Hello Church Family:
As we enter the Christmas season, our old and ever-changing nemesis, the CORONA virus is still making its presence known in our community and church. Our best efforts against this virus still appear to be vigilance, social distancing, face masks, and vaccination. We are monitoring the situation and will let you know if changes in our schedules are required.
Here is a run-down of our Christmas schedule:
Wed, Dec. 1, 9:00-11:00 AM. Toy Store distribution
Wed, Dec. 1, 7:00-9:00 PM. normal Wednesday evening activities
Thu, Dec. 2, 5:00-7:00 PM. Toy Store distribution
Sat, Dec. 3, 9:00-11:00 AM. Toy Store distribution
Mon, Dec. 6, 7:00 PM. annual Fireman’s Supper
Tue, Dec. 7, 7:00-8:00 PM. Life Brite town hall
Wed, Dec. 8, 7:00-9:00 PM. normal Wednesday evening activities
Wed, Dec. 15, 6:30-8:00 PM. Christmas caroling in community
Sun, Dec. 19, 11:00 AM. Treat bag distribution at end of service
Sun, Dec. 19, 6:00 PM. Candlelight service
Wed, Dec. 22. No evening activities
Sat, Dec. 25. NO Hope Kitchen (December meal already distributed)
Sun, Dec. 26, 11:00 AM. Christmas worship service
Wed, Dec. 29. No evening activities
Thanks to so many of you who have contributed, bought toys, and worked in the annual toy store. The toy store is a partnership with our church, the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association, as well as other Southern Baptist churches in our community, namely Willow Oak Baptist, Germanton Baptist, Friendship Baptist, and Red Bank Baptist. We are ready for another successful event. This year we will minister to over seventy families and more than one hundred children. Donna Craig coordinates this event annually and she makes sure every deserving parent who applies receives assistance for their children. Because of your support, we can purchase new coats for over sixty of these children (all the children that the parents requested coats). As the toys are distributed to parents, we get to meet and share the Gospel with each one. This is a great ministry to bring the hope of Christ to many homes. Thanks for all you do to make it happen.
You may have noticed in our December schedule; the Annual Treat night and Candlelight service have been combined to one service. After the morning service, we will distribute treat bags to everyone. That evening at 6:00 PM we will hold our candlelight service which will be more family/kids focused. With many of our families not back at church yet, this service will not have the rehearsal and costuming efforts that characterized past services. Nonetheless, we should have a great time of worship that evening with our church family. Plan to attend as you are able.
I am asking for you to pray that our Hope Kitchen ministry can expand to another weekend per month with the help of another church in Walnut Cove that is considering this ministry. We may support them in some way, but I ask your prayers that they will be able to prepare and distribute meals on a second weekend per month. This church did distribute the second meal in November. A heartfelt thanks to all of you who make this great ministry a reality every month.
Be sure to read Missy Moore’s section in this month’s newsletter about the new church software we are in the process of fielding. This software will make keeping accurate information on church members, guests, perspective members easier. It also streamlines contributions, communications, and a multitude of other services for us all. Perhaps just as importantly it securely protects church information. We can even print an “online” church directory. Stay tuned for upcoming training and orientation to this new program.
This month we will be preaching on “God’s Heroes of the Advent” in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel. The messages are about Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, and the shepherds. I am excited about these messages. Join us in-person or online as we worship this season. I know A.J. and the Choir will provide inspiring music this season.
Debbie and I pray you and your family will have a joyful Christmas season this year. We pray that despite the difficulties of the time, and the difficulties in your own life that you will know the joy of Christ that brings light to all the darkness. Please tell me if we can assist you in any way this season. God bless you. We love you.
First, congratulations to Mr. Andrew Steele who made a first-time profession of faith, and followed this decision with baptism in our worship service on Sunday, October 17. We welcome Andrew and his wife, Haley, who has been worshipping with us for some time. We also welcome their young son, Henson who attends with them. We are blessed to have them with us!
Our church has purchased several tickets to attend the men’s dinner on Monday, November 8, 2021, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the First Baptist Church of Stanleyville. This event is sponsored by the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association and features as guest speaker Lieutenant General (Retired) W. Gerald (Jerry) Boykin who was one of the original members of the Army’s “Delta Force” and who served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. LTG(R) Boykin is also an ordained pastor and will speak to the group after a meal with music provided by “Chosen Road.” We have ten (10) tickets so there is no cost if you would like to attend. See me to reserve your spot.
