For those who thought these updates were intended to be texts rather than short epistles, I have written here first in my own, succinct texting style utilizing bullet points and emojis for brevity:
- We have set a date to worship together again at 5590 N. Nevada Av. on Sunday AM 🙂
- For more information, you will need to read the longish “epistle” that follows 😉
If you would like to listen to the detailed version (as opposed to reading it below), you can do so here:
The longer epistle begins here. Please wade through it. The contents are important.
Get those “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes out of the closet and get dressed for meeting together at FBC’s building…
This Sunday, June 21, at 10:30 AM.
We have waited to gather, not because of fear or lack of faith, not because we couldn’t decide, not because we trusted a certain set of experts, not because we forgot about the “1st Amendment” and not because we wanted more time away from one another. We waited to gather again physically until we believed we could do it in a way that would glorify God by showing humble, sacrificial love for one another. Ultimately, that is why we physically gather as the church.
By God’s grace and his power, we will attempt to gather in that way that glorifies God with special attention to putting the needs of others before our own, in humility and love. Our gatherings are always supposed to reflect this attitude as this allow us to “image God” together as part of His “Temple of living Stones.” I am grateful to you that our gatherings usually do reflect this attitude. You folks are pretty good at caring about each other sacrificially. You have shown that while we have been apart on Sundays.
Let’s continue to love one another well.
In preparation for re-gathering please think through and pray about why you/we gather as the Church of Jesus. Then, please consider all of the following points in no particular order (except a poorly arranged sort-of-a chiasm… so where is the emphasis usually found, O, studiers of Genesis?)
- No one should feel like they are failing or sinful if they are not yet ready to return to gathering. We will continue to provide digital ways to connect with the body and intend to provide a way for you to see and hear this Sunday AM worship gathering.
- There will be one worship service for all. For now, please do not plan other “gathering” events using the facilities or grounds around this 10:30 AM service.
- We will scatter seating in a way that allows for maintaining “social distancing” but also allows families, and others who choose, to sit together. Feel free to move chairs as needed to “social distance.” Caution! They pinch fingers if not careful.
- We will sing loudly. That clearly spreads more than “joy” in the air around us.
- You will need to decide if masks are ultimately for the sake of the wearer or the ones the wearer encounters. There are purported “facts” that come to both, opposite, conclusions. Please wear a mask if you feel it protects you or if you feel it helps you love others by protecting them. I will preach from the platform, likely without a mask, so that I don’t “project” more than biblical truth on the front rows. For some, masks have become a symbol that can surface anger. Please pray we don’t get angry as we are trying to image our patient God together.
- There will be children and other natural “huggers” in the gathering. This means no one can guarantee you will not be confronted with the choice to be hugged.
- “Huggers,” please be aware that some folks don’t want to be hugged right now. It doesn’t mean they are shunning you.
- Some “huggers” are not ready to re-gather if they cannot express their brotherly/sisterly affection in their natural, “holy” ways. We get that and understand why you may want to wait to re-gather rather than have to focus on trying not to hug the wrong person.
- In either case, default to practicing “social distancing” until you actually know what that other person is feeling—put their needs before yours. It will be OK to ask. I know that is weird but sometimes we assume others are thinking and feeling what we are when they are not.
- Given the loving nature of most of our gatherings, we suspect all this sense of artificiality will resolve itself quickly and be gone because our desire is to worship God lovingly together in order to image Him to one another and to the world He loves.
- Please use the FBC hand sanitizer but don’t drink it for communion. BYOB (of hand sanitizer! i.e., If ya’ got it, bring it so we don’t run out!)
- Of course, if you feel sick or have a fever please join us from home. I think most of us do that in more “normal” times anyway. For now, we need to be a bit more aware of who we might impact these days and err toward not coming even when we are just a “little sick.”
- We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper with self-contained, sealed “elements.” Please forgive in advance for how they taste. It truly is the thought that counts! Please take the wrapper and the remnants of this modern communion stuff home with you (versus putting it in the chair rack) as a very memorable souvenir of “Corona-style” worship. Or, just toss it all in the trash yourself on the way out if you already have enough souvenir communion cups hoarded at home. Carrying these out may help us exit faster because we will be dripping sticky grape juice.
- This time we will “forget” on purpose to pass the offering bags. You can use the offering boxes in the back to give or continue giving as you have been during our time apart. Thank you all for your consistent giving during this time. Ministry has continued!
- There will be NO children’s classes, nurseries or other child care provided. Please do not try to open your own somewhere in the building. If you want to get sick with “something,” just force the lock on the “cry room” and invite folks to join you. I’m kidding. If you have keys, as so many do in our “pirate church,” please do not open other rooms, even with good intentions.
- Please do not “parent shame” if a kid or two gets loose. This will be new for them too!
- Parents, if you are concerned about having to spend the entire time worried about what your kids might do, we get that you might decide to stick with the online connection a bit longer. Because of the informal way we normally gather, we know kids feel great freedom in the building. We like that, but we do need to try to rein in their freedom a little for this gathering. Honestly, parents, we are saying choose what you think will most allow you, and your kids, to be part of us all glorifying God.
- It will be difficult to maintain “social distancing” in our restrooms. Please be wise about the pre-gathering preparations you make at home and also lay off the three cups of coffee!
- Speaking of coffee, we will not yet open the “coffee bar.” We will also not yet provide the brew that is sometimes called “coffee” found in the front entry on Sunday mornings. Please give us some time to work this out. If the hour puts you in withdrawal, we will have phone counselors available to talk you through the crisis. 1-800-I NEED CAFEEFEE (Don’t try it. I have no idea!)
- As we usually do, for all of our unified services, we will plan to make this one shorter.
- We will ask for testimonies to the glory of God. I suspect this will be a wonderful, major part of our worship this Sunday. Please think and pray about it beforehand. Then, please safely “step on up to the microphone” on the stand, one at a time. Keep your praise short, and focused on glorifying God. Please don’t touch the microphone. Please make it about God’s gloriousness!
- Please help our 2nd-Mile Servants with all they are doing to make this possible for as many people as possible by not seeing yourself as an exception to these requests. Also, please thank these servants for the work they have done around the facilities in order to be ready.
You may think of other details. Our main emphasis is on collectively and individually having a humble, loving attitude that puts the needs of the other person before our own. What an opportunity!
There is nowhere in Scripture where we are commanded to gather at the same place and time in a large “auditorium” every week in order to worship God. Please believe me, I’ve checked! However, there are several examples in Scripture that tell me whenever and wherever believers are gathered—in twos and threes or even in larger, citywide groups—the goal is to glorify God by imaging the fullness of the attitude of Jesus Christ. So, I’ll use Peterson’s The Message from the Apostle Paul’s “Philippians 2”…
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
We didn’t need to push to open again as quickly as possible to practice “our religion.” Now, we do need to push each other to have the humble attitude Jesus took whenever we come together and wherever we do that. As I said already, “What an opportunity!”