Dear First Baptist family,
In the July 2020 newsletter, I shared with you that we are inching our way towards offering both in-person as well as online worship opportunities for our congregation. Last night, those plans became more concrete as the diaconate board met to discuss this very topic.
For the next three weeks, we will continue to pre-record worship services in the sanctuary on Friday evenings. Those services will then be added to the church’s website, and you will be able to access them on Sunday mornings beginning at 9:30 a.m., which has been our custom since mid-March. If you are interested in seeing what it looks like to pre-record a worship service, we are extending an invitation for you to attend a session as soon as THIS Friday evening, July 17 at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary. (Please note: it will be a very different experience- and yes, all of the best practices recommended by the CDC will be implemented.)
At the conclusion of these three weeks of what we are referring to as a “soft” opening, we will again offer an in-person worship service beginning on Sunday, August 9th at 9:30 a.m. We will also record that service, and post it to our website as usual, but there will be a delay of a few hours before it is available (a specific time will be shared as soon as I know it). We will also begin making DVDs of services available to members who request them, with priority given to those who need a low-tech option to worship from home.
Additionally, if you decide that it is most prudent for you to stay home to avoid contact with others, know that I fully support that decision. The official recommendation from the CDC is to avoid crowds as much as possible if you have chronic medical conditions or are over the age of 65. And if you ARE choosing to stay home, rest assured that you will continue to have ways to stay connected with this community of believers (watch online, request DVDs, join Zoom gatherings, make phone calls, etc.).
As we consider these options, it is also important for us to remember what this requires of each of us. My friend & mentor reminded me that it is so helpful to think about all of this in the context of covenant, a solemn promise we make to one another. We are a covenant people, after all, as we covenant with God and with one another in our communal life as First Baptist Church of Lafayette. In fact, every time a new person shares their decision to become part of this particular faith community called First Baptist, we make a covenant with them: “In response to your decision, we pledge ourselves to be the family of God for you in this place. We offer you our love, our care, our kinship, and our hope. We hope to learn from you, to give to you, and to receive from you, by God’s grace.” So as we make a little more progress in our goal to offer in-person worship once again, we should be thinking about this within the framework of covenant language.
Let us covenant together that:
- We will continue to be the church for one another, whether we choose to worship in person or from home.
- We will assume the best in one another and be patient with each other as we navigate a new reality.
- We will not come to church if we have any symptoms.
- We will clean and sanitize after every gathering.
- We will keep 6’ distance from those not in our families.
- We will sanitize our hands when we enter the building.
- We will refrain from hugging and shaking hands.
- We will wear masks when we are indoors together.
- We will offer alternatives to the practices of passing offering plates, communion trays, sharing a candle, and other shared objects.
- We will continue to offer worship and small gatherings online, even as we resume in-person gatherings.
Friends, remember that we will continue to be the church however we each choose to congregate in the days ahead. My prayers are with you as you discern the right decisions for you and your family. May God give us the wisdom and the courage to live fully into our covenant with one another.
Pastor Lisa Hood