Safe Sanctuary Information

The well-being of children, youth and all persons is important at North Olmsted United Methodist Church.

The high value and importance this church places on all persons is reflected in our vision and core values. Our church strives to provide “Safe Sanctuary” for all God’s children. We are continually seeking ways to improve and better implement “Safe Sanctuary” procedures to protect our children, youth and vulnerable adults in order to make our congregation a safe place where everyone may experience the abiding love of God and fellowship within the community of faith.  This includes children’s check in/out procedures, training and background checks for those working with children, youth and vulnerable adults, and procedures that guide the interaction of adults with children, youth and vulnerable adults.

Our congregation’s purpose for establishing these Safe Sanctuary policies and procedures is to demonstrate our absolute and unwavering commitment to the physical safety and spiritual growth of all our children, youth and adults. Safe Sanctuary is a practice of radical hospitality, authenticity and an extravagant welcoming spirit.
Therefore, as a Christian community of faith and a United Methodist congregation, we strive to conduct our ministries in ways that assure the safety and spiritual growth of all persons as well as all of the workers who serve children, youth and vulnerable adults. We will follow reasonable safety measures in the selection and recruitment of workers; we will implement operational procedures in all programs and events; we will educate all of our workers with children, youth and vulnerable adults regarding the use of all appropriate policies and procedures.

In all of our ministries with children, youth and vulnerable adults, this congregation is committed to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ so that each person will be surrounded by steadfast love, established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal. (Baptismal Covenant II,. United Methodist Hymnal, p. 44).

Find out more at

Prayers for the New Year 2021

“Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:17-18)

I am thankful in reflection of this past year and anticipation of the new year for the gift of prayer in our lives.

There have been many moments in 2020 in time alone with God in which prayer sustained and empowered me to move forward in hope and courage. Our prayer life in worship, through phone calls, and in fellowship and committee meetings via Zoom have provided an undergirding of love and support within our church family. Prayers shared through email and text messages, hand-written notes, and greeting cards will continue to be very special ways in which God is made known through us. Even meetings outside the church with safe -distancing practices and wearing masks have been uniquely meaningful ways of extending blessings and prayers with one another.

The Apostle Paul encouraged the faith community of Thessalonica to pray without ceasing in all circumstances through the will of God and Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. This will become a guiding scripture for me in the new year, 2021—in the best of times and the most challenging of times! May it be so for you, too!

Christian prayers of the ancients and contemporary authors have been foundational in strengthening and transforming people’s lives. What are your favorite prayers that are centuries old or newer over the last few years and decades? Commit and recommit to quiet centering and recitation of your favorite prayers while being open to the possibility of receiving new prayers, too!

I want to offer two prayers as gifts in the approaching time of the new year as sources of comfort and renewed confidence. The first prayer is from The United Methodist Book of Worship (No. 295).

“Creative God, you make all things new in heaven and on earth. We come to you in a new year with new desires and old fears, new decisions and old controversies, new dreams and old weaknesses. Because you are a God of hope, we know that you create all the possibilities of the future. Because you are a God of love, we know that you accept all the mistakes of the past. Because you are the God of our faith, we enter your gates with thanksgiving and praise, we come into your presence with gladness and a joyful noise, and we serve and bless you. Amen.” (Maren C. Tirabassi, U.S.A., 20th CENT., ALT.)

The second prayer is from The United Methodist Hymnal (No. 607) entitled, A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition.

“I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

Praying with you in service and faithfulness,
Pastor Hoyte

The Challenge to Love One Another

We live in very unusual times with the convergence of difficult matters. COVID, social and racial injustice, climate imbalance, and the polarization of people’s political views are just a few major problems that make it challenging to love one another. Many people are experiencing fatigue and frayed emotions with the weightedness of concerns that affect loving others, even with those they count as their closest friends and family members. And so, it is not surprising that people also find it difficult to love the stranger, acquaintance, or neighbor who makes one’s life difficult. I am often alarmed at how people behave in ways that are the opposite of trying to love others.

Terri and I are fortunate to have been very warmly received and welcomed in our new neighborhood in Huron. While we are still getting to know one another, people seem to have quietly laid aside political differences while respecting the diverse display of signage on people’s lawns advocating for one or the other Presidential candidate.

