June 3, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
We have been apart since mid-March. It seems much longer. I suspect you join with me in saying you miss our weekly gathering to worship the Lord our God and to share our lives. But we know that God’s powerful presence is with us, uniting us, even in our season of separation.
In the letter I sent on March 18, 2020, I was hopeful we might be physically in worship by the end of March. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Nor were we able to gather on Easter. We have spent 11 Sundays and counting worshiping from home. Many are wondering, “When can we gather in person again? What will gathering look like?”
Over the last three months we have affirmed the church is not a building but the people of God loving in the way of Jesus. You are the church; therefore, the church is not “closed.” You have been encouraged to live for Christ through your phone calls, emails, texts and occasional social distancing visits. We are united wherever we are and we are called to be prayerfully prepared for what’s happening now and what’s ahead when this season of separation ends.
Our church session, the governing body, appointed a task force to review the latest and best materials regarding safe practices for churches. They read and reviewed several documents, met and discussed, and are united in the belief that we may slowly return to onsite activities. This is with a word of caution and an ongoing concern for the physical health of this faith community and south Alabama/northwest Florida.
Several publications recommended a stepped approach to returning, setting health standards (not calendar dates) to be met before moving from one step to the next. The task force recommendation to Session is a 4-step plan that Session approved this week. This plan shares what we know, what we reasonably expect, and how we will be guided in the decision-making about our return to in-person activity at Swift Church.
We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 12 “the body does not consist of one member but of many. … If one member suffers, all suffer together with it… .”
With that in mind, as Swift Church begins to resume public activities, please know that we will do so through a careful process of discussion and discernment, with an abundance of caution and concern for those who are most vulnerable, upon consideration of the best scientific knowledge at our disposal, in the spirit of constant prayer, and with full trust in the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. We may make mistakes along the way. There will surely be awkward moments as we adjust to new protocols and practices. There will be times of frustration, disappointment, and grief. We will have countless opportunities to exercise the spiritual gifts of patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
But there will also be blessings. There will be wonderful surprises, great celebrations, and moments of deep satisfaction. We will get to see glimpses of the new thing God is doing, even now. We will have opportunities to savor the spiritual gifts of love, joy, peace, generosity, and faithfulness.
Please carefully read “The 4 Steps To Return From a Season of Separation” [linked below]. Let us know what questions you have. There will be videos posted on Facebook and YouTube going into more detail about each step. Continue to pray for God’s work through you and others during this time. Think creatively of how to study, fellowship, and pray in the allowed settings.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
— Pastor Keith