Dear Church Family,
I have been watching carefully the latest updates and recommendations regarding COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that is causing a worldwide pandemic, and I am keenly aware of the church’s population being one of the most vulnerable. With 15+ confirmed or presumptive cases in our state, and some just below us in North Carolina, we know it is only a matter of time until we face a case of the virus in our own community. Out of an abundance of caution, our ReShape planning team of various churches and the Barnabas Partnership has decided to postpone our ReShape gathering that was scheduled for this Saturday, March 14th as well as the beginning of our Making the Shift process with Mark Tidsworth, which was scheduled for this Sunday, March 15th.
Knowing that so many of our congregations have a majority of folks who are susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, which is quickly making its way through our state, and after speaking with those who are on the front lines of planning our city’s response – the best answer was to not gather so many different churches from different areas into one space right now. We have over 129 signed up! That’s both wonderful, and part of the problem when it comes to pandemics.
We have tentatively rescheduled the ReShape conference and Making the Shift weekend to May 2nd and 3rd, so long as the pandemic is under control by then. If not, we may look at other dates either in the summer or the first of fall. But – fear not! This conference, and process, WILL happen. We just won’t begin it during a time when gatherings of older adults is a dangerous venture. If you know you’re still interested in early May (or whenever it happens), we will hold on to your reservation for lunch, so you won’t have to sign up again. And who knows, perhaps we’ll gain a few new folks on a new date!
As for our regular church gatherings, our Coordinating Council has met and decided on the following:
- UPDATE 3/13: NO worship services for the next few weeks. Join us each Sunday and Watch Worship Videos. We’ll be in touch about resuming worship – watch your email!
The following are cancelled until further notice:
- Sunday School Classes
- Wednesday Night Meal & Devotion
- Thursday Morning Bible Study
- Committee Meetings
- Deacons Meetings
- Business Meetings
- March 22nd Reception after worship
Our Tuesday Ecumenical Lenten Lunches are currently still on the community schedule, as well as the services on Wednesdays at First UMC, though of course, none of these is on site at FBC. Please use your best judgement in attending (or not attending) these events.
In Sunday worship, we will be practicing care for our neighbors with compromised communities, including:
- Encouraging anyone with any symptoms of illness to remain at home (something we ought to be doing all year round!)
- Encouraging anyone with a risk factor for COVID-19 (travel to an affected area, or contact with someone who has traveled to an affected area) to stay home for 14 days until the incubation period has cleared
- Offering gloves to those opening doors as greeters
Keeping well-stocked hand soap in all restrooms and hand sanitizer in various locations throughout the church, so that hands may be cleaned regularly
- Having our cleaning crew sanitize all doorknobs and railings daily
- Changing our Ritual of Friendship to hearty hellos with no physical contact (“social distancing” is a helpful tool in combating the spread of disease)
- Dropping our offerings into the plates on the way into the sanctuary so we aren’t passing the plates and touching shared surfaces
- Making sure communion is always prepared with gloved hands by low-risk individuals who are not currently ill in any way (depending on how this unfolds, communion may be served differently as well to avoid passing the plate)
- Offering creative ways to stay in touch during the week, especially for those who do not feel comfortable coming to worship in person. You can watch any of our worship services on our website at https://fbcmartinsville.com/sermons/ and stay in touch via email and phone with fellow church members
- Limiting in-person visitation to those who are homebound (especially the ill or those in retirement communities where illness spreads so much more quickly), focusing instead on phone calls, interaction online, and cards/letters.
- Preparing for when the virus comes our way: we are in touch with the local health department for our church and Early Learning Center about the best way to prepare if/when a case of the virus is found in our area (see VDH interim guidance for childcare centers for the ELC). We are working on a specific action plan now, which will be shared in the coming days.
We are also considering those who will face loneliness and isolation, those children who will go without meals if schools close, the concerns about workers needing childcare, even as childcare centers may face spreading the virus, with the hospital that could easily get overwhelmed…most of all, we are learning with our community how best to be a good neighbor within and outside of our church family.
Friends, be kind to one another. Even if you aren’t high risk, know that some of our members are, and they appreciate very much that you take proper precautions – handwashing, sanitizing, social distancing, staying home if you are ill, and lowering the risk of spreading the virus by self-quarantine if you’ve been somewhere there is an outbreak (or around someone who’s been in one of those places). We will be creative in the days and weeks to come as we minister to each other and this community, and we will keep you informed of our next steps as this situation continues to unfold. I’m grateful to you for your care and ministry.