Dear Church Family,
We get to see each other, even be together again, real soon!
It’s now official–Our first Risen King Sunday Church Service in more than three months will be held Sunday, June 21st at 11 a.m. at Davis Creek Park in Washoe Valley! We will be meeting in the Group Picnic Area, as always, which we have reserved from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The service will be combined with our traditional spring/summer picnic at Davis Creek Park. A bring-your-own-food picnic will follow the service. At all times we will practice social distancing. Because the event is outdoors, masks will be recommended, but not required. The church will provide barbecue briquets, paper plates and plastic utensils for any who desire them.
Some may ask why so far away? The answer is not simple, just as nothing is simple in this very strange and complex time of dealing with the Pandemic. No other public facility was available to rent as we made this decision—including Sepulveda Elementary School—which will be closed until at least the 3rd Sunday in August due to Governor Sisolak’s COVID-19 closures.
And because of the government’s COVID-19 House of Worship mandatory guidelines, the elders felt it best to meet outdoors for our first re-opening service. Our belief is that meeting in an outdoor setting makes it less likely to spread the virus, and will allow for a bit more freedom than the government’s strict rules for indoor meetings allow, specifically with regard to masks.
The second major news item is that Risen King will resume regular indoor services at Lazy 5 Recreation Center’s Cottonwood Room beginning at 10 a.m., Sunday, June 28th. We have reserved this facility through the end of September for our services, wanting to ensure that we have a consistent place to meet even in the event Sepulveda Elementary School does not become available to us in the fall.
So, we are excited, but we are also prayerfully cautious, for several reasons.
(I apologize for the length of this letter before it’s written. It will be lengthy because of the complexity of re-opening a church during a Pandemic which no church in America has had to deal with for more than 100 years.)
The elders have two major concerns at this juncture: the continuing physical health of the members of our church family and the spiritual health and unity of our church family.
Very early on during the Pandemic it became apparent that precious members of our church held vastly different opinions about the real danger of the Pandemic and how they were personally going to respond to the social distancing guidelines, and possibly about how the church should respond to those same guidelines.
Pastors all over the country are recognizing that as churches re-open, how they re-open and how people respond is going to test the love and unity of their congregations.
As elders, we have continually prayed for years for the ongoing unity of our church family. We have experienced on more than one occasion just how devastating discord and disunity can be once it takes root.
So we want to appeal to each and every one of you to be especially mindful of the importance of fostering love, patience, humility and unity in light of the changes and sacrifices that both the government and the Pandemic require of us during the coming months.
Please prayerfully consider the following:
- Christ’s Love: Jesus Himself set the example for what love requires and looks like. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). For Jesus, love and sacrifice (giving) went hand-in-hand. According to Romans 12:1, our reasonable service of worship is offering ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord. This is likely going to be a time when we each must again rededicate ourselves to sacrificing our personal preferences for the welfare, and perhaps even the lives, of others in our congregation.
- Christ’s Humility: Though we may have strong opinions about the danger of the COVID-19 crisis—from the idea that it’s a political hoax to the feeling we should be personally isolating until there’s a vaccine—it’s critical for us to humbly respect each other’s opinions, without becoming embittered or speaking against others who don’t agree. Philippians 2:3-4 should guide us: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Romans 14:1 is also relevant: “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” Insisting we are right and others are wrong on this topic will do nothing to maintain the blessings of unity and fellowship we have experienced now for so many years.
- Patience: Please be patient while we attempt to adjust to the new realities. No church in our country has ever experienced this kind of situation before. We will certainly make some mistakes. It will take time for us to figure it out. We will do our best.
- Submission: While we don’t always like the government’s intrusion into our lives, the Word of God expressly requires submission to the governing authorities–unless they require us to do what is against the revealed will of God–as authorities that have been established by God. Romans 13:1-2 is explicit: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” We as elders are committed to following Scripture even when it is inconvenient, because we are charged to be examples.
- Protecting the Flock: As Jesus put it, “The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11b). He contrasts this to the hired hand who, when he sees the wolf coming, abandons the sheep and runs away. We as elders take this responsibility very seriously—we do not want to be responsible for a single serious illness or death because we have acted carelessly.
