Selah: Online Only Worship for August

Selah: Online Only Worship for August

“The Lord is my shepherd.  I lack nothing.  He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; he keeps me alive.  He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.” 
– Psalm 23:1-3 (Common English Bible)

August 4, 2022

Greetings in Christ’s name!

Rev. Victor Cyrus-Franklin

I write to you all, the beloved communities of Grace UMC of Los Angeles and Inglewood First UMC as we embark upon a new year in ministry together.  As we reflect on where we have been, it has truly been the grace of God that has sustained and held us together through all we have come through.  

Our staff and volunteers have served with great commitment and dedication through the past year. Inglewood First and Grace have opened our doors for worship since April and for the past four months have served with excellence. With Inglewood First worshiping in-person and online at 8:30 am and Grace worshiping in-person and online at 10:45 am, both churches implemented protocols of mask-wearing and on-site COVID-19 testing for worship leadership and on campus activities.  We are grateful for the faithful servant leadership of our worship teams, trustees, ushers, choirs, musicians, greeters, security teams, maintenance staff, communion stewards and many others who answered the call to safely re-open for worship while maintaining an online presence for those of us worshiping from home.  This is no easy endeavor and it truly takes a village.  

In conversation with many of you, I have shared how through the pandemic, it seems that every 3-4 months, there has been a need to shift in how we do ministry in general and worship in particular to meet our congregation’s and community’s needs. It has been a particularly challenging time for your pastors as we have discerned how to serve and lead through these changing times.  

The Staff-Pastor Parish Relations Committees of both Grace and Inglewood First have been meeting for the past three and a half weeks.  After an initial meeting with our “Preparing to Sail” coach, Rev. William Chaney from the Chaney Coaching Group, they have been working together to set priorities and direction for care of our clergy and both congregations.  Thanks and appreciation to Melisa Arnold, Manu Tu’uholoaki-Murrin and Risa Wheat from Inglewood First UMC and Shirley Beard, Barbara Collier and Marilyn Parker-Brooks from Grace UMC who have meet weekly to share, pray, reflect and discern on how to best implement care practices for our pastors and parishioners.  

From these gatherings, two priorities were determined:

  1. a month-long church-wide sabbath and 
  2. a mandatory sabbatical for pastoral staff.

Selah: A Month Long Church-Wide Sabbath

In the Bible, Selah is  “a pause to breathe in new life.” Taking time to rest is a biblical requisite for holiness.  God knows that maintaining hybrid worship experiences for two churches through the pandemic has been a heavy load.  With care for the load leaders in both churches have taken on, we were encouraged by our coach to take a “church-wide sabbath.”    As such, for the month of August, we will join in joint online only worship experiences with smaller worship teams leading us throughout the month.  

For those who have grown accustomed to the earlier worship time, at 8:30 am, Inglewood First UMC will host “throwback” worship experiences from the past two years on its YouTube and Facebook feeds. At 10:45 am, we will join in a joint live worship service with the congregation and community invited to participate via YouTube, Facebook and Grace UMC’s regular Zoom gathering.  There will be no in-person worship, but all are encouraged to be in community online by YouTube, Facebook and Zoom!!!!!  

This month of sabbath is intended to help us take a “step back” as we prepare to “step forward” for the remainder of the year. 

Pastoral Sabbatical

At the urging of our SPPRC’s, I, as Senior Pastor, was mandated to take a proper two-week sabbatical.  In the time off I have taken over the past year, I have not disconnected completely from the church.  I continued to monitor texts, e-mails, provide tech support for worship and other administrative duties while “away.”  Inglewood First’s Church Council can testify that I have not taken a proper two weeks off since being appointed as their pastor in 2017.  I do not share this as a source of pride, but as a testament to doing what I felt God called me to do to help keep the congregation(s) moving forward before and through the pandemic.  

Our SPPRC’s have expressed deep concern over my and Pastor Lesa’s well-being as we have embarked upon this novel journey of leading two congregations in the midst of the pandemic.  As such, from August 9 – 23, I am expected to take a proper time away to recover, heal and be renewed for the journey ahead.  In the spirit of a true sabbath, I will not respond to calls or e-mails during this time.  If there are pastoral needs, all are encouraged to communicate with our administrative assistant, Tuutanga “Tootie” Tuihalamaka, who will take messages and forward to persons who can best help.  Pastor Lesa Smith will be on call for pastoral emergencies as well, but all are encouraged to first communicate with the church offices by phone or e-mail (  

As we prepared for this time away, I was scheduled to preach on the first Sunday of August. Yet, due to members of my household testing positive for COVID, I must quarantine and will unfortunately miss worship.  Our District Superintendent, Rev. Mark Nakagawa, has graciously accepted the invitation to preach for us and Pastor Lesa serves as our worship leader and Holy Communion celebrant.  In care for the worshiping community, per CDC guidelines, I must:

  • Get tested 5 to 7 days after the exposure, or as soon as possible if you start having symptoms.
  • Wear a mask around others for 10 days, regardless of your test results.

The most recent variant of COVID-19 has impacted many of our families in both congregations.  We do not suspect that anyone has contracted the virus at church, but it is clear that current variants are more contagious.  

With my own immediate family being now impacted, I learned that with very minor symptoms, one could be infected with COVID-19 and not test positive for 2-3 days after contracting the virus.  As we worship online only through August, this will also help us get our bearings for best care practices for in-person worship in light of new COVID variants.  There is help needed!  We need the wisdom of our medical professionals in this discernment process!  We need your wisdom to truly love another through the pandemic and beyond.  Look out for a called meeting as we discern guidance for the future.  

Pressing On

As we look to the days ahead, continue to be in prayer and care for one another as we press on in the name of the Lord.  Make note of these dates for the season ahead:

  • Sunday, August 7 | Selah August Worship
    • 8:30 am – Throwback Online Worship / Inglewood First UMC
    • 10:45 am – Joint Online Worship (Youtube, Facebook, Grace UMC Zoom)
      Rev. Mark Nakagawa, preaching
  • Sunday, August 14  | Selah August Worship
    • 8:30 am – Throwback Online Worship / Inglewood First UMC
    • 10:45 am – Joint Online Worship (Youtube, Facebook, Grace UMC Zoom)
      Pastor Lesa Smith, preaching
  • Sunday, August 21 | Selah August Worship
    • 8:30 am – Throwback Online Worship / Inglewood First UMC
    • 10:45 am – Joint Online Worship (Youtube, Facebook, Grace UMC Zoom)
      Pastor Lesa Smith, preaching
  • Sunday, August 28   | Selah August Worship
    • 8:30 am – Throwback Online Worship / Inglewood First UMC
    • 10:45 am – Joint Online Worship (Youtube, Facebook, Grace UMC Zoom)
      Rev. Victor Cyrus-Franklin, preaching
  • Monday, August 29 | Leadership Team Meeting
    • 7:00 pm Grace UMC & Inglewood First UMC Leadership Team Meet Together
      Grace Executive Board & Inglewood First Church Council
  • September 2022 | Finalize Preparing to Sail Church Assessment Process
  • Mid-October 2022 | Visioning Retreat with Rev. William Chaney
  • November 2022 | Anticipated Joint Charge Conference

With Christ’s love and appreciation,

Pastor Victor