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,
As we begin a new month our church is seeing a run of the virus through several households in the community and church. I am recovering from a mild bout and fortunately have not given it to Debbie. I encourage you to maintain close contact with church members by phone to assist them if at all possible. Dropping off a prescription, picking up groceries, or just a friendly call can go a long way in supporting those isolated by the pandemic. As you talk to them do not hesitate to let us know about any needs so we can assist as needed.
With that in mind, I urge you to encourage each other to wear masks and maintain proper social distancing when attending worship in our sanctuary. Health experts tell us that wearing masks and maintaining a minimum six-foot distance between non-household worshippers are two of the most effective measures to prevent transmission of the corona virus. Our church is blessed with a facility and the technology that allows people to worship in the Sanctuary, balcony, or in the Fellowship Hall. If you are not ready to return in person, we live stream our worship service weekly and record it for viewing at a later time. As we gather on this limited basis we need to stay as safe as possible.
Luke, in consultation with our deacons, made a decision last month to suspend SONquest for the next few weeks. While we await the return of our children’s ministry on Sunday mornings, he has been doing a short children’s message that follows along during our Sunday morning sermon. These messages are very well done, and are helpful for children and adults as well.
I look forward to church returning together with our normal activities, but this is not the time for that. In the meantime, we encourage you to take the new COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available to you. It is one of the most effective ways for life in our community to return to normal. Let us know if you need assistance getting to a vaccine site. Our technology gains during this season are a huge help now and will serve us when things return to normal. May God bless you as we continue to minister together for His Kingdom.
As I write, many are celebrating the end of 2020 and looking forward to a better year in 2021. Believers have a special reason for hope – our faith in Christ. This coming Sunday (January 3) we are preaching on Ephesians 1:3-8 when Paul says we have plenty to celebrate because God called us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless, and adopted us as his children. Regardless of the personal circumstances each believer faces, we can be joyful and confident that God will deliver us according to His plan in 2021. Happy New Year indeed!
Here are some things going on around our church:
For those of you not yet able to worship with us, our church approved in a called business conference on December 13, the purchase of the adjacent property beside our church parking lot. Church leaders are working now to complete that purchase. I am also thankful we could leverage technology through Zoom and other media to have a fairly healthy participation of church members in the voting process. Thank-you for being a part of that decision.
We were not able to do many of the normal Christmas worship activities because of the novel Corona virus, but we did have a successful month in the ministries and outreach of our church. Here is a rundown of what our church did in December.
--Our month began as we gathered nearly 45 Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes to ship overseas in support of the Billy Graham Association’s evangelistic outreach in Operation Christmas Child.
--On December 6, we hosted the PMBA Toy Store for the fifth consecutive year and provided toys for nearly 100 children and 45 families in our community. In addition, donations allowed us to provide 69 new winter coats for children from 36 different families in the toy store. Donations also allowed us to provide each family in the toy store with a Jesus Storybook Bible for home study and devotions. On behalf of Donna Craig and Lisa Ore, who provided leadership for the toy store, I want to thank everyone that participated in this year’s toy store by purchasing toys for the children, volunteering time, or providing additional donations to make this event a success.
--On December 26, we conducted Hope Kitchen and delivered hot meals to nearly 200 people in our community representing 96 households. This important ministry has gone on monthly without interruption for over 10 years and is an important outreach of our church. I deeply appreciate those who work hard each month to faithfully prepare and deliver these meals. I am especially thankful this ministry has continued through the pandemic even though many of the key leaders have been affected by the virus.
--Finally, the pastors and deacons delivered treat bags to our shut-ins and other members on December 27. Men in our church prepared 250 treat bags that were in one way or another placed in the hands of church members on December 26 and 27. Thanks to all of you who made that possible!
I remind you of all these things to let you know that our church is continuing to minister during the pandemic season. More importantly, I encourage you to take advantage of the momentum from outreach events and take time to share your faith with your “One.” Perhaps your “One” is a family member, work associate, friend, or even someone you meet through church outreach. While the pandemic has taken away many opportunities, it has certainly opened others for us to use. Always stay safe but find ways to take advantage of the slower pace to share the Gospel with someone within your circle of relationships. Perhaps this is a time to begin a mentorship or Bible study within your family circle, and even use technology to help you. Many of us connect with family members by Zoom or Skype so consider these tools for Bible study, Gospel conversations and building relationships to advance the Gospel.
