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We’ve all said it: Can’t wait to be back together!


We are longing for the fellowship, the smiles, and yes, the handshakes and hugs. When can we be together like that again? 

The more we learn, it is becoming apparent it may be for a while. 

The 1st UMC Regathering Task Force and your staff are attending webinars and reading articles and listening to podcasts specific to church guidelines during the pandemic. Governor Lee’s Executive Order and Bishop Taylor’s statement each have guidelines. Instead of a grand opening day, phased openings are being discussed. And those look different based on the size and scope of the church.

Read more about what the Task Force is doing and answers to many Frequently Asked Questions in this Special Edition of The Church Bell. 

You can also check out the FAQs at the bottom of this page


The Regathering Task Force is also asking for your input via a special online survey.



A letter from Rev. Catherine Nance

(Senior Pastor at 1st UMC)

Dear Church Family,

The Bishop of Holston Conference, Dindy Taylor, has asked all Holston churches to suspend worship and other group activities (until further notice). We care about the health of everyone in our community, especially the more vulnerable population, and will follow her guidance.

We will have worship ONLINE on our website and Facebook Sundays at 10:00 am. There are at least three years’ worth of worship services you can access on the website anytime!! You can find these at 1stchurch.org/worship-at-1st

To clarify, until further notice:

  • We will not have in person worship services. 
  • We will not have in person Noonday Lenten Services.
  • We will not have in person Celebrate Recovery meals, worship or small groups. 
  • Welcome Table volunteers will be notified by Amelia and/or Mary Wilson about assisting with “to go” meals on Thursdays.
  • Small groups, choirs, Bible Studies, Scouts, and other groups will not be meeting at the church.

There is a lot of will not in this email! The church WILL continue to BE THE CHURCH! We will pray for one another, keep in contact with each other. We will be patient as church staff works to keep information current. We will put our trust in God and stand firm in God’s gracious love and care.

If you have any concerns or there is a pastoral care emergency, we are still here for you! Thank you for your patience and your understanding!

Take care of yourselves!



What happens to Welcome Table?

With the concerns about Coronavirus and the suspension of activities at 1st UMC, Volunteer Coordinator Mary Wilson and Chef Amelia have made changes in how Welcome Table is conducted.

Each Thursday evening our volunteers are preparing "to go" meals for Welcome Table.  To pick up the meals, people just need to enter the driveway on the right side of the church and head to the back where someone will bring the meal to your car.  

(You will not need to get out of your car to receive a meal.) 

A message from Volunteer Coordinator Mary Wilson

Amelia has asked that I let each of you know you are ‘excused’ from your volunteer responsibilities during the time activities at church are suspended.

Amelia has contacted a small group of individuals to assist with the preparation of  “to go” meals on Thursday. Should she decide that additional help is needed, you would be contacted directly by her on an individual basis.


On behalf of both Amelia and myself, we appreciate you dedicated willingness to serve. Should the suspension of activities be extended, additional updates will be provided.

Be of good health and in prayer for all of our neighbors during this time.

What happens with Celebrate Recovery?

In working to practice "social distancing" services like Celebrate Recovery are suspended.  This means Celebrate Recovery will not meet "in person" for now.  Celebrate Recovery leaders are working to bring you a message online each week during this time. You can watch those on the CR Facebook page or on the CR Website You can also watch previous services online.  

WeConnect Health Management is offering recovery share groups online. Just click here for more information. 

Please continue to lift up others in the Recovery community through your prayers. 

How do I reach the pastors and/or staff?

Over the next couple of weeks if you need to reach staff members you can still call the main telephone line 865-982-1273 or email pastors and/or staff. 

Here are the extension numbers for pastors and staff:

Catherine             111

Chris Lee            116

Clayton Hensley 100

Denise Johns      113

Jane Sanders      101

Mark Blodgett     103

Matt Hall              106

Nathan Irwin       202

Sarah Slack         107

Susan Daves      110

Terry Wilson        109

A letter from the Holston Resident Bishop

April 28, 2020

Dear Holston Friends,

We are all in this together. Holston Conference has churches in three states with three different governors which causes a lot of confusion. The confusion is created when some government officials state that everything can be reopened by May 1, 2020. Other health and government officials have disagreed with that timetable. There are so many things that we still do not know about the Covid-19 Virus. We do know that certain populations are more at risk. We do know that social distancing is making a difference. We do know that persons may not have any symptoms of the virus, but may be spreading it to others. We do know that there is no vaccine or treatment to date. It is important not to quit, after we have come this far. We do know that a Life Care Facility in Athens, Tennessee has fifty residents who have the virus. That came from somewhere.

Today in a Zoom meeting with the district superintendents, I learned that our United Methodist Churches are just as confused by the mixed messages as everybody else is. Please hear me. This is not an easy decision, but the Cabinet and I do not want our United Methodist Churches to be open at this time. Lives in our communities need to be protected. This virus has taken the lives of little children, medical personnel, young adults, older adults, African Americans, Hispanic persons, those with compromised immune systems, and so many more. Our United Methodist Churches are not to be open. We will reopen our churches when it is safe to do so across the entire Conference. We all yearn to be able to gather together again.

I have been to the funerals of two family members and they were very limited graveside services. I have spoken with Bishops in other denominations about the need to continue to practice sheltering in place. They indicated that they were not going to reopen their churches at this time as well. It is just difficult when there are competing reasons to reopen everything.

