Dear members and friends of Ballantyne Presbyterian Church,
Last Wednesday night, the session approved a plan to resume morning worship in the sanctuary on May 31, Lord willing. We are prayerfully optimistic that the spread of the virus will subside enough for the civil government to move both North Carolina and the city of Charlotte to “phase two” of the governor’s plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions on that date. While we are technically allowed to meet – outdoors unless that is “impossible” – under the terms of the most recent executive order, phase two will “allow gathering at houses of worship … at reduced capacity.”
We are choosing to resume Sunday morning worship only – no evenings, prayer meetings, Bible studies, youth group, or Sunday school in the church building– to communicate that worship is the most important thing we do as a local church. There are also practical considerations. For example, because current data shows that the virus can live on surfaces for up to three days, we would have to disinfect the surfaces between morning and evening services and other meetings at the church. At this time, we do not have an estimate for when the other activities will resume in person at the church.
To resume corporate worship on May 31, we will need to implement a number of changes to our previous patterns to reduce the risk of transmission. These include:
- Arranging for a deep cleaning of the church is accordance with government guidelines.
- Coordinating with our regular cleaner on any changes to her weekly procedures which will need to be made after the deep clean
- Physical rearrangement of the seating in the sanctuary to facilitate social distancing
- Plan for safely greeting worshipers and helping you find seats. This may involve entering and exiting the sanctuary through different doors.
- Purchasing and installing the necessary equipment to live stream our services for those who cannot or should not attend in person due to health concerns, or who simply do not feel comfortable returning on the 31st. We want everyone to come back only when they feel comfortable doing so. For some, this will be the 31st, Lord willing. For others it will be in subsequent weeks or months. No one should feel pressure from anyone else to start attending in person on a particular date, but rather, to adapt Paul’s words about giving to our current situation, “Each one must return to corporate worship as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or in response to pressure, for God loves a cheerful worshiper.” (adapted from Paul’s words about giving in 2 Corinthians 9:7).
There are many other things which we’ll have to work out. We covet your prayers and wisdom at this time. If you have any questions or concerns, please share them with your shepherding elder or any member of the session.
Finally, in his helpful new book, Coronavirus and Christ, John Piper gives us this exhortation:
What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us— graphically, painfully—that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus. This global pandemic takes away our freedom of movement, our business activity, and our face-to-face relations. It takes away our security and our comfort. And, in the end, it may take away our lives.
The reason God exposes us to such losses is to rouse us to rely on Christ. Or to put it another way, the reason he makes calamity the occasion for offering Christ to the world is that the supreme, all-satisfying greatness of Christ shines more brightly when Christ sustains joy in suffering.
The members of the session are reading this together and have purchased copies to distribute to our neighbors in Ballantyne. You may find it helpful, as I have, to understand some of what God is doing through this crisis, and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with your friends and family who do not yet know him. The book is available for download in print and as an audio book for free at https://www.desiringgod.
We love and miss each one of you and look forward to the day when we can all worship together as a family,