Don’t forget our Wake Health counselor, Mr. Mike Nuckolls, who continues to work in our church building one day per week. His number is 336-713-0886. Remember, he accepts major insurance and in the absence of insurance, the church will cover the cost of meeting with him. This service is available as a ministry both to members and those in our community.
Finally, as we begin a new year, I urge you to stay safe, and be patient, the vaccine is coming. We look forward to you returning to church as you believe it is safe. I think our services are as safe as we can make them but we still ask that you use your own wisdom in returning. As always, we stand ready to assist you or speak with you as you need us. God Bless You!
I pray you had a Happy and healthy Thanksgiving. As we begin the Christmas season, we do so without several of our traditional services that we enjoy each year. Instead of Treat Night and our Christmas Candlelight service we will distribute treat bags at the end of our morning worship service on December 20th. If you are not able to attend the service we will have extras so let us know and we will save you treat bags “as long as supplies last.”
Christmas Toy Store As I write this we are completing the preparations for our annual Pilot Mountain Baptist toy store. Many of you gave money, shopped for toys and will help this week with the distribution. Thanks to you all who have participated and are making this event a success.
called Business Conference If you are church member you are receiving this monthly newsletter along with a separate letter about a called church conference on Sunday, December 13, 2020 at 6:00 PM to consider the purchase of small tract of land immediately adjacent to the church. In keeping with the limitations of COVID-19 we have three (3) options available for you to hear the discussion and vote on this matter. 1) You can attend the meeting in person on December 13 at 6:00 PM. If you choose this option please wear a mask and practice proper social distancing. 2) You may call the church office at 336-591-7493, leave a message, and one of the pastors will return your call. You may then ask questions or vote on the matter. 3) You may participate on a Zoom call on Sunday evening December 13 at 6:00 PM. Pastor A.J. can give you connection instructions for this call. Thanks, in advance for your participation in this process.
Old and New Testament classes One of my seminary professors, Dr. Mark Nickens, lives in our community and is offering FREE introductory classes (non-credit) in the New and Old Testament. (He does ask for a $10 donation to help with his costs) The classes run for 5 and 7 weeks respectively. He will start the Old Testament class on or about January 15, and the New Testament class will follow in late February. These are on-line classes, with reading materials available on-line. Dr. Nickens is a superb Bible teacher and offers a great biblical perspective. Let me know if you are interested and I will get you signed up.
Church inclement weather cancellation policy As we enter the winter season, I want to tell our new folks and remind our folks that have been here that any weather changes in our schedule will be distributed on WXII, Channel 12 as soon as we can make that decision. We will only use our phone tree to cancel services for situations like the power outage of a few weeks ago or if it is necessary to cancel very close to our scheduled time of worship. In general, we will make weather related decisions at least 3 hours prior to the worship time. The good news is that if we cancel a service, we will make every effort to live stream a service at 11:00 AM and then leave that service on our Facebook and YouTube channel for later viewing.
Hope Kitchen Our church continues Hope Kitchen on the last Saturday of each month delivering meals to nearly 200 people in our community who need a an extra meal at the end of the month. With COIVD restrictions we have lost some of our normal delivery people. If you can help deliver meals for a couple of hours on the last Saturday of each month (or if you can just fill in when we have a need) just let me know. This is a great ministry that many people depend upon.
Debbie and I wish you and your family a joyful and Christ-filled Christmas. May God bless you in this season!
COVID-19 does not appear to relent but we are hearing a vaccine is being developed. That will probably mark the end of the virus’ great effect on all of us, even though it is still a few months away. Our state and community is seeing an uptick of cases so we must still be wary. Our church is adjusting and we are worshiping together. I am very thankful for that. For the foreseeable future, I do not see the addition of any new activities.
I appreciate all of you attending worship, wearing masks, and maintaining proper social distances. Until we have a virus vaccine those simple precautions are necessary for everyone’s safety. I also understand entirely the individuals and families who are waiting to return to worship. It will be a great day when we can all come together again.
This month the local minister’s association is finalizing plans for a “virtual” Community Thanksgiving service which will probably be a service filmed and placed on our Facebook and YouTube channel for viewing. We will let you know these plans as soon as they are available.
We will observe an abbreviated “Trunk-r-Treat” from 3:00 PM-4:00 PM on Sunday, November 1. If you would like to provide a trunk for this event let Luke know. We will not have our usual inside activities. This event will be for children to safely round up some candy.
