By my counting, we are 20 weeks into this pandemic and the subsequent alterations on everyone’s life. Nonetheless, it is without precedent that our church went 16 weeks without gathering and even now our gatherings are limited. Fortunately, we have been able to gather for the last four weeks and I think our gathering is working well. Worship together is wonderful! Some probably believe we should return to normal now, but we (our pastors and deacons) do not believe it is wise to ignore the guidelines published by public health professionals. While this is working well, I am concerned that for many the routine of attending church will be more difficult. It may be easier to “attend church” in our living rooms on TV than in person. Other events may take priority as things return to “normal” and no one knows when or what normal will look like in the future. A full return to church will require improvement in the pandemic control as well as an intentional effort by each of us to get things back to normal. Here are my thoughts as we look to return as a church:
-Return requires our church stay abreast of current pandemic guidance, that we adequately clean our facility, and that we are responsible in maintaining safety guidelines like masks and social distancing. Almost every medical professional recommends the use of face masks, especially in closed spaces. I think we will still ask that worship attendees wear them for the foreseeable future. You can expect and will find our church making sure it is carefully cleaned between uses and is ready for your return when you are ready.
-We will return to regular activities slowly and deliberately. This means we will not initially have large gatherings like homecoming, fellowship meals, or special worship services until it is safe to do so. We will wait as long as possible to make decisions on these scheduled events. For example, we can say now that we will NOT celebrate a homecoming meal in September, but have no decision on our annual Community Thanksgiving celebration in November. As the times draws closer we will make that decision. Of course, our job is to let you know these decisions as far in advance as possible.
-We will continue our on-line service for the foreseeable future. However, because of school and its effects on our worship staff (David Burroughs drives a school bus) we will need to move our Friday recording service to another day. Friday, August 14 will be last day of Friday worship services. We are attempting to “live stream” our first worship services on August 16. This means that the 11:00 AM service on August 16 will be broadcast live at 11:00 AM to our home audience. There are technical issues with this and we are working on those now. However, we still want to offer a limited attendance worship service for those wanting a “live” worship but not ready for the larger group. We are looking at Thursdays at 6:00 PM or Sundays at 6:00 PM. Early this month we will give you a survey so you can tell us if one of these options works for you. We will continue Zoom Sunday School and online Wednesday night Bible study for now.
-Church is about gathering together for worship, fellowship, and discipleship. It is also about going out to our community to spread the Gospel. Many have written that one of the “gifts” of the pandemic may be to force the church out of the building. I encourage you in this season to find ways to go out and share your faith within your family, circle of friends or neighbors. Part of this is build relationships with people who need to hear the Gospel. We are teaching for the next several weeks on Wednesday evening, ways to share your faith. I encourage you to watch these and let us know if we can help prepare you for getting the message of Jesus out to our community.
Some other information and events around our church:
Erin Wagoner, our secretary of four and one half years resigned to accept a full-time position. We appreciate Erin’s work in our church. The Personnel Committee is working on a way forward for this position. In the interim we are managing the office. Let us know if we can help you in any way.
On Sunday, August 30 we are having a one day food drive for our church for East Stokes Outreach Ministry. As you come to church that Sunday bring your canned food items, cereal, children’s snacks or cash donations for East Stokes. We will take the food to them on Monday.
God bless you as we labor together for the Kingdom. Please let us know if we can help you in any way. Pray for our church and the lost in our community as we go forward.
Rev. James A. Cohn