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Update 11 – August 30

Dear Church Family,

I am writing to update you on our church reopening progress. Your staff has been working hard to formulate a plan for this fall that allows us to maintain safety and put our foot back on the gas pedal to move forward in ministry. Please know that I have asked a group of doctors and medical professionals from within the church to serve as a Medical Advisory Panel (MAP) for myself and our staff. As time has progressed, making decisions about Covid-19 has become more complicated and applying sound wisdom has become more challenging. The knowledge of these experts has been invaluable.

These are the principles from which we are operating:

  • Err toward caution
  • Foot on the gas pedal for ministry
  • Maintain unity by honoring a diversity of opinions
  • Employ no guilt tactics
  • Priority of corporate Lord’s Day worship
  • Be the aroma of Christ in the community
  • Protect the most vulnerable in our church

Guided by these principles, we have formulated an approach to begin adding ministry and worship opportunities in the coming weeks. Bear in mind that remote options will continue for the foreseeable future for those who are still not comfortable returning to in-person worship and activities.

On Sunday, September 13, we will celebrate what we will call “Family Reunion Sunday.” We will celebrate baptism and the Lord’s Supper on that day. Many of you will still choose to worship remotely. Please know that we want to encourage each and every member to do what they see as best in regard to returning to in-person worship. We will not judge or mistreat one another over these decisions.

First, we will begin offering First Kids Worship and nursery care during the worship service beginning on September 13. Parents, check the website and communications from our family ministry team to know more about our guidelines and precautions for safely reopening.

Second, we will begin a large group, in-person Sunday school class taught by Woodie Turner beginning on September 13. This class will be held in the chapel and we will maintain the same social distancing and safety guidelines there as we do in the worship service. We know everyone misses their individual Sunday school classes and teachers, but there is no safe way to conduct Sunday school in our normal fashion right now. Prayerfully, we will be able to return to that soon.

Third, we are beginning the process of adding a full choir to our worship services. This is an undertaking, but our MAP has given us helpful guidelines to add singers to our choir safely. The choir is practicing on Wednesday nights in the sanctuary fully socially distanced.

Fourth, for now, all Wednesday night activities except for choir will be remote. We are continuing our Wednesday night Bible study online. Furthermore, we will continue to offer opportunities for drive-thru prayer.

Fifth, we are working hard on safe, wise opportunities for fellowship and connection among the congregation. This is something we all miss and long for. Please be on the lookout for opportunities for fellowship in the coming months. In the meantime, call your friends, folks from your Sunday school class, that family you loved hugging each week, that homebound member, or whoever the Lord puts on your heart! We need each other as much as ever!

In Christ,

 

Bro. Mat

Update 10 – July 15th

Dear Church Family,

I am sure you have seen that Gov. Ivey has issued a mandatory mask mandate for the state of Alabama. This will have minimal impact on our Sunday gatherings since we are already asking that everyone wear a mask on the Lord’s Day for worship. One thing you’ll note about this mandate: it includes exemptive language for those participating in religious services. The mandate says, “Any person who cannot wear a facial covering because he or she is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, though wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged.”
What this means is, if your worship or providing of worship preempts your ability to wear a mask, then you are permitted to take it off. Even then, the order says, a face covering is “strongly encouraged.” For example, this language is primarily there for those who have to lead in worship and preach. Obviously, we could stretch the meaning of this and say, “we can do what we want.” However, this is not the sort of attitude that Christians are called to have. Instead, we will continue to be wise and prudent in our gathering. Because of this mandate, I want to remind you that we are asking you to wear a mask on Sundays to church.
-First of all, because of the mandate’s exemption, so long as you are 6 feet away from people who aren’t members of your household, you are welcome to remove your mask during worship. Even so, note that the state is nonetheless encouraging us strongly to keep our masks on.
-Second, we are going to reserve the entire section of pews in front of the organ console (if you are facing the pulpit, the section to your left) for those who wish to keep a mask on for the entire service. This will allow them to sit in a “masks-only” section. If you choose to sit here, you will still need to abide by the 6-foot distance requirement.
-Third, remember, we are asking everyone to at least wear a mask as they enter and exit the sanctuary.
-Fourth, we will not cast judgmental glances from across the sections. (I kid… but seriously!)
My dear church, I love you all so much. I know many of us disagree on these matters, but we must get some perspective on this. There are Christians who literally risk their lives to worship with the Lord’s church every week. They worship in fear that people will come in to their worship service and harass, arrest, or even murder them then and there. There are missionaries on the field, some whom I went to college and seminary with, who at this very moment cannot let their names be made public for fear that they would be killed because they are a missionary. We can handle wearing a mask. You have all been so amazing during this season! I have never been more glad to be your pastor. We must continue to be diligent in order that we can preserve our ability to gather and provide a live worship broadcast.
Trust the Lord. Reject fear. Be wise and prudent. Love your neighbor as yourself! As we continue to move through this trial, continue to be reminded of the great suffering of our Lord, and be heartened by the fact that His Father, who sustained Him, is our Father too, thanks to His death and resurrection. Trust that God will sustain you even through this! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
In Christ,
Bro. Mat

