Dear Yates Family,
I hope that you were doing well this week, and are being refreshed by the rain and sunshine that has come to us here of late. I also hope that your Memorial Day weekend was a time of connection with those that matter and an opportunity to offer a fitting memorial for those who died in service. This is a time when we would customarily be mobilizing for all sorts of exciting adventures as a church: Vacation Bible School, camps for children and youth, Sonshine VBS, and senior adult gatherings were all intended. However, we have set all our plans down in service if the slow, tentative reopening of our community and country.
First of all, I write to reiterate how precious you are in God’s sight (and mine) as members of Yates Baptist Church. As you venture outside and feel the sunshine and hear the birdsong, may they remind you of Jesus’ own words: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt. 6:26-27) While these words should not be used to punish yourself for the worries that inevitably come, it is a call to trust their grace. It is by grace that Almighty God to declaredall creation, including you, “very good.” It is by grace that God sent his one and only Son to make the way for an unbreakable relationship that sustains those who trust him. These days stepping outside can feel a bit like going to church as creation’s chorus recalibrates your spiritual perspective. We have endured great distance and isolation, and maybe I’m preaching to myself most of all. I know how persistently many of you have reached out to express love and care to one another. Thank you. We will not lose heart!
I am also aware that society is gradually re-opening at the state and national level. We are now moving into “Phase 2” of North Carolina’s reopening. We know what this means:
- Strict rules and restrictions stay in place at nursing homes and other care facilities, including rehab centers and hospitals. Visitors are banned.
- The statewide stay-at-home order is lifted, although vulnerable people should still stay home.
- Face coverings are recommended for use in all public settings.
- Remote working remains highly recommended.
- Public playgrounds, entertainment venues, bars, nightclubs, gyms remain closed.
- Restaurants can reopen dining rooms but at 50% capacity and physical distancing.
- Retail stores, salons, barber shops, and other personal care and grooming businesses, swimming pools, can reopen at 50% capacity.
- Childcare facilities, overnight and day camps may reopen but with conduct daily health screenings on workers and patrons.
- Gatherings remain small, with groups of no more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors.
- While there are no state-imposed limits on religious and worship services, funerals and weddings, it is recommended that groups of people from different households maintain at least 6 feet of space between them.
The question before the church now is how to participate wisely in this re-opening. On one hand, we know of our internal readiness to connect, share, sing, pray and worship. On the other hand, we know how many of our friends are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and its worst effects. Some among us will elect to maintain distance, and others exercise great prudence in their coming.
This picture was circulated last week to illustrate the competing judgments and messages before church leaders. I found it insightful in illustrating the burden decision makers feel right now:
Across phase 2, wisdom and love tell me that Yates will not yet seek to gather for worship (though it is technically allowed). We can take action, though. Our corporate action begins around virtual tables, identifying areas where we can begin resuming certain levels of activity and setting out the safety measures necessary to do our best to protect one another and the neighborhood. Several ministry committees are developing summer plans for modest outdoor interpersonal encounters at prudent distances. Other groups meet regularly, and will continue to do so (consider a creative, appropriately-distanced parking lot gathering 25 at a time!).
We have also formed a team of dedicated Christian members to help make these assessments in light of the best medical, governmental and public health concerns. This work group consists of the ministers, Don Bynum, Lindsay Cook,Beverly Garcia, Sam Haithcock, Pam Riley, Gene Smith and Bill Yount. Our conversation begins tonight, and I’m so grateful that God has gifted our church with so many capable and experienced leaders.
In the meantime do not neglect all the phases of our discipleship (given by our supreme authority in Mark 12:29-31):
- Phase 1 – Love God: Take time every day to point your life again to God in prayer, by keep Sabbath and worship time and reading God’s word.
- Phase 2 – Love your neighbor: Pray for one another and the community and look for ways to reach out, listen, connect and respond to the needs you can help meet.
- Phase 3 – Love yourself: Tend to your spiritual, mental and emotional health. It’s easy to forget that looking after yourself is part of God’s commend to love!
The best news of all is that you do not need to wait to do any of these. It can be a part of this day and every day!
I am praying for you as I send this. I will continue. We are in this together, and together, we will see it through.
Grace and Peace,