Friday Elder Update: May 15, 2020
Grace Bible Church will be regathering May 24.
Grace Bible Church,
I apologize in advance for the length of this email. We are excited to regather! In order to do so in a way that makes regathering a blessing to everyone at Grace Bible Church, we are putting before you a large amount of important information that we would ask you to read and carefully consider.
Our desire is to be back together in person as a church, and to do so in a way that allows us to benefit from corporate gatherings while being sensitive to the current realities related to the COVID virus. We want you to know the details of what we are planning so that you can make an informed decision about your participation in corporate gatherings at GBC.
For some, these measures may appear to be too much.
For some, these measures may be just right.
For some, these measures are not enough.
For all, this is a great opportunity to exercise patience, to extend grace, and to love one another well.
Here are the latest guidelines issued in our state for places of worship:
CLICK HERE to read guidelines
The big-picture principles we are operating under in our regathering are 1) to limit breathing the same air, and 2) to avoid touching the same things.
Consider the unique situation that a church gathering provides in a season of contagion: we are a large group of people from very different segments of society (we come from different neighborhoods, different workspaces, and different homes; and we represent widely different demographics and physiological vulnerabilities). And we gather together in one confined space. And then we disperse to all those other societal segments again. And we repeat the process. Each week. In a season of serious contagion, a church gathering collects a wide variety of exposures and puts them all in proximity to each other, then potentially sends the exposure of each societal segment to all of the other societal segments represented in our gathering. This puts a new spin on our church’s vision: draw in, build up, send out. While we most certainly want to maximize our evangelism, discipleship, and equipping, we want to minimize our contribution to the spread of the coronavirus.
Regathering on Sunday, May 24th.
Our service plans for May 24th and 31st are as follows:
We will host two services: 9:00am and 10:45am.
We are asking for families to attend these services according to last names:
9:00am —> A-J
10:45am —> K-Z
Each service will be 1 hour long.
We will clean surfaces, common areas, and restrooms between services.
There will be no food/coffee service, no BookTable Ministry, and no Information Table.
There will be no Equipping Hour.
There will be no childcare or NGM (children’s ministries).
You will keep your kids with you in the service. This service will be shorter to accommodate the kids being in the worship center with us. We will also be led in an NGM lesson as part of the service.
Public Reading of Scripture
NGM (Children’s Ministry message)
Sermon and the Lord’s Table
The Worship Center:
Our corporate worship space will be reconfigured to accommodate half of our normal capacity, with spaces between rows and sections of chairs.
The Lord’s Table:
We will be celebrating communion, using self-contained, single-serve bread and juice, distributed to individual participants by servants who will be wearing masks and gloves.
These communion elements are NOT gluten-free. It will take us a little more time to distribute the bread and cup to individuals, and will take a little more time these first two Sundays to rejoice in what it means to be together under the cross of Christ.
Some Temporary Adjustments:
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued the following recommendations for places of worship:
“Encourage use of a cloth face covering at all gatherings and when in the building. Coverings should not be placed on children less than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.” CLICK HERE to read about mask usage
The elders, reflecting these recommendations, want to strongly recommend that you bring a cloth mask, giving special consideration to wearing a mask at entry and exit points, common areas, and during times of congregational singing. These would be the situations where masks provide a significant level of protection with little effort. Significant mask usage increases the ability of some in our body to participate in our corporate gatherings who would not otherwise be able to participate. Mask usage (especially during singing and entry/exit) is one of the most important interventions to provide an actual decrease in risk. Our greeters, ushers, and communion servers will be wearing masks.
Regarding mask usage and other precautionary measures, it is important that we all recognize the need for patience and understanding with each other. Wearing a mask is a good way for healthy people to actually love others. And there are some people who cannot, and who should not, wear masks. We want to encourage you to extend love to one another, lest mask-wearing or non-mask-wearing become an occasion for judgmentalism, suspicion, and lack of love. All of us have the opportunity to grow in our expressions of selfless concern for others, believing the best about others’ motives, and walking in patient understanding.