The Baptist State Convention meets on November 8-9 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. If you are interested in attending as a “messenger” (a voting member to represent our church) see A.J. or me. I call your attention to a special night of preaching on Sunday November 7 at 6:00 PM to attend and participate in great worship and preaching. In addition, on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, at 6:00 PM, I urge you to attend and hear more great worship and preaching by H.B. Charles, pastor of the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. Rev. Charles is one of the great preachers in our S.B.C. and I urge you to hear this worship and preaching event. Let me know if you can attend.
On Wednesday, November 10 at 7:00 PM in the place of our normal Bible study we will honor the veterans in our church. If you are a veteran, we would like for you to attend and tell the church what you did in service for our nation. Be sure to bring awards, uniforms or other items that may be of interest to everyone. We try to do this annually to honor those who served. It is always good to hear the stories of our church’s veterans.
On Tuesday, November 23, at 7:00 PM, we will have our annual Community Thanksgiving worship service in our sanctuary. We will not observe a fellowship time afterward due to the on-going pandemic concerns about fellowship meals. We look forward to seeing you at this service, but will live stream the event if you are not ready to attend in person.
Keep an eye open for an announcement to start a new member class for any prospective new members of our church. This class will be held on Sunday mornings at 10:00 AM for eight consecutive Sundays. We will provide you a newly revised notebook and some great instruction to start our new members on the “right foot.” Our church requires completion of this course prior to joining the church. Let Pastor A.J. or me know if you are interested in attending.
Finally, in the last few weeks someone asked me, “Preacher what do you think about the requirements of businesses or organizations to mandatorily vaccinate employees for the COVID-19 vaccine, or the ongoing requirements to wear a mask?” Here are some of my thoughts on this frequently discussed topic. First, like many of you, I am deeply saddened by the grief and sorrow caused, even within our church family, from those that have been lost to this pandemic. I am also moved greatly by those health care providers, several also in our congregation, who have relayed the pain, sorrow, and stress caused by taking care of these very sick patients in our hospitals. We must not even underestimate the damage the pandemic has done to the economic health of many people by preventing them from working or by the closure of their employers because of business shutdowns. This pandemic has caused much sorrow, loss, and disruption in the normal course of our lives. Our church, like other churches, has experienced significant disruptions in services and ministries that we have not to date, fully restored. Indeed, the pandemic has affected our church in unprecedented ways.
This, and many more issues, generate much discussion about the COVID vaccine and whether it should be mandated for people who work in our society. Just for information, most of our church staff is fully vaccinated. Personally, I think it is prudent to do that. I also wear a mask in businesses that request it. I believe that is the respectful and Christ-like way to approach this matter. As you decide about vaccination for you and your family, I ask you to consider Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, written to advise the Corinthians about harming younger believers by the exercise of their freedom in 1 Corinthians 10:23 (and a similar passage in 1 Corinthians 6:12), “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible but not everything builds up.’ No one is to seek his own good, but the good of the other person” (CSB). In this, Paul is telling the church that although they may have the freedom to do something, is exercising that freedom in the best interest of building up the church? In other words, if we express our freedom (to wear or not wear a mask, or to get or not get vaccinated) does that decision harm or potentially harm other believers, especially new believers? I do not think this passage directly answers our question, but it does give us perspective. Our goal is not just to decide these matters, but to represent Christ in all that we do.
I ask you to pray about the vaccine and proceed in the way you believe the Spirit of God leads you. Keep in mind that your, and my, responsibility is to “build up the body of Christ.” Regardless of how you choose, in all your dealings with others do so in a Christ-like manner. This includes interpersonal contact and social media. Some of the nastiest social media posts are made by those who claim to believe in Jesus. Make sure your communication builds up fellow believers and shows non-believers the difference Christ makes in your life. Have compassion for those affected by this illness and the ensuing tragedies created by it. Exercise your freedom (to take the vaccine or not take it, or wear or not wear your mask) in a Christ-like manner. In other words, in this and in all areas of your life let the light of Christ shine through in all that you do. Use your freedom in Christ to show others how much Christ loves them.
God bless you and take a special time to give thanks during our Thanksgiving season.
