On June 7, the folks of Sparr Baptist Church began regathering at the church building for worship services. Since then, we have been looking at who we were and who we are becoming. The worship services have also been online. Hopefully you have found them and engaged. Some of my former thoughts remain.
First let me share some thoughts. As a church we have had the opportunity to consider our personal walk with the Lord during this time. We speak often of God being in control and trusting Him. If we really believe that Truth, we must also accept that God has a purpose in what happened with COVID 19. Any anger and/or frustration with the political rhetoric must be set aside to see the situation spiritually. John 13:34-35 MUST prevail. Could it be that God allowed church buildings in America to be shut down for so long because we as American Christians worship our gatherings and our buildings more than the One we gather to worship and more than building the Kingdom of God?
In addition to what the Lord has been working on in my life in regards to my personal relationship with Him, He has brought thoughts to my mind about what we are doing as a church. From March until today, the corporate church body (not individuals) has not engaged in any localized ministry to address needs during COVID 19. We have received offerings and have paid bills. Decisions have been made (or delayed). In essence, the business function of the church has continued during this time with minimal human interaction. I am burdened by this reality. If we are able to continue as normal except for gathering at the building, then how in touch with the Spirit are we really? Are we one of the many churches that can continue to operate as a business institution without the Spirit? You know I have struggled for years with how much American churches depend on the Spirit for movement. COVID 19 has brought this to an even more obvious spot in my spirit.
A third thought centers on what our worship gathering will look like when we return. Can we be honest with each other? How many of us spent time in worship daily during the quarantine? How many of us spent time weekly? Now let's be honest about our approach to corporate worship versus our approach to worship at home. We get concerned about a lot of things when we come to the building that personally our family wasn't concerned about when we gathered for worship at home. First of all, we were less concerned about what we wore when we gathered around our table for worship. Second, we didn't worry about whether we had a cup of coffee or bottle of water with us during worship. We each had our Bibles, notebooks, and pens with us to take notes and engage. After the services we watched, we spent 15-20 minutes as a family digesting, asking questions, and processing how the Lord spoke to us. Our times at home were rich and challenging for us as a family. We have to bring that back to the corporate gathering.
Fourth, in talking with many of you and with friends around the country, I have been interested to hear what worship services people plugged into weekly in addition to our clips online. We do not have the technology that many larger churches do, and many of their engagements were exceptional. Hearing what service people plugged into, though, made me realize that MANY of our people enjoy more blended worship music with new and old songs done well. MANY of our people enjoy traditional preaching. MANY of our people are content to plug into listen without processing and engaging about what the Lord has taught us. These are insights that we must address coming back. Surely we will not return to the building the same as when we left.
Now for some guidance for our time together. When we return to the building, we will make every effort to make sure the environment is safe and healthy. We will ONLY HAVE SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP AT 10:30 FOR SEVERAL WEEKS to see how things go. Please exercise caution with distancing, and please use the hand sanitizer that will be available. (Several of our members have picked up some for the church use. Please feel free to bring some, as well.) You will notice that chairs have been distanced in the building. If you are a family that is normally together feel free to move the chairs closer to each other. Otherwise, please keep the chairs at the distance set. If you need more distance to feel comfortable feel free to move a chair further away. We will not have a formal offering time during the service. There will be offering plates/boxes at the back of the building for you to use. Our service will look different (more on that below). Our building will look different (more on that below).
How will the building be different? Before the quarantine, we had a work day at the church and cleaned up many areas. During that time those who were working tossed around an idea that we need a place for people to gather as a hospitality area, where coffee, fruit, donuts, etc. can be set up without being in the hallway. The workers noted that the library had become a storage room, and some of the men decided to take the small office and open it up into the library to make a "serving area." Other workers (men and women alike) then took that idea and talked about how to make the library a usable space for hospitality, gathering, prayer, etc. During the quarantine a lot of work has been done, and even though we can't gather in that area Sunday you might take a moment to look in on it. I noted that those who were working tossed around the idea and made decisions. That way of doing things is out of ordinary for most Baptist churches, including ours. I would like, though, to commend those who had sweat equity in the process for seeing empty space and turning it into something for God's glory.
A second way the building will be different will be visible in the foyer. If you watched the service Sunday, this enhancement will not be a surprise. During the same workday I mentioned earlier, a group of ladies talked about putting action to our talk about being a people of prayer. We have no real way at our church to get the masses involved in prayer. Some of the ladies talked about different ideas, and Megan took one of the ideas and ran with it. The Lord has been really working in Megan's life in the last several months. I know others have worked hard during the pandemic. I do want to emphasize that Megan has stretched herself to get God out of our box. She took the Facebook page and reworked it. She recruited volunteers to do the weekly devotions early in the process that many of you appreciated. She has helped to keep us up to date. She also has unveiled a hidden talent and has combined that talent with her spiritual gifts to make prayer a visible part of our church life. You will notice when you come into the foyer that Megan and some others (if I start naming other names I will leave someone out and hurt someone's feelings) designed, built, stained, and prayed over our new prayer wall. She invested many hours in this project, and she shared her ideas with me and Al before taking final actions. Like the other project, I will emphasize those who had sweat equity in the process making the decisions, and while this may not be the common way, the current situation called for it. As a result we will be able to return to the building with a new focus on the one thing that will carry us through (2 Chronicles 7:14).
How will our worship service be different? We will have NO CHILD CARE until August at the earliest and possibly September. We also hope to be able to regather as small groups in August, but depending on how we as a church body respond to health guidelines and respect on another's social distancing needs, the time could be pushed back to September Families will continue to worship together. As already mentioned, we will not have a formal offering time. We will have offering stations in the back. Allison (church treasurer) also worked to get us an online giving option. You can see it on this website on the Contact tab. Second, we will have the following general format:
Song and Prayer Mission Video Children's Time from the curriculum used from before and from during the quarantine with children staying in seats with family Song Song Message Commitment (Not the usual come to the front invitation)
A third way the service will be different involves the layout of the room. You will see some differences based on what the Lord has been teaching me (shared already during sermons over the last few months) and based on the recommendation for health and safety.
If you have made it this far in the announcement you are likely exhausted and might need a break. Please know this way of communication is the only way that I can think of to communicate to the masses without taking worship time Sunday to talk about these items. Our time Sunday will be a focus on our Savior, the author and perfecter of our faith, the creator and sustainer of our universe. I look forward to seeing you all. I have prayed for you all often during this time. Be encouraged. Feel free to reach out to me via email if you have any comments or thoughts you would like to share. I have a new email address at email@example.com.
We are glad you joined us via our website today. Please visit anytime.