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Updates on COVID-19 Response

July 16, 2020

Brothers and Sisters,

The Elders wanted to update the congregation regarding our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate the encouraging words many of you have expressed to us, and we continue to ask for your prayers as we seek to faithfully shepherd our congregation.

First, we encourage our members who are attending on Sundays to be mindful of those who are not yet able or comfortable to attend. As the weeks pile up, the effects of isolation can intensify. One of the ways we can care for one another is to reach out to those who are not yet attending. There are numerous ways to engage with fellow members, but the common ingredient is intentionality. It takes initiative and persistence to build biblical community, so let’s look for ways to build together, especially as the pandemic continues.

Second, we will continue to follow our health procedures on Sunday mornings (e.g., socially-distanced seating, quick dismissal from the fellowship hall, encouraging good hand hygiene). The Elders anticipate that these measures will be needed for some time to come. We recognize many of these measures are inconvenient, but we believe this the most prudent way to structure our worship gatherings. So, let’s stay the course with our health procedures on Sunday mornings.

Finally, we’d like to say a word regarding face coverings. Today, the Governor of Arkansas issued a state-wide mandate requiring citizens to wear masks in public. According to the Governor’s order, churches are exempt from the mandate but strongly encouraged to follow the Health Department’s guidelines. The Elders appreciate the Governor’s concern for churches, and we encourage our members to follow the guidance. Since returning to public worship on May 10, the Elders have set the example by wearing face coverings when we cannot socially distance. We have also provided masks at the front door for those who may not have one. We will continue with those prescriptions going forward.

As always, the Elders welcome any questions or feedback. We want to shepherd the congregation with faithfulness and care. So, if there are ways that we could more faithfully serve you and your family, please reach out to us!

Grace and peace,

Jeff Breeding

On Behalf of the Elders

April 24, 2020

Brothers and sisters,

The Elders would like to provide a brief update regarding our church’s response to the COVID-19 situation in Arkansas. This has been an unprecedented event in our lifetime. As pastors, we have consistently sought the Lord’s wisdom on how to care for Christ’s church. Thank you for praying for us!

Our public gatherings have been suspended since March 15. We made this decision in accordance with the guidelines issued by our state government. Even though the initial state guidelines did not specifically reference churches, the Elders believed it was both prudent and biblically warranted to follow the state’s advisement. We will continue to do so until our state’s leaders and health experts advise that public gatherings such as ours can safely resume. We are hopeful that date is approaching very soon.

This past week, the Governor announced that further instructions regarding places of worship will be released on May 4. We should be thankful for a state government that is mindful of the need for churches to gather for worship. The Elders will take those guidelines into consideration as soon as they are available. Please know our intention and hope is to gather again as soon as it is safe and prudent to do so.

When we return to our public gatherings, it is likely that we will have to take continued precautions. Again, the Elders are doing what we can to anticipate those precautions (e.g., hand sanitizer, cleaning procedures, seating arrangement, etc.), and there will likely be new opportunities for members to serve in putting those procedures into practice.

I know this situation has been taxing in a number of ways for our congregation. It is very hard not to gather together as a church family. And yet, I am convinced that this difficulty is part of the Lord’s purpose in this trial. Brothers and sisters, we ought to feel the hardship of being apart. We ought to experience a deeper longing for the gathering of the church. This is why we have chosen to utilize only a pre-recorded sermon, rather than some other technological solution. There is no way to replace the public gathering of the church. So, for now, let’s continue to humble ourselves before the Lord and to seek His grace for endurance.

Also, let me say a word of encouragement to the parents in our congregation. I know your heart is to lead your children well on Sunday mornings, and I trust the Lord will honor your effort to care for your little ones. Please know that the Elders want you to have the freedom to do what best serves your family on Sundays! If 10am is not ideal for your family, then feel free to do what works best. If you can only make it through a song and a Scripture reading, then praise God for that grace! Remember, the Lord gave those little ones to you, which means he will equip you with what you need to care for them. So, be encouraged, Dads and Moms. God honors faithfulness. You can be free to simply be faithful in your family. (For some additional thoughts on family worship, see this post on the church’s site)

As we’ve said together many times before, the Lord doesn’t waste anything. I am confident that He has given us a new appreciation for the gathering of the church. He has humbled us afresh with our absolute dependence on Him. And He has strengthened our faith in our steadfast Savior, Jesus Christ. The Lord has and will sustain us, brothers and sisters. May our confidence rest in Him.

The Elders remain available to talk and pray with you as need arises. We look forward with much anticipation to gathering with you again to worship the Risen Lord Jesus.

Grace and peace,

Jeff Breeding
On Behalf of the Elders

 

March 25, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Elders have determined to cancel our worship gatherings until further notice. All other gatherings, including First Wednesday Prayer and Community Groups have also been canceled until further notice.

We will continue to look at the local situation concerning COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

Please continue to encourage one another with the Word of God and to pray for one another, the elders, medical professionals, and the authorities both local and national.

We love you and miss you dearly,

Rodrigo Sanchez

On Behalf of the Elders

March 22, 2020

Brothers and sisters, 

The Elders have determined to cancel our worship gathering for Sunday, March 22.

Please continue to pray for one another, for us as we plan and seek ways to shepherd God's people from a distance according to his Word, and for our Governor, Secretary of Health, all other government officials, and those in our city and congregation directly involved in alleviating the spread of the virus.

In Christ,

Rodrigo Sanchez

On Behalf of the Elders

March 15, 2020

Brothers and Sisters,

The Elders have determined that in the interest of caution and love for neighbor, we are cancelling our worship gathering on Sunday, March 15. Our decision has not been easy, and neither was it made in haste. We will continue to evaluate the situation going forward, so the decision at this point concerns only Sunday's gathering.

We have made this decision for a number of reasons. The first is a practical concern for people's health. We consulted with a local health official at the VA who is directly involved in the COVID-19 situation. He agreed that cancelling tomorrow's service was an appropriate display of caution. We also consulted with other churches in the city, including the few like-minded congregations. Most are cancelling as well. 

The second reason is a desire to love our neighbors and to do so responsibly. Health officials do not know the extent of the COVID-19 virus' spread within our community, and we do not want to risk possibly further spreading the virus. To say it another way, we believe caution is an appropriate expression of love for neighbor.

Finally, the Elders firmly believe that fear is never an appropriate response for the believer. "Our God is in the heavens! He does all that he pleases!" (Ps. 115:3) We are not afraid. At the same time, we also affirm that prudence is an expression of wisdom. Please know, brothers and sisters, that we have made this decision out of a desire to be prudent. Our hope remains in the Lord, and our confidence remains unshaken. We belong to the City with foundations, whose Designer and Builder is God (Heb. 11:10). If the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ's Church, neither will COVID-19 (Matt. 16:18). Therefore, please know that as the Elders of Midtown Baptist, our sincerest intention has been to strike the balance of prudence. We trust the Lord will honor our effort.

We recognize this raises a number of questions about the immediate future for our congregation. Our decision at this point applies only to this Sunday, March 15. We will evaluate this upcoming week as to how to proceed, including any appropriate means to provide our congregation with the Ministry of God's Word. Please be on the lookout for any further information. We are currently working on possible options.

Please pray for us. Please pray for one another. Please pray for Gov. Hutchinson, Secretary of Health Dr. Smith, as well as the countless medical professionals who are serving our community (including some from within our church). 

We love you, brothers and sisters. 


Grace and peace,

Jeff Breeding

On Behalf of the Elders

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