We entertained one of our neighbors for dinner a few days ago who had kindly included us at his outdoor table on Labor Day with members of his family. While we engaged in conversation, we unintentionally discovered that we differed greatly in our political views and filters of life experience with our country and world. However, the good news is that we were able to have a free-flowing and respectful discourse that was civil and loving with each other. We learned from one another and found common ground with what is most lasting in life: working to love and care for family, friends, neighbors, and people with whom we may agree or disagree.

Near the end of Jesus’ mortal life, he shared with his disciples: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Jesus did not say: “This is an option for you to consider: if it is convenient for you and it works, particularly with people who agree with you and make your life easy, love them, otherwise, it’s OK not to do so.” Loving others can be very challenging and difficult, but through God and Jesus’ unwavering love for us—“warts and all”—we are called, yes, we are commanded, to love others. It’s amazing what can happen when we persevere in grace and faith to love others, even with those that may differ so strongly with us!

In a time in which people can get caught up in mud-slinging and hateful rhetoric, let each one of us be a model of loving one another, taking the high road and not succumbing to harmful words and actions. Love one person at a time and see how God works wonders and miracles beyond imagination!

Through the love of Christ,
Pastor Hoyte

Enduring the Long Haul

It’s been a long time since we’ve worshipped in-person with one another. March 8 was the last time that we gathered on Sunday morning for Sunday school, fellowship, and worship. On March 15, the worship bulletin, announcements page, and sermon text were sent to people and posted on the church’s website. On March 22, John Wolter, Phil Wolter, Marlene Dirksen, and I worked together to offer live-streamed worship in the sanctuary.

Since that time, we have teamed with you and others in the life of the church to offer live-streamed worship from my home through the gifts of technology and the home broadcasting studio of Phil with John at his side. While it has been a joy to discover and share worship in new ways, 20 weeks, going on 21 for August 2, is a long time to be away from one another’s company! We do not yet know when we will worship in person again but as you know we are targeting September 13 as a possibility as long as COVID-19 does not prevent us from doing so in respect for everyone’s health and safety.

Seeking living messages of hope as we endure the “long haul” is important so that we can be encouraged and offer strength for one another. The Apostle Paul offered an enduring message of hope to the people of Rome as made known in Romans 5:1-5. He had compassion for their trials and sufferings as I believe he also would for us. Note these powerful words and post them near your computer, on your refrigerator, on your bathroom mirror, in your Bible, or on your bedside table.

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

As we endure in hope together, know that the love of God and Jesus Christ will always be with you through the sustaining presence and power of the Holy Spirit! How so? It is made known through the creative and adaptable ways in which you continue to connect with each other: prayers, phone calls, emails, text messages, greeting cards, Zoom meetings, mission outreach through financial support and material goods, care for the church building and grounds, advancement of audio/visual technology, and safe-distancing practices with small group fellowship, study, and conversation outside the church. Fantastic, NOUMC! Carry on!

Faithfully and prayerfully in Christ,

Pastor Hoyte 

Update for Reopening NOUMC

On June 4, there was a Zoom Congregation Meeting to provide updates and discussion about the process of considering when and how we reopen the church building. The “Reopening Team of NOUMC” represented by 12 church leaders met on June 11 and discussed in further detail considerations for reopening the building for small group gatherings, office work, and in-person worship.

The “Team” is forming a plan which may allow small NOUMC groups and committees to meet with masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing practices, and other safe measures during the summer months. Outside groups such as the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Alcoholics Anonymous groups or people desiring to gather for social occasions and family celebrations may not use the building at this time in respect for maintaining prevention of the spread of COVID-19 and in consistently keeping surfaces sanitized and cleaned.

The office staff will continue to work remotely from home in communication with each other and the congregation. Small social gatherings outside the church with safe distancing of vehicles and people is being discussed as a future possibility.

In-person worship, fellowship, and Sunday School at NOUMC is preliminarily targeted for Sunday, September 13 depending largely on guidance from the Bishop and her cabinet, the Governor and his staff, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and respect for the health and safety of everyone. When Sunday morning activities do resume, they will be experienced differently compared to pre-COVID-19. From the parking lot to entering and using all spaces in the church, guidelines for: masks, sanitizers, social distancing, greetings, ushering, receiving the offering and Sacrament of Holy Communion, limited or no use of hymnals and bulletins, possibly no singing, and cleaning surfaces will need to be practiced in order to optimize people’s health and safety.

The Team is placing a high priority on offering our ministries in an inclusive way so that people who are not able or choose not to gather with future in-person, reopening activities may connect with one another via phone or other electronic communications. Group leaders and committee chairs are asked to keep this point in mind when it is announced that you may consider meetings in the building. Zoom meetings or similar computer tools are strongly encouraged as an alternative to in-person meetings.

