MARCH 17, 2020
Dear Faith Baptist family:
I’m sure you are in just as much turmoil as I am over the COVID-19 crisis. Some of us have lived through other national emergencies, and they were quite traumatic. But I don’t think even the 9/11 terrorist attacks created as much widespread upheaval for average Americans.
No doubt you have been hearing the various recommendations regarding public gatherings. They seem to change daily, and the tolerable numbers keep getting smaller. On Monday, Governor Pritzker issued a mandate prohibiting public gatherings of greater than 50, and President Trump recommended gatherings of no more than 10.
Yesterday afternoon, I met with the deacons to discuss how to respond to the constantly changing environment, recommendations, and mandates. In accordance with Romans 13:1-5, we all agreed that our church will comply with the governor’s mandate. We also concluded that given the contagious volatility of this virus and its lethality in vulnerable victims, we must ensure we don’t unnecessarily create the potential for spreading the disease.
Therefore, we decided to take the following steps of both reasonable compliance and continued ministry.
Beginning this Sunday and until further notice, there will be no public gatherings for services at the church building. Instead, I will conduct a service of prayer, Scripture, and message at 10:30 a.m. via live stream. Don’t worry, I promise not to sing! You will be able to join me live at one of the following venues:
If you are unable to join live, the service will be recorded and available on the church website and Facebook.
In addition, beginning tomorrow evening, we will not meet for the midweek service, youth meeting, and children’s club until further notice. I will, however, conduct a live-stream prayer meeting from 7:00-7:30 p.m. This service will be only on the church website and not on Facebook. PLEASE send me your prayer requests ahead of time by email (email@example.com), text, or phone at 815-631-2967. If possible, please submit them by 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday. During the 7:00 p.m. service, I’ll share the requests, pray, and then bring a brief devotional.
Throughout this period of an uncertain length of time, I will do my best to be available if needed. At this point, I intend to maintain regular hours at the church study/office, Monday through Friday. Please do not hesitate to call. I will also continue to evaluate adding other times of ministry. No doubt, one of the contributing factors will be how quickly I can adapt to trying to preach to or teach a camera. Surely there will be a learning curve—hopefully a short, flat one!
I’m in a Facebook group comprised of pastors of small churches, and I can tell you, we agonize over these kinds of decisions. We are well aware that, as helpful as the online tools are, they cannot replace our in-person gatherings and the fellowship of God’s people. Perhaps one of the beneficial outcomes of this difficult period will be for us to realize how much we take for granted our weekly meetings. I pray that when we return to normalcy, we will come together with greater joy, enthusiasm, and expectation.
The deacons and I also discussed some practical matters after we are able to resume meeting together that will allow for continued vigilance, including placing an offering box on the foyer table for our tithes and offerings rather than passing plates, and some modifications of our procedures for the Lord’s Supper.
Speaking of the offering…. Should this period of restriction last but 3-4 weeks, we should be fine financially without the regular offering routine. Of course, giving through the online portal at the church website or dropping a check in the mail would help. Whatever you choose, if even waiting until regular services resume, I am confident enough in your faithfulness in this area that the ministry will not suffer in the long run.
In closing, should you find yourself in some dire need, please let me know. I assure you we will do all we can to help you carry the burden. Also, please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. This is uncharted territory for us in our lifetime.
May the Lord bless you and your family through this ordeal, and may we all come out of it stronger in our Lord than when we entered.
We understand the importance of this decision and we will continue to Pray in regards to the Health and safety of all our members. We will be watching the Services as they become available.
Harold and Shirley Smith.
Thanks much. Hope the limited services will still be a blessing.