COVID-19 and Church Closure UPDATE

Posted on March 25, 2020
by Stacey Simpson Duke

Dear church family,

In light of our governor’s executive order to shelter-in-place, we are continuing our suspension of normal church operations through April 13. The governor’s order states, “To suppress the spread of COVID-19, to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, to allow time for the production of critical test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, and to avoid needless deaths, it is reasonable and necessary to direct residents to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible.” We urge all members of our congregation and community to comply with this order.

What does this mean? Our church building will remain closed through April 13. We will continue to monitor recommendations from our governor and public health experts and will make informed decisions about what to do beyond that time.

  • Our Sunday morning worship services will continue in an online format during this time. Please join us via our First Baptist Church Facebook page at 10:00am each Sunday morning. We have also begun experimenting with having a post-worship virtual Fellowship Time via Zoom.
  • Each night, Monday through Saturday, we will continue our online Night Prayers service. Please join us via our First Baptist Church Facebook page at 8:30pm each night.
  • We will have no church gatherings in our church building through at least April 13, including:
    • choir rehearsal
    • Church School
    • ABWM
    • Wednesday Bible Study
    • the Gathering
    • any and all board, committee, or council meetings
  • All staff will continue to work remotely. Staff are continuing to meet with each other electronically and via phone.
  • Our facilities will be closed to all outside groups, including 12-step groups and musical groups. The preschool has cancelled school through April 13.
    • Vespers will be suspended and guests will be redirected to Delonis for their Tuesday night meal.
    • The rotating shelter, which serves the most vulnerable in our community, has now concluded. Thank you to our volunteers who stepped up to help host these guests.

The youth spring break trip to the Taizé Community in France, scheduled for March 27-April 6 is cancelled. We hope to reschedule this for a later time. We are awaiting information about how the current public health crisis may impact our summer mission trip to work with Appalachian Service Project in Kentucky.

How will we still be church if the building is closed and we aren’t gathering together? First and foremost, as members of the body of Christ, we are always the church together, whether we are gathered or scattered. This suspension of normal operations is temporary. Perhaps we can think of it as a new form of Lenten discipline for our congregation and community – a season of doing less and, perhaps, discovering new gifts in the midst of it. We let go of one form of our life together, trusting our future to the God of resurrection. Additionally, we maintain our concern for each other, and especially for the lonely and vulnerable among us. We encourage you to check in with each other via text, phone, email, video chat, and even “old-fashioned” mail. Let’s be creative, consistent, and persistent in reaching out to each other and reminding each other that we are connected, valued, and most of all, loved. Finally, if there are particular ways your church family can serve and support you, please let us know. We have church members who are already volunteering to help get groceries and/or supplies for those who need help with such. If you need that kind of assistance, we will get you connected to those volunteers (if you want to offer that kind of assistance, please let us know). And if there are other things you need help with, please let us know that, too.

Additionally, your pastors and church staff remain available to you, through phone, text, email, and videoconferencing. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are also continuing to learn about and experiment with best technologies for maintaining our connection and our church offerings; we anticipate being able to offer additional opportunities for connection, spiritual growth, and ministry in the coming weeks.

In the meantime: Please take care of yourselves, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Follow all the recommendations for personal hygiene. Minimize being out in public, but try to get some fresh air when you can. Reach out to others in whatever ways you can, both to offer support and to seek support. Take the time to pray – for those who are sick; for those who are scared; for those who are economically impacted; for healthcare workers; for students whose studies (and much-anticipated competitions, performances, and events) have been disrupted; for the leaders of communities, congregations, countries, and healthcare systems; and for the church in all places. Be assured, too, of our prayers for you and for our community.

We will continue to monitor this public health situation and take into account recommendations for best community practices, and we will update the congregation as needed. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns.