Update: April 28, 2020
I miss you.
We miss you, and I can’t wait until we’re all back home together at 7556 Old Moon Road in Columbus, Georgia, for worship. And I have been so encouraged as you’ve been sharing pictures of you worshipping at home as families. I’ve been so encouraged by your commitment to love your neighbor. I’ve been so encouraged by your commitment to practice generosity.
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never pastored a church during a pandemic. Your elders and your deacons have never done so either. So please pray with us. Pray specifically for wisdom and discernment. Because right now there’s a balance we’re trying to make between soon and safe, between courage and caution. So I want you to know that we’re spending a lot of our time researching consulting specifically with our leaders in the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and with other local pastors.
The recommendation from the White House task force is laid out in a three phase plan of reopening. We’re doing our best to research and study what would be the best way to reopen.
I want you to know that we are not going to work to be first, and we’re not going be pressured by what others do. We recognize we have some unique factors to consider on our campus. We have elderly ladies and gentlemen living on our campus, and we have a school that shares our campus. These factors really add layers of complexity that we have to consider.
There are two key questions we are attempting to answer. When can we and when should we?
So, let me be clear on a couple of things. We’re not meeting online only because the government told us we can’t meet together. We’re not just surrendering to some government mandate. In fact, we chose to exercise Romans 13:1 and do our part to support our frontline workers, many of whom are part of our church family. So our decision to meet online was a willing decision based out of a commitment to be a good neighbor.
We decided, as our elders and deacons, that we would consider external factors in making a decision. Several weeks ago I did a live stream down by the river, and it was the governor’s declared state of emergency that really influenced our desire to be a good neighbor and began to meet exclusively online. Given that was a key factor in our decision, as long as we’re under this state of emergency we’re going to continue to meet online. After the order is lifted, which is currently scheduled to be May 13, we will prayerfully consider what it looks like to meet back on campus.
I humbly ask for your prayers and for your patience.
But here’s the deal. We’re gonna prioritize our people over our preference and over our programs. Don’t expect a switch to be flipped and we immediately go from meeting online to meeting on campus. We are discussing what a reopening plan looks like. There are a lot of questions that we have to work through.
For example, how many of us can safely meet in this room at one time?
How many services do we need to hold in order to spread out our crowd?
How do we protect the elderly of our church and those that are part of our church family with health conditions?
How do our ministries on-campus impact a wise and timely celebration on campus?
How and when do we introduce things like Nursery and Children’s Ministry and on-campus Student Ministry?
Here’s a big question: What have we learned from this time that we desire to just make part of our new church world?
We’ve learned so much by streaming live that we’re going to continue to live stream.
This entire season has felt like a day-by-day development, and it’s probably going to continue to feel that way. We are going to craft a plan that will also build in some flexibility because we know some things will continue to change. So, even when we announce our plan, just realize it’s going to be flexible, and as things shift our plan flex accordingly.
Because of this uncertainty, it’s important for you to stay tuned to our newsletter and our Social Media. Your LifeGroup is a great lifeline for communication.
We’re gonna be meeting online at least to the middle of May. Beyond that will let you know. But when we do reintroduce ourselves into physically meeting on campus, we’re going to do it through a methodical, phased-in approach. Even when we do come back, it’s just gonna be different for a while. And that’s okay. If you’ve been to Publix or any store in town, everything feels different right now.
Here’s what I know. God is faithful. We are his people. And you are a blessing.
Update: March 14, 2020, 5:00 pm
We are committed to lead and love during a time of fear. The church is positioned to express hope and peace while some may want to panic. While we had initially communicated a plan to gather for worship on Sunday, our elders and deacons have agreed that we should honor the request for consideration from Governor Kemp that was stated on Saturday, March 14, 2020. He has declared a public health care emergency for the state of Georgia in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 further and reduce the impact on our healthcare system.
We desire to honor God’s Word, above all. Romans 13:1 encourages us to submit to our government authorities. To this end, we have decided to worship as families in our home on Sunday while we will stream online to calvaryga.com/live at 11:00.
Hebrews 10:25 commands us to prioritize gathering together. During this time, we will express some creativity in our worship. Family worship is a priority for us, and this will allow each of us to celebrate differently.
Here are a few important reminders:
- For Sunday, March 15, we will not meet corporately on our campus for LifeGroups or worship. We will worship at home with our family and will use our 11:00 live stream as a resource.
- During this live stream, Michael and the band will lead songs, I will preach through our Acts series, we will worship through giving online, and we will participate in the called national day of prayer.
- Download the mobile app. You can watch the live stream from your computer while using the mobile app as your worship guide, next steps, and online giving.
- We will not have any on-campus activities for Wednesday, March 18.
- We will continue to monitor the situation and communicate any changes in our approach to worship on a week by week basis. Connect with us on social media to receive information quickly. Follow this link to connect via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CalvaryColumbusGA Or subscribe to the newsletter here: https://calvaryga.us19.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=38f468e20ebd988a3ade91110&id=4d2f5ac862
- We encourage you to stay in tune with updates from our local health officials.
