COVID-19 AND RE-OPENING news

SPECIAL NOTE: As an act of love and care for our community, the church office will be closed until further notice in observance of the State of North Carolina Stay-At-Home order. Staff members will be monitoring incoming mail, emails, and voicemail regularly. You can mail your giving to Benson Memorial UMC, 4706 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh, NC 27612, or visit bensonmemorial.org/give/ to give online. You can reach the pastor on call at (919) 342-8849. 


To all God’s beloved and the family of faith at Benson Memorial UMC:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7b)
Just as the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Romans, I say to you friends: I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you. I remember you always in my prayers even as “I long to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Romans 1:8-12)
It’s been seven months since we were all in our sanctuary worshiping together on Sunday mornings because of the pandemic. For 33 Sundays, we have been worshiping online in order to do no harm and tend to the health and wellbeing of the whole of our community, especially those most vulnerable to the virus.  
Our Do No Harm Team has been meeting monthly to plan and implement our phased approach for regathering. Throughout this crisis, we’ve been following closely key safety indicators looking for “an extended steady decline in the number of lab confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations in Wake County, while seeking advice from medical professionals and experts to help identify when it might be safe to gather indoors again in limited capacity.” (You can read all the details of our plan by clicking here.)
As you know, we have yet to see a steady decline in any of these metrics. Through prayer, discernment, and consensus, we now believe it is in the best interest of the community we serve to continue gathering on Sunday mornings online through the end of 2020. In the new year, we will continue to be looking for an extended steady decline in each of the metrics above in Wake County. When we’ve reached a 14-day decline in 2021, we will begin to make plans for reopening our sanctuary for worship in limited capacity.
With that decision, let me share with you some specifics about the seasons of Advent and Christmas and remind you of the opportunities already in place to gather safely for fellowship, prayer, bible study, and small groups online and outdoors.  
First, the Advent and Christmas seasons are coming soon and include some of the most beloved worship experiences for many of us. It’s also a time when we invite family members and friends to join us for special services. We are planning now for a unique worship series during Advent and Christmas called “I Believe Even When...”. We hope you will continue to invite and include your extended family and friends and invite newcomers to experience worship with us as these services will have special music and liturgy that will help us claim the gift of God’s presence with us “even when” life is hard and doesn’t feel so good. We are planning for a very special prerecorded Christmas Eve service that will be interactive for families of all ages, and will include all the hallmarks of what we love about Christmas Eve services. We are also already working on the Sunday after Christmas prerecorded Service of Lessons and Carols. 
Second, we will continue to offer more small-group outdoor communion services in the coming weeks and encourage you to sign up to share with others the sacrament of holy communion in this safe way in the beauty of our courtyard. 
Third, following specific safety protocols, you are welcome to schedule small-group outdoor gatherings of Sunday School classes and study groups on our campus. (Read about scheduling and safety requirements at the link above.) We have also equipped Sunday School classes and small-group participants, teachers and study leaders with the wealth of resources provided through Amplify Media and the use of our church's Zoom account that allows small groups and classes to meet together safely online.  Several small groups like UMYF, Social Justice Study Group, leadership meetings, children’s ministry events, bible studies, and some Sunday School classes are regularly using these resources and experiencing the joy of being together through new technology.
Fourth, we continue to offer weekly fellowship and morning prayer through Coffee with Pastor Kelly Lyn on Wednesdays at 7:15 a.m. via Zoom. These 30-minute gatherings include men and women of a variety of ages (even some from out of state!), starting the day together. All are welcome, and you don’t have to attend every week but can join in whenever your schedule allows. Just email me at klogue@bensonmemorial.org and I’ll send you a reminder and a follow-up email that includes the scripture and prayer we shared for you to carry with you for the week.  
Fifth, Pastor Jeff continues to lead Thursday morning bible study each week at 10:00 am. via Zoom. Again, all are welcome. Some folks even join in by just listening to the discussion while they are at work! Email Pastor Jeff at jbabajtis@bensonmemorial.org for the link and information.
We all miss being together more in person. But I’m so grateful for the variety of ways we can safely meet and encourage one another in our faith. Please do your part to stay connected! I know we are all growing weary of this long, difficult season. But let us not grow weary in mutually caring for one another, tending to the love of God and love of neighbor, and extending and expanding our loving reach to others.   
May it be so!
Grace and peace,
Pastor Kelly Lyn and our Do No Harm Team
Megan Alvord, Cortney Babajtis, Jeff Babajtis, Susan Brooks, April Cervi, Ann Collins, Jerry Crenshaw, Mary Elizabeth Hearn, PD Hill, Charlie Hobgood, Martha Johnston, Mike Jones, George Lee, Kelly Lyn Logue, Shannon Luxford, Carol Moore, Warren Reynolds, Kim Sylvester, Allen Till, Ginny Wise, Carol Wright
9-26-2020