We can’t wait to be back together again soon!
After time in prayer and fasting, and after receiving feedback from church members and other local leaders, we are excited to release our plan for slowly re-opening our doors for corporate worship. The tentative date for our first public worship gathering will be May 24th, 2020. When the stay at home order lifts on May 15th, we will be allowing community groups to meet for worship together. Although May 24th is our target date, we will be closely monitoring the spread of the disease in our state and our city and will not hesitate to reconsider our plan if necessary.
This was not an easy decision to make, church. It may be quite a while before we can return to what we view as “normal”, when we can hug one another warmly and not worry or be fearful that our intentions of love might actually carry consequences of pain. We will have to learn how to hold fast not to timelines and buildings and gatherings and embraces, but to Christ. Remember always, God’s plans are not shaken up. He sets every date and ordains every day towards the eternal arch of his glory and the good of his people. Trust that in Christ he is building his church, piece by piece, and in the Spirit he is sustaining his church, day by day, until the day where no sadness or sickness exists to stop us from worshipping together forever.
We love you and are in this with you.
The Pastors of River Market Community Church
CONSIDER THESE TRUTHS
Before we answer some FAQ’s, we ask that you consider these three truths that have informed our decision-making process:
Meeting together for corporate worship is one of God’s primary means of grace for his people, and we should make every effort to not neglect it.
There is no category in the Biblical witness for a Christian who voluntarily chooses to abstain from worshiping with a local body. Not only is gathering together an assumed practice (Matthew 18:19-20) and a commanded practice (Hebrews 12:22-24) of the Christian community, it is a joyful one. When Christians are able to physically gather together, they receive the full benefit of singing, praying, reading, observing, and hearing the Word of God together (Ephesians 5:19; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Timothy 4:13; 1 Corinthians 11:17-32; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:1-2), and an experience that cannot be replicated by physical distance or through screens. When we are apart, we should ache to be together. Since the inception of the church, there has always been risk involved in meeting and belonging together: personal, societal, even legal risk. When we are unable meet together, it should only be for a short time and we should seek wise opportunities to be together again.
We must do what we can to love and care for the most vulnerable of our neighbors.
At the same time, there are times when meeting together is harmful to the body and to our Biblical witness. We must wrestle with the fact that we are called to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). If our meeting together puts us or our vulnerable neighbors at significant or unreasonable risk, we should abstain for a time and consider how we might spur one another towards good works in the midst of such special circumstances. We believe rushing into a decision to meet together again could jeopardize the health and public good of both our body and the neighbors we are called to love. This understanding, working in tandem with our Godly desire to be back together for worship, should create in us a patient and trusting care to mitigate risk of suffering and to make sacrifices for the good of the vulnerable, and is the reason we are not immediately moving towards public meetings.
Diversity of opinion is expected, and is a good thing, as it drives us towards Biblical Wisdom.
We will not all see eye-to-eye on any timeline that involves risk and effects people in different ways. Some of us will feel more strongly towards caution, and be naturally skeptical of the precautions that are taken. Some of us will feel predisposed to positivity, and thus more skeptical that some precautions are needed at all. Diversity of opinion, however, does not mean that we cannot have unity. As those who are unified to Christ, we share a spiritual DNA that allows us to view our brothers and sisters not with disdain, but with utmost trust. We can learn to bear one another’s burdens and allow room for freedom of conscience as the Spirit of God convicts and moves in each of our hearts. In this way, our diversity is a blessing to the church, as we learn to give one another the benefit of the doubt in Christ and find our unity rooted in our common spiritual identity, not our common opinions. On each end of the spectrum, we must fight for Christian charity and also Biblical wisdom. Biblical wisdom realizes that life is not promised to us, and that we should fear God more than man or disease. It forces us to humble prayer, patience, and thoughtfulness, and away from unnecessary absolutes. Biblical wisdom ultimately drives us to the heart of Christ, who is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is this legal?
Yes. Although currently state and local governments advise against any personal groups of more than 10 people or 10 percent of occupancy, this recommendation does allow for places of worship, to gather up to 50 people in outdoor venues. By opening the many garage doors at our gathering space we are able to abide by the government regulations and accommodate people outside where social distancing can be appropriately maintained and risk of infection significantly lowered.
Is it wise to meet at all? Shouldn’t we do the thing that is always the least risky?
As previously mentioned, Biblical wisdom fears God, sees the world rightly, and makes decisions accordingly. Our first step in seeking Biblical wisdom should be to search our hearts and in prayer and ask God to reveal any sin, unhealthy fear, or impure motives. Next, we seek to view the world through a healthy and Biblical lens. We live in a world full of risk and potential dangers. Until a vaccine is discovered or enough of the population develops immunity to COVID-19, there is always going to be risk involved in meeting with others. This risk comes into play in all aspects of life, and should not ultimately be the sole influencer in our decision making. At the same time, we live in a world where our actions impact not only us, but those around us. We must be careful not to haphazardly and foolishly endanger those who are vulnerable. Using biblical wisdom, we can take steps to mitigate risk to ourselves and others, while also fighting against unhealthy perspectives that place our desire for personal safety over our commitment to one another. Your pastors believe that Biblical wisdom in this situation means 1) we should obey any government restrictions or recommendations that we deem are for the public good and help protect the vulnerable; 2) we should desire to meet together as long as we are thoughtfully obeying these restrictions; 3) we should be prayerful and not hasty in making decisions, and fight for unity among diversity of opinion.
When should I stay home?
Please consider staying home if you are over 65 or have pre-existing health conditions like: chronic lung disease or severe asthma; severe obesity (BMI of 40 or higher); diabetes; chronic kidney disease; serious heart conditions; or if you are immunocompromised (many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications). Please stay home if you have experienced any symptoms of respiratory illness in the last week, such a severe cough, fever, or trouble breathing.
What kind of restrictions will be in place when we start meeting again to help mitigate risk of spreading COVID-19?
We will be mandating strict social distancing from entrance to exit. Each family will have their own individualized row or section of chairs with an exit point that does not require contact with others. Every individual or family will enter in one at a time to the building, and will be immediately led by an usher to their designated seats. Bathrooms will only be available for one individual at a time. Masks and gloves will be worn by all ushers, and masks will be recommended for congregants but not required. Communion not be taken at this time.
What about my kids?
We care deeply that your family is able to worship Jesus together in a meaningful way, as free from distraction as possible. However, during this time we are unable to provide a nursery and all kids will be required to remain with their parents at all times. Children are a blessing, not a burden, but we know babies make lots of noise and older kids can have trouble sitting still during a worship service. So don't feel bad if your kiddos aren't perfectly quiet. Try as we may, meltdowns do happen. We get it! If you need a place to get away with your child or children at any point during the service, simply get up and ask an usher to direct you to a space to comfort your kids.
Will a livestream still be available?
If you are healthy and able to attend our corporate worship, we strongly encourage you to do so, as livestream is never a substitute for the gathering of the body. However, if you are sick, part of a high-risk group, or have other reasons for not attending, we will still be offering a livestream at this point to help care for you and your family and provide you with Biblical teaching.
Can I join a Community Group right now?
Yes! All of our community groups are in different stages of meeting together, either virtually or in small groups of under 10 people. If you would like to be involved in a group, or just want more information, simply fill out this short form.