Update 9 – July 6th

Dear Church Family,

I am as burdened as I have ever been in my life. While God has been so good to our church during this time, nonetheless the grind of the Covid-19 crisis is affecting everyone I know. Add to that the great unrest and vitriolic debates of the day and it is clear to see why my heart is heavy and troubled. I am sure yours is too.
That is not to say, however, that we are without hope. That is never the case for those who trust in Jesus. This world belongs to Him and He is the answer for all the great questions of the day. Many of us will disagree on some of the problems we see in the world, but we are in unity on the fundamentals: every human being is created in God’s image and we are required to love our neighbors as ourselves. We know the Scripture speaks clearly to the fundamental issues we are looking at, and we must continue to hold fast to the Gospel ourselves.
Each year, we take a break from Wednesday night activities in the month of July. This year, from July 8 until August 5, let’s commit together to take an hour each Wednesday night to seek the Lord in Scripture and prayer. Some of you may want to fast as well on Wednesday evenings. We will not be doing any Bible study videos or other formal teaching on Wednesday nights. However, each week we will send out a topic to pray about and some Scripture to guide your prayers. As we move into the fall season, nothing feels sure or settled in terms of what life and ministry might look like. What a time to cling to the Rock of Ages! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
I love you all so much and I long for the fullness of our fellowship to be restored. If you need me, please email or call me. Let’s all seek the Lord together in a special way during this season.

In Christ,

Bro. Mat

Update 8 – May 26

Dear Church Family,

This Sunday will be our first “hybrid service.” Many of you will return to the church building for worship while many of you will continue to worship at home. “Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” Please use caution and wisdom as you make this decision. For many, if not most of us, continuing to worship remotely will be the wisest choice. In particular, I want to strongly encourage our most at-risk folks to continue to worship remotely. We will not judge one another in these decisions. There are so many competing goods at play that we must recognize that there is a liberty of conscience for each believer. We must be charitable in how we assess each other’s decisions. This is basic faithfulness for the Lord’s church and the world could use a good dose of charity and love right now as well!

I implore you: if you are not feeling well, have been exposed to Covid-19, or have any related symptoms whatsoever please choose to continue to worship remotely. The reality is that our ability to regather is dependent on your wisdom. More than once, I have read or heard of churches and ministries being derailed by someone making a decision against their better judgement. I wholeheartedly trust that you will all be careful and wise in your decision making!

When you do come to church, please follow the guidelines we are setting forth. “I have freedom!,” you might say. Indeed, you do. But isn’t it good that church is not the place where we display our individual freedoms, but instead “count others as better” than ourselves? Put on the attitude of Christ! You’ll be amazed how much your worship experience will be transformed when your heart and mind are focused on loving God and loving others. 

Here are guidelines and precautions, as well as general information, for the hybrid service:

  • The doors to the church will be opened at 10.
  • Only the Guest Entrance/Elevator Door and the main Sanctuary Doors will be open and available. If you are able, use the main Sanctuary Doors and save the Guest Entrance for those who are less able to navigate the front steps. Save the best parking spaces for those that will need them as well.
  • Maintain 6 feet of distance from others as you enter, navigate, and exit the facility.
  • There will be no nursery, childcare, Kids Worship, or Sunday school.
  • Frequently wash and sanitize your hands. We are providing sanitization stations near available entrances
  • Greet one another without a handshake or hug. This is hard, but it’s imperative that we abide by this!
  • If you feel the urge to sneeze or cough, make sure you do so into your elbow.
  • Wear a face mask. If you do not have one, we will provide you with one at the door. Children over 2 should also wear a face mask.
  • Only sit in designated pews. They will be clearly marked.
  • Sit 6 feet apart. However, families should sit together. Each section of our pews is around 6 feet in length so that will make it easy for you to make a wise choice in where you sit.
  • Refrain from mingling. As tempting as it will be to “work the room,” it is important that you enter quickly, take your seat, and leave only when you are dismissed.
  • We will be doing a staggered dismissal by section. Please do not get up and leave immediately after the service is over.
  • Try to avoid using the restroom at the church if possible.
  • There will be offering plates available for you to drop off your offering at the exits. You can continue to give online and by mail as well.
  • We have implemented an intensified cleaning and disinfecting process for our facilities.
  • We will not be handing out bulletins. Further, all materials, including hymnals, have been removed from the designated pews.

