It’s hard to know where to begin this letter. Everything is changing all around us, and as a church, we’re changing, too. These days feel very improvisational. We’re learning as we go. And the rule of improv, as theologian/Saturday Night Live veteran Tina Fey passed on, is always, “Yes, And.” We take in the information given, and we do the next right thing. We pay attention to the world around us, and we seek to respond in faith. Yes, we are not currently able to do a lot of things they way we’ve traditionally done them at FBC. And, we are learning new ways. Yes, we cannot come together in the same space. And, we know that our spirits and lives are bound in ways that transcend physical distance. Yes, there will be some mistakes we make along the way. And, we attempt to do everything in love, for the good of this congregation and each person in it, and our wider community. So we listen to the news, we listen to each other, we draw on our deep wells of courage, faith, creativity, care, and love, and we continue to be the church.
Here’s how we’re being church in these new days:
Worshipping via Facebook Live
- Since we can’t come together in person these days – and for many weeks to come – we’ll be “gathering” for worship via Facebook Live. You do not have to have a Facebook account to watch the service. Go to www.facebook.com/firstbaptistmac at 10am on Sundays, click the play button, and you should be able to see the service and participate – sing and pray along with the musicians and readers, comment during the greeting and prayer request time. It was great to see all the “and also with you”s shared during the benediction this past Sunday as we concluded our worship. If you have questions about this, please call the office (before Sunday!) and someone will talk you through the process of connecting. We know there were some sound glitches to work out from this past week – we’ll be learning and improving each week as we go, and your feedback helps us with that – thanks!
- You’ll receive an email from us each Friday with the Communal Prayer, the Scripture, and the song lyrics for the coming Sunday, so you can print it and follow along, if you like. That document will also be posted on our website, and we’ll post those pieces in the comments on the morning of the service.
- A note about prayer requests – anybody can read what you write on our Facebook page, so make sure you’re only sharing things you are comfortable with being very public. And if you’re sharing for other people, make sure you have both confirmed information and permission. This past week, a note was shared about a member of our congregation having the coronavirus – while that person has been ill, they have not been tested for the virus and so that information is not confirmed. That said, of course we send prayers to all who are ill, and give thanks for all who provide care.
Meeting via Zoom
- Zoom is a platform that allows for video and/or audio conference calling, and many FBC meetings will shift there. Already this week, we’ve conducted meetings for Care & Concern, the Pastoral Relations Committee, the Finance/Stewardship Teams, the Membership Ministry Team, and the Lenten Book Study over Zoom, and Friday’s noon Bible Study will be held that way, too. And Youth Group begins meeting virtually this Sunday evening! You can connect to Zoom via a computer, iPad, or phone. Links to the particular meetings/ gatherings can be found in the FBC Happenings email (sent Wednesday/Thursday each week). If you have questions about connecting in this way, please call the church during office hours and someone will talk you through it.
- There may be some groups for whom it’s not desirable or practical to switch to a Zoom meeting. In those cases, meetings/gatherings will be cancelled or postponed, or may continue if fewer than ten attendees are expected, up to the discernment of the group leader(s). As a staff, we are advising people to act in ways that will protect themselves and those around them. Expect to be contacted by the leaders of groups you’re a part of to find out details, or, again, check the Happenings email or call the church office.
Adjusting our open office hours
- To respect guidelines regarding social distancing, and to limit the amount of foot traffic through the church building, until further notice the FBC office will be open 9am-12noon, Monday-Friday. Staff will be working from home in the afternoons. Feel free to call the office during open hours, but please note that our voicemail is not functional at this time. If you call the office and don’t get an answer, please don’t leave a message; we won’t receive it. Instead, please email or call/text staff members on their cell phones.
Office (9am-12noon, M-F) – 503.472.7941, firstname.lastname@example.org
Erika– 913.558.1037, email@example.com
Sean– 717.271.1221, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jesse– 503.949.5806, email@example.com
Ron– 971.237.2532, firstname.lastname@example.org
Serving our neighbors in new ways
- The STAR Room is moving outside and – like the restaurants in town – serving only take-out meals. Volunteers are prepping the bagged meals on Sunday and Thursday afternoons, and serving them Monday and Friday mornings, from 9:30-10:30am, out of the First Street Alcove. This will allow our volunteers to still see and talk with our guests, and provide some tangible, nourishing care for them, while moving out of the close quarters from which they usually conduct this ministry.
- And the Y.A.H.O.O. Mexico Mission Trip has been cancelled for this Spring Break. Leading up to the trip, the group had raised tremendous support, and we want to let you know that the funds raised – the contributions you made – will still provide the two houses our group was scheduled to build. Building materials have been purchased and are sitting on the plots of land already. Local workers will be hired to do the construction, which will boost the local economy, and the two families who had been identified will still receive the houses they’d hoped for. This group, and these dollars, are still doing tremendous good – just in different the ways than we’d originally imagined.
Taking extra precautions
- Our custodians are spending more time in the areas that will continue to see use during this time – entrances and restrooms; and the Education Wing, and Chapel, where some Recovery Groups continue to meet. Their work really is essential for many who attend.
- While the overnight Warming Shelter was open, we continually sanitized all surfaces, used gloves, and made our guests wash their hands upon entering our facility.
- A small table with sanitizer and gloves is set up just outside the office door, as well as signs encouraging people to keep appropriate distance when they enter the office.
Caring for each other in spiritual and practical ways
- FBC’s Care & Concern team met Monday night and focused on the importance of keeping tabs on each other during this time. Expect to be contacted by a member of that team, just to find out how you are and if there’s anything you need. Care & Concern is always holding special needs of this congregation, and the congregation as a whole, in its prayers. And we know that during this time those needs are likely to increase. So, since Care & Concern is a mighty but small team, we wanted to invite anyone else to join in as “auxiliary team” members. Could you shop for groceries, or pick up prescriptions, for someone who can’t get out? Could you offer childcare for someone who has to go to work? Could you help take care of other necessities for a congregant who might be vulnerable? Let Erika know, and we’ll sign you up. Thanks for considering this new way to serve.
- We’d also appeal to you to continue to offer financial support to FBC, so that we might continue to offer ministry to our congregation and community during this time. You can mail a check to the office or drop it by, or give online at www.fbcmac.org/give. While the general fund depends on your support, we’d also encourage those of you who might have extra resources to consider a special gift to the Fellowship Fund at this time. The Fellowship Fund is the money out of which we’re able to make small gifts of emergency support to those neighbors and congregants who find themselves facing unexpected need – just the sort of need this current crisis might give rise to. A healthy Fellowship Fund will enable us to support each other to make it through this time.
We’ve said a lot here – any maybe still not all that there is to be said. These are our ways of moving forward at this time. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your commitment to FBC and to its people and its ministries. As we often remind ourselves in worship – we belong to God, and we belong to one another. These times compel us to remember that, and to trust in it, and to find new ways, together, of living into the reality of it. You are always in our prayers.
Friends, may the peace of Christ be with you.
Reverend Erika Marksbury, Senior Pastor
Sean P. Williams, Youth & Children’s Minister
Jesse Cromer, Director of Music Ministry
Donna Weed, Office Administrator
Ron Richter, Building & Grounds Supervisor