I wanted to take a minute to connect with you and provide an update with where we are at concerning how the COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, is impacting our community and church family. Last night, our leadership team met to discuss the current data surrounding Coronavirus in our community. The leadership team looked at the data surrounding current cases in our community, the recommendations made by the AZ Department of Health and the CDC, and how the data and recommendations should impact the decisions that we make as a church when it comes to when and how we reopen our campus.
I walked away from our time together both encouraged and impressed with how God has blessed City Bible Church with such an amazing leadership team. Once again, these godly men and women demonstrated the ability and maturity to bring their vast and diverse experiences and perspectives to situations with a focus on making wise decisions that line up with the message and teaching of Jesus and the kingdom mission we have been given by Jesus.
As we have talked about throughout this COVID-19 season, as church we strive to make faith-based decision that are driven by facts and not fear. Throughout this season, we have continued to have ongoing conversations with local health care professionals who are on the front lines of what is happening in our community. We also processed updated information from the AZ Department of Health and the CDC regarding the three-phase process to reopen local communities that is based on testing and hospital capacity, along with infection rates.
In response to those ongoing conversations, and out of our commitment and responsibility to those in our community that have compromised immune systems, the leadership team unanimously made the decision that City Bible Church will keep the campus closed until June 30th. The reasons behind keeping the campus closed until June 30th include the following:
- Our community has still not experienced the “peak” of cases, which most medial professionals in the area believe will occur sometime between the 26th of April and early May.
- The C.D.C. guidelines state that before moving from the stay at home status to phase one status, there be a two-week period demonstrating a downward trajectory in documented cases, along with a robust testing program and appropriate hospital capacity. We have not seen such a “bending of the curve” to declining cases in our area. At present, the earliest it seems that we would reach phase one status would be in the middle of May.
- The C.D.C. guidelines state that before moving from phase one status, which strongly recommends that gatherings of more than ten people be avoided, to phase two status, there be a continued, two-week period demonstrating a downward trajectory in documented cases. At present, the earliest it seems that we would reach phase two status would be in early June.
- The C.D.C. guidelines state that before moving from phase two status, which strongly recommends that gatherings of more than fifty people be avoided, to phase three status, there be a continued, two-week period demonstrating a downward trajectory in documented cases. At present, the earliest it seems that we would reach phase three status would be in the middle of June.
- The C.D.C. guidelines state that all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place during phase one and two.
- The C.D.C. guidelines state that venues where gatherings of individuals take place must take steps to clean and sanitize those gathering sites between gatherings to reduce the potential spread of the virus. However, many of our Clean and Shine Team members who do such an amazing job of cleaning our campus fall into the “high risk” category for this virus.
- In addition, many who serve in children and student ministry, along with our 1st Impressions Team, fall into the “high risk” category for this virus. To open the campus too early could potentially expose them to those who may be carrying the virus.
- To open the campus prior to June 30th would require that the church only have corporate gatherings to help ensure social distancing. In other words, we would not offer nursery or Kids Konnection and the Courtyard Coffeehouse would be closed, as we could not ensure that social distancing would take place in those environments. This would be at odds with the vision and strategy of the church to create irresistible and engaging environments for families in our community to explore faith, grow in their faith, and experience genuine and authentic community.
- One of the highest compliments that we receive as a church is how warm and welcoming people find City Bible Church. To open our campus without keeping that feel of warm and welcoming community would betray who we are as a church. As one person on the leadership team stated last night, “to open up any earlier than June 30th, we would have to be something that we are not as a church. That’s not who we are as a church.”
- The Biblical principle of lovingly limiting our liberty. While there is the possibility that we “could” open our campus earlier than June 30th, the leadership team felt that to do so could potentially put people who are at risk at risk. And because of that potential risk, we felt that, as the Apostle Paul points out in Romans 14-15, that we “should” lovingly limit our liberty for the sake of those in our community who are at risk.
- The Biblical principle of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus great commandment is to love Him supremely and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As a leadership team, we believe that loving our neighbor as ourselves calls us to keep our campus closed in a way that reinforces and demonstrates our love and concern for our community.
- This decision provides clarity for planning for our amazing volunteer Ministry Team Leaders and ministry teams. Ministry Team Leaders will be meeting this Sunday via zoom to address how to plan for the future based on the circumstances surrounding this virus and its impact in the community.
In light of all of these factors, the leadership team unanimously agreed to keep the campus closed until June 30th. As a result, all campus activities will continue to be suspended, including Sunday worship gatherings, AWANA, Fusion, along with the community groups and outside agencies that meet on campus.
The church office will receive phone calls and respond to emails only. In addition, the Emergency Assistance Window will be open to love and serve our local community. Staff will still be working, so, if you have a question or need something, please email or call the office. As a church we will continue to evaluate the conditions in our community and will continue to provide updates on the church’s plans moving forward. Please pay attention to emails, social media, and our website to stay up to date.
We will continue to keep our Sunday corporate gatherings online at 8:30am on Sunday’s on our Facebook, Twitter, and the church website. Sermon Notes and Community Group Guides will be available on the website: http://www.citybiblechurchbhc.com/servicessermons. In addition, Community Groups will continue to meet online as we leverage technology to help people stay connected and grow in their faith. We will continue to strive to provide videos for Fusion, AWANA, and Kids Konnection to help keep families connected and engaged in their relationship with Jesus and one another.
Another way to stay connected is through our church app, Elexio Community. The church app has many features that help you stay connected with the church and one another, including the ability to continue to worship the Lord through giving. We also offer online giving as well. Simply go to http://www.citybiblechurchbhc.com/donate and follow the instructions.
As a church, we recently launched “Help for the Home-Bound”, a ministry designed to deliver food and other household necessities from local Wal Mart’s and Target to members in the community who are home-bound due to the COVID-19 Virus. We will also continue to love and serve our community through the Emergency Assistance Window ministry, led by Tom Messina, which meets the needs of people who can come to the church.
If you have questions regarding the decision to keep the campus closed, please do not hesitate to contact myself or one of the Elders. If the “facts on the ground” concerning this virus change considerably, we will make the appropriate adjustments necessary when it comes to reopening the campus.
I have been so encouraged by how so many of you have seized the opportunities that God has provided you in the midst of this adversity to bring the light and love of the kingdom of heaven into your areas of influence. The impact of the selfless sharing of your time, talent, and treasure is having an eternal impact in the lives of our community!
I look forward to hearing how God is going to use you in the upcoming weeks!