So here is Pastor Doug's Annual Pastor's letter to our District Superintendent, Dr. Aleze Fulbright. Hopefully you will find it as informative and interesting as I have in telling the story of how Southport United Methodist Church is doing as we end 2020 and begin a new year. (Pastor Duane)
Associate Pastor - 2020 Charge Conference Letter
It has been my pleasure to continue to serve Southport United Methodist Church (SUMC) as Associate Pastor during this year, 2020. But this year has been a year of uncertainty, unsettledness, and change. Because of that, it has been a year of growth for me and the church as a whole.
COVID had an impact on how we (and me personally) have approached the preaching and teaching aspects of pastoral ministry. With no in-the-building worship for three months and continued lower than normal attendance in the months after reopening the building for worship, new ways of spreading the gospel have been needed. This included:
? Online worship with video of a shortened worship service. This required new methods from the pastors as well as increased technology needs, mostly handled by our A/V specialist (Mike Petrow) and Brandon Collins, Treasurer. The bands were also impacted, needing to record music to be added to our online worship services. (Children's Church became an online opportunity and Youth met a couple of weeks via Zoom. Even VBS was online.)
? Trying to increase our presence in the community of faith, at least virtually, I have personally started online devotional messages, most in video forrnat, posted through Facebook as well as through a blog associated with SUMC. These messages need to bring a word of affirmation and hope to our community as well as provide teaching / learning opportunities for those that "follow" me and the church.
With no in-person worship opportunities during Lent and Easter in 2020, as well as no in-person study groups through most of 2020, we needed the opportunity for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services as well as the Lenten study to be completed online. All-church studies have been conducted online through Zoom.
Even as we move to some in-person opportunities for group studies later this year, there will still be those folks that won't for whatever reason, come to the building. The way of providing online opportunities for those folks will remain for some time, maybe months or years to come.
COVID has also impacted our ability to partner with Homecroft Elementary as we have in the past, with fall festivals, mentors in the classrooms, etc. This has affected the direction of my personal ministry, moving more toward leading adults than children, at least for a time. (Only time will tell if the direction for my ministry focus changes.)
And with COVID, new ways of staying connected with the congregation are needed. We continue to work on ways to make periodic contacts with folks as well as through times of Advent and Christmas this year, and most likely Lent and Easter in 2021, we need to continue to find ways of being connected while not physically together.
And mostly, as we move from 2020 into 2021, we need to continue to find ways of spreading the hope of the gospel to not only those in our congregation, but to those in the community and all the world. Surprisingly, steps we have been compelled to take with COVID allow us to move beyond our walls, even beyond our community, into the world with the message of grace and hope.
A hidden blessing in the midst of the uncertainties of this year is that with the online presence we have worked to achieve, more people have the possibility of hearing this message than ever before.
I look forward to continuing to serve SUMC and our community in not only 2021, but in years to come.
By sharing the love of Christ, we aim to bring God the glory!
Respectfully submitted and in the name of Christ,