Dear Church Family,
It seems impossible that eight weeks have passed since we were together last! As we begin to see a glimmer of light at the end of this round of the Corona virus, we are mindful of the greatness of our God. We thank Him for His sustaining grace to us as a congregation. We are generally healthy and well. We bless His Holy Name for His faithfulness to attend to our needs. No one went without. We praise Him for His provision to His church. All of our church bills have been paid. While there are some, in our congregation, who are struggling with employment, we are truly a blessed people and proclaim, “all we have needed His hand has supplied and continues to supply!”
The Governor has extended a great deal of trust in the church to allow ‘worshipping communities’ to begin to gather so soon. My prayer is that his trust is not misplaced. So, to that end, we must adhere to the criteria and protocols established in the “Opening up Idaho” documents. First and foremost, all those considered “at risk” and vulnerable are strongly encouraged to remain at home! We plan to continue to stream our services and will do so indefinitely. Secondly, the Governor’s plan outlines that all individuals must continue to: engage in physical distancing, wear face coverings in public places, stay at home if sick, practice good hand hygiene, cover coughs and sneezes, disinfect surfaces and objects regularly.
With these items to consider, and a myriad of others, our Church board met with Pastor Grady and me to formulate our first phase procedures. This will be a lengthy process. There will be no shortcuts to “return to normal” before it is advisable to do so.
The church offices are re -opening this week. Access will be limited to the reception window in the air lock of the front doors. Beginning MAY 31st we will offer onsite Sunday morning worship services at 9 and 11 in the Sanctuary. We are holding two service times because seating will be limited to adhere to the standards set by the Governor’s reopening plan. We will use the gym as overflow, if needed, for both service times, with projection of the service. Please note, we have deliberately put an hour between the services, NOT for fellowship, but to clean up, sanitize as needed, and be prepared for a second group. We trust you understand that there will be limited access to other parts of the building and some areas are closed, including the Library. Our Sunday School, Small groups and all other fellowships will continue ON LINE only.
Additional New Hope “norms” have to be altered to meet the established criteria. We will not provide a Nursery or Children’s Church program. Instead, Pastor Grady will be implementing a children’s segment in each worship service. There will be no Kitchen/Coffee service and the water fountains are off limits. So BYOB (pack it in, pack it out). There will be a restroom monitor, to keep these areas from becoming congested. As much as it pains me to write this next change, we cannot observe “meet and greet” in our usual manner. This is perhaps the most difficult restriction, as we are known for our warm, friendly, loving and inviting atmosphere. It is imperative we change our practice, if we are to remain open during this phase-in plan. For now, it will have to suffice, and be agreed to that we will wave to one another ONLY. This includes meeting and greeting upon arrival and departure. Likewise, Holy Communion and the receiving of Tithes and offerings will also be observed in different ways. I was reminded the other night that ‘different’ is not necessarily bad or good, it’s just different. Smile, take a deep breath! Do you remember the 11th beatitude? Its goes like this - “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.” As time goes on, we will make adjustments, as warranted, according to the ebb and flow of this pandemic, in accordance with the guidelines and criteria set before us. Let’s be good witnesses to our community as we strive to be good citizens. We will update our website and the church phone messages to reflect the revised schedule.
I trust you will be grateful for the opportunities we have to meet for worship, in person and remotely.
Thank you for being who you are – Christlike disciples of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
You are loved by Him and me!
Dear Idaho Intermountain District Family,
As we have walked through the last few weeks we have all been impacted by the Coronavirus. I have been blessed to watch as our pastors and leaders have transitioned their worship and ministry online and worked to maintain connection with congregations. I celebrate their outstanding work and am thankful for their visionary leadership and creativity.
Last week the Governor of Idaho put in place a four stage outline to begin the process of reopening our state. As your District Superintendent I affirm the Governor’s plan and am in conversation with pastors regarding the timing of when we can open our church doors and begin to meet again as congregations.
In seeking to understand the right time to open our doors I have found myself reconsidering an image found in the Old Testament story of Cain and Abel. You will remember that after Cain killed his brother the Lord comes to him and asks in Genesis 4:9, “Where is Abel?” Cain, with a defiant spirit replies, “I don’t know...am I my brother’s keeper?” This is clearly the wrong answer reflecting the wrong attitude. In the kingdom of God we understand that ‘Yes...we are our sister and brother’s keepers”. We have chosen to follow the life of Jesus who not only called us to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’ but demonstrate that by ‘laying down His life for us’. With that in mind I am asking that two issues guide our decision making.
First of all, as followers of Christ we want to continue to be ‘socially responsible’. The Coronavirus is real and still very active in our community. I am an example of that for as you may have heard, even though I have no symptoms I recently tested positive and was told that I was contagious. As I seek to ‘love God’ and ‘love my neighbor’ I would hate to put anyone at risk. All of us must recognize that there are vulnerable people among us and some of them are more prone to act out of their past habits or self-interest rather than the present concern. For their sake and the sake of others, it will be important that we move forward at a pace that expresses both concern and caution. I believe that we would all agree that we have no desire that the church be a means to fuel a new wave of infections so let me encourage a spirit of patience. As followers of Christ we understand the call to sacrifice our rights for the sake of sister or brother. So just because we ‘can’ open our churches as early as May 3rd that does not mean that we ‘should’. In some of our communities it would be wise to live by the Governor’s guidelines established for the community at large and continue to utilize our online resources as we restrict our gatherings.
Second, in our Governor’s plan there are some clear guidelines of which we must be aware as we move forward. The expectation is that all of our churches will have clear protocols for physical distancing, sanitation, as well as any other guidance provided by the CDC. Pastors and church leaders will be working to address these issues with the hope that our congregations will understand and respect that when we open our doors for worship we will be stepping into some new realities. I know that Nazarenes were created for fellowship and the temptation will be to fall back into our old patterns as we interact with one another. Your church will need to develop plans will determine worship opportunities in view of a revised capacity of your sanctuary due to physical distancing, restrict or eliminate foyer interaction, identify seating assignments and address ongoing online ministry. Every church will need to have processes in place to consistently disinfect hard surfaces and other areas that might collect the virus. Our goal will be one of providing an environment which assures the highest level of cleanliness and safety.
I belieaat we are all aware that the Governor’s plan is contingent upon the ability of the state to meet certain criteria as we continue to address this virus. Our desire is to make choices that will not only honor God but contribute to the growth of public health and safety. With this in mind, we are encouraging a spirit of teamwork as we adopt some new realities and patience as we seek to discover the right time and right ways to put them into practice.
As you have demonstrated over the past few weeks, the Church is not just a building but a people. May God help us as we seek to deepen our love for Him and express that love to one another.
Your Co-laborer in Christ,
J. Scott Shaw
Intermountain District Superintendent