May 15, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The elders met this last week to review the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our congregation, our response thus far to its challenges, and decisions that we must make looking forward into the near future. We are writing now to update you on our thoughts and recommendations.
First, we want to thank the Lord for his ongoing protection and love during this very uncertain time. We are pleased that by his grace and your diligent work in physical distancing, the health impact of the illness has been limited among our congregation. However, we are certainly aware of its other great costs. Some have lost loved ones or are concerned about their health. Some have lost jobs or been furloughed from work; many have had financial resources significantly strained. Some have experienced uncertainty about food or supplies; many have struggled with increased anxiety. But we recognize that these are challenges that we face together as members of one body. We are the strong arms of God that lovingly embrace his daughters and sons in times of trouble. We want to let you know that your good works and expressions of love to each other through this time are much appreciated.
We also have reflected on the joy that our communal worship service has given us each Sunday when we gather – even though if only virtually. The elders would like to express our special appreciation to our Ministerial Staff (Ben Fike and Sharon Hilliard), along with the Ministry Coordinating Committee, and our dedicated Care Group Leaders whose work has facilitated our continued virtual congregational life, provided physical support for those with needs, and spiritual support when we grow tired.
Our CMR COVID-19 Task Force (comprised of Caroline Smith, Wayne Massey, Ben Fike, Carol Garth, and John Beyer) has been meeting regularly to monitor the pandemic’s progress and public health recommendations. They reported to us that beginning May 18 (in Durham), we will begin Phase 1 of North Carolina’s three phase plan to reopen our communities. In Phase 1, congregations may consider some small group meetings limited to no more than 10 people. In Phase 2 (anticipated to begin approximately 2-3 weeks later), congregations may consider meeting in slightly larger groups (while still practicing strict social distancing and stringent facility cleaning). Obviously, these public health restrictions have had significant implications for our congregational life, but they have been implemented because the COVID-19 virus is a serious public health risk to us all. The doctors in our congregation have told us of the terrible effects the virus has had in our larger community and emphasized the importance of protecting each other during this very critical time.
Therefore, we are determined to continue the work of the Lord with all the flexibility and tools he has provided, support each other during this time of trouble, and continue to be his ambassadors in this world. At the same time, we must make sure that the most vulnerable among us are well-protected. Because of this, the elders do not foresee a significant change in our worship services or practices at this time. We plan to continue to provide a virtual platform for our Sunday services at least into June. We have asked our Task Force to continue to monitor the pandemic’s status and continue updating us monthly a summary of the public health recommendations. While you may have heard that some places in the country are allowing congregations to gather in their buildings again on Sunday mornings, we strongly believe that this would not be in the best interest of our congregation at this time, especially since we are able to continue both our worship and our work in safer settings. Be aware that the elders are continuing to work with our ministers and other leaders to make sure that everyone in our congregation is safe and provided for. If you have any specific needs or concerns, please let us know.
Grace and peace,