- Maintaining Unity: Love and unity can so easily be destroyed when we begin to carelessly grumble or complain against others, and especially those in authority. If we’re not careful, our comments can lead to a sad situation like the one found in Corinth in the first century, when we begin taking sides and saying something like, “I’m with those who are for masks”, “I’m against the masks” or “I’m with the huggers.”
So, having said all this, the elders are committed to washing the feet of all the saints insofar as it is possible. We will bend over backwards to serve the needs of everyone, regardless of their opinions or practices, though it will be impossible to please everyone. We will continue to offer online sermons for those who don’t feel comfortable attending in-person services at this time.
I should also note an additional complication regarding Risen King’s situation: my health. As most of you know, I have had leukemia for the last 14 years. As many of you may not know, my immune system is so compromised that I do not produce antibodies even when flu and pneumonia vaccines are introduced. This is why I receive other people’s antibodies (a.k.a. “immunoglobulin”) intravenously every five weeks.
When I asked my Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Steve Parker, a Christian, how I should respond to the virus, he replied, “Don’t get it.” (He was treating Covid-19 patients at the time.) When I asked him what that meant, he recommended that I continue socially isolating for the next 10-18 months. When I asked how that would work for a pastor and teacher, he told me I would need to mask up in an N-95 mask, that everyone in the congregation would need to wear a mask, and that I should come in late and through a back door to preach, and leave early through a back door before the service ended.
So with regard to our in-person services at Lazy 5, after several meetings and hours of prayerful consideration, these will be our social distancing policies for the time being—many of them mandated by the Washoe County Covid-19 House of Worship guidelines:
- We will observe the 50-person limit to church meetings, which should not be a problem.
- We will observe the 6-foot social distancing requirements of the government, allowing families to sit together.
- We will require everyone to wear a mask as mandated by the government and will provide a mask for anyone who does not have one.
- Only one person, or one family, will be allowed in a restroom at a time.
- We will not pass an offering basket or plate during our services, but an offering box in the back will be available for those who wish to give in person.
- When we have Communion, individually-packaged disposable containers of the elements will be provided.
- For the time being, we will not be singing for two reasons: masks don’t easily allow for it, and there is strong anecdotal evidence that the expansion of lungs and expulsion of air while singing makes the virus especially contagious.
- Children’s Church teachers will wear N-95 masks and, as the weather permits, will preferably teach children outdoors, at the playground area at Lazy 5. Children under two years of age will not be permitted to wear masks, per government guidelines. Masks for older children will be recommended, but optional.
- Children’s Church attendance will be taken for tracing purposes. If teachers detect a sick child, he or she will be isolated and parents will be asked to take the child home.
- Touchless Hand Sanitation stations will be available at the main entrance, and an exit, as soon as they arrive (first week of July is what has been promised). Hand sanitizer pumps will be available for use all around the facility.
- Anyone who is ill with any kind of respiratory illness will be asked to stay home.
- No physical contact, including handshakes and hugs, will be allowed as mandated by the government.
- Pastor Jim will come late to give his message and leave early. He will preach from behind a plexiglass partition, possibly while wearing some kind of mask, depending on what seems practical and possible.
- Masks will be optional for those involved in setup or takedown before or after the service as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.
- No refreshments will be served.
- No more than two passengers will be allowed to ride in our church van at a time, and both must wear a mask.
For those of you who are interested, and especially for those of you who serve regularly in some way on Sunday mornings, we have scheduled a training and information meeting for Saturday, June 20th, at 9 a.m. at the church office. Of course, this meeting will be vital for some of you to attend.
I do apologize if this sounds somewhat stern and cold. We are dealing with government edicts here, and it certainly cramps our style. We certainly hope and pray that all these measures will be relaxed as soon as possible. And our earnest desire and hope is to protect everyone in any and every way we can, while still allowing for a return to the fellowship we all so desperately miss!
Hope to see most of you at Davis Creek on Sunday, July 21!
In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Jim, for the elders