2021 Church Re-Opening!
Last Tuesday night your elders along with several ministry team leads met to discuss re-opening the church for public use. We gave praise to God that the infection rate in Madison County hit its peak on January 13th and is now in steady decline. And while not optimal, the Huntsville Hospital System is seeing a decrease in its burdens, both in the ICU, beds, and ventilators as well as upon its staff. But the better blessing is that of the fifteen families that had someone in their home test contract the virus since the beginning of December, only one is still in quarantine. With all those factors, the elders along with the Sunday School and Nursery ministry team leads agreed that it was the appropriate time to re-gather as a church.
We will resume Sunday morning worship this Sunday (January 24) both at 8:00 AM and 10:30 AM. Because of the preparation needed, 9:15 AM Sunday School will return on January 31.
Please note, for both, our normal COVID safety protocols will remain in place. We will still enter and exit by the assigned doors, try to minimize contact in the corridors, and maintain social distancing. Masks are encouraged, but not required. We will still sanitize the sanctuary between services.
A new measure we are adding is reserving the left transept (organ side) during the 8:00 AM service as an area where masks are required. There is a vulnerable population among us. We hope by reserving this area specifically for those who want to have this extra measure of care, that it will allow them to worship with their brothers and sisters in the safest environment possible. Please respect this area for our most vulnerable. The rest of the sanctuary will be left to the discretion of the congregant. Again, please note that this option is available in the 8:00 AM service only.
A question was posed as to whether or not we are inconsistent with our COVID protocols at various church events. The answer to that is ‘yes’. I would ask you to remember, we told you from the outset, there is no way we can keep you 100% safe from the virus. We will do all we can to minimize the risks but there will always be some involved. Therefore, we have been trying to offer varied means of gathering with which you feel comfortable. The safest option for you is to remain at home and watch the service via livestream and join a virtual-only k group. Second to that is to come to Sunday morning worship where we are observing our strictest standards as a safety measure.
Then beyond that, while we do our best to maintain social distancing in Sunday School, you are in a much smaller enclosed space where it is possible for an airborne virus to circulate. Children will play with other children. And social interaction is much more likely. If you attend Sunday School, then you must assume that risk. And we have many who would assume such a risk, such as those who struggle with isolation, the vaccinated, or those who already have the virus antibodies. These are likely to choose that options. One additional opportunity available to all is that we will have one large Adult Sunday School class in our new fellowship hall which will allow for maximum spacing.
Our small group ministries offer the same variety. Some of our K groups are virtual only. A few others have differing options based upon the comforts of the participants. Some have no restrictions as agreed upon by every member of the group (these are especially helpful to those with small children). Others can spread out and still maintain social distancing. Whatever your comfort level, we have a K group in which you can participate.
Of course, I would hope for all of us, when in the presence of someone who might disagree with our own personal approach would defer in love and graciousness to offer whatever standard makes our brother and sister safest, as well as not impose on the freedoms of others when it is not necessary.
Finally, I would remind you that our gatherings are safest when out of love, you take care to note your own health. If you are showing ANY symptoms (sniffling, fever, headaches, etc…), then for the sake of others remain home on that particular date until you are sure you have not contracted the virus.
I believe we will be out of this soon and can return to ‘normal’ conditions. But it requires patience to get there. And patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), a gift that the Lord readily supplies. Impatience emerges from our selfish desires and is sinful. Let us practice words of the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul, ‘For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh … If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.’ Galatians 5:13-16, 25-26
Thank you for your patience. Thank you for doing all to preserve the unity of the church. Thank you for your graciousness. You make it a joy to serve you as your pastor.