OUR Worship services BEGIN AT 11:00 a.m. EVERY SUNDAY

November 30, 2020

Session votes to return to Worship on Dec. 6th

         In a specially called meeting of Session this evening, they voted to re-open the church for worship, meetings, classes, Bible Studies and other church activities on Sunday, December 6th.

        Your leaders feel the importance of being able to gather together to worship, especially as we enter the Advent Season, but they believe that we must be very cautious and careful as the number of cases of COVID in our community continue to soar and local medical providers are being stretched to the limit of cases requiring hospitalization and special care.

        Nobody wants to “get back to normal” more than your Pastor or your Session.  Your health and safety and that of everyone else in our church family are of highest priority for all of them.  They hope and pray that these measures will only need to be “temporary,” but with daily changes in the case numbers and possible more restrictive regulations from government or local health agencies, they are cautiously optimistic.

        In order to make our re-opening successful and to try to avoid future closures, they felt they needed to set some ground rules to be followed, which a motion made, seconded and passed is intended to do.  However, if we end up having active cases of COVID among our membership, Session will move to close things down again in the interest of safety and the health of all of our church family.

 I’ve combined the motions that were approved to avoid confusion, with an explanation of a few of the points provided below.  

  1.  The church will re-open for in-church activities, including Sunday worship, and any class or group that would like to hold in-house meetings at the church on Sunday, December 6, 2020.

The last of the Revelation series before Christmas will be preached this coming Sunday by Pastor Dave and will be offered “virtually” as have been the last four worship services.  He will begin season-oriented sermons beginning with the Second Sunday of Advent (on December 6th.  The more “normal” services beginning on the 6th will once again be live-streamed for those who wish to participate from home.  Links will be provided on our Facebook pages and in emailed newsletters, and will also be available under the “Sermons” tab on our website.

Some of our groups may wish to continue to meet via ZOOM, in member’s homes or at other locations.  The motion approved allows them to meet in the church if they want to.  Please check with your group’s leaders to find out what their plans are during this time.  If I am notified of those plans, I will include the information in our newsletter and church calendar.  churchmouse@christcommunity-epc.org

  1.  Those who attend worship services are asked to arrive shortly before the beginning of worship services and to leave the facility upon completion of the worship services.

Proper physical distancing cannot be maintained among groups huddled together for visiting before or after worship.  It is the recommendation of Session that those who wish to visit (or fellowship) do so outside, or make arrangements to go to a coffee house, restaurant or private home to visit or fellowship.

  1.  There will be no coffee served or fellowship time following worship services.

Coffee time can be very dangerous for the spread of this disease because proper physical distancing cannot be maintained, and folks from many households are gathered together in close proximity without masks or other personal protective equipment.   You are invited to bring your coffee with you to drink during the service if you’d like to.

  1.  Masks will be required for everyone for all in-church activities.

 “For Christians, it’s important to rise above the political partisanship and personal opinions about the effectiveness of masks and think through what our faith would call us to with regard to wearing or not wearing masks.  What if our view on masks were shaped more by our Christian identity than our American political identity?  As much as I dislike wearing masks, sympathize with some skepticism about them, and cringe at attempts to shame people into wearing them, my Christian faith leads me to wear one when I’m in indoor public places.  When I look at Scripture I don’t see a mandate about masks, of course, but I see an invitation – to do at least four things.

To love your neighbor (Matthew 22:39)

For Christians called to love our neighbors as ourselves, wearing a mask in public – particularly indoor spaces where social distance cannot bee guaranteed – seems like a relatively easy way to practice neighbor love.  Even if it’s annoying to wear one, and even if you aren’t convinced by the science behind it, why not wear one anyway?  Given the enduring uncertainty about the way COVID-19 spreads, shouldn’t we err on the side of more protective measures rather than less, for the sake of the neighbor we might – even if it’s a slim chance – unknowingly infect?

To respect authorities (Romans 13:1-7)

It’s easy to blame leaders these days, and certainly many are making lots of mistakes.   But let’s show them grace.   COVID-19 is just one of several complex and fast-evolving issues authorities everywhere are facing.   Instead of rushing to criticize leaders, what if we gave them the benefit of the doubt – honoring and respecting their authority and believing they are working hard and trying their best?   Further, it seems clear from Romans 13 (among other passages, such as Titus 3:1 or 1 Peter 2:13-14) that Christians ought to respect the human governments in which they are subject, as long as submission to those governments doesn’t contradict our submission to the lordship of Christ and His ultimate authority.  If your church has instituted a “mandatory masks” policy for physical gatherings; go ahead and wear that mask happily – embracing the opportunity to practice Hebrews 13:17.

To Honor the Weak in Our Midst (Romans 14)

Mask-wearing has sadly become divisive in churches where masks are not mandatory.   Some churchgoers will wear them; some won’t.  Predictably, the groups will start assuming the worst about each other – that mask-avoiders are reckless and see themselves as stronger and braver; and that mask-wearers are cowardly and fear-stricken, needing a nudge in the direction of risk.

