Church Wide Updates

Hello Loved Ones,

 

I want to follow the lead of John the Beloved and say to you: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” - 3 John 2 ESV

 

You are loved, you missed, you are prayed for every single day!

 

We have some good news regarding the resumption of public gathering at Christian Life. Let me give you some preliminary thoughts, then the big picture, then the detail.

 

We have a four-phase plan (90 days) that will give structure as we move forward. Public gatherings for our church family will begin the first week of June. We are limited by rules of social distancing and occupancy restrictions that are also in place for businesses and most public places for a while longer.

 

The leadership of our church has prayerfully asked God for guidance and wisdom to re-open in such a way that will get us back to full capacity quickly and in a way that ensures safety for our beloved family as much as possible.

 

Our plan is not perfect, but be assured we are moving forward with caution in order to protect you and your families. If the situation concerning the virus improves significantly, we can always accelerate the plan. However, if conditions worsen, we may have to slow down a bit. We ask for three things from the Christian Life family.

 

1.   Please be flexible.

2.   Please be patient.

3.   Please be faithful.

 

We are all getting tired of the quarantine. We all chafe at the restrictions placed upon us. We all miss assembling together. Politically, we all question the motives of some, and applaud the actions of others. Our situation is extremely layered and somewhat complicated.

 

We ask you to be patient with leadership as we navigate some new territory, and realize that we must move forward at a pace that will keep risk at a minimum for the congregation.

 

This Covid19 crisis is so layered that we have several issues and concerns that will be argued and dealt with long after restrictions are eased. They will probably shape the 2020 elections in November. There are concerns about continued safety, about the proper degree of governmental control, and the state of the economy.

 

I know that regardless of what we do, there will be some who say we are not doing enough; others will say it is too much. So let me ask again: be flexible, be patient, and be faithful.

 

I am so proud of you for the loving support for the Lord and His church, your devotion to one another, and the encouragement we receive from you week after week. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You are without doubt the greatest church in America — a genuine, world-class congregation. I am so blessed and honored to serve you!

 

As I mentioned earlier, we have a four phase plan.

 

Phase 1 is scheduled for June.

Phase 2 is scheduled for July.

Phase 3 is scheduled for August.

Phase 4 is scheduled to begin September 1st.

 

Why are we opening incrementally instead of all at once?

 

The plan for South Carolina churches is a gracious one. We thank Governor McMaster for his support of all houses of worship, and the commitment he has shown to the reopening of our facilities. However, it is a plan that works well for smaller churches, but not as well for larger ones. We can’t effectively have outdoor services or parking lot gatherings. 2,879 people call Christian Life their home church. While it is true we are never all gathered at one time, we have very few options that will get us back to “service as usual.”

 

We also need to think of ministry teams and volunteers. We have a significant portion of our volunteers that are either concerned about returning to close quarters, or have health risks that have resulted in a decision to step back from ministry for a while. We understand fully. Children are another concern. How do we keep our babies safe, and how do we get kids to stay 6 feet apart?

 

There are several high-risk segments of our congregation. We need to be certain they are comfortable in regathering as well.

 

With this is mind, we have decided that even though we are reopening the church services, we will continue livestreaming our services as a permanent part of our worship. This will be a blessing to those who are unable to attend service for whatever reason in the future, and will ensure that people who are reluctant to come to church because they are high-risk or have other concerns will still be part of the Christian Life Family. We also have many friends who are outside of driving distance who have connected with our family, and several have come to know Our Lord, during the past two months.

 

Concerning attendance at church, we have decided to come back in four steps. We are convinced that this is the best plan for us to follow as things stand right now.

 

Here’s a look ahead…

PHASE 1 JUNE

 

*    During the month of June we will devote our energy to one service each Sunday at 10:00 am. This will be livestreamed as well. Services begin June 7th.

 

*   We will have seating for about 400 people, including over-flow in the Brown Chapel. This satisfies the social distancing requirements. We will provide individual seating as well as family seating for those who do not need social distancing because they live together. We will be as flexible and accommodating as possible! Please help the ushers serve you well.

 

*    We have divided the church into four groups. You will be notified which group you are in within a few days. We realize that we may unintentionally divide families by using an alphabetical system based on the last name of the head of household. Family names may differ because of blended families as well as married children. It’s ok for those in that situation to attend together, even though it may not be “My Sunday” alphabetically. Remember, these are guidelines, not unbreakable rules.

