The Nouvelle Coronavirus/COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019. On January 21, 2020, the first case was documented in the United States. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Global Health Emergency. The first deaths were reported in the US in February. President Donald Trump declared a National Emergency on March 13, 2021. By March 17, COVID-19 was in all 50 states and on March 26, the US was leading all nations with the number of reported cases.

The first cases were reported in South Carolina in March, 2020. The initial cases were in pockets, such as Camden. By April 2. 2020, it was in all 46 counties. As of June 25, 2021, there have been 596,144 cases and 9,819 deaths.

At a Church Council meeting on March 19, 2020, we were informed that the Bishop of the South Carolina United Methodist Conference had requested that all in-person worship services and meetings be stopped until after March 29. Pastor Bruce Sayre believed that it would actually run through Easter Sunday at a minimum. Actions were taken at the meeting to set up an on-line giving option and a priority on what funds to use if donations were not sufficient to meet expenditures during the closed period. The Technology Committee was able to begin live streaming of participant-only worship services (Pastor and musicians) on Sunday, May 22, through Facebook and the Church website (see the Technology Report for details). The services continue on line even after reopening of in-person worship services. The United Methodist Men’s Annual Fishing Tournament and Fish Fry, scheduled for April, had to be cancelled.

On May 7, several church leaders met with Pastor Bruce to begin discussions and what actions would be necessary to reopen the church. At the Church Council meeting on May 21, 2020, the main topic was reopening. We had received guidance from the Bishop and District Superintendent. 2 major motions were made and approved. The first was to begin 2 in-person worship services at 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM on Sunday, June 14. The early service would be in the Fellowship Hall and the later service in the Sanctuary. The second motion was to approve up to $25,000 to purchase equipment to continue live streaming of both services. The services began on June 14 and have continued since then.

A called meeting of the Church Council was held on July 16, 2020, to consider restarting the Sunday School program. Some things discussed were waiting until the schools reopen in the Fall to see how they do, what should be done if someone attending Sunday School develops COVID-19, and how/where classes can spread out if the existing classroom is too small. In the end, a motion was made and approved to restart the Sunday School program on July 19, 2020.

At the August 20, 2020, Council meeting, Jeffrey “Ryan” McDaniel was approved for hire as the Director of Student Ministries and Anna Moore was approved as the Ministry Assistant. It was noted that financial giving had remained strong throughout the pandemic. As a sign of beginning to return to normalcy, the Red Cross had requested use of the Fellowship Hall for a Blood Drive in September and Lexington County asked to use the Fellowship Hall for voting for the November 3 General Election. Also, the Trustees were in the process of replacing the 2 refrigerators in the kitchen. At the September 17 Council meeting, it was announced the Children would begin meeting on September 20, the Charge Conference would be Sunday, November 15, at 1:00 PM, and the parking lot had been used for COVID-19 testing.

October was another mixed bag month. Koger Lake, who retired as Ministry Assistant just before the pandemic, was honored for her 40+ years of service. The Conference Room was named in her honor. The new audio/video/live streaming equipment was in place in the Sanctuary. The United Methodist Men announced that the Annual Steak Supper would not be held in 2020. The 2021 Budget was approved at the October Council meeting.

November, 2020, proved to be a busy month. The Fellowship Hall hosted the precinct voting for the General Election on November 3 and a Blood Drive on November 5. COVID-19 testing was done again in the parking lot on November 11. The District Superintendent, Dr. Steven Love, preached at both services on November 15 prior to the Charge Conference. The Community Thanksgiving Service was live streamed on November 22 from Cedar Grove Lutheran Church. One of the key items from Charge Conference was getting the concurrence to look at replacing the Parsonage, either through a purchase or building a new one.

COVID-19 was still a part of our life in December, 2020. Testing was once again done in the parking lot on December 16. The Children’s Program, scheduled for Sunday, December 20, had to be postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Christmas Eve Services were held at the normal 4:00 and 6:00 PM times. The Lord provided a Christmas gift to our church as a promising house for our new Parsonage became available.

2021 began with a lot of faith and hope for a better, more normal year. Vaccinations against COVID-19 were becoming available throughout the country. Our church had come out of the previous year in good financial shape, 2 new staff members had been hired, and our Mission programs had continued. The live streaming of both services had been very successful and would continue on. In January, the Church Council approved the purchase of a new Parsonage at 117 Gin Branch Court for $313,900, as well as $12,500 to replace the roof. The postponed Children’s Christmas Program was held on January 10.

In February, a new outdoor sound system in memory of John and Heyward Bouknight was installed and ready for use. Another round of COVID-19 testing was held on February 10. A new e-mail system for the church was put in use. The Ash Wednesday Service was held on February 17. David Giesen delivered the Gideon presentation at both services on the 21st. The SPPRC met with Dr. Joel Scraper to discuss how to build up the 11:00 choir and the potential of starting a Youth Choir. The United Methodist Men once again decided not to have the Fishing Tournament/Fish Fry.

With Pastor Bruce Sayre retiring at the end of June, the church awaited the naming of a new pastor for Leesville United Methodist Church. On Sunday, March 21, it was announced that Dr. Shawn Armstrong would become our minister on July 1. Also in March, the closing was held on the new Parsonage. A group from the church was involved in the Town Clean-up on March 20.

The Community Good Friday Service was held in our Fellowship Hall on April 2.  The Technology Team was approached by members of other churches about sharing information on their system. On Easter Sunday, there were services at 7:00 (Sunrise), 9:00, and 11:00 AM, with Sunday School at 10:00 AM. It was announced at the April Council meeting that Ryan McDaniel had resigned as Director of Student Ministries. The SPPRC recommended that David Moore be offered the position as he had the credentials and was presently volunteering with them. He was unanimously approved. A first round of COVID-19 vaccinations was held in the church parking lot on April 15. The second round of shots were scheduled for May 6. Also, the Council approved $10,000 for some new furniture for the new Parsonage. A Blood Drive was held in the Fellowship Hall on April 29.

A Retirement Drop-in for Bruce and Ann Sayre was held on Sunday, May 2, during the Sunday School time Our District Superintendent, Dr Love, attended and preached at both services. The second round of COVID-19 vaccinations was held as scheduled on May 5. At the Council meeting on May 20, it was approved to go back to pre-COVID-19 measures at both services beginning June 6. This included opening up all pew rows in the Sanctuary, replacing the Bibles and hymnals, and re-opening the Nurseries during the services. However, the Communion method and lay reading would remain as is.

June 6 signaled the return to almost normal, pre-COVID-19 conditions. It was also the last Sunday for Pastor Bruce Sayre to preach, as he was taking vacation prior to retirement to move. The remaining services in June were aptly led by Mike Edwards, David Giesen, and John Kneece, awaiting the arrival of our new minister, Dr. Shawn Armstrong, on July 4.