Please note that returning to the building for in-person worship, small group gatherings, and office work is not without risk. We can’t guarantee that it will be completely safe to gather together in regards to COVID-19.

Finally, please note that the Team will provide updates about reopening the church building as they become known while seeking out more ideas and thoughts from the congregation.

“Do Not Be Afraid: Easter Is on Its Way!”

“…Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:10

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

I trust that you are experiencing Lent and the approaching time of Easter with new awakenings and a spirit of hope and promise for renewed life through the Risen Christ!

With this in mind, I encourage you to tell the Good News of the Risen Christ. This high calling of discipleship cannot be done through our own strength. Why? Most, if not all of us, are impacted in some way by challenges with relationships, families, careers, health, and hopes for the wellbeing of the church, country, and world.

Are you troubled by a disagreement or hurtful experience with a family member or friend? Are you experiencing strains in your job or with adjustments in retirement? Are you worried about your own health or the health of a loved one in light of the news of COVID-19? Are you anxious about the future of the local and connectional church? Are you concerned about the deep divides of people in their ways of thinking and behaving with one another?

The Good News is that the love of God and the Risen Christ are present with whatever we are facing, and it is the strength of our faith that gives us courage to move forward each day, one person, one-moment-at-a time! We need not worry or be afraid!

Thanks be to God, through Jesus’ proclamation to those who first experienced his resurrection, we can live hopefully and courageously with the words: “Do not be afraid!” We can do so by telling and living the Good News that Jesus, the Risen Christ, is alive and well!

Easter is on its way and will soon be experienced as an encouraging reminder of the power of resurrection life!

Pastor Hoyte

“Living Water” · John 4:5-42 

It’s a story of great significance. It’s significant that the conversation ever happened. The barriers were widely known among most people.  Notably, Jesus was a Jew and the woman was a Samaritan. Between Samaritans and Jews there was a wall of separation no less than what in our time physically separates the Israelis from the Palestinians.

The Jews and Samaritans were related peoples as both were Hebrews. The Samaritans were from the old northern kingdom of Israel, while the Jews were from the old southern kingdom of Judah. The Samaritans inter-married with non-Jewish peoples and lost much of their ethnic identity while the Jews maintained their identity. 

Each group ended up with their own temple, the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, and the Jews on Mount Zion. And so it was an unusual choice for Jesus to travel through Samaria. Jesus having a conversation with a Samaritan was even more unusual.

The conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well of Sychar in Samaria was very significant. In that time and place, men and women were not to talk to one another in public. It was considered improper to do so, especially when a man was like Jesus—a rabbi, a teacher, and someone looked up to as an honored authority. I imagine that when the disciples came to the well, they were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman.

I imagine that the disciples were also astonished that the person was a Samaritan woman—someone rejected by her own people. She came to the well to draw water at noon, one of the hottest times of the day. Morning and evening were known to be times to do the hard work of drawing water and hauling it to one’s home. This was commonly work that women were to do with one another. But the Samaritan woman went to the well alone, perhaps viewing herself as a misfit and outcast. She may have avoided others in order to not be hurt and rejected again by their words, attitudes, and disapproval.

It was very significant to the Samaritan woman that Jesus promised “living water.” Living water was understood as water that flows, runs, and sparkles. Living water must have been a welcome change to the woman compared to water that often became discolored or even stagnant at other wells.

I imagine that the woman presumed that Jesus was talking about a hidden stream that he knew was much better than the well at Sychar. She desired the water he was offering so that she wouldn’t have to travel a great distance to haul buckets from other wells. 

But what Jesus promised was a source of “living water” that would touch her heart so that she could truly live. The woman wasn’t clear about what that exactly meant, but I imagine that she sensed that the “living water” he described was something that she desperately needed in her life.

It was significant that Jesus knew the details of her life. The details aren’t completely understood, but I sense that she was experiencing a very difficult time in her life. She had had five husbands. Perhaps the marriages ended through death, divorce, or desertion—or maybe a combination of those factors? I wonder if they were truly marriages, or relationships of short or long-term convenience? I wonder why the current man she was with was not truly her husband? We don’t have answers to these questions, but perhaps we don’t need them? Even so, my sense is that the woman felt very alone and exiled from her family, friends, and neighbors.