We would like to encourage you to limit your restroom usage while on campus. Plan ahead. These will be shorter services. Please just plan to NOT enter a restroom that has a lot of people in it.
We plan to dismiss the services by rows (wedding-style) to help reduce congregational congestion. We will encourage extended fellowship to take place out-of-doors.
We would like to encourage you to help your children observe appropriate social distancing practices and limit what they touch. This may require somewhat closer parental attention than we might be accustomed to.
If you are vulnerable, or may have been exposed, stay home.
If you have are vulnerable, we encourage you to stay home and live-stream for now. Please refer to the CDC’s guidance regarding risk factors.
Also, if you have been exposed to COVID19 within the last two weeks, please stay home.
The virus can spread without symptoms; however, if you do have symptoms it is especially important to livestream for now. Symptoms that should keep you home include:
-Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
-Fever or chills
-New loss of taste or smell
If you are in regular contact with people who are vulnerable, please do not regather with us until it is appropriate for you to do so. We will continue to livestream our services, and we will seek alternative methods for meeting shepherding needs for those who cannot join us in person.
Out of sight, out of mind?
Those in our body who cannot join us in person just yet may experience acute feelings of being left out. It behooves all of us to thoughtfully care for one another and to be mindful of those in our body who cannot be present with us on a Sunday morning. Please consider the people in your smallgroups, in your ministries, and who normally sit near you on a Sunday — how can you be an encouragement to them? And if you are staying home and feeling left out, please reach out. We do not want anyone to feel neglected.
Smallgroups will resume meeting in locations and settings that are appropriate to their demographics and situations. Each smallgroup leader will be giving careful consideration to spacing, activities, and vulnerabilities as they begin to regather in person. Smallgroup leaders may also be employing mixed strategies to accommodate smallgroup participants in person and/or remotely. Due to the unique needs of each smallgroup, the Elders are leaving the decision up to each smallgroup leader as to when and how to hold their gatherings. The Elders are in communication with deacon-led smallgroups to assist them in this process. If you have any questions regarding smallgroups feel free to reach out to your smallgroup leader or any one of the Elders.
Please reach out to your ministry leaders for questions regarding the specifics of other ministries in which you participate.
This is NOT the new normal.
We recognize that these procedures and precautions inhibit much of the body life that we love at GBC, and we are eager to get back to fuller expressions of that body as soon as is reasonable to do so. Short sermons and social avoidance are just not the way of things at GBC. We love mutual encouragement, loud singing, coffee, and Costco sheet-cake. We look forward to moving back toward those things we love about our church.
For some of you, these measures may appear to be overwrought.
For others, these measures will not seem to go far enough.
This is a great opportunity for all of us to exercise patience, to extend grace, and to love one another well.
These procedures will be subject to adjustment week-by-week, and we will be emailing you as as a church per any changes that take place as we all learn to do this together.
We want you to be assured that if you do not yet feel comfortable regathering with us on Sunday mornings, we understand. We want you to feel at ease in the decisions that best suit your family, your health, and your situation.
A Report on Smedly’s Health:
Many of you are aware that Janet and I traveled out of the country at the beginning of March. We self-quarantined upon our return, although neither of us had any symptoms of sickness. I began to experience symptoms on March 17th. I tested positive for COVID-19 on March 23rd. I experienced symptoms (but was never hospitalized) for 6-7 weeks. I tested positive for the antibodies on May 7th and am now back to full health and function. I plan to preach in person at GBC May 24th and 31st. I will likely not be wearing a mask to preach.
Pastor Q&A’s this week:
Please feel free to join any of the live Q&A times with pastors at GBC this week.
CLICK HERE to start meeting
CLICK HERE to start meting
CLICK HERE to start meeting
Thank you for enduring this long email. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the elders with any questions you may have at. (firstname.lastname@example.org).