Hello Church Family:
By now, it probably is not news to you that on Sunday, September 12, 2021, I informed the church after worship service that I will retire as pastor on March 31, 2021. As I said then, I am not leaving because of any known health issue, church problem, or conflict, but simply feel strongly that God is leading me to this decision. To this end, I have been meeting with the Personnel Committee and Deacons since June and support them in recommending we begin a transition to consider Pastor A.J. Reynolds as the next pastor. The transition means that the church will begin to make several staff adjustments to prepare for a new pastor. These adjustments include hiring a secretary (office manager), a part-time music minister, and a youth/children pastor. In accordance with our church constitution, our church voted to start this process on September 22. We will need to vote again sometime early in 2022 to consider a call to Pastor A.J. The transition is effective October 1, 2021. During this time, I will remain the pastor. A.J. will remain the Associate Pastor. Pastoral ministry will remain the same.
I announced this decision early to allow the church adequate time to make a smooth pastoral transition. Debbie and I love this church dearly and want the best for you in the future. I ask that you prayerfully consider these decisions and take part in the vote to call Pastor A.J. early in 2022. Please do not hesitate to contact Ronald Watts (chairman of deacons), Missy Moore (chairperson of personnel), or me if you have any questions on these important decisions.
Our deacons met Sunday, September 19, and decided to further postpone our homecoming celebration scheduled for October 10. We all felt the risk outweighs the benefit as COVID cases continue to rise in Stokes County. In addition, they decided to postpone restarting monthly fellowship meals and the Heritage Apartment outreach, also scheduled for October. We are continuing in-person Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Wednesday evening Bible studies, and SONquest activities (with masks). However, we are delaying any additional start-ups until the virus situation stabilizes. I appreciate everyone’s on-going patience as we balance safety with a desire to return to normal activities.
The P.M.B.A. is sponsoring a men’s dinner on Monday, November 8, 2021, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the First Baptist Church of Stanleyville, 851 Ziglar Road, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27105. The speaker for this event is Lieutenant General (Retired) William G. (Jerry) Boykin. The event will involve a meal and worship music by “Chosen Road.” LTG (Ret) Boykin was in the Army for 36 years, was one of the original members of the elite “Delta Force,” and served as the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence in his last four years. He is an ordained minister, and currently serves as the Family Research Council’s Executive Vice President. I am sure men will enjoy this event and strongly encourage your attendance. Tickets for the event are $15, which include the meal and a benefit for “No Greater Love Foundation” which supports “recovery, resiliency, and renewal of Spirit for our nation’s military warriors and families.” Please let Pastor A.J. or me know if you would like to attend this event.
I wanted to let you know that Pastor Jeff Stevens, the pastor of Enon Baptist Church in Yadkinville passed away quite unexpectedly on Sunday September 5, 2021. Many of you may knew Jeff from his pastorate at Germanton Baptist Church. I counted Jeff as a friend and will certainly miss his wise counsel. I ask that you pray for Jeff and his young family as they reel from this loss.
Finally, COVID continues to make its unwelcomed rounds in our church, church family, and through our day care. I ask that you pray for our folks (and others as well) to recover quickly and return to normal activities. We look forward to an end to this situation!
As I write, school is returning, and fall is around the corner. Summer vacations are winding down and it is time to think about a new church year. Our church year begins on October 1, so the business committees of the church (personnel, finance, and nominating) are winding up their summer work of getting the budget and people needed for a new church year. Last year, in the middle of COVID we did not produce a new budget, but we are getting back to normal this year. On Wednesday evening, September 15, we will present our budget and nominating reports for the upcoming year. Plan to attend this important discussion evening. It is a good chance to see the budget, how it works, and to discuss the changes for the new year. The following week on Wednesday, September 22, we will vote on the new budget. Our budget is in line with your consistent giving over the last year, and continues our commitments to missions and outreach, while maintaining our facility and providing the staff a good raise the upcoming year. If approved it then goes into effect on October 1, 2021. I look forward to seeing you on September 15 and 22.
Sunday, August 29, you will find a deacon nomination form for you to consider and nominate deacons for the upcoming year. According to our church by-laws, deacons are nominated by the church membership and then selected by the deacons. As you know, our deacons serve three-year terms and then rotate off for at least one year. Prayerfully consider nominating up to four deacons over the next couple of weeks so our deacons can fill the upcoming vacancies in their September meeting.