- Continue to pray for our leaders, our country, those impacted by this virus, those struggling with anxiety, and for God to be glorified in all of this.
- Be positive and be at peace. There is no reason to fear. Our choice to shift our worship services in this format is in no way a posture of fear, but rather a statement of love and support for our neighbor.
- Look for opportunities to love your neighbor as yourself in the days and weeks ahead. We are the light of the world and must allow our light to shine brightly.
I love every one of you. May God bless you, richly.
Update: March 14, 2020, 1:45 pm
In light of the public health emergency declared by Governor Kemp for the State of Georgia, we have decided to do worship exclusively online tomorrow. We will not have LifeGroup on campus tomorrow.
We will worship through music, reading Scripture, preaching, and giving at 11:00 am. You can worship as a family by going to calvaryga.com/live/.
This means we will not have Wednesday night activities this week.
This situation is fluid and we will continue to update you as things change.
Original Post: March 13, 2020, 9:25 pm
Fear and panic are understandable, but not how it has to be.
I’d like to take a few minutes to speak to you as a follower of Jesus and to us as His people reflected locally at Calvary Baptist Church.
Many local events are being canceled, and officials are beginning to encourage social distancing. Staying healthy is a practical way to love our neighbors. At the same time, we prioritize the gathered body of Christ in worship and want to find a way to meet, if possible. This is a biblical truth that we rest upon from Hebrews 10:24-25.
A Call To Prayer
We are His people, and never like before, we can demonstrate His character and love to a world that may feel desperate or hopeless. We are a people of prayer and must commit to pray.
For months we have encouraged each member of our church to pray at 8:30 every morning. Please continue to do so, and consider joining us if you have not.
Our SBC leaders have called for a national day of prayer this Sunday, March 15. We will spend some time during our worship times this Sunday in specific prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 urges us to pray always. We should practice that discipline all the time anyway, and moments like this drive us to our knees and help us to develop a stronger sense of discipline that will continue in the years to come.
Share Peace in Our Community
It is no doubt that extreme opinions exist, and polarizing positions are settling in. In fear, it is easy to defend our preferences or positions. Be mindful of what you see and say in public or online. This is a time to share peace through what you say and share.
We are everyday missionaries. And this is a beautiful opportunity to carry hope to the world every day.
Plans are in place for us to meet for worship this Sunday.
- Please continue to practice good hygiene, as recommended by the CDC.
- Families should develop a plan to care for those who are affected or who are caregivers of those at high risk. Come up with a plan.
- Patiently listen to officials and stay tuned to any updates as this is a rapidly developing pandemic.
- We will have church! We will continue to meet gathered on our campus every Sunday if it is possible.
One positive through this experience is that we may learn new ways to do things that otherwise we have not been open to consider.
What to Expect on Sunday
As followers of Jesus, we don’t have any reason to fear death, that has already been settled for us. However, we are surrounded by neighbors, who do not know Jesus, and so they do fear and should fear death. Since we are called to love those people, and since we plan on and hope those people will be with us to hear the gospel during our worship gatherings, there are a few things we are going to do differently on Sunday morning to help us love our neighbors well.
Here are a few things that you will notice beginning this Sunday
Worship guides will not be handed out but will be available for you to pick up.
We will not have a greeting time during worship services and suggest no handshaking. Offer a wave of hello for a fist bump.
Offering plates will not be passed during the services. We encourage members to give online, or you can drop your offering in one of our next step boxes as you leave.
We are streaming live online every Sunday during our 11:00 service. We have been doing this for quite some time through a private social media group specifically for our shut-ins. This past Sunday, we did a soft launch to test this feature being built into our webpage.
You can participate online, give online, and even submit Next Steps online or in the app.
Moving forward, this will be an excellent benefit when you are traveling with your family or have a sick child and need to stay home.
For this season, it is especially useful for those of our church who are in a high risk demographic.
We would say this always, but if you are sick, stay home, please. If you have been exposed, stay home, please.
If you are at risk and need to stay home, we will support and love you in that decision.
Bringing Peace to Our Community
I am very proud of how our ministries on campus with focused ministry to children, families, and our elderly community have led through this process. I am proud of our ministry efforts for their continued leadership.
We have tightened our safety measures in all of our eldercare ministries. We have a unique environment with so many elderly that truly live on our campus. We are privileged to serve them and take seriously our commitment to maintaining a healthy environment for them.
Our school leadership team communicated the decision to follow the council from Governor Kemp to postpone school for three weeks to include one week of spring break.
We have ongoing sanitization measures taking place in our facility and have worked hard to make sure when you come to Church on Sunday, the spaces have been sanitized.
Hand sanitizer stations are available. But bring your own if you need to.
Stay calm through all of this. Enjoy this opportunity to be a reflection of God‘s love and a presence of peace in your home, in your neighborhood, in your office, and public.
We are uniquely positioned as the people of God to care for those in need and to point others to Him. As we say each week:
“Now friends since Christ is the one who gives us life. Let’s carry that hope to the world every day.”