2020 – What a Year!
What a strange year 2020 has turned out to be. Do you remember that 2020 is a leap year. It started out with the usual 29 days in February. Then there were 100 days in March, six months in April, 5 years in June, and a lifetime in July! At least that’s how it felt to me!

If 2020 was a drink, I think it would have to be a 
colonoscopy prep! After we were hit with the coronavirus in 
March, we had unemployment and shutdowns in April, 
giant Murder Hornets in May, riots in June, and anarchy
 in July. We can only shudder thinking about what the rest 
of the year will bring.

This year, more than most others, raises the question: 
if God is good, why does He allow bad things to happen?

Volumes have been written by philosophers and 
theologians who have wrestled with this question. But 
as I see it, there are really only two questions we need to 
answer as we discuss this issue.

  • Where does pain and suffering come from?
  • Why doesn’t God put an end to pain and suffering?

The biblical answer to the first question is answered by the 
story of Adam and Eve. Because the first man and woman made 
a terrible decision, mankind was thrown out of paradise and the 
whole earth was cursed. From that day forward, natural 
disasters occurred, there was war, death and destruction, 
and pandemics became possible.

The evolutionary scientist would say than mankind lives 
in an environment where only the fittest survive. Because 
of incredible competition among and within species, 
life on earth is nasty, brutal, and short.

The answer to the second question can be found in the 
Bible. The apostle Peter wrote this to other persecuted 
Christians on the eve of his own death:

“But do not let this one fact escape your notice. Beloved, with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but He is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)

God is not limited by our timetable. Most of us would like Him to eliminate all pain and suffering immediately, but if God chose to do so, many of our friends and loved ones would fact eternity without Jesus. God is not wishing for any to perish.

That is where we come in. Our job until Jesus comes again is to be ready to share the message of God’s love with your friends, co-workers, family, and neighbors who do not know Jesus yet.

We live in a culture that wants instant gratification. Even in our battle with COVID-19, we want a vaccine and we want it now! At the beginning of the quarantine, YouTube videos showed people gently sharing with us the joys of baking banana bread. Twelve weeks later, people are rioting in the streets, toppling monuments, and ready to abolish the police!

In this environment, it is well to remember Peter’s assignment to all Christians in his letter:

“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who ask you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Ed Diaz
71:17 Ministries
The Church in the Time of Covid
The Spring and Summer of 2020 has been an unusual time to be a disciple! The Corona Virus and the Covid-19 illness are in full bloom across the country and around the globe.

If Florida and across the nation, government agencies are asking for people to self-quarantine and to refrain from gathering together in large groups. This has meant—among many, many other implications--that many churches have had to stop in-person gatherings for worship. Even after some churches have reopened, the number of people who are able to attend is severely limited. This means that we have an amazing opportunity!


















Now is our chance to put into practice what have been saying for years: namely, that the church is so much more than Sunday morning. Faith formation must move out of the church building, outside of Sunday mornings, and back into our daily lives...where it belongs! We are committed to encouraging one another to continue to grow in our faith during this time and to providing resources for us all to continue to grow closer in relationship with God and one another.

Rev. Louis Telcy, Pastor
Riverview United Methodist Church
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​“In Spirit and In Truth”
The last corporate, onsite worship service I attended in our District was on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Two weeks later, out of the abundance of caution for our large, vulnerable population throughout the Florida Conference, we have not encouraged onsite worship services unless you can take every precaution to keep people safe and “do no harm”. We have not mandated that all churches not return to onsite worship services, yet we have asked churches to form a Reopening Team and discern together what is in the best interest of your local church and community related to onsite worship services.

The majority of our churches are reporting due to the spike in positive COVID cases in late June and July they decided to only offer a virtual worship service at this time. These are not easy decisions for our Pastors and leadership teams to make. We all value and love gathering together corporately to worship and praise God and to fellowship with other believers. Pastors and leaders are continuing to examine the data, demographics, science, progress in vaccination and are making prayerful and faithful decisions related to when they will reopen onsite. Additional variables include size, age, and overall health of the congregation. I am aware of a few churches in our District reporting they are offering a hybrid onsite and virtual worship experience requiring masks, social distancing, no corporate singing, no hugging, no touching, no congregating, no bulletin, no offering plate, no coffee and no fellowship experiences. I also understand every member does not agree as the “reopening” decisions are shared. Yet we are “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” as advised in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.

This week’s reading in the “Summer in the Scriptures” allowed me to reflect further on worship. As I read the conversation with Jesus and the Women at the Well in John 4 and reflected further on this COVID season and not going to a “brick and mortar” church service for 21 weeks and counting, I am gaining new insights I want to share as I close this DS newsletter article.

I had previously thought I needed a certain sound, setting, song, singer and sermon to experience “true worship”. I must say that after 21 weeks and counting of only virtual worship services I have experienced the presence and power of God and shared in “true worship” in the various areas of the house I’m in when I’m “in worship” on Sunday mornings and throughout the week. I wonder, “Has the time come”--the time spoken of in scripture? When true worshipers worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth! I don’t know who or what is a “not true” worshiper, I just know, I desire to be a “True Worshiper”: someone who worships the Lord “in Spirit and in Truth.”

Let’s endeavor to be “true worshippers” who can truly worship the Lord virtually and or onsite. I also encourage you to support the faithful decision of your local church related to when you can safely return to onsite worship.

John 4:23-24 NIV- “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

God is spirit, and God’s worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. Thank you for your faithful leadership and service to God.

On Mission Together,
Candace M Lewis, District Superintendent
Gulf Coast District