Speaking of deacons, in their last meeting they approved resuming our monthly fellowship meal on Wednesday October 6. Plan to join us for a great meal followed by adult and children’s Wednesday activities.
That following Sunday, on October 10, we will celebrate homecoming. Our goal this year is to continue getting our folks back to church after COVID. Invite someone for a great day of worship and fellowship.
We will start back on our preaching series on Acts on September 12. I look forward to continuing to preach through this great Book.
As we get ready to finish up summer, it is great to see our Choir back in person during worship. I know some are still waiting for more improvement in the virus to return, but it finally seems like church is getting back to normal.
I sense the short series in Revelation is resonating with some of you based on your comments to me. It is certainly resonating with me. As we have looked at the first three chapters, and find the Risen Christ circulating among the churches, I am reminded that we must be aware that church is not merely for our enjoyment, or preference, but we are the hands of Christ in our community. Specifically, we are here to reach lost people with the Gospel. I am increasingly burdened with this responsibility, and I pray that as we grow together, you will be burdened as well. That being said, I encourage you:
-to invite someone you know that is not in church to attend church with you, or even better, bring them to church with you.
-to intentionally meet someone that does not know Christ, get to know them, and begin a Gospel conversation with them. This may take some time, but there is no better time to begin this relationship than now.
I believe (in the words of our text from Revelation 3:7-13) that God has placed an “open door” for this church to reach our community for Christ. We seem to be poised in so many ways to reach those that do not know Christ personally. I urge each of us to seriously commit yourself to prayer and find ways to reach lost people. You know them. You may live with them, may live beside them, or may work with them. As we will see in the message this coming Sunday, God opens and closes these doors for our church. Let’s work while we have the opportunity!
To this end, our Deacons met last week and decided on Homecoming for Sunday October 10, 2021. We will worship with great music and preaching, and share a wonderful fellowship meal afterward. We want to reach out to our church members and encourage them to attend. Especially reach out to those who have not yet returned to church. Let’s have a great day together!
I appreciate those who are working so hard getting us ready for a new year [starting October 1] and to make our Sunday services work each week. This includes our committees, the Choir, our teachers, and those who work our technology. It takes a lot of gifted people, and we are fortunate to have these people. Also, know that the Deacons and Personnel Committee are actively meeting to discuss the youth and children pastor’s vacancy. If you have recommendations, get in touch with that committee or one of our current deacons.
God bless you all,
We spent Wednesday and Sunday of last week honoring Pastor Luke Long for his excellent ministry to our children and youth over the past two years. We are sad to see Luke leave our church for another ministry but share his excitement as God continues to use and develop this highly capable young Gospel minister. I am glad our church had a role in his pastoral growth by ordaining him to the Gospel ministry, mentoring him with so many seasoned believers in this church, and loving him and Ashley during their tenure with us. We were certainly blessed by his energy, ability, and leadership. Like many of you, I loved his weekly children’s sermon videos! We wish them God-speed and the best as they enter a new calling in a new church around Richmond, Virginia.
His leaving of course leaves us with a big hole to fill with our youth and children’s ministries. Our children and youth are a top priority for this church, which is why we sought Luke in the first place. Filling such a vacancy is not easy and often takes time. The Personnel Committee and Deacons are now meeting to discuss this position and how our church staff should look as we go forward. We ask for your patience so we can make the right decision at the right time. Most of all, I ask for your diligent prayer as we seek God’s guidance on filling this position.
We are also seeking people within our church to keep the Wednesday evening and Sunday morning children and youth ministries moving during the interim period. We will provide coordination and oversight in the church office but need some assistance, especially in the following areas:
-Adult assistant to assist the youth teacher on Wednesday evenings. This may be a parent, or other adult to be consistently present and assist with games and activities.
-Adult assistant to assist the youth teacher on Sunday mornings during Sunday School.
If you have any suggestions on the long-term staffing of our youth and children ministries, or if you can assist with the above needs, please contact Ronald Watts (chairman of Deacons), Missy Moore (chairperson of the Personnel Committee) or myself. We would love to hear from you!
Just for your planning and information, here is a list of our children and youth ministries:
-SONquest Wednesday Evening. Bible study, fun activity, and fellowship. Leader: Lisa Ore.
