Hello Church Family,
Summer is officially here. Like most summers in West Texas, it is hot hot hot. Some things never change. Other things, however, are different this summer. Summer is usually a time where church attendance trends downwards and church activities decrease. The summer of 2020 is going to see the opposite.
Starting July 12th, we are starting back ALL of our Sunday morning programming. Well, almost all. The one thing we won’t restart is our third service at 11:00. There are reasons for that which I’ll detail below but let’s start with the essential information.
July 12th Service Times
Given the feedback we received on our Traditional Service Time survey, we are moving our Traditional Service back to Sunday morning at 8:20. This is five minutes later than the survey’s advertised time of 8:15.
We may need to move our early service to 8:15 when our third service is added but for now, 8:20 gives us plenty of time to finish the service and move the attendees out of the Sanctuary before the 9:45 service begins.
As has been the case for a while now, our Contemporary Service will start at 9:45. Both services will be available online via live streaming for those who choose to stay home or who cannot make it to the in-person gatherings.
We will also start back our adult small groups on July 12th. We are still waiting on confirmation from a few of our adult groups but, for the most part, all of our groups will be meeting. Instead of meeting at 9:40 and 11:00 they will meet at 9:30 and 11:00. This is to decrease the flow of traffic in shared rooms like the Gathering Place and Sanctuary.
Even though the risk of COVID-19 seems to be decreasing, the guidance given by the CDC and State of Texas encourages the continued practice of social distancing. This is especially important for populations who are “higher risk.” This includes people who are 65 years old or older and those with a pre-existing health condition.
Since a majority of our Traditional Service attendees meet that criteria and we are no longer having our Traditional Service on a different day of the week, we are doing the best we can to isolate those individuals from kids or asymptomatic carriers of the virus. A 9:30 start time for small groups following the Traditional Service will help us in that endeavor.
The last thing that will be happening on July 12th is the relaunch of our preschool and children’s ministry programming. You’ll be able to drop off your kids in the preschool wing or kids wing before attending the 9:45 worship service. They will also have ministry programming during the 11:00 hour. That means you can attend worship and small group with childcare provided.
I know many from our church family have been waiting for this to happen so we are glad to get it going!
September 13th Service Times
These new times will run until September 13th. (my birthday!) Historically, the Sunday after Labor Day has been a big “back to church Sunday.” In church world we think of it as our “Fall Kick-Off.” We anticipate our attendance will be such that we need to relaunch our third service.
When we add our third service, the Sunday morning worship times will change again. The exact times will be determined by the risk posed by COVID-19. If the time cushion between services is still necessary then we will have to tweak the times to allow for a third worship service. If the time cushion is no longer necessary then we can get back to some semblance of normal.
I think it’s important to maintain at least a 20 minute spread between service times so that shared spaces aren’t overpopulated. I know this is inconvenient and annoying but I’d rather practice an abundance of caution than be one of the places in Abilene that causes a second wave of the virus.
I know some of you think the virus is totally overblown and these accommodations aren’t necessary. Others of you have expressed concern that we’re not going far enough. It’s hard to know exactly what the best decision looks like. I hope we can all give a little grace until this is completely behind us.
No Registration Required
The other new thing that’s happening is we are removing the need to register for services. Historically we were having every family register so that we knew we could keep social distancing guidelines. This has proved unnecessary and so we are removing that obligation.
If you’d like to attend worship at either hour then just show up and worship! We will continue practicing social distancing but we are relaxing some of the requirements as the threat of COVID-19 wanes. We still encourage the use of masks if you are comfortable wearing them. The wearing of masks is not, however, mandatory.
For kids who attend on Sunday morning we will be doing a temperature check at check-in. We will also be doing everything we can to ensure a sanitary environment.
All of these changes will increase our need for volunteers. Our preschool wing, children’s wing, hospitality ministry and production teams all need new blood. Some of our past volunteers aren’t able to come back and our ministry to new people has actually grown during this instead of shrinking.
If you’d be willing to serve in any capacity just reply to this email and I’ll forward you to the right contact person.
Prayer Night – June 21st
The last thing I want to share is a special prayer night we are hosting on Father’s Day. Our Student Pastor, Jospeh Tobias will be leading this service. It’s a time to come together and pray for our world. As you can clearly see from the news, there’s a lot of brokenness out there.
The theme passage for the night of prayer is 2nd Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Obviously, this was a specific promise written to a specific people at a specific time. The Church is not Israel and our land is not the land talked about in this text. However, just because this text doesn’t apply specifically to us doesn’t mean it’s not relevant to our current situation.
The truth is, God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. I believe we have an opportunity to see God take the brokenness that surrounds us and work it together for good. I believe these days of uncertainty and change can be a gift to the body of Christ. But that will only take place if we respond with a humble heart, prayerful life and posture of repentance.
The book of James says we do not have because we do not ask and whenever we do ask we ask with improper motives. Our culture desperately needs to hear the “better Word” that God wants to speak. But God’s plan for that culture to hear that better word is through the voice of the Church. This is a time for us to come together and pray for God to speak that Word through that voice.
I’ve heard it said, “we need to reclaim the prophetic voice of the church.” Instead of allowing secular movements or partisan politicians to speak for us, we need to hold high the Word of God and allow our Lord to speak for himself. This is an opportunity for us to come together and hear what God’s Word says followed by a prayerful response in light of those truths.
The four categories included in this prayer service are unity, justice, healing and love. Each word will be followed by Scripture readings and prayer. I hope you can join us for this special time. I know it’s Father’s Day and several have other plans. But for those who can make it, please join us.
With that, I’m going to sign off. I hope I see some of you tomorrow for worship. The service begins at 9:45. Don’t worry about registering. There will be a family room open in the Education Building that will show the kids livestream at 9:30 and the morning worship service at 9:45.
If there’s any way I can pray for you please let me know!
Have a great rest of your week!