I first want to mention my heart of gratitude for your generosity and love and how deeply I and the pastoral team miss you all. We thank God for you and make mention of you always in our prayers. This season has been very difficult for all of us in many ways, especially not having the opportunity of coming together in fellowship and corporate worship, but we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ will direct our way to you.
I would like to give you an update of what the pastoral team is thinking as we are, God willing, heading into a reopening process of Identity church during the coming weeks.
I have spent many hours of conversation and processing with a multitude of pastors in the Midwest as well as our apostolic leader Larry Kreider. It’s been very helpful for myself and the pastoral team to have the Dove family as a support and a place to draw wisdom during these times of uncertainties.
A Dove pastor friend of mine from Columbus hosted a Zoom meeting on Monday with area pastors to discuss the current status of churches as well as future plans to reopen in-person worship celebrations and services. I would like to share the following bullet points from the Zoom conversation to both inform and provide insight to our planning moving forward.
- Churches overall seem to be doing well.
- Among a good number of congregants there is a growing frustration with not being able to meet in person.
- There is concern for those that are more isolated and those dealing with mental health issues.
- Most churches have gone to online streaming and Zoom or other like meetings.
- Some have been doing parking lot services.
- Several (4-6 that he knew of) churches have continued to meet, though with modifications and extra precautions.
- Most denominational churches are required to follow the plans of their particular denomination.
- Of the others, most were looking towards the end of the month of May/beginning of June to reopen, no one mentioned a specific time before that.
- All are looking at new polices, modifications to current practices and extra precautions to implement as they begin to gather again.
Identity Church Planning:
- DNA Groups: Beginning this week, we are reopening in-person small groups. We ask that you limit group size to approximately 10 people, consider hosting meetings outside and practice social distancing. If food is offered, pre-packaged, single-serve food and beverages are encouraged.
- Women’s Bible Study: We are reopening our Thursday Bible study with Mary Wallace on May 14. She will be in contact with the ladies with more information.
- Presence Gathering: We are reopening our weekly cooperate prayer time starting Wednesday, May 20 from 7-8 pm at the current location.
- Sunday Service: At this point we are planning to reopen our in-person worship celebrations on May 31 for Pentecost Sunday. We would have considered reopening sooner, but still have some issues with getting access to the YMCA facility as gyms are not yet mentioned in our governor’s reopening order. We are in contact with the director of the YMCA and trusting that gyms will be opened soon.
When we reopen our Sunday service and Presence Gathering, we will continue to offer live streaming for those who can’t make it, may not yet feel comfortable coming or are at high risk, and to encourage those who may be sick to stay home. There will be no children’s ministries for the foreseeable future.
We do need to also understand that if there would be a sudden increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in our state, we will probably again see restrictions mandated from our governor.
We will continue to monitor the situation very closely to get the latest recommendations as we navigate our way through this ever evolving situation. The recent acceleration in the timeline for opening restaurants and other establishments may accelerate church opening plans as well.
Thank you all so much for your understanding, support and help as we navigate these uncharted waters.
I will leave you with these thoughts. As we move forward, let’s make sure that we have each other’s back and that we present a unified voice to the community. This doesn’t mean that we all have to agree on policies and procedures as we reopen, but we need to be very careful to not criticize what each family may be doing or planning – especially publicly.
I think that it’s important to be guided by love as the Word says “faith works through love.” We also need to be sensitive to our brother’s conscious as Paul said in his letter to the church at Corinth. Now this does not mean that we should not take a stand for our Faith and stand on our constitutional rights as we move forward, but it’s also important to have a good testimony before those outside the church. If you have a concern please contact the eldership team personally. Our community is watching us, let them know us by our love for each other and our commitment to working together. May they know us by the Fruit of the Spirit.
I know and trust the fact that each of you are praying your way through all of this. God will give each of you the wisdom and discernment on how to move forward and lead your families. May lives be changed and God glorified.
I would like to end with a prayer that Mariella and I have been praying for you from 1 Thess. 3:11-13.
“Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct OUR WAY TO YOU. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as WE DO TO YOU, so that He may ESTABLISH YOUR HEARTS blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”