An Excerpt from our Church Historian Judy Newberry. A History of Mt. Carmel During COVID19
April 18th, 2020
On February 25th, 2020, we had a pancake supper for “Fat Tuesday”, the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. None suspected that it would be our next to last large gathering or just how our church would be impacted by something so small the human eye could not see.
On March 15, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order to close all sporting events, movie theaters, restaurants, bars, beauty shops in hopes of stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus. People were told to stay home, stay 6 feet or more from everyone, and wear masks. Public schools were closed. Parents are having to home school their kids. Many had lost jobs or had to work from home. The quarantine was to last for two weeks. However, it was extended through April and possibly May.
Bishop Paul Leeland ordered United Methodist Churches to close church gatherings. Pastor Mary Miller led a prayer service on March 15, 2020 at 11am. We knew this would be the last time we would gather for a while. About 30 persons attended that service. Pastor Mary did a sermon on 2 Chronicles 7:1-16. Puppets were disbursed around the sanctuary to help participants spread out in worship. Charlie and Kim Shore, C.O. Setzer, and Darrell Stallard wiped down all the pews before guests arrived. Jean Harris led a prayer and gave instructions on social distancing protocols. Beverly Miller played the organ and Edgar Miller did a puppet show for the children’s sermon.
Public schools continued to provide free meals to students. Pastor Mary got meals from Kimmel Farm Elementary School to take to our elderly and shut-ins. An initial buddy system to stay in touch with our shut-ins was devised by Jean Harris. She later assigned all of our church members a buddy to check on daily. A large number of persons losing their jobs. Lynn and Diane Harmon worked on plans to feed members of our church and community through a second harvest food bank. Edgar Miller helped them set up a church provisions table in the Family Life Center and are taking meals to homebound and homeless people in our community. Toilet paper seems to be the most requested item.
Charlie Shore our lay leader helped set up the worship services on Facebook Live starting on March 29th. The choir was unable to assemble, so Pastor Mary recorded our organist Beverly Miller and pianist Ann Farthing playing hymns each week and included them on-line. Our normal church attendance of 100 has been running from 300-500 due to our online presence.
Our Administrative Council led by Lynn Harmon began meeting on video conference calls through Zoom. Other groups such as our Wednesday Prayer Group, Vision Team, Worship Committee, and Children’s Ministry have been meeting weekly on Zoom. The Finance Committee led by Peggy Simmons sent out an Easter Letter updating our congregation on the closure of our church and how important it is to stay connected and faithful in our tithes and offerings. Scott Ray added the ability for us to donate securely to our church on our website. Darrell Stallard our Treasurer applied for a COVID19 grant to help us with church bills. While that grant is pending, our members have been faithfully giving to our church.
Joanne Spetz emailed our April newsletter and included the order of worship for Palm Sunday and Easter. Copies of the newsletter and Pastor Mary’s sermons were mailed to those who did not have email addresses. The challenge to teach the children was difficult because they couldn’t come to Sunday School. Pastor Mary worked with the Children’s Ministry Team to provide Sunday School To Go Kits each week. The week before Easter, I helped assemble pizza boxes filled with projects to help emphasize Easter scenes. Rick and Karen Sizemore delivered the boxes to children at their homes on a motorcycle.
We held a Maundy Thursday Drive Through Communion Service. Meeting the Covid-19 guidelines, a drive-through communion was served by Pastor Mary wearing a white gown, face mask, and gloves. Participants drove through our church portico to receive Holy Communion. The juice and bread were individual sealed containers. The service started at 5:00 PM and continued to past 7:00 PM to accommodate around 75 cars. Photographer Allison Lee Isley showed up from the Winston-Salem Journal.
Michael Spetz placed a banner on our outdoor cross. Lin Jones our Trustees Chair rang the church bell at noon on Good Friday and Easter Sunday as a call to prayer of protection over the city of Winston Salem. Mayor Allen Joines invited all churches to do this for Easter. Laurie Brown, Doris Darnell, Debbie Bergman began making masks for the medical community in Winston Salem and have made almost 1000 masks so far through Project Mask Winston Salem. Joanne Spetz started making masks for family and church members.
Pastor Mary conducted a short Easter Sunrise Prayer Service in which she read the names of our members who have passed in the last 12 months. Gregg Glass blew taps and hymns on his trumpet. A few of Mt. Carmel’s families came and sang a hymn to recognize our Savior rose from the dead and had conquered the grave. Edgar and Beverly Miller had placed the “Old Rugged Cross” in our graveyard. They built a beautiful garden around it. Edgar had found the weathered wood on his property. He constructed a cross from it. His son, Joe Miller drilled holes into the cross for a scout project. That was around 40 years ago. It was used all these years in our sanctuary. On Easter Sunday we filled the holes not with nails or palms, but with flowers. Members and persons from our community came to place flowers on the cross during the day. Scott Ray took pictures.
In the morning at the Easter Sunrise service, a candle was lit at the foot of the cross. Even in the midst of a storm with strong winds and rain, the candle remained lit and the flowers were in place at the end of the day. Pastors Doug and Mary Miller also prerecorded a joint service dressed up as Peter and Mary at the tomb in Trinity UMC’s prayer garden. Jean Harris and Shannon Harris did the children’s sermon on-line. Tim Clodfelter of the Winston Salem Journal came and interviewed some of our members. Both the Maundy Thursday and the Easter Sunrise services were photographed and published by the Winston-Salem Journal.
Since last Easter, Our Vision 2020 Team has invited our congregation to pray for how we can be a more visible light of Christ in our community. It has taken a worldwide outbreak of the Corona Virus to help us realize that “God is not calling us to go to church. He is calling us to be the church.” One thing is for sure – this pandemic has brought us a new sense of community. We are all in this together. Let’s hope that when this COVID19 crisis passes, we will cling on to this new way of being church.
Judy Newberry, Church Historian
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