In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, Paul argues that in matters of freedom, it’s important the “stronger” Christians don’t flaunt their freedom in ways that become stumbling blocks to the weak.  When a mask-wearing “weaker” brother enters a church gathering full of mask-free “stronger” brothers, the mask-wearer naturally feels pressure to remove it – but that’s exactly the sort of wounding of the weak conscience Paul says is a “sin against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12).

To Use Freedom for the Sake of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23

American Christians are sometimes prone to understanding “freedom” in a way more shaped by the U.S. Constitution than the Bible.  But it’s no knock on the beauty and legitimacy of manmade freedoms to suggest that Scripture sometimes calls us to give up these freedoms for the sake of the Gospel.

Paul, for example, seems happy to give up his freedom for the sake of loving others (1 Corinthians 8:13).  “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them,” he writes (1 Corinthians 9:19).  “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it for the sake of the Gospel; that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23).  There is much missional power in this posture.  Few things are more beautiful to witness than someone giving up their rights and freedom for the sake of another.

There’s a lot at stake for Christian witness during COVID-19.  Do we want the non-believing world to look at Christians as reckless virus super-spreaders who put their own freedoms (to gather in persona as soon as possible, to not wear masks unless absolutely mandated) ahead of the health of their larger community?  Or do we want them to look at Christians as “servants to all,” willing to forego their freedoms out of Christlike neighbor love?

If the small annoyance of wearing masks can help not only save lives but also souls, winning more to the Gospel;, isn’t it worth it?

 >> [From the article, “4 Reasons to Wear a Mask, Even if You Hate It” by Brett McCracken, July 1, 2020 as “printed” in TGC U.S. Edition (The Gospel Coalition) - 4 Reasons to Wear a Mask, Even if You Hate It (thegospelcoalition.org)]

 If you don't feel well, stay home

         Even “sniffles” are a possible symptom of COVID-19.  What might seem like nothing to you – a headache, a slight fever, a rough or slightly raw throat… you could be suffering the early symptoms of COVID-19 and can be highly contagious, spreading the disease to others who might develop much more severe symptoms and illness.  So, if you in any way don’t feel “top shelf,” do yourself and everyone else a favor – just stay home and get better!

November 12, 2020

        Everything has come together very nicely for the Advent bags that are nearly ready to deliver to 92 kids in our community.

        One of the “finishing touches” of the bags is a beautiful book entitled “The Jesus Storybook Bible” being unpacked and getting ready to put in the bags by Bernie and Pete Hoover.

        Bernie, Barb Moody, Carol Houston, Debbie Kraft, Debbie Lenington, Joann Kafka and Pete have been working on various projects including the production of activity pages and craft projects to include in the bags in addition to the wonderful Bible.

        This program is completely new – and came about as a result of the fantastic response our VBS Team had with their virtual VBS this past summer.

        A letter from Pastor Dave is taped to each bag that reads, “Dear Friends, 2020 has been quite a year, hasn’t it?  None of us were prepared or saw it coming.  And none of us know quite when, or how it will end – and when we can go back to a more normal way of living.  But, in the midst of all the uncertainty and 

anxiety – there is hope, and even joy because of Jesus!

        Many, many years ago, a promise was kept.  God promised that He would fix the brokenness of the world, and even the brokenness within each of us.  Surprisingly, that promise to fix things did not crom the outside-in, but from the inside-out – by God becoming one of us, a human being, in the person of Jesus.  We celebrate His birth and His story, and what that means at Christmas.  And this is a joyful thing, good news for us all!

        The packet you have received contains fun things to color, and read, and whatnot, for the weeks leading up to Christmas.  These four weeks are called the season of Advent.

        We invite you to come and hear more about the promise God made to us, and how He came to us as the baby Jesus.

        We meet on Sunday mornings, beginning with children’s Sunday School at 9:45 and worship services at 11:00.  We plan to have a special service on Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24 at 7:00 P.M.

        Our services are live-streamed and archived at www.christcommunity-epc.org.

        God loves us, and we are so grateful He has made us neighbors!

        God’s blessings to you this Holiday Season – Pastor Dave Moody”

  An Instrution Sheet accompanies the bag, as well.  The program is laid out in the same way VBS was, with a weekly Bible story, Bible challenge, Bible craft and Bible coloring for all four weeks of Advent and Christmas.  Each week has a different theme.  The first is Hope.  The second is Love.  The third is Joy.  The fourth is Peace.  They have verses to memorize each week, as well.

        The kids will be making an Advent Wreath, a Donkey Ornament, an Angel and Wisemen.  Coloring pages include “An Angel visits Mary,” Joseph and Mary traveling to Jerusalem, Angels visiting the Shepherds, Wise Men following the Star and Mary and Baby Jesus.

         Bernie asks that we pray for the children and families who will receive these bags.