Wildfires and Outlets of Grace

September 14, 2020


My Dear Friends,

One week ago, the caustic easterly winds hit that created one of, if not the biggest, fire disaster in our state’s history. The communities in our valley have experienced significant damages and losses.  Parts of Talent and Phoenix are still under level 3 evacuation orders, and with the next weather front coming in, the entirety of Jackson County is under level 1 evacuation. Simply put, the disaster is not over; it is still happening. 

This means that we are operating in crisis mode. From what I have heard so far, ten persons connected with our congregation have had significant damage to or lost their homes entirely. 

Please keep Chuck Bridges and David Dismuke; Carol Heisel; Tia Hatch; Coyote Marie Hunter-Ripper; Peggy & Lutie Lyman, Sharon Schmidt; and Diana & Fred Kaya in your prayers. 

The need is great! The amazing news is that in the midst of this chaos, anxiety, and grief, the drive of compassion, hospitality and generosity is strong. Melinda and I were among the evacuees, and we were graciously invited into the Rices’ COVID-19 circle and offered a place to stay until we were able to move back into our home. We can barely put into words how grateful we are for their hospitality. This kindness and big-heartedness is indicative of who we are as a congregation. 

So many have reached out in hospitality and love –offering homes, supplies and funds. We have developed Outlets of Grace to help fill your need to help and serve.

We established a Fire Relief as an extension of our Neighbor’s Fund where people can make financial donations, which will be distributed to members of our congregation and community that need help. There are ways to give:


1) We have a designated “button” on our home page labeled “Fire Relief Fund.” Follow the instructions provided.

2) Send us a check and indicate: “Neighbor’s Fund: Fire Relief.


Please remember that we cannot disperse funds specifying individual persons or families.


As the days unfold, we will be expanding our Outlets of Grace as we identify emerging needs, such as partnering with Medford UMC as they become an emergency housing location for displaced families. Once I hear about their needs, I will share these with you. 


John 13:34-35 says: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NRSV) In short: They will know we are Christians by our love. 

So, I say, “My friends, you are such lovely people!” 


God’s blessings to you!


Rev. Dr. Brett Strobel


Adapting to the COVID-19 Restrictions

March 19, 2020


Blessing, Grace, Peace and Well-being to you! 

It has been about a week since the governor set into place statewide health measures that closed schools, restaurants, etc. and banned social gatherings of greater than 25 persons. As you know, this is an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 so that our Health Care system is not overwhelmed. Were that to happen, many people would tragically fall through the proverbial netting.

Just about everyone has been affected. People across the globe are self-quarantining and practicing social distancing. These are important and responsible actions to take. I am amazed at how many have done this willingly. What an astonishingly concerted effort! (I only wish we would be as intentional about the pandemic of climate change.) These measures, however, also create monumental challenges for us as a community of faith. The governor’s ban extends far enough into April that our Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday’s will be affected. We are pondering ways to recognize and celebrate these Holy Days with our current circumstances. 

Some of you may not use the computer very much or not at all. I imagine that terms like ‘online, platform, webpage, etc.’ sound foreign or mean very little. This is quite understandable. So, if you would prefer, we can mail physical copies of the sermons, newsletters, and whatnots to you. Please contact the church office: 541-482-3647 and let us know.   

Being apart for an extended time is difficult. That think that is because we are ‘designed’ to be together; so, it is important to keep in mind that we still are together in spirit. This is an aspect of what it means to be in the body of Christ–even when we are apart physically, we continue to be bound together in Christ. 

In the meanwhile, we are finding new ways to stay connected. Technology has been a remarkable help. We are updating our website on a regular basis as well as our Facebook page. This last Wednesday, our Bible Study met online using the Zoom platform. As we discover more about the flexibility of this platform, we will try some new ways to meet. 

Let me suggest a few ways to stay connected:

  • Regularly check our website (www.ashlandmethodist.org) for updates:
  • Check our Facebook page (Ashland First United Methodist Church on FB)
  • Our Cyber Sundays Worship will be available on Sunday mornings on both our Facebook page and the Sermon page on our website.
  • Call two or three people a day to check up on them and see how they are doing.
  • Write someone a card or a letter and recapture the civilized practice of personal correspondence.
  • Intentionally pray for one another.

It is hard not seeing you in person, and I look forward to the grand Comeback-Together-Day when we get to see, laugh, talk and embrace once again! What a day it will be! Until then, remember what Paul said, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12, NRSV) 

Blessings to you!


Rev. Dr. Brett Strobel

COVID-19 has us exploring New Ways to be Church

March 13, 2020


Dear Church Family,


“Grace and peace to you!” In the past couple of days there has been a whirlwind of activity around closures of schools, university, public gatherings, etc. As you know, we have been trying to implement a “best practices” approach in response to the COVID-19, which the World Health Organization has declared as pandemic. Our nations, state, country and communities have made some pretty difficult decisions in canceling various gathering events.  We are now at a point where suspending our larger gathering activities is a “best practices” response. In a sense, it is a responsible response.


With this in mind, our Bishop, Elaine Stanovsky, is calling on all United Methodist Congregations in the Greater Northwest Area to suspend “in-person worship and other gatherings of more than 10 people for the next two weeks.” 

I have a gut-tightening reaction anytime the issue arises about suspending worship services. I believe worship is a critical aspect of being a community of faith, and I know how important it is to you. Unfortunately, we are faced with a situation where our gathering together in person could have some very detrimental consequences. Jesus set the example by showing us that the wellbeing of another has priority over our rites and rituals. (e.g. Matt 12:9-13; Luke 13:10-17)

With this in mind, we have the opportunity to embark on an adventure in discovering new ways to be church, and we are going to use the technologies available to us. We are going to start by having Cyber Sundays, where we will post a video message and meditation. Who knows, maybe Sherman will make an appearance or two… We will let you now the detail soon.

In addition, I am exploring ways that we can have our Wednesday Bible Study online.  

We will also be making more use of the various online platforms to communicate, such as our Facebook page, our own website, email, and Zoom (an online way to stream.) Look to these resources for regular updates. 

Rest assured, we will continue to be church! Dorita, Chris and I will continue to be available for you should the desire or need arise. Please don’t hesitate to contact us! Thank you for your flexibility and understanding! 


More to come!


Rev. Brett