Our annual PMBA Toy Store will be Saturday, December 5. This year we will not allow the “shopping” for toys in our building but parents will request gifts their children want for Christmas and these will be gathered prior to December 5. December 5 will then be a distribution day. Donna Craig has requested some folks to shop and gather the gifts for parents approved to participate in the program. Let Donna know if you can help.
I appreciate everyone’s cooperation during this season of pandemic. Especially I appreciate church committees, chairpersons, and deacons for providing wisdom and discernment as we adjust to this situation. We are blessed to have good leaders in our church.
In closing I just ask that we keep in touch with each other. Give someone a call or send them a card.
May God bless you all.
I am pleased we have been able to safely return to worship since early July. Many of you are coming back and we are very thankful for that. Our goal is to hopefully see more and more of you return as you believe it is safe. Our task is to adequate clean the church facility and keep the conduct of worship services as safe as is possible. We further appreciate everyone’s cooperation in wearing masks and keeping a proper “social distance” during worship. I want to give you a further update from a recent deacon’s meeting when the status of church services in the pandemic were discussed.
-On Sunday morning October 4, we will resume SONQuest and Nursery services. These activities will meet on the first and third Sunday morning of each month. This will give parents, children and workers an opportunity to get back at it on a limited basis. Pastor Luke is asking all volunteers to wear masks as well any children age 5 and older. Obviously, children that show any signs of COVID or have been exposed to COVID are asked to not attend. Workers and children alike will have their temperatures checked and everyone will be asked to wash their hands as they arrive. For now, our 4th and 5th grade children are asked to attend worship in the sanctuary. Check-in for SONQuest will be in the breezeway between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. Pastor Luke published a detailed “SONQuest SARS2-COVID 19 Policy and Procedure Guide” for more information.
-We will continue our Sunday morning worship at 11:00 AM and the second service at 4:30 PM. If you are looking for a less populated service to attend, the afternoon service is a good option. As much as is possible this service is the same as in the morning. Of course, live streaming the Sunday morning worship service will continue, as will recording of this service to watch later. Don’t forget the Fellowship Hall is functional to watch and participate in morning worship. In addition, we will be serving coffee and doughnuts in the Fellowship Hall before and during worship starting October 4.
-For now, we will continue to conduct our Bible Study on Facebook and You Tube. Also, the Zoom Sunday School Class will continue Tuesday at 6:00 PM. Let us know if you need help connecting to these activities.
We have tried to be prudent and cautious during the season of the pandemic, while staying as close to public health guidance as possible. I know some of you are ready get back to a full slate of activities as soon as possible. Others are hesitant and tell us they are not ready to attend now. We are seeing on the average, thirty-five to forty percent of our church attend worship each week, and believe this number will tick upward as we return to having SONQuest and nursery. If we resume these events without problems our deacons will consider adding more events in the upcoming weeks.
I appreciate your continued patience, counsel, and prayer as we navigate this situation together. God bless you all.
As we begin a new month, I reflect on Pastor Rick Hughes who has meant much to this church and to me. Rick is retiring August 31 from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as a consultant for evangelism and discipleship after serving in various positions for over twenty years. He is a pastor’s pastor and has been a friend and mentor to me (and many other pastors and church leaders) throughout my ministry. I just participated in a “Zoom” retirement party (a sure sign of the times!) for Rick and heard person after person speak of his consistent generosity, leadership, love for Christ, and love for his family. We are blessed that Rick lives in Stokes County and I look forward to continued friendship with him. If you know Rick and have the opportunity, wish him a long and healthy retirement.
When you read this, we will have conducted our first live stream worship service on August 23. Along with the live stream of our 11:00 AM worship service, we are replacing the Friday afternoon service with a 4:30 PM service on Sunday. This will be the same as the 11:00 AM service and will allow folks who prefer less people than Sunday morning to attend “live” church. Our long-term goal for this afternoon service is help us reach those that work on Sunday mornings in our community. The fellowship hall will be open to participate in both Sunday worship services for further distancing if you desire. As we live stream on Sunday morning, we will also record that service for later watching.
The nursery now has an audio and video feed which will allow nursery workers to watch worship services live once we resume nursery services.
I am very thankful for the technology to allow such events. Our church is blessed with the resources and smart people who can make this happen. A special thanks to David Burroughs who has worked very hard to upgrade our system to allow these capabilities.
I am also thankful that many of you are returning to worship but fully understand those that are still waiting for substantial improvement in the virus containment. As you consider returning, know that our church is carefully cleaned between uses to make it as safe as possible for you. We continue to ask that you wear masks and maintain proper social distancing during worship attendance.
