We miss seeing you all, and we greatly look forward to being back together again. In the midst of our time being apart from one another, it has been encouraging hearing stories of God's faithfulness in your own lives. The Lord has grown us all through this season and will continue to do so as we seek to navigate through the new "normal" which lies before us.
We recognize that the city of Austin extended its stay-at-home order until June 15th. But the order does not conflict with Governor Abbott's order. If it were to conflict, Governor Abbott's order would supersede any local authority. For more information, please click here.
With that being said (barring any unforeseen changes in state regulations), our first service back together will occur on Sunday, May 31st. As soon as we say that, there is probably a great divide that occurs. Some in the church would probably like to meet sooner, while some are likely wondering why we will gather again so soon. The remainder of this email will explain the decision for the date as well as what the restart procedures will look like for Grace Community Bible Church.
There are two main reasons for the start date of May 31st. The first is that we care about you. Paul wrote to the Philippian church in Phil 2:3–4, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." May 31st allows us to begin to come together again soon, while also providing a slight delay out of caution before returning. We want to make sure that, given the circumstances, we exercise caution in opening up again. We want to protect you, the people of the congregation. As your shepherds, we want to have a safe environment for corporate worship. Paul also said in Rom 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men," we want to maintain peace within the body. This brings us to a date that isn't bringing everyone back right away, while also not delaying into June. Secondly, there are a number of logistical items that we as a church must do before opening the doors. Governor Abbott released a list of procedures for churches to adhere to which took effect on May 1st. We need to develop and help facilitate cleaning teams, create new procedures for our greeters and the security team, restructure the seating in the building, as well as determine how we will interact within and around the church building. There's more beyond that, but hopefully you can see there is still work to be done.
Concerning the restart procedures, we plan to continue to have our Sunday School and Main Services. However, there are a couple of notable changes. GraceLife will continue temporarily being a livestream only service. Another change that will be made is that Sunday School will begin at 9:00 AM. Main Service will continue to take place at 10:30 AM. The additional half-hour will give us more time to clean in between services. We also recognize that some of you will desire to continue to livestream service from home for now. Please do not feel the need to rush back to service if you are not comfortable. We want to see you as soon as you are ready. We do plan to continue our livestream service. Below is a list of procedures for when we return.
- At this time we encourage those in at-risk categories to remain at home to livestream the service. Information on at-risk groups can be found here.
- For the time being, the Nursery and Toddler classes will be suspended. This is due to the inability to practice social distancing and because of the time needed to clean all the toys between kids playing with them.
- The Children's Sunday School classes will also be suspended. However, we plan to continue to provide Children's Sunday School lesson materials online for parents who request them for their 6–12 year olds.
- We encourage fellowship when we come back together, but will seek to practice social distancing. That means please refrain from handshakes, hugs, and high fives. Also, the fellowship before, between, and after service should take place outside as much as is possible.
- Wash your hands often. We will have hand sanitizing stations set up in the sanctuary. Please bring your own if you are able.
- The rows in the church building will be more spread apart. Please keep at least three seats between your family and others in the church when finding your seats.
- For communion, we will have prepackaged elements at stations when you walk in. The doors will remain open before and after service so that you do not need to touch the doors. The elements can be picked up when you enter and discarded in trash cans as you leave the building.
- Giving will continue primarily online. We will have a box for offering in the church building, but will not pass an offering plate like we used to do.
- We encourage you to wear a face mask when we return together for fellowship out of a desire to care for those around us per the recommendations from the CDC.
- If you are sick, are feeling sick, or think you might be sick please stay home. If you are coughing or have excessive sneezing, whatever the case may be, we'd ask that you livestream the service that week. It is a way to love your neighbor who probably doesn't want to take a Bible lesson home with them as well as a bug. If someone in your immediate family is sick, please stay home as well.
Some of you have asked how you might help with the relaunching of services. First, we want to thank you for your willingness to serve! We will need volunteers to help on the cleaning teams. This would include a team for spraying / disinfecting chairs between services and an additional team to handle wiping down door handles, light switches, bathroom faucets, etc. Second, we need as many of you as possible to help us find the necessary cleaning products that are so scarce right now. This would include things like Clorox wipes, Lysol disinfectant sprays, etc. We will also need additional masks if any of you are able to find them.
In this season, we ask that you would continue to pray for your brothers and sisters in the church body. We are excited that, Lord willing, many of us will soon be together again. For others, we hope that within a short amount of time we will all be together again.
We are grateful for your prayers, and we are grateful for your patience as we navigate through this season of life together. We look forward to being able to come together again but want to proceed in a fashion that we believe best serves the congregation.
-The elders of Grace Community Bible Church