It was significant that Jesus knew the truth about the woman. She must have been impacted greatly that, knowing the truth, Jesus accepted her. I imagine that it was a divine encounter with a man she believed might be a prophet.

There is another significant occurrence. The woman asked Jesus to resolve the long-standing and divisive question of who was right: the Jews or the Samaritans? It appears that she may have been questioning the correct place to worship—the temple in Gerizim or Jerusalem? And so a significant occurrence happened when Jesus raised the matter to a higher level. True worship would no longer depend on physical location, but would be a matter of spirit and truth.

The experience at the well offered yet another significant occurrence. The woman confessed her faith in a Messiah who was to come, and Jesus said that he was the Messiah. Jesus revealed his most important true self not to his disciples, not to the people of his own Jewish heritage, not to religious leaders, but to a person who was considered marginal three-times-over by her lineage people: a Samaritan, a woman, and at best questionable on her relationships with men. Yet, Jesus entrusted her with his deepest secret, the truth of who he was, is, and always will be: the Messiah! 

We also learn in the story that the disciples arrived at the well to offer food for Jesus, the woman leaves her water jar, and runs back to the city of Sychar to proclaim: come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done—the Messiah—the one who offers living water! The crowd that comes to the well is so large that Jesus compares it to a field ready to be harvested —harvested to be followers of him through God, the Father, who sent him.

Here then we have the last significant occurrence. The unlikely person, the Samaritan woman, becomes the key witness in proclaiming the truth about Jesus the Messiah, modeling how any one of us regardless of who we are, what we’ve done, or how we’ve been treated can witness about Jesus, too. 

Why? Like the woman at the well, we don’t have to have our life together in every way. We don’t need to know all there is to know. What we are called to simply do is to offer our lives of faith in God and Jesus Christ in the most authentic and honest ways possible with others and then let others make their own choices about life and faith!

How do we do that?  Bruce Larson, in his book Ask Me to Dance, includes a story about a member of his congregation who had come from another country. Pastor Larsen wrote: “Her faith sparkled and the living water of the spirit flowed out of her soul to all around her.” He invited her to go with him to a seminar on the topic of evangelism. The leaders had prepared tables filled with all sorts of pamphlets and strategies and demographic studies, all aimed at reaching the un‑churched in their area. At some point during the program the leaders turned to this woman and asked her to share some of the reasons that made the church so important and so vital in her home country. At first, she was a bit intimidated by the crowd, but then she had this to say, “Well, we never gave pamphlets to people because we never had any. We just showed people by our life and example what it is like to be a Christian, and when they can see for themselves, then they want to be a Christian, too.” (adapted in part from Leading by Example, Bruce Larson)

In this season of Lent and the approaching time of Easter, may your lives be Christian examples of the flowing love of God and Jesus Christ so that others might come to desire “living water,” too!


Pastor Hoyte Wilhelm

North Olmsted United Methodist Church

Cancellation of Worship Services at NOUMC


As I mentioned in my letter yesterday that was sent via email and posted on the church’s website and Facebook page, the news about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing daily in ways that impact how churches, businesses, schools, and other organizations respond with people.

This afternoon a letter was sent from the Resident Bishop of The East Ohio Conference, Bishop Tracy S. Malone, in which she stated: “I urge all East Ohio churches to cancel public worship services through the next two weeks, effective today through March 27.”

Click here to read the full letter from Bishop Tracy S. Malone >>

Therefore, I have decided to support the urgency of the Bishop’s message by cancelling worship service for at least March 15, 22, and possibly March 29.  It is unknown at this time if we will need to cancel services beyond the 22nd, 29th, and through April 5th (Palm Sunday). 

I will keep you posted as to worship services; but for now, please note that we will not be worshiping at the church on March 15 and 22.  I am considering some options in providing a virtual way of experiencing worship by offering words of welcome, liturgies, prayers, scriptures, and messages on the church’s website and Facebook page until we can meet in the sanctuary again.   

Special Note: If you are a leader of a committee, team, or small group of the church, please consider rescheduling meetings or using phones, email, and other computer devises and software tools as an alternative to meeting with people at the church.  If not, please observe safe distances with one another by using the fellowship hall and make sure that you sanitize the spaces where you sit before exiting the building with sanitizing products that are safe for plastic surfaces.   

The staff and I will most likely be curtailing our hours of availability at the church over the next few weeks, but please know that I will still be available to meet in my office or in the North Olmsted area with individuals that desire pastoral care or discussion surrounding matters of administration, ministry, and missions.

