Yesterday’s worship service has had over 500 views! Not sure how many people that is since households watch together. But listen to this: 19 people indicated that they were committing their life to Christ! 19!! Hallelujah! Amen! 19!!! Please pray for them this week.
We’ve now had three worship services without gathering. It was just 17 days ago that we canceled public gatherings. I’m struck by how long the last two weeks feels. It feels like two months.
And as I contemplate our new reality, I see this analogy:
It’s like we were all on a bus, heading to our chosen destination, enjoying the sites. Some of us might have been bickering a little about whether the a/c was set to the right temperature, but we were enjoying the journey, and enjoying each other.
Then the bus died, so we rented vans.
Then the interstates closed, so we plotted a new route.
We were told initially that the bus would be fixed in 15 days, but we just heard yesterday that it’s gonna be another month. So we press on in vans.
That analogy can help explain my life the past couple weeks. Most of my attention has been devoted to logistics and navigation. I feel like we were prepared for it, but it still changed our conversations as a staff. However, now that we’re finding our new normal, what I really want is to just come ride in each of the vans for awhile and see how everyone is doing. It’s amazing how much of our casual social interaction is vital social interaction!
This past weekend, after recording the worship service to an empty room, the worship team noted how much they miss the crowd. Felicia and Esther both talked about how certain people in the congregation lead them in worship every week. It’s so true. As one who been blessed to lead worship for 25 years, it has never been about the music for me. It’s always about leading the prayers and praises of God’s people! As much as we talk about the musicians being worship leaders, we should also celebrate how much the congregation leads the worship team.
I’m looking forward to when we will be together again. Until then, we’re looking for ways we can connect. How can we spend time “riding in each other’s vans?”
It seems the whole world is now meeting by Zoom conference call. We’ve had groups doing that as well. This week we’re going to “open the church” so to speak (by Zoom) for a noon prayer meeting on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Anyone can join by video or just by phone call.
I look forward to checking in with each other and praying together.
As for how much longer we continue doing church like this, you hear the same information I do. Just know that in every decision I try to make sure that we are being “cooperative and hopeful.” Soon this will be behind us. And “soon” might be June. Or it may be May. We’ll be ready to resume gatherings as soon as it’s prudent. But until then, we continue on our journey! Our method may be a new normal, but our journey is the same. We are moving toward Jesus.
Praying love joy and peace to fill your home,
This week we are experimenting with hosting our worship service at multiple times in case people have difficulty accessing it. We pray that it will also increase our opportunity to “sow hope” for people who are not accustomed to connecting with us Sunday mornings.
The service will be the same, shown at multiple times, each hosted by staff. The times are subject to change (since everything seems subject to change these days) so get in the habit of checking our website for updates. We are planning to air the service Sunday at 10AM and 4PM, and then again Tuesday 8PM. Click here to watch: https://sarasotacommunity.online.church (You can also send the link to friends to watch with you.)
As you know, we are not hosting any meetings at this time. Staff met by Zoom this past week, and we had our first Bible Study hosted on Zoom. We only gather in person where it’s necessary to perform essential duties. The worship service is still essential as we encourage each other (and our neighbors), so the worship team still gathers. It is a controlled environment, and we try to be disciplined, but please pray for us that we would be protected. We were just talking last night about how odd it is to meet without greeting each other in the typical ways. But we also understand that the opportunity to be in the same room with each other is an encouragement many of you don’t have in these days. My heart goes out to you and my prayers up for you.
I’m also aware that the very act of reading this means you are able to connect with others electronically. In our church increasingly few people do not have internet access, but there are still some. We don’t always know who doesn’t. If you know anyone who doesn’t have email or ability to watch our services, please reply to this email so that we can discern the best way to meet their needs. Also, just “be the church” yourself. Call them. Send them a note. Reach out to them. But let us know too.
With love, joy, and peace,
This is so hard to not be together! But we are doing what we must. Continue to make good decisions and we will soon be together again. In the meantime, we meet "virtually" for worship. But we've had technical glitches, and I want to update you on that.