This is not the full return to church we have hoped and prayed for, but it’s still a wonderful step forward. Let’s continue to love and serve the Lord, one another, and our community! Trust God and love your neighbor as yourself. I love you and look forward to seeing some of you this Lord’s Day!

In Christ,

Bro. Mat

Update 7 – May 13

Dear First Baptist Family,

I am still clinging to this truth: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! We have been looking to and praying through what “re-entry” to on-campus gathering might look like for a while now. You can imagine the challenge as we are all wading through conflicting news, reports, data, government policy, and more. Then, at the end of last week, Gov. Ivey announced that churches could reopen far sooner than any of us expected. I am writing to you to communicate our priorities as we evaluate and formulate a plan moving forward.

Here are our top priorities:

First, our primary calling as a church is the same no matter what. We are called to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Gadsden and beyond. This has not stopped and will not stop by God’s grace.

Second, we are prioritizing Lord’s Day worship. Our full faculties and resources will first be devoted to restoring our Lord’s Day worship gatherings. Sunday morning is the epicenter of our life as a church, and we are all longing to gather together again.

Third, your safety and the safety and health of our community is a top priority. We plan to be prudent and careful as we seek to be pro-life in every sphere of our church.

Fourth, the guidance and wisdom of leaders, experts, and the government is a priority for us. We plan to set a good example in faith and good works as we respect the recommendations of those whom God has called to lead and serve our country during this time.

We are planning to begin a hybrid worship service on Sunday, May 31st. That means that we are encouraging many of you to continue to worship remotely even though the church will be open. In particular, we encourage our most at-risk people to continue to worship remotely. Furthermore, if you still do not feel comfortable in a public gathering, we would encourage you to continue to worship remotely. Social distancing guidelines will mean that we cannot provide nursery, childcare, or children’s classes of any sort on Sunday mornings. Children are, of course, welcomed into the worship service during this time. The sanctuary will be set up to encourage social distancing. We have ample space to ensure that everyone separates. If you choose to attend worship in person, we ask that you please wear a face mask. If you do not have one, we will provide one for you at the door. We had talked about doing “Easter at Last” at this point, but a celebratory gathering like that is not feasible until we move out of this “hybrid” phase. Furthermore, there will still be no Wednesday night activities, Sunday school, or other on-campus activities during this time.

Also, as we draw nearer to May 31, we will provide more information on the measures we are taking and encouraging to ensure your safety as we begin gathering again.

Despite the easing of restrictions, there are nonetheless some major ministry opportunities that we are being forced to cancel. Unfortunately, it has become necessary that VBS and McSpadden cannot happen this summer. This is particularly heartbreaking for all of us as these are two of the most ministry-laden and joyful weeks of our year. It would be impossible to maintain the social distancing guidelines that will certainly still be in place in June. We look forward to having a great McSpadden Music Camp in 2021! Also, our children’s team is working on a way to be creative with VBS teaching later in the year. Be on the lookout for news there!

Finally, I want to commend the FBC family on their great faithfulness during this time. I have been brought to tears with stories of love and kindness among our congregation. We have been able to love Gadsden tremendously during this time through feeding those who are needy and through blessing front line workers. Furthermore, your financial generosity has been overwhelming. Our giving is ahead of 2019 giving this year! I am stunned by the grace of God that has been displayed through your faithful giving.

Hang in there, folks. God is good and He is good to His children. I miss you and love you and trust that we will all be together unhindered soon. Until then, let’s continue to worship, spread the Gospel, and love well. Continue to be diligent for your own health and for the sake of others. Love your neighbor as yourself.

In Christ,

Bro. Mat

Update 6 – March 30

Dear First Baptist Family,

What a good time to remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! If your family is anything like ours, then the new has worn off this quarantine by now. However, we must continue to be diligent for the sake of our neighbors and for our own health. I love you all and miss you more than I can explain. However, God has been so kind to me through all of you during this time. Your love, support, encouragement, and prayers have been so meaningful to me.

