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When We Gather Again

Hey Church Family,

 

Here we are again. Another Saturday. Another week of “Church Online.” I’ve got to be honest, this week was really hard. The longer this goes on the more difficult it is to maintain this approach to church “long-term.”

 

The truth is, even though online church is a great tool for those who are homebound or sick or even out of town for a few weeks, it’s no replacement for the old-fashioned worship “gathering.” This really came home this week as I was studying for the message in Ephesians 4.

 

Thankfully, this week had a lot of good news as it relates to what COVID-19 is doing around our country. Abilene in particular seems to have an increasing number of cases. But my prayer is that next week will tell a different story.

 

I hope you’ll choose to worship with us online this weekend using one of our usual platforms. We will continue our series in Ephesians entitled “Different.”

 

Some of the changes caused by COVID have been “bad different.” But not all of it has been bad. Some of the changes have been positive. Especially as it relates to the way we think about church. It’s been a reminder that the church is NOT the building. It’s the people. People who have come together for the purpose of worshipping Jesus, loving each other and making disciples.

 

The aim of this series has been to create renewed excitement around the “different” kind of lives our Lord has called us to live. When we “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we’ve been called” then something really special happens in the church. Namely, we experience the FULLNESS of Christ here on earth.

 

I’ve listed below the Sunday morning livestreams for both kids and adults. The kids service starts at 9:30AM and the adult worship gathering is at 10:00. You can join by clicking the videos in the email or by using one of the platforms listed below.

 

WHEN WE MEET AGAIN

 

With the rest of this week’s update I wanted to inform you about some discussions we’re having around what our gatherings will look like when we reopen the building. It’s possible our state and local leaders will relax the “gatherings of 10 or less” mandate and increase it to 50, 100 or maybe even more.

 

In the State of Texas and the city of Abilene, churches have fallen under the category of “essential services” during this pandemic. Even so, we’ve chosen to do church “online” because of the recommendation by our leaders to limit gatherings to 10 or less. There’s just no way to do that and have our traditional gatherings at the same time. 

 

We want to continue honoring the wishes of our governing authorities. So if they renew the 10 or less recommendation in our city, we will heed that recommendation and continue meeting online. There might come a time when civil disobedience is necessary but we are nowhere near that point in our city nor our state. I believe it’s important for us to maintain a positive witness in our community by being good citizens ourselves and honoring their requests.

 

That caveat being made, the degree to which our health professionals and city leaders deem it safe is the degree to which we are going to gather again. If they allow gatherings of 50 then we will start having church services with 50 per service. If 100, then 100 per service. If 250 then yeehaw let’s go!

WHAT THE SERVICES WILL LOOK LIKE

 

The State of Texas put out a document this past week entitled “Guidance for Churches.” You can read it here. There are also recommendations from the CDC for faith-based organizations. We’ve sought to heed the information in these documents when discussing the topic of in-person gatherings.

 

The reason I’m telling you this NOW is because i want you to be prepared when we do meet again. Many people are going to be afraid and our church services are going to look DIFFERENT. They may look different for an extended season of time. So it’s best to prepare for that now.

 

These are some of the ideas we have for right now. And remember, all of this is in PENCIL. Things are very fluid and could change at any moment.

We will reopen with AT LEAST THREE worship gatherings.

 

Right now we are thinking about a Saturday night worship gathering at 5:00pm. This will be a “family service” so kids are encouraged to come. On Sunday we will have a traditional style worship service at 8:30AM followed by a contemporary style worship service at 10:30AM. There will be no childcare nor children’s programing for ANY of the services. Children are also discouraged from attending the traditional service.

Here is our reasoning:.

The document suggests that there be no “children programing.” The fear is they will congregate, spread the virus to each other, then go home (or to grandma/grandpa’s house) and infect the vulnerable populations. So we needed some way to segment the children and the vulnerable populations. 

 

That’s why we’re having a “family service” on Saturday night. It’s on a totally different day of the week so we can thoroughly disinfect the Sanctuary before the traditional service on the following day. Historically, our most vulnerable populations attend our traditional service and so we want take special care to make that environment as safe as we possibly can.