A week ago, for the first time, we closed our building and offered worship via livestream only. We had a couple hundred households watching, which was very encouraging. But apparently, with every church in our time zone livestreaming at around the same time, we all basically crashed the internet. (Not really, but that's the easiest way to say it.) So a number of our people couldn't watch and were discouraged at a time when we need to be encouraging each other!
I wanted to offer an improvement for the following week, so we changed to a tried and true platform used by hundreds of thousands of people every week. It not only offers live chat and live prayer, but it also gave us the ability to record our service Saturday night so that when we "went live" with it Sunday morning, we wouldn't be as dependent on the broadband limitations. We did a test run Friday night and it worked well. But then, Sunday morning, for some fluke of a reason, the platform experienced some outages that affected us considerably. The most that were able to watch at any time was around 60. So discouraging. And again, it was out of our hands.
But I am told that they have fixed the problem! And I am asking for your help this evening in confirming that! So we are going to "go live" with yesterday's worship service at 7pm tonight. Let's worship together. Go to sarasotacommunity.online.church. See you there.
We continue to mourn with the Christner family following Marge's passing. We are restricted in how we can show our care, but please keep praying for them. We were also notified of Martha Eberly's passing last week. She and Ben had been members here while he was the director at Sunnyside Village. We send our condolences to Ben and the family.
If you have any specific needs, please email Shirley Good at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also feel free to contact any of the pastoral staff as needed. Dennis Bontrager is at email@example.com. And Liz Lane is at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are eager to connect with you however we can.
Praying for love, joy, and peace to fill your home!
This Sunday, March 15, we will not meet publicly. Instead, we will “gather” online for the live stream broadcast of our worship service, worshiping in our homes.
Please understand, this is not about panic, but prudence. Like you, we have been paying attention to the developing information about the Coronavirus, and wondering how it affects us. Some states have imposed restrictions on gatherings larger than 250 persons, which would affect us. As of this writing, Florida has not. But a number of high traffic businesses are making the decision to do so themselves.
In talking with other local pastors, most churches will probably not suspend their gatherings unless required to. That is my natural bent as well. “You don’t cancel church.” But as I prayed and sought counsel, I reached a tipping point around two considerations: our elderly, and the high prevalence of tourism at SCC. I haven't heard if old age makes a person more likely to contract the virus, but apparently it makes it more dangerous to. And with so many people visiting from out of state on any given Sunday — some from states where the virus is already community spread — and with there being an asymptomatic incubation period, we could have people transmitting the virus to our elderly without knowing it. And so it has become a pastoral concern for me, both for those at risk in our own church, as well as the responsibility we have to Sarasota to help slow transmission of the virus in this community.
“So, are we canceling church?” No! Just the public gathering. We have been live streaming our worship services since 2012. We are still having church, we’re just asking everyone to watch online from their home, or in a small group in someone else’s home where the risk is more easily managed.
If you know of anyone who does not have online access, please reply to this email with their name and address so that we can plan to get them a DVD.
“For how long and what about other events?” We will keep monitoring the situation, which seems to be changing rapidly, and make decisions as we go. Our default is to not cancel things. At this point, we have given no instructions to cancel midweek events. Assume that it is still on unless you hear otherwise. Stay tuned and we will do our best to communicate.
I pray that what we’re doing will be not only effective at reducing the virus spread, but meaningful to each of us as we worship God in a different setting. As always, let’s be praying for each other, but also for the people of this community, and against this virus. The only one who really knows what this virus is going to do is God. So spend serious time talking to him about it.
We trust that you are paying attention to the developing news about the coronavirus. We are too, and are considering the various scenarios that would prompt us to cancel public services to avoid spread of the virus.
As of this writing, we have not canceled any services. However, we want to encourage you to exercise prudence. If you are sick or have a compromised immune system, please stay home and watch our live video feed. And please participate by filling out the form to let us know you're "here." You'll also be able to participate in the offering by clicking on the offering link.
For those of us who attend the worship gathering, instead of shaking hands we're going to reinstituting the holy kiss. Just Kidding. Please avoid touching. No hand shaking. No hugging. "Air high fives" are good. Lots of smiles. All that stuff. But no touchy.
And seriously, be praying for those affected worldwide, including officials who bear the burden of decisions that affect us all.
Love you all!
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.