Thursday, July 23, 2020
I want to share with you, on behalf of the First Christian Elders and staff, the decisions we have made regarding the COVID-19 mask mandate directed by Governor Holcomb yesterday, Wednesday, July 22. First, some important background information.
After notifying the Elders about the new mandates, and after talking through the situation with our staff today, I decided to personally call the Indiana State Department of Health resource line at their web page and seek clarification direct from the originating source. This afternoon when I spoke to the person who answered my call at the ISDH, I identified myself by name, told her I am a pastor at First Christian Church in Kendallville, and we were trying to honor our congregation's safety, honor the spirit of the executive order, and make sure we weren't opening ourselves up to wrong interpretations of this new development. Here's what she said to me about this mandate as it specifically relates to churches: if we have a facility which will allow the congregants to be distanced from one another by the 6 ft. guideline, then masks in the service are not required. If we do not have a facility which is large enough to make that accommodation, then masks are required. I repeated it back to her to make sure I heard it properly, thanked her for the assistance, then talked with the First Christian staff further. We then formulated and recommended the following action steps to the Elder board members via email, or phone calls, and after discussion, or reading the information I had gathered, they concluded that we will proceed per these guidelines:
- Currently, we have the available sanctuary seating capacity to maintain a single service while still providing ample social distancing space for attendees.
- The state mandate begins on Monday, July 27.
- We will meet this coming Sunday, July 26, 9 AM service, 10:30 AM classes, with the same ministries, guidelines, cleaning and safety precautions in place (including masks for those who desire to wear them) since we've resumed our single service on Sunday, June 28.
- Beginning on Sunday, August 2nd, we will ask the congregation to wear masks as they are entering the building and making their way to the sanctuary or to the nursery/children's classes. Once in the sanctuary at safe distances from others, the masks can be removed, or can be worn as each person decides is personally appropriate. The process is then repeated as people are leaving and together in the lobby or picking up their children.
- The children's workers, greeters, Welcome Center volunteers, communion servers in the foyer, etc. - those serving in close contact with others - will use masks as we are ministering to others.
- Our immediate goal is to serve the Lord, safely serve this congregation, and honor those who are in civil governance over us, per God's words to us in Romans 13.
- On a personal note: no one in our civil government has told me I can't preach Jesus and Him risen - which is what happened to the early disciples and why they told their government officials that they would obey God rather than man (Acts 5). If those lines were being crossed now, my personal approach to this and thoughts about it would be taking a very different tone. As it is, we are still blessed with an enormous amount of freedom in our nation - and in the state of Indiana, and right now we're attempting to honor our Lord with the opportunities and challenges we have in front of us.
So, there it is. The Path Forward continues. It isn't really a sequel to the story. It's just the next chapter. This adventure of following Jesus is rarely predictable. And it is certainly NEVER boring!
Serving the Savior,
The following is an archived statement originally posted on May 8th, 2020
The Path Forward
May 8th, 2020
Dear Friends of First Christian Church, Kendallville,
I want to begin by conveying my deepest thanks and appreciation to the congregation of First Christian Church, Kendallville. You have stayed the course during these strange and stretching times we have been living during the Corona-virus outbreak. And as I begin these words, I would like us to stop and prayerfully consider and remember how many have been (and are being) affected, by this pandemic. Lives lost, incomes lost, businesses shuttered… it is serious, and we have been responding to it as such. But also, in the midst of these past many weeks we have seen generosity, kindness, and a willingness to reach out to one another in positive ways which affirm the desire many of you have demonstrated to “walk the talk” of your faith in Christ. May we continue in that lifestyle and attitude long after we have moved past our current circumstances.
As the State of Indiana has now released guidelines for re-opening, the First Christian Elders have met and had serious, thoughtful, and prayerful discussions on the safest path for the congregation to re-group and begin meeting again on-site at 110 W. Waits Road. Foremost in our conversation was the health and safety of the congregation which God has called us to serve. We wholeheartedly affirm everyone’s personal responsibility and freedom to make the decisions which affect their health and well-being. We also wholeheartedly take seriously our responsibility as elected servant-leaders of this local church to make sure the conditions in which we meet are honoring to the Lord Jesus, honoring to one another – giving preference to one another in servant-hearted, Godly love, and honoring of those in civil-governance over us. Therefore, after lengthy discussion and taking into consideration the State of Indiana’s COVID-19 safety guidelines & recommendations, these are our plans for our Path Forward at First Christian Church in Kendallville:
Corresponding to the State of Indiana’s suggested and - we believe wise - guidelines for a graduated, safe re-entry into larger group meetings:
- Sunday, May 10th - Sunday June 7th worship services available ONLINE ONLY.
Beginning Sunday, May 10th small groups (10-20 individuals) can resume meeting at the church facility and must schedule the use of the building with the main office. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Youth group meetings – Sunday evenings
- Celebrate Recovery meetings – Tuesday evenings
- Elder Team/Church Board/ministry committee meetings – various times throughout the week
- Wednesday morning Bible Study – Wednesdays, 9:30 AM
- Bible study groups – various times throughout the week
COVID-19 related safety precautions are in place for all those who are choosing to attend, or for those small groups that wish to resume meeting. This includes:
- The recommended use of masks
- Older individuals/at risk individuals encouraged to stay home
- Social distancing will be in effect (families/couples can be together; everyone must put some space between one another)
- Hand cleaner/sanitizer available in public places.
- Disinfection of surfaces will need to take place at the conclusion of each of those meetings.
Sunday, June 14th, Sunday June 21st
Two worship gatherings at the church facility will be offered to allow adequate room for social distancing (also available online through our website for those who cannot join us on campus).
- 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM.
- 11:00 AM – 12:00 Noon
- Cleaning and sanitizing of facility after both services.
- No Sunday School OR Junior Worship in this phase.
- No Greeting Time during the Service.
- Communion offered (but served by allowing each participant to collect the elements before service begins).
- Offering plates will be available at sanctuary entrance. Online giving also available.
Sunday, June 28th
Resume single, 9:00 AM Worship Service, with:
- Sunday School and Jr. Worship in place
- Ministries resume pre-pandemic shutdown schedules, while giving careful attention to the health of congregation and with awareness and practice of health and safety guidelines we’ve learned through this pandemic; adjustments to programs and facility usage being made as needed.
This outline gives us a look ahead so we can plan accordingly. Obviously, as we have been learning, we need to remain flexible and willing to modify our plans as needed to accommodate unpredictable or unforeseen circumstances.
Friends, we are learning and growing together. We will certainly continue giving more details as we proceed through these strange days. We will answer your questions as we work this process together. Please pray for one another; please pray for the church elders; encourage one another in love and kindness; forbear with one another; forgive one another; and build each other up. In this way, we will honor the Lord Jesus, honor one another, and be a light for others to see HIM through us!
On behalf of the Elders,
David Gruber, Lead Pastor