As states begin to loosen “Stay at Home” orders and phase in the reopening of businesses and organizations, there will continue to be differing opinions on the best process to follow that will keep communities safe while, at the same time, provide economic stability. As an Annual Conference, we are aware that many people in our churches will have differing opinions too.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Conference has worked to keep health and safety as the top priority when making decisions pertaining to church, district, and conference activities.

Keeping those priorities in mind while, at the same time, realizing a continued rise in case numbers and deaths, and realizing that people can be carriers of the COVID-19 virus without knowing it or exhibiting any symptoms, the Cabinet and I continue to believe that church buildings shall remain closed to the public until further notice. This applies not only to times of worship and church activities, but also to outside organizations as well, such as, but not limited to day cares, preschools, support groups (AA, NA, Al-Anon, Grief Share, Etc.), food pantries, and Scouts.

I know that pastors are being pressured to reopen daycares for parents who are needing to go back to work. Friends, our schools are closed across Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia for a reason. I know that our United Methodist Churches are committed to doing incredible outreach in their communities.

We understand that people are eager to worship together again. We also know the Holston Conference encompasses three different states in which the Governors of those states are not working on the same timeline for the reopening of their states. We feel the best decision for the Conference is to “reopen” in a unified and measured manner. Even then, it will not automatically be back to being fully open from the start. We will work on and submit guidelines to implement a gradual reopening so we can continue making the health and safety of our church people as well as our communities the highest priority. As Conference leadership, we do not take this responsibility lightly. We have to look at the bigger picture.

We understand these are difficult times but we also know we have a witness in our communities even in these uncertain times. Thank you for the creative and innovative work you are doing to keep the church together during this time of separation. Your ministry is allowing the church to be a bright beacon of light to guide God’s people through this challenging time.

Please know that your Cabinet and I are praying for the pastors and congregations across our beloved Holston. We trust that you are praying for us as well.

God’s grace, mercy and peace are always more than sufficient,

Bishop Dindy Taylor

Holston Conference

The United Methodist Church



1st UMC Online Worship

Youth Fellowship and Activities

Children's Sunday School Lessons (and ways to stay connected via Facebook & Email)

Click here to access these Upper Room Resources

Chuck Knows Church is back with a few simple ideas for you to help your neighbors and the community make it through these uncertain times.  Each of the 30 videos from Chuck give you ideas on ways to stay connected and continue to "Be the Church" at a time when we can't be together "in person."

Click here to access the tips and videos. 

Celebrate Recovery Maryville (Online Services and more)

Contacting 1st UMC Pastors and Staff


What will the plan for regathering look like?

We will implement a four phase plan for regathering based upon CDC recommendations while taking into account local viral transmission rates and mechanisms. Each subsequent phase will allow larger group sizes and less restrictions on group types and activity levels. 

How will we decide when it’s time to move from phase to phase?

The movement from one phase to the next will be determined by taking into account local viral transmission rates and mechanisms and health authority recommendations. Depending on data, these phases may move forward or backward in the months to come. 

I’m not comfortable coming to worship once the church regathers. Is this ok?

How will I stay connected?

Yes! The Lord meets you right where you are, and we will too. Worship will still be streamed for those who cannot or choose not to attend worship in person when the time comes.

Are there ways that I can be connected now?

Yes – with online Sunday worship and the Wednesday Word (and lots of past services on the website and YouTube). Some Sunday School classes and groups are zooming; staff is reaching out to all to encourage social media contact; ‘phone trees’ (members calling one another until all are contacted); Facebook devotionals; Upper Rooms online; and children’s Sunday School lessons on YouTube. 

How can I get spiritual support from one of the ministers?

Call the church office at 982-1273. Messages are retrieved and forwarded to ministers. Ministers are contacting  parishioners who have health concerns or who are facing some personal crisis. Although ministers and volunteers  are not able to visit in-person at this time, prayer still happens over the phone and email and texts! Hospital and nursing home personnel are gracious in their response to ministers in getting messages to families who are in ICU

  waiting areas or other parts of the facility. You may also send a message through info@1stchurch.org

I want to return to worship. What’s being done to clean the church facilities?

We are putting together a sanitization crew who will wipe down or spray areas with sanitizing cleaner during and after services. We’re asking all staff and greeters to wear face masks as appropriate. Hand sanitizer will be available. We are also encouraging the congregation to bring and wear face masks to protect our neighbors, but we  will have disposable masks available for those that do not have their own.

Can my Sunday school class and/or Bible study group meet together in person?

There will be a phased-in approach to all group meetings. In order to maintain adequate separation, groups may have the opportunity to meet at alternate days/times and in larger rooms.

When will things go back to normal?

While we anticipate a new normal, we don’t anticipate a return to the way things were prior to COVID-19. We don’t know when a public handshake or a hug will be ok again. What we do know, is that the God of all creation is still in control. Nothing is a surprise to Him, and we will trust in the Lord as we seek his face together. The message is important, not the method!

How can I give my tithe and offerings during this time?

  • Give online at 1stchurch.org/giving. This is a quick, easy and safe way to give.
  • Give by texting 1stchurch to 73256.
  • Mail a check to First UMC, 804 Montvale Station Road, Maryville, TN 37803.
  • Most banks offer bill pay services with recurring payment options.

How can I be praying for the church in the days to come?

  • Please pray that God would be glorified in all we do. 
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. 
  • Pray for the name of Jesus Christ to be lifted high and for the Good News to spread through our witness together. 
  • Pray for God’s patience and peace, unity and strength. 
  • Pray for endurance of the leadership and for protection of the flock. 
  • Pray for an end to this pandemic.