By now it is apparent to most of us that it will be a while before we are able to gather again for church. The latest news from Governor Ivey asks that the current social distancing measures extend through the end of April. We will continue to follow those guidelines, which means the church facilities will continue to be closed to meetings, public gatherings, services, and normal work through April. While this is difficult to swallow, it is particularly difficult because it means we will not be able to gather together on Easter Sunday. You will notice that many churches will be creative and come up with unique ways to celebrate Easter as a church on that day. I love seeing all the creative ways that churches are getting the Word out during this time! However, I want to tell you what our plans are at First Baptist Church. First, our commitment remains to provide live worship broadcasts each Sunday during this time. I feel a profound sense of conviction that we continue to put all that we can into our live broadcasts. Something like a “drive-in” church or other creative service would eliminate our ability to provide an excellent live broadcast during this time. As much as I would love to do something where we could achieve some semblance of a “gathering,” we simply cannot do it at the expense of our live broadcast. Continue to use this time to remember how important gathering is, and let your longing for gathering with God’s people on the Lord’s Day increase during this season. On Easter Sunday, we will provide a live worship broadcast with a message on the resurrection and beautiful music.

However, as of right now, our plan is to celebrate Easter properly on the first Sunday we are allowed to gather again. As you know we usually advertise “Easter at First” during this time. On that Sunday, we will celebrate “Easter at Last!” I hope this gives us all something to look forward to when we finally emerge from our homes to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the faithfulness of God during a tough season.

Your staff continues to work hard to love and serve our congregation and our community during this time. You should be very proud of all of them. I want to give you some updates on where we are in the 5 categories we are focusing on during this season.

1. Communication – Our communication strategy seems to be working well so far. We are regularly reevaluating what we are doing, but we are communicating well internally as a staff, internally to the congregation, and externally to the community. Our deacons and Sunday school teachers are especially doing a great job of keeping us aware of pastoral care issues as they arise. Bear in mind that you cannot go wrong with emailing us if there’s something you think we ought to know, even if it’s likely that we already do. We would rather get too many emails than none at all when there is a need.
2. Teaching and Discipleship – We are trying to be sure that we are replicating the teaching and discipleship opportunities that we normally provide in the course of a week. We have dedicated a page on our website to helping communicate these opportunities. Simply go to fbcgadsden.org/athome to find different teaching and discipleship opportunities.
3. Community and Loneliness – This is the area that burdens my heart the most. Our staff, deacons, and Sunday school teachers are reaching out to folks as much as possible, but it is hard to make up for all that we are missing in terms of community and relationships during this quarantine. If someone is on your heart, call them. If you lead a group of some sort and would like to set up a conference call or video meeting, let us know, and we will help you with that. Continue to call, write, and pray for those who may be struggling more acutely with loneliness during this time.
4. Pastoral Care and Mercy Ministry – We are working hard to keep in touch with those who have new or ongoing medical needs during this time. We have been praying for and “visiting” with them over the phone. We are also making a difference in terms of mercy ministry to the community. On Wednesdays during this time, First Baptist is partnering with businesses and others to provide food for hungry children in the community. Last Wednesday, we gave out enough food for about 2000 meals for hungry kids in the community. What an amazing ministry that was provided in part by your generosity through our auction earlier this year. We are also working right now on ministry opportunities for healthcare workers at both of our hospitals. Be in prayer that the Lord would provide and give us Gospel opportunities in that area.
5. Weekly Worship Service – We had a technical glitch on 3/29 that made the service unavailable on television. I was very frustrated by this, but God is sovereign. Some things cannot be helped. Our faithful TV crew was not to blame whatsoever for the glitch. We are working hard this week to get that fixed. Nonetheless, we continue to get great feedback from inside and outside FBC on our weekly worship services. Continue to pray each week as we get the praises to God and the Word of God to people in Etowah County and beyond.

During financially uncertain times, it may be difficult to give to the Lord. However, I do want to encourage you to continue to give faithfully to the Lord during this season. The ministry of First Baptist is dependent on your generous giving. Online giving is available at fbcgadsden.org/giving you can always give by mail as well (PO Box 456, Gadsden, AL, 35902). If you need help with online giving, call or email Becki and she can help you.

