Debbie and I returned from a two-week break in Ocracoke, NC and found a different world from the one we left on March 14. Not that we could not see that the situation was worsening with the coronavirus, but could anyone imagine the events that have unfolded which include a national/international disruption of commerce, travel, school, healthcare and most aspects of daily living? Not to mention, we could never anticipate the illness, grief, stress and overload of our health care system caused by the virus itself. Our world is a different place in almost every way.
Things are much different at church also. Thanks to the expert leadership of Pastors AJ and Luke, Leigh Taylor, and David Burroughs, we transitioned quickly from weekly “in person” traditional worship to a well-produced digital-based worship on “YouTube.” Because of the situation with the coronavirus, I believe this will be our model for worship for the next several weeks.
In my notes this month, I want to make sure everyone understands how our church is functioning now and how you stay connected with us until we return to in-person worship and activities.
As you know, all activities that require us to assemble as a church, in groups of ten (10) people or more, are stopped until further notice. This complies with instructions from civil authorities and is done for the safety of our congregation and the entire community. I believe our church should be good citizens as Paul stated in Romans 13:1-3, and we will diligently comply with the established laws concerning this situation.
Here is how we will conduct church during Easter and going forward until we gather again in person.
-Sunday worship will continue each week on our “YouTube” channel which is “First Baptist Church of Walnut Cove.” The service will be uploaded at 11:00 AM each Sunday. You can also access this site by going to our web page, fbcwalnutcove.com and select the current service. You can watch the service anytime.
-Starting Wednesday April 1 at 7:00 PM, you can access a weekly Bible study. The Bible study will be about 30 minutes and you access it the same way as our worship services.
-On Thursday April 9, Maundy Thursday, we will have a “drive-by prayer service” at our church. We have never done one of these, and I imagine most of you have never attended one but here is what will happen. From 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM you may come to our side church parking area (where the office is located). Stay in your car, roll your window down, and keep proper social distancing (at least 6 feet from any person you are not living with). AJ, Luke and I will be there to give each car a short biblical word of encouragement and a prayer. It is important that you not get out of your car to mingle with others and to keep a safe distance. We do ask also that no one congregates inside the church during this time. Of course if you are running a fever, have a cough or other virus-like symptoms, we ask that you not attend. Do not worry about the time as we will meet each car as long as you are in line by 7:30. A sister church in our community checked with a senior governmental official in Stokes County, and if done this way, the service does not violate the community distancing restrictions.
-On Easter Sunday April 12, we will make available for access at 6:45 AM a sunrise service, conducted in our cemetery. You can get up and watch the pre-recorded service at the time of sunrise (about 6:45 on April 12) or watch it later at your convenience. The service will be recorded at another time so don’t come to the cemetery during that hour. You can access this service the same way you do our other worship services.
-Also on Easter Sunday, we will make the weekly worship available at 11:00 AM.
-Our church office remains open during its usual hours of 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM, Monday through Thursday. Please remember social distancing (at least 6 feet from anyone) if you need to visit the office. Also, please do not come to the church if you are experiencing viral symptoms. Remember, our daycare is continuing to operate.
If you do not have internet access, make sure the church office is notified so that we can get you CD or DVD copies of our worship services. If you cannot connect to our services in some way, we will help you. Just let us know.
Also, be sure to let us know if you change your contact information. It is always important but very important now that we can connect with you.
-We will continue to communicate with you by phone tree, Facebook, Twitter, our church web page, and by our newsletter. We will try to keep you informed without overloading you with information. We will also communicate with you by phone, text, or email on a regular basis as much as is possible.
-Our deacons are meeting every two weeks to stay abreast of the situation as it develops. If you are a single adult, widow or widower above age 70 in our church, expect a call from one of our deacons as we have implemented a new ministry to this important group this month.
-Remember, you can access several months of sermons on our web page. Our church also has an account with Right Now Media which gives you free and unlimited access to hundreds of Bible studies done by some of the great preachers and Bible teachers of today. It has materials for adults, married couples, youth and children. Right Now Media is literally the “Netflix” for Bible studies. Contact the church office for Right Now Media access.
I encourage you to use this time to connect with your family with personal devotions, prayer and Bible study. Also make a special effort to connect with each other within the church.
If you need myself, AJ or Luke for ministry or to just to talk, feel free to contact us. Please keep us informed of illness, injury or other emergencies. We are limited in visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities, and Hospice but will do whatever we can to keep connected and minister to you. My cell number is 336-978-5285. Please call me if you need me. (I ask that you not provide this number to persons outside of the church). Remember, your church is still working and we are here to minister to you as is needed!
In all these changes, we are very blessed. We live in an era that technology is a friend of the church, and we have some very smart leaders who can help us leverage that technology for the Gospel. I am very grateful we have AJ and Luke who are gifted young men in many ways, and fully committed to our church. They performed superbly to keep our church moving as this crisis began. We are very blessed to have them. In addition, we have a great staff, wise, Godly deacons, along with many skilled leaders. Most importantly, God is on His throne. The coronavirus did not surprise Him. We are a part of His church, and He will see us through this.
We are also people of hope. Christ died for our sins, gave us access to the throne of God, planted the Spirit of God in our life, and gave us access to the immeasurable riches of Christ. So be hopeful and encouraging with those you encounter. Do not live in a spirit of fear but live grounded in the promises of God. Be safe, prudent, responsible but also be encouraged joyful and confident. Remember Paul’s words in Romans 8: 15, For we did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out ABBA Father! Because of Christ we have been adopted into God’s family and we have been given personal access to God our Father. Use that access well during this time of uncertainty and beyond!
This trial will pass and we will get back to our routine as soon as safely possible. Until then we will continue in the ways discussed above. I fully expect we will get better at this as we go forward, so we may refine things as we are able. Pray for God’s Kingdom to be advanced. Stay safe!
We love you in Christ.
Rev. James A. Cohn