May 9, 2020 Update
As you know, Governor Noem recently laid out her ‘back to normal’ plan, for our State.
Allow me to make a few observations.
1. ‘Back to Normal’ is probably not the best wording. In all reality, it will be a new kind of normal. Do you remember the movie “back to the future?” One could say that we are going “back to a new normal.”
2. The language pertaining to churches is especially vague, and open to interpretation. It was explained to me that it is intentionally vague because there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, nor should there be. Congregations will vary in how and when they begin to meet again.
3. We never truly closed our doors to ministry. We simply scattered into surrounding communities while we closed the doors temporarily to our building.
4. The pandemic is not over and is still very fluid. Our state is still expecting it to peak around the end of May or beginning of June. Whether that actually happens or not, we need to be aware of that possibility. We also need to be aware that there could be new outbreaks, later this year, that could possibly bring everything to a halt again.
5. Those who are 65 and older and those with underlying health issues are at a greater risk. The numbers show that while those over 65 make up only 1/4 of the cases, they make up over 70% of the fatalities.
6. Our Heavenly Father offers us wisdom from above if we will only ask. And He promises to guide our steps if we will trust Him.
James 1:5-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
Proverbs 3:5,6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
So after consulting with our local health professionals, reading articles about “reopening” our churches, receiving advise and guidance from our denomination and our district, seeking wisdom from above, and much prayerful discussion, we have unanimously decided to begin meeting next Sunday, May 17th.
At this point we will only meet for Sunday Worship at 10:45 a.m.
The “down stairs adult class” will continue zoom meetings thru the end of this month (with the exception of tomorrow when there will be no meeting). Sharon Horning will be contacting those of you in her class, if she has not some so already, to work out the details. Otherwise, there will be no other Sunday School meetings for the rest of this month. We will re-evaluate the situation in June.
This is the usual time of the year when our Wednesday evening activities begin their summer break. So we will not be restarting them till the Fall.
Out of an abundance of care and consideration for all who come we will take the following precautions:
☛ We encourage those in the most vulnerable population (65 and older) and those not feeling well to stay home, and worship with us online. (NOTE: We’ve heard from several of you, who are over 65, that you are comfortable with gathering together. We certainly don’t want to discourage you from coming.)
☛ We plan to sanitize door, sink, and toilet handles before the service.
☛ We will try to have hand sanitizer available. But if you have your own, that you carry around, bring it along.
☛ Please observe social distancing in the foyer as well as in the sanctuary. I know it sounds odd to say this about our time at church, but understand it is because we care about you.
* This means no handshakes, hugs, or other contact.
* We ask that families spread out throughout the sanctuary sitting no more than one family per pew. We also ask that you leave at least one empty pew between you and the next family or individual. Our ushers plan to help with this.
☛ While masks are not mandatory, we encourage you to wear your mask, even when singing.
☛ In an attempt to keep potential contamination to a minimum, we will not be handing out bulletins, or passing the offering plates. Rather the plates will be set by the foyer doors, and you can place your offering in them as you enter or as you exit.
We plan to continue recording the service for those who choose not return, right away, due to their concerns or high risk conditions. We have also observed that a number of people, from our community and from around the country/world have been watching each week. This is another reason why we will continue to record the service.
We are not guaranteeing, that as we re-open our building, that none of us will ever get sick. But that guarantee is not found anywhere else, either. So let’s act sensibly, and put our trust and hope in the Lord and His goodness, because whatever happens in the next few months His love will have permitted it, because He knows what is best.
We are aware that there are many opinions surrounding our nation’s response to this pandemic. We also understand there are many within our congregation who will see our response to this crisis as unnecessary in our depth of caution or under-prepared in our depth of protection. We understand the variety of positions, but request that you see our response as an attempt to do the best we can to assure a safe environment for you to worship in. We will continue to make appropriate changes as they become necessary. Thank you for your understanding.
Finally, we want to reassure you that we will not judge anyone for the personal decisions that they make. Our church will be known for exhibiting God’s grace to everyone at this time. We’ll face this together, each in our own way, with God’s help, and get to the new normal whatever it is.
Jesus is still Lord of the church, and we will get thru this time because He is with us.
Stephen Roussos, Pastor