Updated July 21, 2020
Dear Church Family,
My seminary training from 1981-1984 failed me in not preparing me to know how to lead a church through a pandemic. I say that facetiously, of course. I have been in ministry for thirty-eight years, and I have never seen anything like this. It is a mysterious and invisible enemy lurking all around us. My own family is not immune as my mother tested positive for the virus three weeks ago. For reasons known only to God, she is one of the blessed ones to have no symptoms. There is no logic to this virus. The decision-making process by your staff and deacons is one of the most difficult decisions I have been a part of in my many years of ministry. I can see both sides. I understand that some of our families are anxious to come back to the church building and worship. I also sympathize with those who believe it is still too soon to come back together.
Early on in this process of decision making, the staff and deacons decided to wait until we saw a couple of weeks of downward trending in the number of cases in our area. To the best of my recollection, we were unanimous in that decision when we met on May 14. For one reason or another, we got away from that logic when we met last Tuesday night, July 14. The announcement the next day stating our plan to reopen on Sunday, August 2, was met with excitement by some and dismay by others. Once again, I could see the reasoning for both reactions.
In the early days of the pandemic I was participating in a webinar hosted by our state convention. One of the things our executive director, Dr. Rick Lance, said is that in these unprecedented days take comfort in the fact that not a single one of you pastors is going to make all the right decisions. Just know that up front. I believe very strongly that he was correct in that assessment.
Again, let me say, this is the most difficult season in which I have ever tried to lead a church. I have experienced both ends of the spectrum. I have been accused of being an agent of Satan in keeping our church from gathering to worship to being very wise in leading our church to stand down and wait until the worst is over. I have come to realize firsthand that no matter what decision is made, there will be those who will support it and those who will disagree with it. It just goes with the territory.
The last thing I want to see happen is for our church to become divided and contentious with regard to this issue. Believe me when I tell you, this is gut-wrenching.
I say all that to say this, our staff and deacons met again last night to revisit the decision we made last week. Everyone was given the opportunity to share his opinion as to what we should do. One of the things I brought up was the statement made by a Birmingham physician who said our state is about four or five weeks away from reaching a peak and starting to decline as far as the number of cases is concerned. He based that figure on what other states’ experiences have been. He said we have not seen the worst of this yet in Alabama. The other side of the issue is that some of our younger families have gone back to participating in sports, and they wonder why they cannot come back to church. Again, I have sympathy for both sides.
In the end, our deacons voted to back off the August 2 reopening plan. The new plan is to hopefully start back on Sunday, September 6. This will give us the four to five weeks for our state to reach its climax and start a downward trend. I am optimistic that the delay will not have to be pushed back again. Obviously, we want to have the option to do that if the numbers spike upwardly with the reopening of school. I am in great hopes that this will not be necessary. No one wants this agony to end anymore than your staff and deacons! Please know that this was a gut-wrenching decision. Your patience and prayers continue to be coveted by those making these difficult decisions.
In His Service,