Letter from our Pastor

18, May 2020

Dear Church Family,

When the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonians, they felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under them. They were in a strange land trying to navigate life under circumstances they had never known before. Their struggle was captured in:

Psalm 137 – “By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps… for how can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?”

As our country begins to reopen, we are trying to figure out how to shop, dine, connect, worship, etc. in a land that resembles the rivers of Babylon more so than the familiar rivers around here. There are no foolproof guidelines on how to go about reopening the church. We are trying to figure this out like you are trying to do. We have developed a tentative plan to reopen in phases beginning with worship and adding other events over the next few months. All of this may change at any given moment. We invite you to participate
when you feel comfortable in doing so. I know many people who support and love our congregation are not ready to attend at this point. There is no pressure to be here.  Please make the right decision for you and your family. The church will reopen for Worship Only on May 31. For those choosing to attend that morning …

• The sanctuary doors facing Old Niles Ferry will be the only doors available.
• Two doors will be marked for entering and two for exiting.
• Staff persons will be on the porch to greet you (from a distance), provide
directions, and answer questions.
• Hand sanitizer and masks will be available at the entrance. MASKS WILL BE
REQUIRED.
• Seating will be marked off to reflect social distancing.
• There will be offering two worship options. One at 9:00 AM and one at 10:30
AM. We will wipe down the sanctuary between services.
• There will be some noticeable things missing - the meet and greet time, Lord’s
Supper, passing the offering plate, choir, and response. We will provide other
ways for some of these things to happen.
• Restrooms located behind the sanctuary and across from the Music Suite will be
open for single occupancy use. Cleaning supplies will be available for wiping off
surfaces before/after use.
• We will continue to stream our services through our website, Facebook,  Youtube and our
mobile app.

During this time when we have been closed, we have continued to minister to people in our community. I have remained in contact with our ministry partners and we have worked through them to provide resources to meet people’s need for food and lodging. Currently those needs have slowed down as people are receiving unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, and returning to work. They do anticipate
that there will be increased needs in the summer. We are scheduled to host a mobile food pantry with Second Harvest in August. I am told that will probably set up as a drive through pick up of pre-packed boxes. No one has signed up to host a mobile pantry in June and July and at this point, none are needed. We are on the top of the list for them to call if that should become a need. If so, we will communicate with
you about how you might help. On Thursday we will be collecting toiletry items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap,
laundry detergent, dish detergent, any cleaning supply), canned meats (tuna, chicken), and canned fruit to be distributed at the Chilhowee Baptist Center. They are anticipating a shortage of these food items over the next few months. You may drop them off at the church on Thursday between 1-3 PM. Someone will be at the covered drop-off to collect your donation.

Thank you for your help.
Stay well, make wise choices, and remember you are loved,

Jerry