Through the love and strength of God and Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, I know that we will get through this difficult time together with the hope and promise of better days ahead.

Prayerfully in Christ,  
Pastor Hoyte

North Olmsted United Methodist Church

Responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Please see below for a message from Pastor Hoyte regarding our response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19):

I am writing in shared concern over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how we can best respond as a church family.

I have been in communication with staff and leaders of the church as well as the District and Conference offices of The United Methodist Church in gaining helpful information. The below correspondence from the District and Conference offices was circulated today to clergy and others via email.  I want to make sure that you are kept in the loop with this information as the two documents offer wise and safe ways to interact in the life of North Olmsted UMC and our sister churches.  

In addition to the below documents please note that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( and the World Health Organization ( offer extensive and excellent guidance on how to address concerns pertaining to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). I encourage you to visit the websites to obtain information about maintaining your health and that of your families, friends, and the communities in which you reside, worship, work, and play.

While news, directives, and suggestions from local, state, and federal authorities are changing daily, please note the following that directly affects North Olmsted UMC at the present time.  Until further notice:

1.  We will be worshiping in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings.

2.  We will not be gathering for Sunday school classes.

3.  The fellowship time on Sunday mornings will include coffee but no food.

4.  Communion in the Chapel after worship services during the Season of Lent will continue with no communal touching of the elements.

Please also note that the following events in the life of the church have been cancelled or postponed until a later date.

1.  UMM Chicken Dinner, Saturday, March 14 (cancelled)

2.  Dover Players March performances of The Boyfriend (postponed)

3.  Breakfast with The Bunny, Saturday, April 4 (cancelled)

For people who are not able to attend worship services on Sunday mornings, you may mail your financial contributions in stewardship with the church to North Olmsted UMC to the attention of Ed Brewster, Financial Secretary.

Finally, please know that through are faith, support, love, and care for one another we can and will get through this unusual and difficult time together.  Remember and hold on to the words of assurance from the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:38-39–“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Serving prayerfully with you with the eternal and guiding presence of God and Jesus Christ,

Pastor Hoyte
North Olmsted United Methodist Church

Random Acts of Kindness

Pastor Hoyte Wilhelm

“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

It’s easy to get immersed in Valentine’s Day—a special day of giving gifts of love—roses, cards, and chocolates, and other such things. The Day has certainly developed far beyond what anyone could have imagined since it was attributed to Saint Valentine, a third-century Roman saint, commemorated on February 14 during the High Middle Ages in respect for traditions of courtly love.

Acts of love on Valentine’s Day can be expressions of Christian Love or Agape love: the love of God for humans and their reciprocal love for God, extending to the love of one’s fellow humans (paraphrased from the Britannica and Miriam-Webster dictionaries). Agape love is manifested through a love of God in Jesus Christ in our love for others and is experienced in actions of the Spirit, not the least of which is kindness, essential for all Christians as the Apostle Paul encouraged in his letter to the Galatians.

One of the beautiful things about Agape love is that it can be offered randomly anytime, anywhere, with anyone. An ideal time to be attentive to offering such love is during Random Acts of Kindness week, February 11-17, 2020.

I spent some time with the website and discovered a lot of good ideas and suggestions that connect well to living a Christian life with others in the Spirit of kindness. There are hundreds of examples on the website about how people can offer random acts of kindness. I’ve chosen three examples that may yield wonderful and reciprocating blessings of God’s love.

  • Leave a Generous Tip. Paying it forward never goes out of style. If you had service that went above and beyond (or you’re just having a good day), you owe it to your server to tip well. Many people in the service industry rely on tips to earn a livable wage. We all have bad days, even if your service was less than the best, so spread your kindness through generosity.”
  • Wheel Out Your Neighbor’s Trash Bin. We all get caught up in the busyness of our everyday lives, but it’s always nice to know your neighbors are willing to offer a helping hand when you forget to wheel your trashcan out for pickup. This RAK is easy, free, and takes about five minutes to complete…show some kindness to your neighbors by doing this simple favor.”
  • Write Down Someone’s Best Qualities. This can truly make someone’s confidence soar. How would you feel if someone handed you a list of all the things they loved about you? That’s right, amazing! Make someone you care about feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”

What are some other random acts of kindness that you might consider putting into practice this year?

Serving with You through the Love of Christ,

Pastor Hoyte

Feeding the Community, Body and Soul