Murfreesboro First Church of the Nazarene Family and Friends,
Welcome Back! Almost….
March 15th seems like a world ago when we last gathered together at 1618 in what we would call a ‘regular service’ and even then, we were at a place that “distancing” was beginning. Well, folks, barring a major spike in number of cases reported in our area or some other major crisis that may befall us between the time you receive this letter and Sunday, May 31st, PENTECOST SUNDAY, we plan to gather together at 1618 Hamilton Dr. for Sunday School at 9:30a and morning worship at 10:30a. I, for one, am eagerly anticipating this opportunity!
Before we jump into the details of what lies ahead, I want to say a word about where we are now as we communicate with our neighbors who we are connecting to and are inviting to join us in fellowship in Christ. First of all, we are re-gathering. WE have never closed. You have been doing the work of the church non-stop throughout this time. You have loved justice, sought mercy, and walked humbly with our God. We have sought Him daily in personal times of prayer and in the Word and we have sought to serve Him by loving our neighbor and caring for one another, and you are to be commended and encouraged in the amazing witness you have born of the goodness of Christ and His image shining through you. While we have deeply missed being together for our times of worship, we have been most essential this season by practicing steadfast love for neighbor. Thank you.
Now we move forward, closer to Christ, with a deeper awareness of our community and our neighbor. We are serving Him in a world that is deeply different than the one we knew only a few weeks ago. As we make our way back to 1618 Hamilton on May 31st, there are some logistical items that we need to address as we seek to be mindful of one another and those who may be joining us. We are the church and we are not looking out for bottom lines but for the command to love our neighbor as ourselves and to consider others interests above our own. Here are going to be some of the new approaches we are trying in order to care for one another:
Foot Traffic: One of the biggest ways we can help to mitigate exposure and allow for folks to move through without bottlenecks is how we manage foot traffic. We will be using all three entrances/exits. We would like for an ushers to be at each of the doors holding them open to limit your contact with the door handles as well. Once in the building, traffic will need to flow as on a one-way street to avoid bottlenecks in the doorways. Use the center aisle to move into the sanctuary and the outside aisles to exit. At the close of the service we will dismiss slowly from the rear of the sanctuary with directed help to allow for more space as folks head out.
Seating: Given our average attendance, we will have plenty of seating at this time. Each pew has a section “taped” off to remain unused for recommended safe spacing. When seated, fill in with those from your household from the arm of the pew to the center (the end of the pew marked with stickers). Please seat one household (those with whom you came in a car together) to a pew. As we are learning and adapting, we will not have the nursery or children’s church open so please reserve the overflow rooms for families with younger children to give them a little more room to stretch and move during service. We will have activity packets for our kids but this will allow them a little more space. Thank you.
Masks: We want to encourage you to wear masks while inside the building, moving about, while singing, and while fellowshipping with others at First Church. While they are not full proof, they do substantially mitigate the spread of contagions. Many in our congregation are in at-risk categories. We do this for others. While seated, during the sermon or portions of the service while not singing, you may remove your mask if you wish, but please where the mask while encountering others. We have reusable masks available if you do not have one. Enclosed are instructions for proper use and cleaning. Thank you.
Offerings: During this time, we are trying to limit direct contact as we learn and move forward. We will collect tithes and offerings at the close of the service. They may be left in the offering plate as you exit. Our counters will record and deposit the offering following services. We have added an option to give electronically through the church website or phone application.
Sunday School: These same protocols apply for both worship and for Sunday School. For the immediate future, we will meet as one Sunday School Class in the sanctuary. We ask that you use the same seat for worship that you do for Sunday School.
Physical Contact: One of the most awkward things right now is the feeling of greeting one another without a hug or a handshake. We will get there, JUST NOT YET. For now, no hugs or hand shakes. We will not have printed bulletins. An electronic bulletin is available online and via email for all who would like to sign up for them. We will post announcements on the screen prior to service.
Prudence and Online Presence: We have matured in our ministry outreach through this situation. We are learning to connect in ways we were not before and we plan to continue. We will still offer Sunday School via Zoom and Morning Worship via Zoom and Facebook Live. This is very important for those who may feel that even though the doors are open beginning the 31st it is not yet time for you to be in a social setting. If you are not yet at a place where it is prudent to be in this type of setting due to age, health concerns, and/or ESPECIALLY if you are showing any signs of fever or other COVID19 symptoms, please let us know and connect with us through these options. We are still your church. We love you. Help us connect to you. When we share the load we share the love. For the immediate future we will also continue the Wednesday night service online to lessen the use of cleaning supplies for the building. Again, this is a learning process.
What we need most from you: It has been a while. We are at a place NONE of us have ever been before. So much of this is completely new to all of us. We need grace with one another. We need love for one another. And right now, in these first Sunday’s back, begin by asking, “How can I be Christ to my neighbor?” Your neighbors and friends need to hear a good, HONEST word of encouragement from you when we gather together again. There’s been no shortage of gloom, doubt, or fear to go around. And we have every reason for solemn concern. But we are a people who proclaim: “if God is for us, who could stand against us!” Let’s gather in hope. (Romans 8)
I am so eager to see you. I am so eager to hear your voices and to know you are in the presence of the Lord with me as we pray, hear the Word, and praise His holy name. Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Please check back regularly to our Facebook page for regular updates and contact Pastor should you have any needs, concerns, or questions.
You are loved.
Grace and Peace to you,
Pastor Matthew & Kara and the Church Board of Murfreesboro First Church of the Nazarene