COVID-19 UPDATE

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A Letter From Pastor Dave - May 29, 2020

Agape Family,

My heart and my prayer is that this letter finds you all healthy and experiencing the peace and joy that can only come from the Lord. There seems to be a great emphasis being placed on the uncertainty of the times we find ourselves in. But I will always do my best to emphasize a greater certainty; that Jesus is Lord and is seated as the victorious One at the right hand of the Father. Also, He has given us His Spirit that we may have access to all the benefits of His victory over sin and death. We are more than conquerors as his dearly loved. As a result, we can live lives of great peace, joy and love.

The purpose of this letter is to communicate our plan to return to public gatherings at Agape’. With that said, please know that this is something the elders and I began to pray into and discuss almost immediately after the closure began. Please know that it has always been our heart to return to public meeting in the soonest and most responsible way possible. However, there are far more things to consider in this action than just our desire to be together and our knowledge that our corporate meetings are of great importance.

It is also good for us to remember that God was not caught unaware by any of this. So, we have leaned heavy into the One who’s ways are higher than our ways and thoughts are higher than our thoughts. It is also good to trust that God has and will continue to bring good out of a challenging time. For those things we are thankful.

We are also thankful for you… our Agape family. You have demonstrated incredible faith, grace and encouragement during this time! Please continue in that spirit. Also, please continue to pray for the staff and leaders as we navigate very difficult waters. Let us all acknowledge together that although the opinions on how such a time should be handled vary greatly, what doesn’t vary among us is what remains; faith, hope and love. Let us be steadfast in faith, audacious in hope and generous in love.

One of our guiding scriptures in this transition back comes to us from Philippians 2:3-4.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. But in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also the interest of others.”

Please do not read this letter with the mind that you should “be agreed with” but read it with the heart to “come into a place of understanding.” We must remember that we are joined in community with many God-fearing and caring people who may see things differently than we do. So, we do our best to again, seek God for wisdom and guidance. As a result, we have developed a phased plan that looks like this:

PHASE 1 – Beginning the first week of June, we are inviting Life Groups to meet weekly and in person, if they are not already. We are encouraging our Life Group Leaders to have frank and open discussions with their life groups to determine the level of interest in meeting in person. These conversations should be like Colossians 4:6 instructs us, “full of grace.” We are uploading Life Group meeting information on our web site so that anyone who is interested in joining a life group will have all of the details they need. For those that do not wish to join a life group or feel ready for public gatherings, we will continue our video content just as we have been which will be published on Facebook and on our YouTube channel.

Also, during this phase, for those that do not belong to a life group, but still want to meet, or for those that are comfortable with a public gathering, I will be hosting a small and simple gathering at church on Sunday mornings at 10a.m. in the fellowship hall beginning June 7th. These gatherings will be very stripped down with acoustic lead worship and a shorter message. It will be the same message that is on the online video. If you plan to attend these small gatherings, please know that we will be following the CDC recommended guidelines for faith communities to the best of our abilities. For more information on that please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/faith-based.html

The use of a face mask is not required, but encouraged. If you choose not to wear one, please be extra considerate in your interaction with others. There will not be childcare or children’s ministry at church gatherings during this phase.

PHASE 2 – Increased size of Sunday public gatherings. Phase 2 is a little slippery because we don’t have enough information yet. However, the heart behind it is to increase our gathering number and take another step toward full services. The format will likely be very simple with families staying together (still no Children’s Ministry or Nursery). But we will likely return to the sanctuary at this point and also offer other venues in the building in the Lounge and Gathering space, etc. This will allow us to practice safe distancing when needed.

During this phase we will look at having whole church outdoor services at the church with the option to either be on the lawn or stay in your cars as well. We are planning our first whole-church outdoor service for July 5th. Then, as weather permits, we will plan on doing these whole church outdoor services in the subsequent weeks after July 5th. If the weather does not permit, we will return to our smaller indoor gathering. We are also hoping to set the outdoor services up in such a way that if you are more comfortable in your car, you will still be able to participate from the parking lot.

PHASE 3 – Return to regular Sunday gatherings. The timing of each phase will depend both on CDC guidelines, other wisdom provided, and, of course as we rely heavily on the Word and the Spirit. We will do our best to communicate with each change. Our hope is that we are back to full gatherings at church by the end of summer. Please pray that God move in power and that we have a safe and expedient return to this point!

Thank you again everyone for your love, grace and understanding.

In addition to our re-gathering information, I also want to communicate some other exciting news. We are using the time being afforded by this period to make some long overdue upgrades to our sanctuary. When we remodeled the rest of our facility five years ago, it was certainly a hope to be able to bring some modest updates to our sanctuary as well. I’m always reminded of the sweet elderly lady who visited one Sunday after not being in our building since the 80’s. As I walked her to the sanctuary she commented on how great the remodel was. When we entered the sanctuary, she turned to me and said, “Oh, this area is still quite outdated!” I got a good laugh at that, but it was certainly a reminder how we can get in a pattern of seeing things only through our familiar eyes.

So, I’m very excited to tell you about the updates we will be making this month. We will be modifying and increasing the size of our stage by removing the small rooms to each side and expanding the front of the stage 4 feet forward in the middle. We are renovating the east (stage) wall of the sanctuary to be more uniform and conducive to stage lighting. We are replacing the old stage lighting with new theatrical and stage lighting and lighting board. Our current lighting set-up and board are probably the oldest things in our entire facility (again I’m laughing). We are replacing the overhead lights with new and more efficient LED lighting. We will do some other mild paint and refreshing items as well.

In terms of finances for this project, this is something we have long planned for and we have the cash in reserves to handle the project and be able to maintain a responsible reserve and general fund level. Although we could use reserve funds for this project, we wanted to present the opportunity for the congregation to contribute specifically to make this happen. We have already received donations in this way! You may give either through our website (sanctuary fund) or by mailing a check to the church and writing “sanctuary fund” in the memo.

We so appreciate your faithfulness in giving over the years and certainly during these past months. Please continue to press into faith in this area! God will always bless our trust in Him! We are so thankful for a church that is faithful and always open to looking to the future of what God has in store for us. We are a church that firmly believes that God has given His Spirit for creativity and vision and has called us into a bright future! We believe these changes are not only necessary, but will well equip us to continue in the ministry God is calling us into for years to come.

I would like to close this letter by thanking the elders, the deacons, the staff and you. These plans have not come from one person, but a church of people that blow me away with their capacity for love and for ministry. It has come out of many prayers, meetings and conversations. I so appreciate each and every one of you. God Bless.

On Behalf of the Elders,
Dave