We are cautiously considering restarting nursery and/or SONquest in the next several weeks. To do this we would like to see no significant outbreak from school re-opening and the ability to consistently staff those vital ministries. If you are a SONquest or nursery volunteer and willing to help once we restart these ministries, let Luke know. Of course, we will communicate with you prior to any additions or changes to our current worship schedule.
In addition to the live streamed worship service, we will continue our recorded Bible study on Wednesday evening and our “Zoom” Sunday School class live on Tuesday evening at 6:00 PM. If you have a computer, iPad, or smart-phone, joining this class is easy. Just ask one of us pastors or David Burroughs and we will get you connected. Luke is doing lots of things with parents, children, and youth so see him if you need help connecting with him.
A.J. has been diligently working to refine our church member roster with the primary goal of allowing us better contact with you while reducing mailing costs. Many prefer automated newsletters but we also know that mailing the newsletter is still preferred for a significant number of members. Our goal is to only mail the necessary items. You can help us by letting A.J. know how you prefer to receive information and to keep your contact information current. If you know past members that want us to keep in touch with them, let us know that also.
I appreciate your patience, understanding, and support as we continue to work through this unusual time. Pray for our church, its ministries, and its outreach in the community. I specifically ask you pray for our church to effectively reach the lost within the reach of us all. God bless you as we labor together.
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.
By my calculation it has been sixteen weeks since we gathered to worship as a church on Sunday morning. Though we have tried to maintain our worship, it is difficult to do so even with excellent technology. I am proud that you have adjusted so well to this necessary interruption in our routine. It is good we are coming back next week, July 5, to in-person worship. It will be different but at least we are coming back!
Our responsible return to worship requires we wear masks and practice social distancing to protect everyone from the COVID-19 virus. (We have a mask for you if you need one) Our deacons will serve as ushers to seat you as you arrive and to guide you on the way out. To make it easier for the ushers to seat you, please enter through the back sanctuary vestibule entrance. We ask that you limit your activity to the sanctuary, fellowship hall, and main level bathrooms. These areas are being cleaned before and after each service to make it safer for everyone. There will be plenty of hand-cleaning stations available.
We will not take an offering during the service but you can drop a contribution off as you enter, leave it in offering plates at the door, use our outside dropbox, mail it, or electronically donate.
We ask that folks not congregate after the service and maintain social distancing, along with no handshaking or hugs. Our worship service will be as normal as possible if you consider wearing masks and social distancing as normal.
The sanctuary platform is a little different as we make room for proper distancing to lead music and preach, as well as make cleaning easier and more efficient.
For now we will continue our online worship service, online Bible study, online daily devotions and Zoom Sunday School class. Though we are returning to worship we recognize that some are not yet ready and we fully understand that. For those that desire the Fellowship Hall will be available for use in the worship service with newly installed and upgraded audio and video capability. Our Zoom Sunday School will continue to meet on Sundays at 6:00 PM until further notice. Contact the church office if you would like to be added to the electronic invite.
For those of you who want to attend in-person worship but are not ready for the crowds, beginning Friday July 10 at 3:00 pm, we are inviting up to twenty persons to attend in the sanctuary for the recording of online service. Masks, social distancing, usher seating will still be used. The fellowship hall will not be used on Friday.
We will watch the status of this virus in our community as we assess the best time to resume other church activities. We are as eager to return as you but want to do it safely and responsibly.
As we return we will be preaching a series of messages on “When Jesus Sought Just One.” This is part of our July emphasis on personal engagement of the Gospel, one person at a time. It is perhaps more difficult this season to identify and contact “your one.” However, you still have personal, phone, or social media contact with someone with whom you can share your faith.
Pray about the “one” you can share your faith and look for opportunites to present the Gospel to this person. I encourage you to look to your family, close circle of friends, or co-workers, for the one person in your life that needs the Gospel. As always if you need help in any way please contact us.
I am sure you are concerned about the headlines of violence and unrest in our country. These events highlight the thorough brokenness of our world by sin and underscores our nation’s desperate need for the Gospel. I urge our church to pray how we can be “salt and light” in our community as we work to further the Gospel. Of all the needs in our nation, the Gospel is our greatest need. I further urge you to commit to showing the love of Christ to everyone you encounter, and look for opportunities to bring the light of Christ to a broken world.
As always, AJ, Luke and I remain available to assist you in any way possible. Please contact us at anytime as you need or have a question. God bless you as we labor together for the Kingdom.