Dear Members and Friends of First Christian Church,
Some of you may recall that my sabbatical study was going to center around the journeys of the Apostle Paul. Well, we know how that worked out though I did work my way through several volumes about his life, travels and ministry. At any rate, I think these pandemic months have given me an appreciation for life and travel in the first century as well as the pain of a prolonged separation between a pastor and a people. So perhaps you will hear the depth of feeling in Paul’s words – as I have – when he writes to the church at Rome, For I am longing to see you (Romans 1.11) and when he jots a note to Timothy, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy (2 Timothy 1.4). I have longed to see the people of First Christian Church and to pray and rejoice with each of you. This coming Sunday, November 29th, the wait will end for some of us as we welcome our members and guests back to live worship. We will gather again at our regular hour, 10am, in the sanctuary. Not all of us will gather, of course – many of you have health conditions that should not be compromised by social gathering, even under the safest conditions we can manage. For all of you, we will be livestreaming the service at 10am and making it available later by recording as well. And some longing will simply continue for the time being.
Therefore, this note is mostly aimed at those who will be worshipping live with one another this Sunday or in the weeks to come. As you might expect, we will be observing the basic protocols that have been handed down by medical experts, and I am grateful to JoAnn Bass who met with us and offered her health expertise. The most important of these guidelines is that masks will be required upon entrance to the building, and to the best of our ability we will maintain a minimum distance of six feet from one another.
When you arrive on Sunday mornings, you will be able to enter the sanctuary through the Narthex or through the back door near the ramp leading up from the parking lot that is handicap accessible. As you enter, we will have a Host there to greet you, though, of course, this greeting will be markedly different from the past – no handshakes, no hugs, no lengthy conversations. The Host will be able to provide a mask if you have left yours at home and will be able to offer other assistance. Hand sanitizer will be available in abundance, and our aim will be to get you to your pew in an orderly way, so we are not having our entry points getting unduly congested and crowded. When you enter the sanctuary, we will have some pews blocked to manage a level of separation and will be asking different family units not to sit on different pews. When speaking, worship leaders may remove their masks, but they will maintain a significant distance from other worshippers.
In addition, the Host will be keeping a list of attendees. We hope that these lists will never be needed, but if we discover later that a worshipper has been exposed or contracted Covid, we will be able to do the tracing necessary to limit the spread of the virus. And, the Host will be able to assist you if you have found our assisted listening devices helpful. You will be provided with a device that will be assigned only to you. At the end of the service, you can place the device back in a plastic bag and return it to the Host. Prior to the next service, the device will be sanitized and placed in a new bag with your name on it.
In addition, we will have a hired person on hand to do some cleaning and sanitizing during the hour people are coming and going – wiping down door handles, for example. Bathrooms will be available as needed though we are encouraging limited use of those facilities.
What about communion?, you ask. Excellent question – we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper in time, though not this Sunday. Wilson County has one of the high positivity rates in North Carolina, and distributing the elements will require us to be closer than what we deem wise at this point. When we do bring communion back into the service, we will celebrate the Supper in a markedly different way: processing to the front at a distance and using sealed communion cups. We will have these cups containing a wafer and juice available for you on Sunday to take home and use privately. But for the next couple of weeks, our intent will be to forego the sharing of the Lord’s meal when we gather.
At the conclusion of the service, a Deacon will dismiss us row-by-row and we will depart, again, trying not to bottleneck at the exit doors. That said, I do not want to give you the impression that conversation will be forbidden. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are hungry to be in one another’s company and we have some months of conversation to catch up on. So, whether it is in lingering in the sanctuary or stepping out on the lawn – weather permitting – we will again be sharing life with one another . . . hopefully in a safe manner.
I think this almost everything . . . except, of course, music. Knowing that we would not be able to sing congregational hymns or hear the music of a full choir means that we have had to give oxygen to Casey in the weeks leading up to this regathering. And as we might expect, in her typical creative way, Casey has been working to provide a full state of hymns and solos from our wonderful stable of singers.
In closing, let me offer these final words. At First Christian, we have been following a most careful path. If you need someone to blame for these decisions, put it to me, but the members and guests of this congregation – every single one of you – have become very dear to me, and I judge that caring for both your spiritual and physical health is at the core of my calling.
This remains true as we prepare to gather again even as the virus statistics loom as threatening as ever – for me and for the staff and officers of the church. As I write these words, however, there has been a flurry of activity to prepare our worship space for the First Sunday of Advent. The Chrismon tree is up and decorated. There are plans for the Advent Wreath, our garlands, and the nativity scene to be in place by Sunday. And the star. Ah yes, the star. Yes, Advent will begin again which is to say that the waiting is not ending . . . we simply enter into a fresh waiting for holiness to invade our lives again.
And as we draw closer to Friday, I invite your prayers for the health and wellness of the congregation . . . for the appreciation of what our staff, leadership, and members have done to get us to this regathering point . . . and for the deep yearning in every heart for God’s child on whom we now wait. Blessings and Peace,
#FCCWILSONNC A Disciples of Christ Congregation
207 Tarboro Street North | Wilson, NC Corner of Vance & Tarboro Streets 252-237-4125