Hang in there, folks. Your pastor loves you. However, Jesus Christ loves you more. His Word and His Spirit keep us and compel us during these strange times. Cling to Christ and cling to His Gospel! Pray hard! Keep us posted on what needs or concerns you have. Most of all, love well and love big during this time.

In Christ, Bro. Mat

 

Update 5 – March 17

Church Office Closure and Communication Plan

Dear Church Family,

As of Wednesday, March 18th our church staff will be moving to total remote work for the foreseeable future. We plan to maintain our normal office hours of 8-4 from Monday through Friday.

Furthermore, the facilities at First Baptist Church are closed to groups of any size at least through April 1. We have a plan in place to provide maintenance checks at the church during this season.

We also have a communications plan in place as we work remotely. If at all possible, try to primarily use email to contact us. This will be the quickest, easiest way to reach us with non-urgent issues.

The church phone line will funnel into two voicemail inboxes that we will be checking regularly. One will be for messages that need an answer by the end of the day. The other will be for emergencies that need immediate attention.

In the case of an emergency, however, go ahead and call one of our staff members on their cell phone. If you do not have one of our cell phone numbers, reply to this email and we will provide them for you.

We are going to email the Chimes during this season as opposed to a mass mailout. Gina is working to make sure that those who we believe do not have email access receive a printed copy via mail. Bear in mind that the Chimes is also available on the church website. The prayer list will be exclusively digital.

Giving options will continue to be available during this time. You can give online at https://portal.icheckgateway.com/firstbaptistgadsden/ or by mailing a check to PO Box 456, Gadsden, AL, 35902.

We will continue to broadcast a live worship service on Sundays at 10:30. Watch on Comcast channel 5, Facebook live, or the church website.

Bear in mind that we are continuing to work and think through these categories as we move to remote work:

  1. Communication
  2. Teaching and Discipleship
  3. Community/Loneliness
  4. Pastoral Care and Mercy Ministry
  5. Weekly Worship Service

Expect updates and opportunities in these categories as time goes on.

Remember, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Keep trusting and keep praying! I love you and am grateful for you.

In Christ,

Pastor Mat

Update 4 – March 16

Dear First Baptist Church of Gadsden Family,
 
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! We must be reassured by the truth in uncerta1.in and fearful times. Please know that your church staff is working diligently to serve and love you and our community during this season.
 
As of right now, based on the information we have all on-campus services and activities are cancelled at least through April 1. Things are changing rapidly and I believe wholeheartedly that an immediate and thorough response is necessary at this moment. We will continue to provide worship broadcasts on Sundays during this season.
 
As your pastor, please let me encourage you to practice social distancing and proper hygiene precautions during this time. It is clear at this moment that lives are at stake. I am a pro-life pastor and we are a pro-life church. This means we value all life, including those that are most vulnerable and at-risk during this health crisis. We are called to love sacrificially as Christians, which means we are willingly inconvenienced for the sake of others. As I have thought through our response to this pandemic, I have returned to this thought many times: I would rather apologize later for overreacting than preach a funeral. Consider our Lord, who for our sake became poor. We can sacrifice comfort and normalcy for the lives of others.
 
Your staff met today and evaluated 5 areas that we are focusing on right now:
1. Communication
2. Teaching and Discipleship
3. Community/Loneliness
4. Pastoral Care and Mercy Ministry
5. Weekly Worship Service
 
We will be brainstorming and implementing ways to serve you and our community in each of these areas during this time. We will also be working on ways to mobilize the gifts and service capacity of the entire church during this time. As you think of concerns, questions, ideas, and more just send us an email. We are continually evaluating and considering different options to make sure the work of the church continues! I have asked the staff to focus on these 5 categories at this time. We are fully focused on leading through this crisis. Please bear that in mind and be patient with us during this time. I promise you everyone is working hard and with the church’s best interests in mind.
 
Furthermore, bear in mind that as the Lord leads, you can continue to give during this time. Online giving is available at https://portal.icheckgateway.com/firstbaptistgadsden/ and you can always give by mail as well (PO Box 456, Gadsden, AL, 35902). These are financially uncertain times, but please continue to support the church as the Lord leads and as you are able.
 
Finally, our church staff is preparing to move to remote work sooner than later. We are working hard to make sure that there is very limited interruption as we make that transition. Thankfully, we had been making great strides before this crisis in our ability to be productive outside the office. This transition will not be exceedingly difficult for us. When this happens, know that we will have a plan in place to regularly check on the church facilities to make sure that all is well here.
 
