Mid-Week Musings from Lead Pastor Todd Malone
We are reopening this coming Sunday, May 24!! It will be a joy to see people again, to worship together, and to share in God’s Word in person. We will continue to offer online services with hosts for those who are high-risk or otherwise cannot join us.
Before we get into the details, we need to talk about the elephant-sized murder hornet in the room: our congregation is not on the same page. Some of us believe that the reaction to the virus is an overreaction. Some of us believe that Covid-19 is deadly serious, and the precautions have been appropriate. There is a broad range of opinions on how the church should respond to the government. Intelligent, informed people of good faith think differently and passionately about these issues, and they are all trying to do what is right. Many might see a gathering of such sharp differences to be a ready-made disaster. I see it as an opportunity to show Jesus. Let me say it bluntly: we will either make this Sunday about the love of self or the love of Jesus.
Jesus commands you to love the other people in the church in the same way He loves you [John 13:34, 35]. It’s a command, not a government guideline. Philippians 2 describes Jesus’ love in this way:
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus, who possessed all authority and every right, sacrificed His rights and authority to love you. That is the standard. That is what Jesus calls you to do on Sunday morning. If you come to church high-fisted about your rights (not to wear a mask, not to be put at risk by going to church, etc.), you might be correct, but you are not right. You are missing the opportunity to love as Jesus loves you. Let’s seize the occassion to love. How horrible if we turn the opportunity into a platform for making a point about rights.
My prayer for this Sunday is that our church will be a sanctuary. I pray that it will be a sanctuary from debates and complaints about responses to the virus. I pray that FBCers will so love one another that people who think wearing masks is stupid will put one on if it helps others feel loved and safe. I pray that FBCers will so love one another that people who think not wearing masks is rude and selfish will go out of their way to make non-mask wearers feel welcomed without any reservation. I pray that our church will be a sanctuary from a world that is continuously asserting rights. May it be a bright beacon of Jesus’ sacrificial love.
As you will see below, there is something to upset everyone who wants to raise the fist of “rights.” But if you instead raise the heart of love, there is plenty for you to do. Let’s leave the murder hornet now and talk about the plan.
Let’s get this one out of the way: Masks are strongly encouraged, NOT required. We have learned from other churches that have opened that some have a lot of mask-wearers, some have very few. We have no idea what will happen at FBC, so please be prepared to love well either way. We will pass out reusable masks to those who do not already have one, and you will return them to us on your way out. (We will wash the used masks in preparation for the next Sunday.)
We are also asking that you pre-screen yourself. If you think about it, this is no different from what we all hope people do anyway. If you are running a fever, have been around people who are sick, etc., your generous spirit should not include sharing germs.
We will have two services, one at 9:00 am and one at 11:00 am. Not 10:30. 11:00. The online services will also be live-streaming at 9:00 and 11:00. This will give us an hour between services to sanitize the facilities. We have 300 chairs set up in the Sanctuary, allowing us to maintain social distancing. The Worship Center will be the only building open, and we will NOT open the nursery or have childcare. You are welcome to bring children to the service.
Because we are limited to 300 chairs, you are encouraged to come at 9:00, which is usually the more lightly attended service. Coming at 9:00 will make room for those attending the 11:00 service. We ask that you park in the south (Fire Station) parking lot for the 9:00 am service and use those doors to enter and exit the lobby. Please use the north (Tree House) parking lot for the 11:00 service, entering and exiting the lobby through those doors.
Please stay home if you are at high risk. Staying home is not a lack of faith or a lack of loyalty to the church. It is the wise decision-making described in Proverbs 27:12. “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple [Hebrew: “naïve”] go on and suffer for it.” We recognize, however, that some who are high-risk will choose to join us for various valid reasons. We will reserve a section in the Sanctuary for those at high risk. If you are not high-risk, please allow those who are to sit in that section. Remember, high risk is not just determined by age. Medical conditions such as diabetes make someone high-risk. Do not be upset if someone younger than 65 is in that section – they still might be high-risk.
We are asking people NOT to arrive earlier than 15 minutes before the start of each service (to give us time to clean). We will not provide coffee, and the water fountains will be turned off, but please feel free to bring your own. I’m on the hunt for the largest coffee thermos I can find to keep me caffeinated.
Many people have raised the question about singing, since it will spread germs much farther than talking, coughing, or even sneezing. Leadership has struggled over this. We want to be very careful. At the same time, it is hard for us to imagine coming together without singing. Singing is one of the “one anothers” in Scripture [Colossians 3:16]. We plan to sing on Sunday.
I am in the high-risk category. I will wear a mask, but I will not wear one while I preach. The Sanctuary is set up to keep everyone out of my spray range. You would think that would be a good idea, anyway.
We will not use offering plates or paper handouts. The offering boxes in the lobby will be available, and you can access online giving and the sermon notes, as well as the weekly bulletin, on the phone app. Here’s a link to get the app if you do not yet have it.
To Access the Full Document
This link will take you to a more detailed description of what will happen on Sunday. Please take a look so you are prepared and can make a wise decision for yourself and your family. Whatever you decide to do, you are a part of the FBC family. You are loved and supported by this church.