Meets in the SONquest Room downstairs from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
-Youth Wednesday Evening. Bible study and fellowship. Leader: David Burroughs. Meets in third floor youth room from 7:00 to 8:00 PM.
-Children’s Sunday School: school aged children’s Sunday School lesson and activities. Leader: Mark & Missy Moore. Meets in SONquest room from 10:00 AM to 10:45 AM.
-Youth Sunday School. Youth aged Sunday School. Leader: Colby Mabe. Meets in third floor youth room from 10:00 AM to 10:45 AM.
-Youth and Children parents. A new Sunday School class for the parents of youth and children. Teaches similar lessons to what the children and youth are learning to assist parents in discipling their children and youth at home. Leader: Ronald & Ann Watts. Meets in conference room beside SONquest from 10:00 AM to 10:45 AM.
-SONquest Children’s Church worship and fellowship. Leader: teams rotate every 3 weeks. Meets in the SONquest Room downstairs from 10:45 AM to 12:00 PM on Sundays.
-Nursery care for toddlers and below. Leader: teams rotate every 3 weeks. Meets in the nursery.
As you can see, our church offers a robust set of activities and opportunities for children and youth. Except for the two teachers to assist as listed above, all we need now is for the parents and grandparents to bring their children and youth to be a part of these events. I urge you all to make an extra effort to get children or youth here and to invite someone (or bring them) to be a part of these vital ministries.
On other matters, in July we will begin a short preaching series from Revelation “From Now to Eternity: The Church in the Last Days,” looking at the present day and future church as seen from the Apostle John’s vision. This fits nicely with our study in Acts. Acts shows us how the church age began, this series looks at how it ends. We will return to Acts in late August.
On July 11, we will observe the Lord’s Supper as part of our morning worship service. Also, I look forward to seeing our Choir back in July.
July begins, of course, with our national 4th of July celebration. As Americans, take time to be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and for our nation, which makes these freedoms possible. We have heard much this year about our faults as a nation, but I want to emphasize the great privilege and freedom we enjoy from living in America. Celebrate that this year in some way. Make time this month to pray for our nation, its leaders, and for God to bring about revival to our land. If God does send revival, are we at FBC Walnut Cove willing to be a part of taking the Gospel to our community? I sure pray that we are! God bless you and your families. Please stay safe this summer.
Our community and church is certainly in a different place than last year at this time. If you recall, we were not even meeting in person last June. Good things certainly did come from the pandemic period, which include our ability to live-stream services and a practical working upgrade to the audio-visual capabilities in the Fellowship Hall, and nursery. Now, with Wednesday nights and Sunday School returning, activity begins to look more normal. I am very thankful for that and will never take the simple privilege of attending church for granted.
To that end, Adult Bible study, IMPACT, and SONquest for kids and nursery are operating every Wednesday evening. We will resume Sunday School on Sunday, June 6. Since not all our teachers are back, here is a listing of classes that will be available:
Class Teacher(s) Location
Ruth Class Audrey Gillespie Ruth Class’ room
B.F. Johnson Class Andrew Smith/Jimmy Newell B.F. Johnson room
W.R. Assisted Living Carol Wiles on-site at W. Ridge
Nursery Brenda White Nursery
Children class Mark & Missy Moore SONquest room
Youth class Luke Long 3rd floor Youth room
Parent class* Ronald & Ann Watts third floor lounge
ALL OTHER CLASSES** Gerald Spaugh/Jim Cohn Fellowship Hall**
*I am very excited that Luke is starting a new class for the parents of children and youth during the Sunday School hour. This will follow the curriculum being used for the children and youth, updated for adults, of course.
**We will use the sound system in the Fellowship Hall to improve audio quality. As attendance grows and teachers return, we will restart other adult classes as soon as possible. Incidentally, we will restart our joint class with a study of Nehemiah and Ezra.
Wednesday evening Bible Study and prayer is being held in the Sanctuary, and we are using a slightly different format. As we continue our study of Romans, A.J. and I are working through the book in a more discussion-based format. Let us know what you think.
We will also re-start our men’s small group on Sunday morning, June 27 at 08:15. We have a great time together and look forward to getting that back. Let me know if you are interested in participating. This group meets in the lounge on the third floor.
