22 May Phase 2 Update
Dear Church Family,
On behalf of the Church Council and Staff, I want to offer an update on our current thinking regarding when and how to regather in the church for worship.
Our state has now transitioned into its second phase of a plan to bring North Carolina back “online;” that phase, perhaps more cautious than we had previously anticipated, has been branded “Safer At Home Phase 2.” On Wednesday, we received guidance from state leadership and medical experts about how we can interact within this phase safely and responsibly. As a church, of particular interest to us are the guidelines issued regarding mass gatherings, which state that “In Phase 2, gatherings of 10 or more people in a single indoor space remains prohibited.” **
While churches, due to their status as religious institutions, are technically exempt from this limitation, we recognize that it is there for a reason, which is to help control the spread of the disease and keep us, and those around us, safe.
In addition to our internal deliberations, we have consulted with medical professionals in our congregation, and they have agreed that it is better to proceed cautiously into reassembling than to jump in too early and then have to pull back, as some congregations have had to do. Therefore, we feel it is wisest to be patient as the community around us eases into Phase 2—to watch as restaurants, beaches, etc. begin to reopen—and monitor whether or not the increased interaction around Wilmington leads to a rise in cases.
This means that, while “Safer At Home Phase 2” remains in place, we will continue to worship exclusively online; however, church leadership will re-evaluate on a regular basis as to when in-person gatherings can safely resume.
Admittedly, this extension to our physical separation can be a bit disappointing. It reminds me of the Israelites, wandering through the wilderness—surely, there had to be a time or two across those 40 years when they approached a tall hill and thought, “The Promised Land must be just on the other side!”, yet then after making their excited climb, discovered only more miles of sand and rock in their path.
But don’t be discouraged, friends. We are living in an opportunity to experience the Spirit—the same Spirit that accompanied Paul while in prison, and Stephen while being stoned, and John while exiled on an island, receiving his Revelation. This Spirit binds us even when apart, and reminds us that in Christ we are never alone. Thus, as the aforementioned prisoner joyfully observed, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Rom. 5:3-5).
This disease is a trial, and it might bring us some discouragement. But if we allow God’s Spirit to move, it can also bring us endurance, and character, and a confident hope that cannot be brought down. Can you imagine if we carried those gifts with us into church one Sunday morning?! That’s something I’m excited to experience—even if it means waiting a few more weeks.
Love in Christ, Our Tie that Binds
Winter Park Baptist Church
** “Frequently Asked Questions for Executive Order No. 141; May 20, 2020