We held our weekly staff meeting yesterday morning and spent a significant amount of time discussing numerous decisions – many of them difficult – that we have before us. We began by weighing the different options in regard to our upcoming Sunday morning services.
As a staff, we talked about the value that comes from gathering together in person on Sunday mornings. To see familiar faces, (and a few new ones) engage in conversation, sing together, and hear the message together is all very meaningful to us. At the same time, nearly every day we receive news of individuals in our church family who are dealing with COVID in varying degrees, ranging from zero to mild to severe symptoms. We are aware of those in our congregation who work in the health field, working up to 16-hour shifts due to rising demand even as there is a shortage of staff (due to illness).
After weighing all factors, we have decided to cancel all in-person church activities for the next two weeks (December 6th and 13th), with our hopes and prayers being directed to the possibility of gathering in-person for services on Christmas Sunday (December 20th). We will live stream a worship service at 9:30 this Sunday and next, and so we look forward to having you join us at that time.
What led us to this decision – more than anything – is the recent surge that is impacting us all, and the awareness that our local hospitals and care-givers find themselves under increasing pressure to provide care not only for COVID patients but for any and all health issues that any of us may be facing. We believe that as a church we have the responsibility of doing all that we can in order to help “lessen the load”, and one way to do this is to avoid large gatherings over the next two weeks. (As of this morning, there were 71 confirmed positive COVID cases in the Chambersburg hospital and 20 in the Waynesboro Hospital.)
This awareness was also the determining factor as we made the difficult decision to cancel the Christmas Dinners To-Go which we had scheduled for Monday, December 14th, and Tuesday, December 15th. We do not believe it wise under current conditions to bring 20-30 volunteers to the church where they would be serving food while working in close proximity with one another.
While we love our turkey dinners, we observed the long food lines that formed across this nation on Thanksgiving Day, and in light of this, we believe that we should turn our attention to helping provide food for those in need here in our local community. Expenses for the Christmas Dinners usually run up to $4,000, and it is our intention to donate this amount to two local ministries that – in addition to our Food Pantry – provide food for the hungry: The New Hope Shelter and The Lunch Place. The $4,000 will likely come from one of our benevolent funds, and the money that was set aside for this year’s Christmas Dinners will be kept on hand for the 2021 Dinners.
Finally, in light of the possibility that it may not be wise to gather indoors for Christmas Eve services, we are exploring the possibility of holding an outdoor service around 4:00 P.M. that afternoon. We are looking at different options when it comes to format and location (ballfield, bell tower, upper parking lot). More information will be coming out as we continue weighing the different options.
Thank you for your prayers. While these are difficult decisions in the midst of difficult days, we know that we are blessed in so many ways, and one of those ways is in the encouragement we receive from you. Continue to pray for us as we continue to pray for you! In the meantime, take care, be safe!
Bill, Ray, Shaun, Chris, Brady