A Letter from David – April 23

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Over the past several weeks I have prayed and reflected on the word “essential.” Mainly, I’ve been praying for those workers deemed “essential.” I’ve thanked God for their service, and I’ve asked for their safety. I’ve also had to contemplate what are the essential resources for my family? As some basic items have become scarce, we’ve all had to face what is truly essential.
 
As I try to make decisions for the church, I’ve had to confront the moving target of “essential.” I believe that church is essential to people’s lives. Being a part of a community of faith deepens one’s experience with God and provides the human connections that magnify Divine love. Churches are also essential to the broader community as we are often a place of safety and refuge for the most vulnerable in society. This time of social distancing has reawakened my belief that church is essential.
 
Yet, I’ve had to grapple with what part of church is essential right now. I believe that regular worship is essential to one’s faith experience. However, right now, worshipping in person is non-essential in relation to health and safety. Many of our ministries are essential as we serve those who are homeless and food insecure. However, we’re having to find different ways to do them. I believe small groups and classes are essential to faith development. However, those kinds of gatherings are not essential to the greater good of community life right now.
 
Deciding what are essential spiritual needs is a moving target in these days. So here are a few of the current decisions our staff and leaders have made for our church. We will continue to worship solely online. Bishop Mueller has called for churches to not hold in-person gatherings until at least May 17, and I believe we will need to extend beyond that date as well. The only ministries taking place in the church building are our most essential programs that provide food for our neighbors. These will be done with a minimum of volunteers through a “pick-up” procedure.
 
Our administrative and program staff are all continuing to work from home. Our maintenance staff continues to work at the church catching up on repairs and building maintenance, like painting projects and stripping/waxing floors. For those essential ministries or tasks that have to take place in the church building we are implementing the following protocols: 1. You must have a mask with you. 2. You must wear that mask if you are interacting with another person. 3. You must stay at least 6 feet away from anyone else. 4. Wash/Sanitize your hands after any interaction with others. 5. Sanitize any area you have been as you leave.
 
There is a lot of chatter in the world about when and how things will begin to re-open. Decisions for First Church will be made solely for the health and safety of the community. Those decisions will be determined by sustained downward trends in COVID 19 cases in Arkansas and if we can ensure that we have the resources (staff, supplies, space) to provide a clean and safe environment.
 
As we do begin to regather, keep in mind that “normal” church life may look a lot different than it did before. No matter what we do and when, we will focus on what is most essential—sharing the grace of God with one another and the world, prayer, and tangible acts of God’s love to care for our neighbors.
 
Gratefully,
David Freeman

Lesley Andrews

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