COVID-19 Ministry Plan

07.22.20 | by Beth Valentine by Troy Howell

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

       "What then are we to say about these things?"  Paul's question in Romans 8:31 to the Church at Rome facing more than its fair share of difficulty surely seems applicable to us as we face COVID-19’s far-reaching invasion upon our lives.  As you know, Paul goes on to assert that because God is for us, we can be certain that God will see us through -- and that nothing shall gain victory in separating us from God's saving action in Jesus Christ.  

       So while we certainly can and do know disappointment, impatience, uncertainty and even confusion as the Church distanced in this time of pandemic, we also can draw peace and strength in the certainty of God’s provision for us.  

       With this assurance, I want to share the next phase of COVID-19 guidelines for our ministry at First United Methodist Church.  As much as we desire to gather together in ways that mirror what was prior to mid-March, we just cannot do that.  As citizens of Christ's Kingdom, we must faithfully live in community, setting aside our personal desires for God’s greater good.  With so many in our gathering among the most vulnerable because of age or health, it would not be faithful to assemble in ways that violate recommendations from the scientific and medical communities.  To that end, I want to thank FUMC parishioner Dr. Wallace Green, Director of Diagnostic Virology, PSU/Hershey, and Director of Congregational Care, Dr. Beth Valentine (MD), for their invaluable contributions and counsel.  I also want to thank the elected Administrative Council leadership for their affirmation. 

       Effective Sunday, July 26, we are moving to a Green Phase, Level 1 status as outlined in the attached document.  We had hoped to more fully “reopen,” but given recent spikes in cases and revised government guidelines, we must be cautious.  Should things further deteriorate or there be issues with compliance, we might need to revert to prior levels, but our hope would be that continued levels of reopening can occur.  Additionally, I want to note at this time that Children's Ministry activities will remain virtual/online because of social distancing challenges inherent with children and the potential for virus spread to households.  I know this is painful, but we must be prudent in love.  

       We are exploring ways to facilitate larger outdoor gatherings with face covering and social distancing, and are providing for a return of some indoor gatherings under specific criteria as noted.  

       Please know that the ministry staff at First UMC yearns with you to be together again.  We are committed to finding and facilitating ways to be in a relationship and connection one with another, and welcome your input as well.  None of us could have imagined this situation, but we know that God is faithful to deliver.  Let us, then, commit again as the Church to Do No Harm, to Do Good, and to find ways to Stay in Love with God.  By these steps, we can be assured that God will bless our witness in these challenging days.  

Blessings in The Way of Jesus ...

Pastor Troy Howell

First UMC, Hershey, PA


Below is our updated COVID-19 Ministry Plan with detailed safety guidelines. It is available to download (and view in larger font) by clicking the document icon at the top of this page beneath the headline. 

Guidelines for gathering:
● At-risk individuals (elderly, immunocompromised, underlying health problems) should stay home
● Anyone feeling ill, especially with fever or cough, must stay home
● Anyone with significant exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or travel outside
of the area to a “hotspot” in the past 14 days must stay home
● Outdoor meetings are preferred over indoor meetings if possible due to safety concerns
● Please notify the church office at 717-533-9668 prior to a planned meeting
● Please contact Facilities Manager, Mark Crowther, at 717-533-9668 x115 to make a reservation
(outdoors or Social Hall – other rooms are not open currently)
● Group leader must record and retain names and contact information of all attendees to ensure staff
has ability to perform contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Send attendance records
● Attendees must maintain social distancing (family groups stay 6 feet apart, no handshakes, hugs, or
other close contact)
● Attendees must wear masks/face coverings
● Attendees should not share food or have any “common-touch” items
● No singing at gatherings since it may increase the spread of COVID-19
● Handwashing or use of hand sanitizer should be done before and after gathering