COVID-19 Update 03.25.20

COVID-19 Update 03.25.20

Greetings, Church Family!

Your staff met yesterday, some in person and some by phone, and we were talking together about how we’re doing ministry in this new context. Of course, one of the questions that came up for us is probably the same one that you’re all asking around your tables and living rooms and text messages: How long will we have to do this? None of us has a crystal ball to see the future, but nevertheless we’re all trying to make sense of things. For me personally, I’m listening to information from the CDC, Tennessee Health Department, and the Oak Ridge School System.

And as of today, decision is to remain in this Remote Mode until at least Sunday April 26.

This is going to mean a lot of things and I’ll do my best to communicate all of it in an orderly fashion, but first I want to just be honest with you. I am not great with this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m convinced that staying apart is the right thing to do for our communities and the people within them. I’m just not happy about it because I love church. I wanted you to know that. I’m not pleased about all this, but I’m also going to try to remember Christ in this season. Christ calls us to care for the vulnerable and all of our best science agrees that, in this time, it means limiting our contact as much as possible. Here’s what that means for us.

Building Access

To be blunt: do NOT come into the building. We’re saying this out of love and compassion. According to the best information available, it looks like this virus can live on surfaces for longer than normal so limiting contact is crucial to protecting everyone in our community, especially the vulnerable. Chris has been on top of sanitizing and cleaning and he’s disinfecting every surface that we come in contact with, but he’s also having problems restocking right now. Limiting our contact helps Chris to help keep us safe.

So unless it is essential to the church, please do not come into the building until after April 26.

The staff is also limiting our presence in the building. We will be doing what work we can from home, the same as many of you. Yesterday, we setup a rotation of who will be in the office to make sure some of us are here to answer phones and other functions that require us to be here. We’re still here and still working,  but we’re doing our part to help us all get through this unprecedented season.

Services Online

We’re still going to maintain the current schedule of streaming at www.fbcoakridge.org/live-streaming

  • Wednesdays at  6pm – Bible Discussion (rotating panel)
  • Sundays at 10am – Sunday School (Brandon Weaver)
  • Sundays at 11am – Worship

Something we’re going to begin trying out is your questions during Wednesdays or Sunday School. You can send them to my email (rory@fbcoakridge.org) during the stream and we might just get to them. Also, if you can’t make it for the live stream, there is an archive that you can catch up on at your convenience.

High Holy Days

So, with our new end-date for Remote Mode, we’re going to be out of the Sanctuary for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday. I’m grieving about that already. But the staff has already started to get creative about how to still mark those times as special and different. Stay tuned for news about that.

I’ve heard from many of my colleagues in the community that in their congregations, they’ve agreed to make whatever day they come back together in their space – THAT day will be celebrated like Easter Sunday with brass and triumph and proclamations of the risen Lord. It strikes me as a fine idea. Regardless, Easter will still be Easter, even if it’s unmistakably different this year.

I want to close with a very brief story and a brief thought that it provoked. A member asked about the Lent Fasting prompt for this week since we obviously didn’t hand out paper copies. She wanted to know if I was planning to email them out. I answered by saying that in my mind, we’re all fasting right now. But I should definitely explain that to everybody and thanked her for the prompt.

Fasting is removing something precious to us to gain something greater. Usually it’s something earthly, fleshly, or physical that we give up for something holy, heavenly, or spiritual. I would argue that this whole ‘staying-at-home’ thing that we’re being urged to practice is a fast of sorts. We’re fasting from our normal routine and habit and preference and traditions. But if we approach it as a spiritual task, then what might God be teaching us through this time? We might just be able to hear something that God has been saying to us for a long time because we’ve just been too wrapped up in life to sit and listen.

So let this be our fast as a people. Let’s stay apart physically for a time to grow spiritually more connected. Let’s do something that is very inconvenient for us, but will end up saving a vast number of lives if we do it right. Let’s fast and see what God is able to do with our lives because of it.

I miss you, but I am comforted by the day that will come again when we can gather together around the altar table and proclaim in joy and in unison the risen Christ!

Stay safe and stay connected,

Rory

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