There have certainly been many changes for us over the last several weeks. I know I have felt challenged in many aspects of my life. I couldn’t work, I became a home school teacher and no matter how hard I tried, my house was never organized. I sometimes didn’t feel equipped to talk to my kids about what was going on or how to deal with their sadness about missing their friends. We are a busy family and had nowhere to go! Yes, if we are talking big picture, these things are very minor, but obstacles for me nonetheless. It’s funny how seemingly overnight, “our normal” can vanish. We all have probably felt out of sorts at some point during this time. Not having in person church service is a huge void for most of us. We all miss meeting on Sunday morning, laughing and hugging and sharing stories. Comforting each other and celebrating together. It’s OK to say it out loud…it’s sad. It sucks. We want things to be the way they were before. Truly, you aren’t alone in these thoughts. We are human and our feelings about this are valid! We all can’t wait to be together again!
So I’m thrilled that I can finally write that we have a plan for how and when we will open our building! (As Wade mentioned Sunday, the church is always open!) Governor Holcomb laid out a 5 Stage Plan (Back on Track Indiana) to re-open Indiana. While this is great news and gives us a more detailed timeline, it is subject to change. With that in mind, the CCT has decided to align our opening of the building with the stages, instead of a specific date. This allows us to be more consistent with our information and planning moving forward.
As you can imagine, there is a surplus of information out there. The CCT met on May 12th to discern what is best for First Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana. As stated in my last blog, Pastor Wade had meetings with denominational leaders (on both the national and state levels) and with our insurance company. We discussed, in great detail, all the ways our church would be impacted by Governor Holcomb’s guidelines during each stage. We also took into consideration the recommendations from our insurance company, the CDC and the denominational leaders. We also thought about you, each and every one of you. Our top priority is keeping everyone as safe as we possibly can. We all took this responsibility very serious and had thoughtfully and earnestly prayed about it leading up to our meeting.
With all of these things in mind, we have decided to continue with LIVE online services until we reach Stage 5 as a state. As of now, the projected date for that is July 4th. As I said before, the date could change, so we are choosing to align with the stages instead. We want to keep a posture of transparency with you, so here are the top reasons why we felt this was the best plan for us.
First, going back sooner than Stage 5 comes with a higher risk and a plethora of new guidelines. In all honesty, it wouldn’t look much like church at all. No singing, no Sunday School, no children’s classes or choir. No bulletins or hymnals or bibles in the pews. Why the rush? Let’s see how some of this reopening plays out.
Secondly, the cleaning and disinfecting process that would have to happen, along with enforcement of guidelines would take more resources than we can offer.
Thirdly, it’s no secret our two largest age groups are those over 65 and those between 4-11. We are to protect the most vulnerable and we feel waiting to open is the best way to do that.
I hope you are reading this with a smile. I hope you can feel how thoughtful we were and all the love that was put into making this decision. This is a good thing! While we aren’t there yet, we will be together again very soon! Our patience and perseverance is paying off!
Sometimes I feel like this time away has been an eternity, other times it seems to be just a blip of time. But in that time, I’ve seen God’s wisdom and guidance and strength moving throughout our whole congregation. So, we can’t meet in person right now? OK! We can call each other, we can send letters or emails, we can show up to the live prayer and sermons. We can still wish each other a happy birthday or happy anniversary. We are stepping outside of our comfort zones in order to help others worship. We are learning new things about technology every day to make at home sermons the best experience it can be. We have amazing mentees continuing to teach our children and lead us in worship. We are staying connected! We are loving each other from where we are. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what the church is? It seems to me, we are getting this right. We are finding new ways to look after one another. We are finding new ways to dive into scripture on Sunday morning. We are finding new ways to come together to lift up our prayers. We are finding new ways to “meet” and discuss what our next steps are as a congregation. I’m proud of us!
I encourage you, over the next few weeks while we continue to meet virtually, reach out to someone you know and say hi! Leave a note or tie a balloon to someone’s mailbox. Compliment someone’s new haircut or recommend a wonderful book you just read. In a year from now we’ll look back on this time and be able to see it more clearly. Let’s make the best of it and be intentional with our time and how we can lift up those around us. Spread joy!
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11