Update: November 2, 2021
As a result of the downward trend in positive cases, vaccination percentages and the lifting of Orange County’s local state of emergency, effective Monday, November 1, fully-vaccinated staff and visitors to our campus are no longer required to wear a face covering, absent any special circumstances. Those who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear a face covering while on campus.
Update: May 26, 2021
Due to a steady decline in COVID positivity rates, increased rates of vaccinations, and recent guidance from the CDC and Bishop Carter, and the dropping of many community restrictions, we propose the following …
Continue to require masks for everyone involved in the Children’s Ministry area.
“Recommend” mask wearing and social distancing while on campus, but no longer required.
Continue to provide social distancing in the worship spaces (i.e. Roped pews and spaced seating).
Gradually return to congregational singing.
Continue to use pre-packaged communion, at least through the Summer.
Continue to utilize offering boxes, at least through the summer.
Allow food and drink on campus.
Update: March 2, 2021
We have moved to Phase 5 of our Phased Reopening. In addition to the programs/ministries/ministry functions allowed in Phases 1-4, in-person, Sunday morning worship services (funerals, weddings, special services) will resume, while honoring safety protocols and encouraging physical distancing.
Update: February 18, 2021
We have moved back to Phase 4 of our Phased Reopening. This includes outside Sunday Morning Worship, and ministry programming on campus for groups less than thirty persons in attendance. Group meetings must be scheduled in advance by completing the Facilities & Communication form on the website.
Update: January 6, 2021
Due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases in both Orange County and the State of Florida, First Church has decided to revert back to Phase 3 of our Phased Reopening. The church campus will only be open to groups of ten or fewer at this time. Group meetings must be scheduled in advance by completing the Facilities & Communication form on the website. Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please note that masks must be worn at all times while on campus.
As of this date, Sunday morning worship will continue on-line and by phone, only.
Update: October 2020
We will begin Phase 4 of our Phased Reopening beginning Thursday, October 1.
During Phase 4, we will enter a “new normal” of ministry programming, for groups less than thirty persons in attendance. This could include Sunday school classes. Though many groups may resume meeting in person, on-line meetings will still be encouraged.
Please see our First Church Plan for Phased Reopening for more information.
Update: September 2020
We have currently moved into Phase 3 of our Phased Reopening. This has allowed our Wesley Early Learning & Family Center to re-open with the highest standard of safety protocols for the campus, students, and teachers.
Our church campus has been open to groups of ten or fewer. The total number of groups meeting at the church at the same time will be limited, as determined by the office staff. All group meetings must be scheduled in advance by completing the Facilities & Communication form on the website.
Worship will continue on-line and by phone, only.
Update: April 28, 2020
Plan for Phased Reopening
Across the country, state governments are setting dates for reopening businesses and other parts of the economy in phases. What will church life look like during this “in-between” season? What is involved with reopening the church and gathering for worship?
Please see our First Church Plan for Phased Reopening. (updated 5.8.20)
Update: March 21, 2020
Join us tomorrow for Digital Worship! Pastors Vance and Emily will go live on our Facebook Page at 10:30 am. For those who don’t use Facebook, immediately after the service ends, the video will upload to our YouTube Channel and be available here on our website.
Digital Children’s Sunday School
Digital Youth Group
Join us for Digital Youth Group on Sunday at 5:00 pm. We’re using the Zoom Meetings App, which is available for computers, phones, and tablets. Download the app and then log on Sundays at 5:00 pm. The meeting link and password are available through our text message updates. Digital Youth Group lasts for 30 minutes. See you then!
Update: March 18, 2020
In all my years of ministry education, training, and experience, no one ever mentioned “social distancing” as a ministry strategy – before now! How ironic, in the midst of a forty-day emphasis on community, we have to avoid being together!
And, yet, here we are. The absolute wisest, kindest, and most appropriate ministry we have to offer each other and the world, at least for the moment, is distance. Hopefully, by NOT gathering for worship, meetings, classes, and activities, and limiting our personal exposure, we’ll hinder the spread of this deadly disease.
But, “social distancing” does NOT mean we have to be isolated! Thanks to modern technology – phones, emails, social media, and even good-old-fashioned mail – we can stay connected with one another! We CAN still be a community for each other when we need each other the most! Even in an age of coronavirus, we can be a strong community – even if we must find new ways to do it creatively.
What we can NOT do …
- Basically, we can’t do anything that involves more than ten people gathering, face-to-face. That means the church is currently closed for worship, meetings and gatherings through the end of March – possibly longer, depending on how/if the virus continues to spread.
- At this time, as we can’t risk becoming carriers of the virus, potentially spreading it from one patient to another, we’re NOT doing face-to-face visitation. Many of the nursing homes and hospitals are already restricting access to patients/residents.
What we CAN do …
- We CAN stay connected! Every day, at 12:15 pm, we’ll be sharing a brief devotional and church update on Facebook Live, at www.facebook.com/FirstChurchOrlando.org/. Please join us! We will also continue to send our weekly emails.
- We CAN call/text/email/mail each other! I’m especially asking every ministry group and class to be in regular contact with each other. We’re also calling our homebound members. If you’d like to help with this effort, please contact Debbie Mitchell, debbie@FirstChurchOrlando.org. If you’re aware of someone needing a call from the Pastors, please let us know.
- We CAN worship “online!” Join us on Facebook Live for worship, for the next two Sundays, at 10:30 am, at www.facebook.com/FirstChurchOrlando.org/. If you don’t use Facebook, the same video will be available on our website, following the “live” video. I’ll also be posting my sermon to my personal blog, at www.vancerains.org.
- We CAN give! Even while we’re not meeting for public worship, please continue to give, as generously as possible. Even while we’re closed, the bills will need to be paid. If you have not done so before, try giving online, at onrealm.org/firstchurchorlando/-/give/now. Of course, you can also mail your offering to the church (142 E Jackson Street, Orlando, FL 32801).
- We CAN donate! Agencies in the area need non-perishable food donations. We encourage you to drop off items at the agencies we support through Feed the Need. I suggest contacting the agency before you go, as they may also be affected by the current restrictions.
- Christian Service Center at 808 W. Central Blvd. Orlando, FL 32805
- Salvation Army at 440 W. Colonial Drive Orlando, FL 32804
- Coalition for the Homeless at 18 N. Terry Avenue Orlando, FL 32801
- Health Care Center for the Homeless at 232 N. Orange Blossom Trail Orlando, FL 32805
Also, for those who are able and willing, blood donors are desperately needed. Find out more at www.oneblood.org/covid19/index.stml.
- We CAN pray! Hopefully, our recent forty-day prayer emphasis taught you skills you can use during this challenging time! Let’s pray for one another! Also, you can submit prayer requests to the prayer team at FirstChurchOrlando.org/care/. If you would like to join the Prayer Team, contact Debbie Mitchell, debbie@FirstChurchOrlando.org.
- We CAN use the time wisely! If you’re off work during this time, why not do something constructive? Read a book – the Bible is a good choice! Spend quality time with family. Clean out a closet. Pray. Gather stuff to give away. Watch videos or listen to podcasts of sermons you’ve missed. Call a friend. Write long letters to the special people in your life. Take a nap. Do something creative. Exercise. Do yard work. Take a walk. Deep clean the house. Basically – something other than binging on Netflix and gorging on coronavirus snacks!
- We CAN check on our neighbors! Call the people in your neighborhood, or drop a note off at their door – especially if they’re older. You may find an opportunity to assist someone in need.
- WE CAN stay informed! It’s imperative for all of us to pay attention to the latest news, reports, and guidelines, so that we know what’s happening, where to go for assistance, how to stay healthy, and how to be part of the solution.
What we WILL do…
- We WILL get through this! We don’t know how long this crisis will last, or what the impact will be. But, it will end, and we will get through it!
- We WILL learn new ways to do ministry! This is already stretching us to think of new and different ways to be the Church.
- We WILL help with the recovery! When the time is right, we will come together to serve those most impacted by this crisis, to offer assistance, care and aid.
- We WILL keep the faith! God is with us! We know that! No matter what this crisis brings, God is faithful! Don’t forget – we are a “Cross-shaped” community. We know that every cross is followed by a new beginning! As the Psalmist says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
Honestly, I wish we could do more in these difficult days. I wish we could be together, face-to-face. I especially miss being with you in worship. But, it’s important that we ALL do our part – which means keeping our distance from each other. For the moment, “social distancing” is the best ministry we have to offer!
Know that I’m praying for all of you! And, please don’t hesitate to call (cell: 954-952-5975) or email (vance@FirstChurchOrlando.org) if you need to talk or pray.
Update: March 13, 2020
As of earlier today, the City of Orlando has asked all organizations to suspend gatherings and activities for the remainder of March 2020, in hopes of minimizing the spread of Coronavirus. In cooperation with the city’s request, First Church will be closed, starting today, until Wednesday, April 1. This includes all worship services, Sunday School, administrative meetings, youth and children’s activities, our Spring Picnic, etc. During this time, the staff will be working remotely, from their homes. They are all reachable via email.
We are currently working on worship alternatives for these Sundays. Our plan is to make a video available for Sunday mornings on our website and on our Facebook page.
If you have a pastoral emergency during this time, Pastor Emily and I are available via our emails or cell phones…
- Pastor Emily: email@example.com, 863-326-2004
- Pastor Vance: firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-952-5975
We know there are members of our congregation who do not use email or Social Media. Please help us share this information with those in your inner-circle of friends and acquaintances.
Finally, know this: God is with us! We obviously hope and pray this virus will soon pass, and that a minimal number of people will be affected. We certainly hope and pray no one at First Church is infected. But, whatever comes, God is with us. We can count on that.
Be wise. Be careful. Be prayerful. Stay healthy.
If the situation changes, we will modify our plans and let you know as soon as we can.