 

*    We are asking that you be willing to come back to church for one Sunday in June, and watch online for the other three Sundays. This is only for one month! It will help us get started, help us assess attendance, and will keep things manageable until we get a better idea of what we are dealing with.

 

*    Let me be clear. We are not issuing “attendance tickets,” nor will we be checking IDs to be sure you are in the “My Sunday” group. It is an honor system designed to provide structure. We are not willing to embrace an oppressive system that frustrates people. No one will ask, “Hey, weren’t you here last week?” We are simply trying to be good shepherds to a very large flock. We plan on going to two services in July, so be patient a little longer.

 

*   There will be no child care or children’s services in June. Your kids will need to sit with you during that time. We plan to re-open children’s church and nursery/toddler care in July.

 

*   If one service isn’t enough for anyone, we may have a solution. Beginning June 3rd, we will open up the Wednesday night Bible Study service in the Sanctuary in which everyone is welcome to attend each week, as long as you understand we will have to limit Sanctuary attendance to about 300. We won’t have any overflow seating because Youth will resume meeting in Brown Chapel on June 3rd. “First come; first served” on Wednesday nights!

 

*    Pastor Mike will be able to accommodate full Union services in Brown Chapel on June 3rd, and all the youth are invited to come each week. However, seating will reflect social distancing requirements.

 

*    These guidelines will serve us well during the month of June.

 

PHASE 2 JULY

 

*    Social distancing will probably still determine capacity and seating arrangement.

 

*   We plan to return to a two-service schedule. The first service is at 8:30 am as before. The second service will be at 10:30 am.

 

*    Remember Livestreaming will continue, but will be during the 8:30 service.

 

*    Simulcast will be provided to Brown Chapel during the 10:30 service.

 

*   We will re-open Nursery/Toddler care. Workers will take every possible precaution to protect children and keep themselves and rooms as sanitized as possible.

 

*   We will reopen Children’s Service. Note: Bella Vitello will join our staff in June as the new Children’s Pastor. Be watching for a special farewell event for Pastor Frank this summer, too!

 

PHASE 3 AUGUST

 

*    We will re-evaluate Social Distancing policy as we move into August.

 

*    Livestream continues in the 8:30 am service.

 

*    We will re-open small group settings and consider other group ministries.

 

*    Rangers and Impact Girls will re-open on Wednesday nights.

 

*    South Carolina School of Leadership will reconvene.

 

 

PHASE 4 SEPTEMBER

 

*    Beginning September 1st we plan a return to a full schedule, and hopefully social distancing will be a thing of the past.

 

*    Livestreaming will continue at 8:30 am.

 

Thank you for your patience with this long epistle.

 

Let me close with three statements:

 

1.   Covid19 is still a danger, and we all need to realize the risks associated with any level of regathering. As someone who is in the high risk group, I take every outside step very seriously. You should do the same. Though I never thought I would say this, understand that you come at your own risk.

 

Therefore we ask that until things are better, please refrain from physical contact with others while we are assembled. Even if you are not worried, the person you want to hug might be. Nobody hates this more than I do, but we need to keep everyone as clear of this virus as possible.

 

We will establish sanitizing stations throughout the buildings, and we will disinfect surfaces such as door knobs between services. Feel free to wear masks and gloves to church, though we cannot secure these items in sufficient quantities to provide them for you.

 

2.   Communion elements, bulletins, etc. will be available for individual pick up in the foyer. Offerings will be received in buckets located at strategic points in the building. We will not pass buckets or communion elements hand to hand. We encourage you to continue giving online if that works for you.

 

3.   If you aren’t comfortable returning to church yet, please do not feel pressured to come. We will provide the service online for you until you feel comfortable to return.

 

An orientation and trial run is scheduled for May 31st with specifically invited volunteers. They will see how Livestream works and learn how to do some things in a brand new way to serve you well.

 

Rest assured, we are committed to preserving the atmosphere that makes Christian Life special. WE ARE PURSUING THE LORD’S PRESENCE AS NEVER BEFORE.

 

Elements of this plan may be pushed forward or backward as situations demand.

 

Thank you for your love and your support.

 

May I say it one more time Loved Ones,

 

You are loved.

You are missed.

You are prayed for.

 

I love you,

Pastor Stephen

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