Dear Friends in Christ,
Over the last week our leadership has been making plans about how to respond to growing concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19), and what it means for our congregation and community.
The CDC and Florida Department of health have announced that the time has come to move to the next level of response, citing “substantial community spread of COVID-19 in the state.” Our synod Bishop has also strongly urged congregations to take action as well.
After meeting with our Executive Council, we have decided to cancel all programs, meetings, rehearsals, and activities. In addition we are suspending in person worship until further notice.
Let me start by saying that this decision was not easy. We know how important it is, especially during times like this, to be together as a community. But we also care deeply about the well-being of our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable. So, out of love for our neighbor, we believe the right thing to do right now is to practice physical distancing. We want to care for each other, our community and our local medical personnel by doing our part to flatten the curve.
Here are some important things for you to know:
- Our building is closed to the public, effective immediately, until further notice. The church office is closed and staff are working from home remotely. Pastoral care will continue via phone conversations, texts, and email. The one exception to this is that we are allowing for our A.A. groups to continue to have their meetings due to the nature of what they do for their members.
- We will be offering online church on Sunday mornings on the church Youtube channel at 10 a.m. You can find our channel on the homepage of the website. Click on the button labeled Online Worship in the red Coronavirus Update section of the home page. Once you are there, you can subscribe to the channel to view sermons and messages even if you can’t join live at 10 a.m. We are using the Youtube channel so that everyone with an internet connection can participate. While we won’t be gathering together physically finding new ways of worshipping when we can’t gather at church will be very important for us in the weeks to come. So watch for more information on these offerings, and plan to join us as we gather from our homes.
- Many of us are thinking about how to serve our community in this time. This is a beautiful thing, and fitting for us as a church that seeks to be a part of this community. If you are home bound, self quarantining, or are unable to get to the grocery store for food or medications we have a team of people who are ready to help. Contact Terri Chapman, who is coordinating this effort at 860-908-7158 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will deliver it to your front door for you.
- Your continued generosity toward our operating budget will be more important than ever during this time. The church continues to have its regular bills to pay and staff to support as they continue to minister and serve our congregation in various ways. If you’re not using electronic giving, you can sign up online again on our website. Or, you can simply mail your offering to the church at 11381 Gateway Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33913. And if you’re not a regular supporter of our ministry, I can’t think of a more important time to have you join the effort. Even a small gift of $5 or $10 a week can make a huge difference in the coming weeks.
These are challenging days to say the least. We know that not everyone will agree with our decision to suspend worship. We sympathize with those feelings, but we also know that we must protect the most vulnerable in our community and by taking these actions we are doing just that. As I said on Sunday we need to prepare and we need to have faith. It is exactly in times like this when we trust in the promise of Christ’s cross – that God is with you, even now… most especially now.
Friends, this is a time for us to truly be the Body of Christ. Now is the time to be the church even as we don’t gather in person. What does this mean? If there is someone you see regularly at church, give them a call. If there is someone you serve with on a ministry team, or just a friend you are missing – make a habit of connecting with them regularly. Such acts of love are not only Christ-like, they will make an enormous difference in the days ahead.
Thanks for your continued partnership and prayers. We are thinking about you, praying for you and we hope that you are praying for us, too. Let me close this letter with encouraging words from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” Romans 8:26
11381 Gateway Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33913