). You’ll find all the info you need below.

Be wise. Take care of yourself and others!

Yours in Christ,

Brady


May 13, 2020 | Update From Rev. Brady Whitton, Senior Pastor

Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

Many of you are aware that Governor Edwards recently announced that Louisiana will begin Phase 1 of reopening following the COVID-19 shutdown. This is the first in a three-step process intended to help us return to normal as soon as and as fully as possible.

I know many of you are anxious to return to in-person worship and other gatherings in the life of the church. I promise there is no one who wants that more than me! The physical gathering of God’s people is a means of grace. It feeds our souls and strengthens us for the journey of life in a unique way.

With that in mind, the leaders of our congregation have been hard at work prayerfully developing these guidelines to begin a slow and wise return to in-person worship and other gatherings. These guidelines will be updated when Louisiana enters Phase II (possibly June 5) or as the situation requires. Click here for a pdf version of the Phase I Strategy document below.

PHASE I STRATEGY FOR REOPENING

GENERAL
We will follow the guidelines for reopening outlined by the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church: https://www.la-umc.org/newsproof/13932320.

Rationale: Although there is an ongoing debate about the severity of COVID-19 and the best path forward, we support the guidance of our leaders as a good-faith effort to “do no harm” and safeguard the public health.


SUNDAY WORSHIP

Until it is clear that it is safe for most people to attend large public gatherings we will not gather in-person for Sunday worship. We will continue to offer Sunday worship online, on television, and radio.

Online Worship Links
Services begin at 8:30, 9:45 and 11:00 AM. Join us on:
• FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/FUMCBR
• FUMC CHURCH ONLINE: https://firstmethodist.online.church
• YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/c/first-united-methodist-church-of-baton-rouge

Sunday TV & Radio Broadcast
• 9:30 AM – WBXH (Cox 16, Digital/Dish 39)
• 10:30 AM – WAFB Ch 9
• 5:30 AM – WYNK 101.5 FM
• 8:00 AM – THE RIVER 96.1 FM

Rationale: While it may be safe for some people to return to large public gatherings sooner than others, people over the age of 65 and those with preexisting conditions are being encouraged to stay at home. The prospect of gathering for in-person Sunday worship while a large number of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ are unable to do so breaks our hearts. Therefore, we choose to wait.


WEEKDAY SERVICES
• Starting June 2, we will offer weekday prayer services in the Sanctuary.
• These gatherings will follow the guidelines of the Louisiana Annual Conference and State Fire Marshal including proper sanitation, the use of masks, and limited size groups.
• A simple reservation system will be used to manage the number of participants. (Any on-site weddings and funerals will follow the same guidelines.)

Rationale: Public worship and prayer are an essential means of grace. Although we will wait to gather for in-person Sunday morning worship, we are committed to providing other, more manageable, opportunities for people to gather in sacred space for worship and prayer.


CLASSES & SMALL GROUPS
• When schools resume normal activities, we will resume nursery and in-person children’s and youth programs. Until then we will offer opportunities for children and youth online.
• Adult classes and other meetings will remain online until further notice.

Rationale: It is very difficult to maintain safe social-distancing and sanitation guidelines with young people. When school officials give the all clear, we too will resume our in-person activities. While adults are capable of self-regulation, managing multiple groups at our facility presents a unique sanitation challenge. It is safer and more manageable for us to hold off on in-person classes and meetings at this time. We will continue to evaluate this decision as each step of reopening unfolds.


CHURCH BUILDING
• The church office and facility will be open by appointment only until further notice.
• Employees who are able will continue to work from home. Employees who need to be on site will adhere to proper social-distancing and sanitation guidelines.

Rationale: Including the Early Learning Center staff, our church employs nearly 100 people. Many of our employees are over the age of 65. Protecting our staff, their families, and those they come in contact with is a high priority.