As we continue the process of reopening of New Durham Chapel, I thought an article that I recently read by a pastor talking about various colors on a traffic signal and applying it to our current situation was worth repeating. He talked about how for some people returning to church is a red light, it just won’t happen anytime soon. For those who have extensive health concerns and compromised immune systems, this is probably the best position to take. Those that are the yellow light folks are those that are excited about coming back to church but yet are very cautious. Certainly, as leadership when we meet to discuss the safety concerns of all involved, we are looking at many steps that we can take to make the worship experience a safe and encouraging environment. Some things that we will be doing in this regard is that we will not be providing nursery care and we will not be having Sunday school. Our nursery will be open as any parent may want to take their child there, but we do not think that it would be appropriate to have children congregating together, who don’t understand the concept of social distancing. Some things can be added as we go along and we are exploring various avenues to continue to reach out in minister through our Sunday morning services, which we’ll continue the online streaming of our live A.M. services, which we have been doing since early in April. In every move, we will certainly consider the feedback of our church body and we will continue to solicit feedback and input from the church family during this time of transition. None of us have ever been through this experience before, so please be patient with us.
Of course, the third signal on a traffic light is the green light. The green light represents those who were ready to come back to church weeks ago or didn’t understand why we stop meeting in the first place. We as leaders have been trying to honor our governor’s guidelines for meetings, so while various parts of our church have resumed meetings, we will still be honoring the required attendance guidelines (pray that indoor attendance numbers would be increased as we flatten the curve). Sunday evening services resumed live meetings a few weeks ago and in May our men’s small group Bible study resumed meeting. Many of the other small group meetings- Olympians, gopher buddies, youth group, and lady’s meetings finished up their meetings on Zoom over the last week or so. We are still planning on meeting for an outdoor service on July 5 at 10 A.M. (which was planned well before any of this covert 19 arose back in the winter) and planning is ongoing to start hosting 2 A.M. services on July 19. Because one of our great assets is space at NDC this 2 -service format will allow us to sit comfortably while practicing social distancing with those willing to return to physical church services. We will no longer be taking up an offering, but a collection box will be set in the back where people can make their donations or continue to donate online. We will have bulletins available, but they will no longer be passed out, people can just help themselves. There will no longer be a greeting time and when we have communion Sundays self-contained cups will be available for people to pick up when they come into the church. We will not be green, yellow, or red- light church, but we are a traffic light church with all lights on. We will seek to honor one another’s opinions and concerns as we go forward as the body of Christ.
One of the things that we know for sure is that Satan will seek to disrupt and divide the body life of NDC. I think there are scriptures that we should keep in mind as we consider this reopening experience. In disputable matters, in the New Testament Paul gives us some guidelines that I think are applicable to our current situation. In Romans, Paul said, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put a stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way,” (Rom.14:13 NIV). Of course, the issue that Paul was addressing in this passage was eating various meats and food, but I think it is great insight for us as we move together in unity as to what God has called us to become. Also, Paul wrote to the Corinthians and stated, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak,” (1 Corinthians 8:9 NIV). The issue that Paul was addressing in this passage was eating meat offered to idols. We are dealing with a situation where various people’s lives may be at risk because of the weak immune system or other physical issues. Not everyone has to behave in a manner that we agree with, but we all must be aware to respect one another and care for each other in this very difficult transition, knowing that Satan will actively pursue the division and destruction of our ministry.
Finally, let us consider the words of the Lord Jesus Christ on the last night of his earthly ministry when he stated, “A new commandment I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another”, (John 13:34-35 NIV). Too many times the church of Jesus Christ has been divided over petty bickering and jealousies, but at this moment in time, the greatest need that we have is to love one another and care for one another with the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ. I think this also has application to other things that are currently happening in our world. My prayer for NDC would be that we would be a place that radiates God’s love for all people, regardless of nationality, race, or ethnic differences. The church has failed in the past to stand in unity because it has failed to stand in love. But Jesus said that “the world would know us by our love for one another”. Let us make that is our highest ambition and desire for our lives and for our church, even in the face of great moral and physical dilemmas.
Seeking to Honor King Jesus,
Pastor Rich Sivo