Hello Rock Family,
I hope this note finds you healthy and filled with joy over the choice of our glorious Lord to enter this world as a poor and helpless infant in order to save a poor and helpless humanity – including you and me.
I am writing today because since we announced the suspension of our in-person services, Governing Board members have been immersed in a thoughtful and prayerful discussion over whether we should continue the suspension for the full six weeks as we had planned. After the announcement, we received comments from several people, some affirming our decision and others dismayed by it. There were also internal misgivings beginning to arise within the hearts of some Governing Board members themselves – the kind of misgivings that many of us have learned can be the voice of God seeking to communicate with us. So, shortly after the announcement the Governing Board returned to this question of how long the suspension should last. Did the Lord have more to say to us? So we prayed, we met, we discussed, we prayed again, and we met again.
From December 6th to the 10th we met three times with the crux of our discussion focusing on the question of whether what we do when meeting together on Sunday mornings is “essential” or if it is fully accomplished by virtual means. Our initial decision focused on physical health and safety, both for the vulnerable among us and for the overall community, where hospitalization rates have grown dangerously high. But are there other kinds of health issues that only our meeting in person on Sunday mornings can satisfy? Surely, teaching and preaching can be done virtually. Many of you have favorite teachers and preachers from other places around the country and world that you listen to throughout your week with great regularity. But community is something different; and it is something essential. Especially for the church. It is in the community of the church that we encourage, exhort, build up, take aside, pray over, touch, anoint, and celebrate. The Governing Board believed that we could sacrifice some of that for a time in an effort to support the broader community and especially our hospitals and healthcare workers. But in our prayers, the question arose: what about those who have no church? Sure, they could join us on line and hear the Word, but they could not experience the love, the comfort, the support or the presence of those around them basking in the joy of God’s gracious gifts of love, healing and grace. Grocery stores are open because people need food. Hospitals and clinics are open because people need care. And after much prayer, soul-searching, and discussion the Governing Board has determined that our church has to be open for in-person services because people need the loving arms and gentle voice of the body of Christ to get through the stress, fear and despair of these challenging days. So, the Rock will open for in-person services next Sunday, December 20th.
Now, is there a risk to this decision? Yes. There is a risk both to our own families and to the broader community. For some, the risk is a miserable couple of weeks of illness, but for others the risk can be life-threatening. To not acknowledge this would be a willful blindness that serves no one but our own personal interests. So, the Governing Board is asking those who will attend in-person services to help us mitigate the risk as best we can by the only means healthcare workers have suggested as being effective.
This will help prevent the spread or the catching of any illness that may be making its way around this winter.The Governing Board will continue to make sure that our chairs are distanced, our surfaces are sanitized, and our air-filtration system is clean and using as high-end filters as our HVAC system will allow. We will also continue to monitor the broader community situation as well as governmental and healthcare guidance as we all continue to deal with the challenges the pandemic presents.
In the end, the Governing Board has determined that the reason Jesus risked everything to be with us as a poor and helpless baby is the same reason some of us need to take the risk of being with people on Sunday mornings. The poor and helpless still need a living expression among them of love and hope in the midst of the darkness. But let’s be that expression in a way that recognizes and cares for their physical vulnerabilities as well.
Grace and Peace,
What about Streaming Services?
As we continue this experience of being the church scattered, we are making a change to our Sunday morning service technology. As helpful as Zoom has been for our services, we have been experiencing an increasing number of glitches that interfere with some folks' reception of the service. So, we have decided this week to begin live-streaming the service. We have not done this before because we needed an additional piece of equipment that has now been acquired and incorporated, thanks to the efforts of David Mather and Daniel Geaslen. So this week:
FIND THE GREEN HEADER AT THE TOP OF THE WEBSITE HOME PAGE THAT WILL EITHER GIVE A COUNTDOWN TO SERVICE OR A "WATCH NOW" MESSAGE.
THEN JOIN THE SERVICE. YOU WILL HAVE BOTH A VISUAL OF THE SERVICE AND A CHAT BOX THAT YOU CAN GREET ONE ANOTHER ON.
Another way to access the services is to subscribe to theRock Media & Worship on Youtube.
Is there any way for groups to meet online for prayer or study or just fellowship?
Yes! Several groups have been able to meet over the last week using a program called Zoom. In our last update I told you that Zoom can be used for free in 40 minute increments. But to eliminate the inconvenience of stopping and starting meetings in that time-frame, we have subscribed to Zoom as a church. This means that if leaders would like to host a meeting of their group or ministry team, they can contact the office and get the credentials needed to host a Zoom meeting. We are also investigating the feasibility of doing a live Zoom service on Sunday where anyone can log into the service and participate together.
What about ministry opportunities?
I’m glad you are asking such a question, because opportunities to minister to each other and our community will abound during this season. But it will require creativity, sensitivity, and compassion if we are going to reach out. Not only are people dealing with illness, isolation and fear, but there are going to be very real economic consequences for many people who are already economically vulnerable both within the church and outside of it. Up until now, the Elders and Governing Board have had to focus on simply regaining our footing on the constantly shifting sands of this crisis. But let us all be in prayer as to how we can be of service to each other and our community in practical and loving ways during this unprecedented time in most of our lives. Ideas and suggestions can be sent to the church office while the Governing Board seeks to provide a framework on which we can begin to build ways to help. More on this later as well.
What about the Children’s Discipleship Wing?
The Governing Board is hesitant to launch into a lot more until the present crisis has passed. We will continue to work to identify a contractor for the project and acquire an architect to do the blueprint. All of that is necessary before any more can really be done on the project itself. Our goal would be to have the “slab” completed as soon as we can in order to get rid of the hole that tearing down the little house will leave. But with the sudden change in economic circumstances, the Governing Board felt it wise to slow down until we know just how deep an economic impact this crisis will present.
What about giving?
Please remember that doing ministry continues to require resources, even when the church isn’t physically gathering. Fortunately, we are just about to the least expensive time of year for HVAC needs at the church building, so we are not having to pay a lot to heat or cool the building. But salaries and ministries continue to require funds. Those who wish to give can still do so by mail or electronically. Electronic options include both Funds Transfer options directly from your bank, in which there are usually no fees attached and giving through the Rock app or website, in which case there is a transaction fee. You can find instructions for how to give electronically on the Rock's App. Whatever your choice, please don’t forget your faithful gifts during this season.