March 13, 2020
Dear Yates Family,
Who among us on Monday thought that by Friday we would be confronted with so many decisions, precautions and protocols to reduce the transmission of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus? Yet, because of the facts before us, and the urging of the local, state and national leaders, there are urgent and extreme decisions that confront our congregation.
The ministers have been meeting daily to discuss the state of affairs, and this morning conferred with our deacon chairperson to assess and plan our next steps. The situation in North Carolina is constantly evolving, and we continue to respond to new information as it comes to us. The best medical information indicates that early and aggressive social distancing is the most effective way to limit the spread of the virus, prevent overwhelming the healthcare system and ultimately save lives. More importantly, it is imperative that for this strategy to be effective, community organizations participate by implementing precautions in-line with public health recommendations.
With the information before us, we have made the following decisions:
· All services and activities on the church premises are cancelled for Sunday, March 15. We will be offering an online resource, so you can be a part of worshipping with Yates this Sunday. There are plans for online worship opportunities for future Sundays as well.
· Recognize the many ways you can remain engaged and supportive of Yates and its mission with our existing resources. Consider using the Yates app to share your offerings and listen to sermons. Monitor the Yates website and Facebook page for information, updates, and resources for personal discipleship. Prayer requests can be submitted to the ministerial staff through email and the website.
· Ministers and church leaders will be conferring every Monday to evaluate the current situation in order to maintain the church’s ministry in ways that also serve the public health concerns. The need to hold off in-person services, activities and meetings may persist for several weeks, but we will evaluate this decision regularly.
· All activities and events scheduled in the coming week, March 16-20, are canceled, including music rehearsals, Wednesday evening programs, mission meetings, as well as in-person prayer and discipleship gatherings. Committee Meetings scheduled for the coming week will be given video/teleconferencing options. Prayer and discipleship groups may also utilize this powerful tool instead of canceling.
· The church office will remain open and functional during regular office hours and at least one minister will be in residence to tend to immediate needs. Social distancing recommendations indicate that casual and unnecessary contact also invites unnecessary risk, so please be judicious about coming to the office. Always exercise the common-sense precautions of hand hygiene and contact isolation when you feel unwell.
· We are temporarily limiting visitation in homes, hospitals and rehab./skilled care facilities. We will do whatever we can to be attentive to pastoral care needs via phone and email first before an in-person visit is judged necessary. We are also mobilizing our deacons to be of greater support in this season of limited in-person contact. They already do a great job of being hands and feet for the pastoral ministry!
· Please remain attentive to communication coming from the church by email, social media, Yates app and phone contacts. We will do our best all along the way to keep you informed of changes, adaptations and corrections. Remember, this situation is a first for all of us, so be patient and communicate.
More personally, I want to assure the congregation that while the 2019 Novel Coronavirus presents us with unique challenges, the fear and anxiety saturating our community does not have the last word. Consider Psalm 91: “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings he will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”
We have been given the gift of faith to trust in the presence of the One who abides with us, even in times like these, and provokes us to consider how we can love God and our neighbor wherever we are. “I am with you always,” Jesus assures us at the end of Matthew’s gospel. Though our love of neighbor demands that we sacrifice our time together for a season, I also envision this to be a time for the bonds of fellowship, shared purpose and Christian ministry to strengthen and grow.
Stay connected and stay safe. May the Lord God Almighty who loves you protect you. May Jesus Christ, his Son who died for you, save you. And may the Holy Spirit who broods over the chaos and fills you with his presence, intercede for you – and in you for others – today and in days to come.