 

The contemporary service will follow a full hour after the traditional service has ended. This will also ensure we have plenty of time to disinfect the room and maintain all of the guidelines that have been put forward. Children are welcome to join in during the contemporary service at 10:30 but we won’t have the same kind of kids programing that we have planned for Saturday night. Saturday night will truly be a “family worship experience.” 

Keeping Everyone Safe

 

Each service will heed the guidelines laid out in this document. We will need teams to direct traffic on Sunday morning. There must be a careful and organized flow of people to ensure social distancing and proper safeguards for preventing the spread of the virus. Masks are also encouraged. Those working hospitality will have to wear masks and gloves. (reply to this email if you’re willing to serve in this capacity!) 

 

We’ve already gathered enough masks that everyone without a mask can have one provided for them. Wearing a mask to enter and exit the facility is important because that is where people will most likely have “close contact” with each other. There will also be stations with hand sanitizer set up throughout the facilities.

 

Once people get into the sanctuary we will have stations set up that are 6 feet apart. Families will be encouraged to sit together but that’s it. People who aren’t in the same household will need to sit six feet apart using the designated sections. We will need people directing traffic and seating people once they arrive in the sanctuary. Households will be seated one at a time and exit one at a time.

 

For those who are 65 years old or up I would encourage you to practice an “abundance of caution.” For those with serious health conditions, I would encourage the same. Only come if you’re comfortable with it. We won’t be checking ID’s or looking at you funny IF you come. Personally I’ll be SO HAPPY to see you. But I want you to do what is best for you. The church will continue to livestream its services and you can continue worshipping from home just has you have been before.

Again – ALL OF THIS IS IN PENCIL. 

 

We don’t even know what the next order will be from Mayor Williams or Governor Abbot. The current shelter in place order will come to an end on April 30th. The press conferences I watched last week gave me hope that the 10 or less restriction will be relaxed after April 30th. I’m hoping so but don’t want to push something that puts people in needless danger.

 

If they DO relax the 10 or less rule then we may be able to have “in-person” worship gatherings as soon as May 3rd. I will certainly send you an update as soon as I possibly can if that’s the case. We will also have a way for you to register for each service so we can properly control the gathering limitations.

 

Even if it’s not May 3rd. It will be sometime in the near future. I’d encourage you to join me in praying for Mayor Williams and the City Council. Pray that they have wisdom to do what is best for our city. Pray for me and the other leaders at Broadview. We are seeking to do what we believe the Lord wants. It’s not easy and no matter what we decide there will be people who disagree one way or the other.

Other Important Information

 

Before I sign off I just wanted to remind you about a few more things. First, if you are a student or have students in your home, remember that Pastor Jospeh is producing daily devotionals and other updates posted to the youth ministry Facebook and Instagram pages. 

 

Jospeh will also be hosting a livestream on our YouTube page every Sunday night at 8PM for our students. Just visit our YouTube page if you want to watch along. The videos will be between 10-15 minutes. 

 

Also, on Tuesdays from 8:30-9:00 Joseph will be hosting Instagram Live Q&A’s between leaders in the Student Ministry and students who are connected on Instagram. Be sure and check it out and encourage your 6th-12th grader to connect as well! 

It’s also still not too late for you to sign up for the Prayer Card Project. Right now we are sending encouragement to the mental health counselors in our area prisons. If you’re interested in taking a name and writing a card you can contact Bonnie.

She will email you the names of the people. You and your family can create the card(s). Take a picture of the card and email it back to Bonnie and she will print them out and deliver them. (here’s a picture of what they look like) This approach decreases the possibility of spreading any infection. It’s been a really powerful thing for those who’ve received the cards.

Let me say again, in closing, how proud I am of everyone stepping up, staying engaged, and living lives of sacrificial generosity. As “bad different” increases over the days and weeks – you are displaying a “good different” that our city desperately needs to see. 

 

Looking forward to the coming days! Looking forward to seeing you again soon! Our God is faithful and the victory has already been won in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Until He Comes,

Pastor Wes

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