Dear Church Family,
I am grateful for your patience, generosity, and faithfulness over the past several months. Because we continue to respond as best we can to the conditions around us, it probably seems like we are constantly changing – and, in fact, we are. These are difficult and challenging times for the church. We are all at different places when it comes to health concerns, comfort levels, and anxiety. We struggle to do our best to minister to people where they are. As such we have increased our capacity for on-line worship, installed new air filters in the sanctuary that ionize and scrub the air of viruses, bacteria, and mold. We have adjusted services, limited seating, recommended and then required face masks.
We have received much feedback concerning masks. Before we required them at all services, we received emails and comments from people who said they were not coming unless everyone was wearing a mask. After we required them – you guessed it – we received emails and comments from people saying they were not coming unless they didn’t have to wear a mask.
I fear something is being lost, and it is not just church attendance figures. My concern is that we are in danger of losing why we are the church in the first place. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with personal preferences, comfort levels, or even safety. We gather together to worship the One True Living God. That has never been safe or comfortable when done properly. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength requires sacrifice, risk, and obedience. Those things have not been required of the church in America for a long time. But go anywhere else in the world and these things are expected when worshiping God and following Jesus.
Let’s face it; there is risk coming to worship the Lord. We do what we can to minimize that risk, but it is still there. When this virus started we stopped gathering because we were told it was to keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed. Now we are told not to gather because someone might get sick. If that is the standard, then we will never return to church. Getting sick (for that matter even dying) is impossible to prevent. The only thing that standard prevents is people coming to worship the Lord. And I submit that is the greater risk.
Worshiping God is central to being a disciple of Christ. Joining with others to praise, pray, give, hear the Word, receive the sacraments, and respond is critical to growing in our faith. Being connected in a group of other believers, small or large, is necessary for mutual encouragement, accountability, and ministry. The longer a Christian goes without practicing these essential disciplines, the easier it is to lose the connection with the Body of Christ and with God, Himself.
I don’t say any of this because we need you to come so there is money in the offering plate. Actually, our giving is up compared to last year. And personally, doing less services is easier than doing more. I say this because there is great danger to your soul if this trend continues. What is happening is deformative.
I am grateful for our online services and the ability to participate that way. For some, including my mom and dad, it is the only way for them to participate in a worshiping community. We are currently designing ways to worship online that are more intentional and participatory. But online worship is there as a stop-gap measure for when a person is sick or out of town. It was never intended to be “the new way to do church.”
It is time for the church to embrace the hard truth that being a disciple of Jesus requires us to be uncomfortable, to take risks, to trust the Lord with our lives, to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow Him. We are to be a light to the rest of the world that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ – not disease, trouble, hardship, danger, life nor death, nor anything else in all creation!
With all this in mind, I need to inform you that—
Beginning this Sunday, August 16th we will resume our 7:30 service. I hope those who have regularly attended that service will do so again. Masks will be required during the service. We have the seats taped off to help with staying six feet apart and expect everyone to use hand sanitizer as they enter the sanctuary.
At the 9:00 and 11:00 services we recommend you wear a mask but will not require one. We will have the section of pews by the organ and the chairs in front of the piano reserved for masks only. This will ensure a place for those who wish to sit near other people who wear masks. Each service has had plenty of room for people to remain six feet apart. The sanctuary is 90 feet across providing ample space to safely social distance from those who don’t wear a mask.
If you feel sick, we ask that you stay home and join us online at either 9:00 or 11:00.
I understand we are all at different places concerning our health and anxiety. We are making these changes to provide a place for everyone to be in worship with others. Let us remember to love one another so when this pandemic is over, we will be a church that is stronger in the faith and more devoted to God and one another.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we worship the Lord together.