Greetings children of God.

Happy Fall!! I can’t believe its October already. The time of year when the harvest gets into full swing, the leaves begin changing color, and the kids begin looking forward to Halloween and all the candy they’ll get. One new thing to add to the list for this October is it’s also the time for us to return to worship in our sanctuary. On Sunday October 4, 28 weeks after we suspended in person worship, we will once again gather and worship in our sanctuary. While I know this is something everyone has wanted and anticipated, it is important to remember that it will not be the same as it was before the pandemic. It is going to be different and it will be different for a little while.

Here’s what to expect –

  • We will continue to broadcast our worship services via Facebook Live and over the radio in our parking lot on 93.1FM.
  • Initially, we are going to continue with just one service at 9am and it will be very similar to our drive-in worship services. We will have an opening hymn, a sermon hymn and a closing hymn. We will sing softly and from a seated position. The hymns will continue to be printed in the bulletin so we won’t have to use the hymnals.
  • We will maintain physical distancing by sitting in every other pew. We ask that you please refrain from physical contact; no hugs or handshakes. Families are encouraged to sit together. Please respect the degree of distancing that others want to practice. Should you feel it necessary to have a conversation with someone, please do so outside the building. When worship is over, please maintain physical distancing as you exit the building.
  • If the sanctuary becomes too crowded to where we cannot physically distance from each other, we will also have chairs setup in the fellowship hall and the service will be broadcast via Facebook Live onto the screen.
  • We will not manually collect the offering. Collection plates will be located at the entrance of the sanctuary for you to put your offering in as you enter or exit the sanctuary. As an alternative, offerings can be sent in the mail or made online through Tithe.ly.
  • We encourage everyone to bring your own hand sanitizer and to please use it as you enter the building.
  • In accordance with Governor DeWine’s mandate, we ask that you please wear a mask as you enter and exit the building. Once you are seated in a pew, you are then able to remove your mask. We have masks available in the office if needed. We recognize that wearing a mask is inconvenient and uncomfortable. If for some reason you choose to not wear a mask, we ask that you please remain six feet away from others. We understand that wearing a mask is certainly controversial but if that’s all that is required of Jesus’ disciples to gather for worship, why is that too much?
  • Safety protocols – do a quick self-assessment of yourself and your family before coming to worship; has anyone been ill or not felt well during the last two weeks, do you or anyone in your family have a fever or any other symptoms of the illness? Do you have any medical issues that place you in a higher risk category? If so, please stay home.
  • We will continue to celebrate communion using the fellowship cups. These can be picked up on a table in the narthex as you enter the sanctuary.
  • We will refrain from a physical sharing of the peace. When that time comes, a simple wave or nod will suffice.
  • Attendance will be taken. If for some reason, someone tests positive for Covid-19, we are required to provide the Department of Health a list of names of those who were in attendance so they can do contact tracing.

It’s going to be an awkward journey at first but this is what we’ve got to do as responsible disciples of Jesus. We need to respect and follow Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves. This means that we respect one another by being considerate of our different preferences and comfort levels. If you are uncomfortable with any of this, please continue to worship with us online or in our parking lot. We will do our best to have several parking spaces up front blocked off for any of our members or visitors that wish to worship in our parking lot. If you choose this option, our deacons will be monitoring the parking lot so they can bring you a bulletin(s) and a fellowship cup(s) for communion.

We know many people are frustrated with all of the things we’ve had to do because of the pandemic and we know there will be frustration with all of the things we are asking everyone to do as we return to worship. With that in mind, a good Biblical story that parallels this is from 2 Kings 5:9-14, the story of Naaman the Assyrian who went to the prophet Elijah to be cured of his leprosy, “So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” 11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. 13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”

Returning to worship in our sanctuary is the choice of each one of us to make. Should you decide to return to worship in our sanctuary, you acknowledge the contagious nature of Covid-19 and voluntarily assume the risk that you and your family may be exposed to or infected by Covid-19. We cannot ensure that you will be completely safe if you choose to gather with a large group. This is an important decision for everyone to make and should be done prayerfully. Again, if you are uncomfortable in any way, please continue to worship with us online or in our parking lot.

With the love of Christ,

Pastor Tim