Be on the lookout for further updates and emails. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have an emergency, if you are fearful, if you need prayer, or if there’s something else you need us for. That is why we are here!
 
I have been overwhelmed with the level of support, encouragement, and faith that you all have demonstrated during this time. God is sovereign, He loves us and He has promised to make all things right through His Son. Cling to that! I love you and I believe the future of Christ’s church, and First Baptist, is bright. Keep trusting! Keep praying! Keep serving! Keep loving! These dark moments are where we have the opportunity to see the Gospel shine the brightest.
 
In Christ,
 
Pastor Mat

Update 3 – March 14

Dear First Baptist Church Family,

I have prayed, sought counsel, and agonized over whether or not to gather this Lord’s Day for worship. However, it has become clear that wisdom requires us to suspend our public gatherings for the foreseeable future. That means there will be no worship gatherings or on-campus activities beginning on Sunday, March 15.

You know my heart and you know how difficult this decision has been. However, as Christians, we must not simply focus on what we have to do. Instead, we must focus on what we ought to do to serve our community well, love our neighbor, and be an excellent example in trying times. In particular, it is unconscionable to me to put our senior saints at risk.

There is good news, however. We will continue to broadcast a worship service at 10:30 AM on Sunday mornings. We will plan to continue our Comcast channel 5 local broadcast during this time. In addition to this, we will have a service broadcast live on facebook.com/firstbaptistgadsden and  live.fbcgadsden.org. Furthermore, you can continue to give online and via mail during this time.

Our staff will be available to love and serve you during this time. Jesus Christ is alive and sovereign and the Gospel will continue to go forth. We are not operating out of panic and fear, but out of a heart of love for Christ and our fellow man. Let’s gear up to love and serve our community during such difficult times. This is why the Lord’s church is in the world!

In Christ,

Pastor Mat

 

Update 2 – March 13

Dear First Baptist Family,

What strange times! and yet, what an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ in difficult days! As the threat of the Covid-19 virus global pandemic escalates, we continue to keep a close watch on the developments around the state and country. I want to briefly give you two updates.

1. We have decided to cancel our Spring Revival that was set to begin on Monday. It was a difficult decision, but after much thought and prayer, it became clear that it was the right decision.
2. As of right now, we plan to gather for worship this Sunday, March 15. If anything changes, we will get the word out immediately. We must be very diligent, however, that as we worship we take all of the practical concerns of social distance and personal hygiene seriously. Furthermore, if you are worried about becoming sick, if you are feeling sick yourself, if you believe there is a chance that you might expose others to illness, or if you are particularly at risk to be harmed seriously by Covid-19, please stay home and take advantage of our television and online broadcasts.

If there comes a time when it is no longer wise or possible for us to gather for worship for a season, we will make sure that God’s Word continues to go forth through our media ministry. Furthermore, we can all be comforted in knowing that even when we are weak, God is strong and at work. Remember during these days what an opportunity we have to love our community and to demonstrate how Christians behave in the midst of trials and uncertainty.

In Christ,

Pastor Mat

Update 1 – March 11

Dear First Baptist Family,

There is a lot of fear and even panic surrounding the Covid-19 virus, or “Coronavirus,” global pandemic. Many of us will disagree on the severity of the situation and the obligation each of us has to make inconvenient changes in light of the spreading disease. However, what we all must agree on is that our Lord has told us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
For that reason, I want to ask you to consider how we might best love our elderly and immunocompromised neighbors during this season. Wouldn’t we rather take wise, common sense precautions out of love and look back and see it as silly than to ignore this altogether and see people we love and care about harmed? I certainly believe so. We will be providing extra hand sanitizing stations, diligently cleaning, and taking up the offering at the door instead of passing the plates during this time. Also, here are a few things we can all do to be cautious during this time:
– Be extra diligent in washing and sanitizing your hands.
-Choose an alternate form of greeting besides hugs and handshakes. This is hard to do at church, but let’s all hold each other accountable through elbow and fist bumps.
-Make sure you sneeze/cough into the crook of your arm or a tissue that you can quickly dispose of.
-Try to avoid touching your face, mouth, nose, and eyes.
-Stay home when you or your children are sick. Take advantage of our great media ministry that broadcasts the service on television and online.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but we are called to be wise and to love others well. I believe these things are basic, simple precautions that will help us honor Christ and love our neighbors during a difficult season. Join me in prayer that this disease will abate and that there will be waning impact in the days to come.

In Christ,

Pastor Mat