Our Deacons have updated the current mask policy to keep pace with current federal and local governmental guidance on the pandemic. Masks are optional in all adult and youth-aged gatherings, though you may certainly wear them if you are more comfortable. SONquest will still wear masks until further notice. It is good to see others’ faces as we begin to emerge from months-long mask mandates! We will still have masks and hand cleaners available for you and your guests if you need them.
With all these events, we still have some who have not yet returned to church. There are many good reasons, but I urge everyone to contact those you have not seen and invite them back. We certainly respect those who are concerned about pandemic safety, but I look forward to seeing our church return.
As spring continues, our church is returning to many in-person activities. Here is the status of our important ministries and services:
-Corporate Worship services continue Sundays at 11:00 AM
-Wednesday Bible Study resumes May 19, 2021 at 7:00 PM in the Sanctuary
-Small groups have returned in person at the discretion of their leaders
-SONquest resumes services weekly as of Sunday, May 2, 2021
-Sunday School returns Sunday morning, June 6, 2021
-Hope Kitchen continues the last Saturday of each month. Let us know if you are interested in helping in this vital ministry.
We will continue to stream Sunday morning worship services live in real time. These are available any time thereafter on our YouTube channel. Once Wednesday Bible Study resumes, we will record these and post the videos on YouTube too. The last Zoom “Sunday” School class will be on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 as we begin in-person Sunday School on June 6.
Wednesday Bible Study will resume May 19 with our study of Romans. We will meet in the Sanctuary (to facilitate social distancing). Our format will be slightly different (continuing the format from our videos) as A.J. and I lead a short Bible study followed by a discussion on specific topics relevant to the passage. The goal will be to allow more interaction along with the verse-by-verse teaching. We will, of course, begin our time with prayer. We ask that everyone who attends wear masks for continued protection.
I am excited that SONquest is returning to weekly Children’s Church services starting May 2. Doing this required the cooperation of our teaching teams and the families who bring their children. It is good to get back to the regularity of this important ministry.
I appreciate all of you supporting our church, returning to worship, and getting back to normal routines, as you are able. We are not “there” yet, but perhaps the end is in sight. Certainly, some of you need more time, and we understand your caution. I ask that you continue to not take unnecessary chances with the virus as it still is affecting people in our church and community. Specifically, we continue wearing masks and social distancing in worship and corporate gatherings.
The work of our church goes on. I urge you to take any opportunity you may have to develop Gospel-centered conversations with people who do not know Christ. As you are able, invite those without a church home to join us in the Sanctuary or Fellowship Hall. Look for ways to minister to those outside our church.
God bless you,
This coming Sunday is Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Day that more accurately describes the day. It is the highest point of our Christian calendar, and with good reason. Last week, we celebrated the Lord’s Supper in our worship service for the first time in a year because of the pandemic. This simple celebration, given to us by Jesus Himself, highlights Christ’s redemptive work on the cross for us. The cross, combined with the Resurrection, constitutes God’s redemptive work on our behalf. Dr. Tim Keller writes of these events in his new book Hope in Times of Fear:
“The cross and the resurrection together—and only together—bring the future new creation, the omnipotent power through which God renews and heals the entire world, into our present. When Christ paid the debt of sin on the cross, the veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). That veil represented the separation of humanity from the holy presence of God. That presence had once made the earth a paradise and now, because of the death of Christ, that presence can come to us, and because of the resurrection it does come to us. The risen Christ sends us the Holy Spirit, and both Christ and the Spirit are the ‘firstfruits’ (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23), a first installment, a down payment on the future triumph over death and of a new remade material world. This renewing power from the future is only partially, but it is actual and substantial—and has entered the present world” (pages 20-21).
Resurrection Day is a great day indeed, and worthy of our best worship to God. Fortunately, with the proliferation of the COVID-19 vaccine, we can worship the resurrection in person this week, though we do require care. As you attend service, we ask that you wear a face mask, and keep proper social distance between families. Our Sanctuary, Balcony, and Fellowship Hall are available for seating. If you have not attended since last year, you will be impressed with the new video and sound capability of the Fellowship Hall (plus there are coffee and doughnuts available for Fellowship Hall worshippers). We look forward to seeing you, but if you are not yet comfortable with in-person worship, the service will be live-streamed for watching during the eleven o’clock hour and recorded for later viewing.
As a reminder our Easter Sunday events are as follows:
-Sunrise service will be live in the church cemetery Easter Sunday at 7:00 AM. This service will be recorded but not live-streamed. We ask that you wear a mask and keep proper social distancing in the cemetery service.
