I hope this email finds you full of thanksgiving despite our current situation. No matter what happens in this life, we have much to be thankful for, and I’m thankful for that reminder and challenge from Paul’s letters this past Sunday.
For the past 2 months, we have been unable to gather together on Sunday mornings as a church or during the week in MGroups due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we have been resourcing and equipping you with a weekly worship guide, a Bible reading plan, Praying the Bible by Don Whitney, as well as LAPS t-shirts to remind you to pray. We have even been able to connect with one another on Zoom to sing, pray, and study God’s Word together online for several weeks. We spent the first several weeks focusing on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ leading up to Easter, and have since spent the last month focusing on prayer. We hope this challenging time has proved to be fruitful in your life through studying God’s Word on your own and passing it on to others, as well as studying about prayer and being more intentional to pray.
Well, the time has come where we not only believe it would be safe to gather together again as a church, but helpful for many of us as well. Hebrews 10:24–25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We stopped meeting together for a season of time in hopes of loving God, loving one another, and loving our neighbor well when we were unsure about the effects and spread of the virus. However, Governor Abbott’s most recent executive order has made it clear that Texas is handling the spread of the virus effectively and reopening the state in phases. Religious services are considered an “essential service” which gives us the freedom to gather together under specific statewide guidelines.
We now believe, with certain precautions, we can seek to be obedient to the Lord and our government by starting to gather together again while being wise and safe at the same time. Please know, this decision did not come quickly or easily, but through much prayer and consideration of God’s Word, government restrictions, and you, our sheep.
We understand that not all churches feel the same way or even have the opportunity to gather under the current restrictions. However, we believe the Lord prepared us as a church before the pandemic hit to not only weather this storm well, but to come out of it even stronger on the other side. For example, we partner with the YMCA and use their facility on Sunday mornings which means we have very little monthly overhead. In addition, the Y has a really large facility and we have a smaller, oikos-size congregation that will enable us to meet under the current CDC, state, and county restrictions. Not only that, but we moved to a family-centered service last August which prepared us for a season of Sunday gatherings in which we will not be able to have kids or adult classes.
We also understand that some of you might not be able to gather yet or would like to wait a while longer until things settle down even more. We totally understand and support your decision and look forward to continuing to serve you with resources and worship with you on Zoom. Please do not feel any pressure to attend until you and your family feel ready.
So here is our plan:
We are planning on gathering together to worship this Sunday, May 17, at 10am in the gym at the Cooper St. YMCA. We will also be streaming our worship gathering on Zoom for those who would prefer or need to take advantage of that option. We will continue to have our MGroup gatherings on Zoom until further notice. This is just "Phase 1" of our own reopening plan at The Fields, but there will be other subsequent phases in the coming weeks and months.
There will be some minor and major changes to our normal gathering that are suggested by the CDC and required by the state, YMCA leadership, and church leadership. Please take some time to read through the list below to be aware before Sunday morning. While this may sound like a lot, we are excited and looking forward to our time together and believe this path ahead will enable us to continue to meet long into the future when there are even less precautions.
- Cleaning: The YMCA has gone above and beyond local, state, and national guidelines to disinfect all their facilities. In addition, all YMCA's have been closed since March 17 and have had no community members present. Only essential staff have been present at each branch and they have still kept up their cleaning schedule. In addition, we will also be disinfecting the areas of the Y that we use on Sunday morning.
- At-risk population: We encourage all saints over 65 and those with underlying health conditions (lung disease, severe asthma, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or weakened immune system, etc.) to remain at home until the risk has abated. We will still be streaming our service on Zoom for you to continue to participate from home. If you decide to attend, we will have a designated area reserved for the at-risk population.
- Symptoms: If you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past two weeks, please stay at home for your own well being and safety of others. If you are not feeling well, running a fever or have chills, have a cough or shortness of breath, or show any other COVID-19 symptoms, please stay at home and seek medical attention.
- Volunteers: We will have a smaller-than-normal setup and tear down crew, but each of them will undergo a screening on Sunday morning to ensure they have no symptoms before serving. They will also be required to wear a mask and gloves while setting up and tearing down to keep things clean and to protect themselves and others.
- Masks and Gloves: We are not requiring everyone to wear a mask or gloves during the service, but please feel free to do so.
- Bathrooms: The Y bathrooms will be available for use throughout the morning. We simply ask you to use them on a limited basis. Please assist your children, and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
- NO Field Training Classes or Childcare: To obey state protocols concerning social distancing, there will be NO Field Training classes for kids or adults at 8:45am. There will also be NO childcare provided during the worship gathering. Instead, we will have one Family Worship gathering for everyone at 10am in the gym at the Y. We will have all our kids' resources available for your kiddos to help engage them throughout the service, but please bring anything else that might be helpful!
- RSVP: Wewill post the event, worship guide, and Zoom details on Realm in the next couple days. We ask that you RSVP on Realm so that we can do our best to have a place for you and your family to sit together for our 10am worship gathering. We will have seating for guests and unplanned attendees, as well.
- Parents: Please explain all of these precautions to your kids as best as possible so that they know what to expect. Please keep all your kids with you at all times while you are at the Y to protect them and others and to ensure that we are able to keep meeting in the future.
- Parking: Please park in front of the Y and leave an open space between you and the next car.
- Entrance: Please enter through the front doors at the Y. We will have a greeter to welcome you and give you instructions on how to proceed to the gym. We will have hand sanitizer for you to use when entering and exiting the facility. As much as we would like to, please do not shake hands, hug, or greet one another with a holy kiss at this time. (Smiles, air hugs, air high-fives, shouts, and tears are all welcome!) Just make sure you maintain six feet of social distance between others who do not live in your household. Also, NO coffee or snacks will be served, but feel free to bring your own dark roast from home.
- Seating: When entering the gym, please maintain social distancing and find a group of seats that will fit your family/household. Please stay close to your seats, but feel free to converse with those nearby!
- Dismissal: When we send you out to be the church in the world, we will dismiss you by sections to prevent a bottleneck at the door. Please wait till your section is dismissed to get up and leave. Be sure to leave the building when you are dismissed and take advantage of the opportunity to talk with other families at a safe distance outside.
- Fellowship: If you would like to fellowship with others after the service, we ask that you exit out the back entrance of the Y to the grassy hill where you are welcome to talk and catch up with one another. However, the same social distancing precautions still apply, including kids staying with parents at all times.
If you have any questions or concerns after reading this, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of us for clarification or help. With much prayer and discussion, we are doing our best to shepherd this flock of God well so that we might become as much like Christ as possible to be sent out into the world.
That being said, as you are out in the world, use the brokenness, hurt, despair, loneliness, and sadness that people are feeling as an opportunity to share the hope, joy, peace, and love of Christ in the gospel. If you are planning on joining us, invite them to come hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Come and sing with thanksgiving as loud as possible. Listen to and pray scripture for the nations, our community, and our church. Allow God’s spirit and God’s word alongside God’s people to transform you from the inside out! Let’s enjoy the Lord together for his glory, our good, and others' salvation.
Your Elders at The Fields