-Easter Sunday service in our sanctuary at 11:00 AM.
Spring is also bringing a return to some normalcy in other aspects of our church schedule. The deacons have approved a normalization of the following adult events in accordance with this schedule:
-Wednesday evening Bible study will restart at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, May 19.
-Sunday School will resume on Sunday morning, June 6 at 10:00 AM.
These restart dates are contingent that the current lack of community spread continues. Luke will discuss the children and student restart schedules. Let one of us pastors know if you need additional information on any of these changes. We will continue mid-week Bible Study videos on YouTube and “Sunday” School classes on Zoom until these services begin in person again.
Debbie and I pray you will have a worship-filled Resurrection Week experience with your family and church friends. This is a great week to invite someone to attend church with you or watch our worship services online. We look forward to seeing you as you are able to return to church.
For all of you who love the heat of summer (I am not a fan of summer) there are signs of the weather shifting to spring-like temperatures, though our winter may not yet be over. We remember those who have suffered mightily in the severe cold of Texas and the Midwest. Our prayers go out to the many who have had severe disruptions and even worse from the recent extreme weather. In almost apocalyptic ways, we have seen extremes of climate, political unrest, societal violence, and of course the pandemic. This brings to mind Paul’s writing in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “but know this: hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness but denying its power” (CSB). It is good to know that when our world seems most troubled, we can be comforted, by Scripture, that shows God is firmly in control and we labor while awaiting a better day which is indeed certain for all believers.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the global pandemic. Indeed, we have made progress in the management of the virus, and that is evident in our community as infection numbers have decreased. However, we await more people being vaccinated and fewer infections to really breathe a sigh of relief. I read an article this week that speaks of church attendance during the pandemic. In general, churches are seeing somewhere between 30% and 60% of their congregations returning to church. We estimate that on a typical Sunday our church has between 35% and 40% of our congregation back in attendance. Another 15% to 20% faithfully watches digital services, either by live stream, Facebook or later on YouTube. Where is the rest of the church? There are many good reasons for church members not to be in church during the pandemic. Some have been sick and are recovering. Still others are legitimately concerned about contracting the virus and remain away until their vaccination protocol is complete. Others await continued improvement in our community virus transmission numbers. There are senior citizens in these groups, but also there are many parents with school-aged children still concerned about the real risks in contracting the virus in daily activities like work, school and family contacts. These groups are not ready yet for church and this is very understandable.
But, I share the serious concern of many pastors and leaders in that another group may have permanently changed their church attending habits in the pandemic. Church experts warn that post virus attendance may decrease 20% to 30% because of these newly acquired habits. In every congregation, that is a sizeable number. Much competes with church for time and our habits easily can change in a matter of weeks. Therefore, if you have not returned because you are concerned about the virus for you and your family, we fully understand, and want you to return once you are comfortable with that decision. But, if barriers that kept you away because of the virus are resolved, I pray you will get back to regular attendance as soon as possible. Watching church at home is good when we must (and we will continue making that available for people who need to be home) but it is not a lasting substitute for in-person worship. I look forward to seeing you. As always, Scripture has a good word for us, “and let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, CSB).
This request requires that our church maintain a safe environment for people to attend church. I think we have done well with that task. Mask wearing is nearly universal, families usually sit together properly distanced from other families. Most in attendance avoid physical contact with non-household members. Remember, we have seating in the balcony, main level of the Sanctuary and in the Fellowship Hall (with coffee and doughnuts). I am thankful you who attend have been so cooperative and that to our knowledge we have not had illness resulting from church attendance.
Mark your calendars for the following Easter week celebrations in our church:
-Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021, 11:00 AM – worship with the Lord’s Supper
(we will issue each participant an individual packet as we observe the Lord’s Supper together)
-Resurrection Sunday, April 4, 2021, 7:00 AM – in-person Easter Sunrise Service in our Cemetery
-Resurrection Sunday, April 4, 2021, 11:00 AM – Easter worship in our Sanctuary
I want to express to you, on behalf of Debbie, sincere appreciation for the many kindnesses you demonstrated to her in the loss of her Mom (Mrs. Willie Sneed) on February 9. You are a gracious and loving people. We love and appreciate you.
May God bless you all,
Rev. James A. Cohn