HCC's Response to COVID-19
Check back here often for updates regarding Harford Community Church's response as the Coronavirus situation develops
June 10, 2020 Update
May 22, 2020 Update
Hello Harford Community Church,
Hope everyone is well, safe and you are sensing the presence of God everyday…
I am coming to you with an update on our next responses as a fellowship to the Covid 19 situation. Last week I mentioned we were going to meet with a group of leaders and others interested in discussing the implications of the recent lifting of the Stay-at-Home order and the suggestion by our governing officials that churches were free to open at 50% capacity. I invited any of you who desired to be on that team to meet with us. Our heart is to be open to you and to the move of God among us as we try to figure out next steps, balancing the need for health and safety with the spiritual, emotional and social needs we are experiencing. Given the official guidelines through Federal, State and Local officials, including CDC recommendations and outcomes from a counsel of faith leaders working with those leaders, our church leadership has determined that in person Sunday gatherings will be restricted to an outdoor public worship setting as the only viable option for the foreseeable future.
So, we had a zoom meeting a few evenings ago, and considered two questions:
- What questions would comprise a survey to assess HCC regular attenders experience with our online services, small groups and prayer conference calls and address our readiness for next steps.
- What would need to be in place in order to have an outdoor public worship event?
The meeting input has resulted in the survey I will address in a moment. The feedback about the challenges of launching any kind of outdoor periodic or regular public gathering at this time was extensive. The survey questions were shaped by part of that feedback and some particular values and our mission in mind.
- We are learning it is unrealistic to expect things in general to return to normal. There will be permanent changes coming out of all this.
- Because we value everyone, we do not want to create anything that will exclude someone, or some group from coming to a public gathering. Social distancing alone makes this goal incredibly challenging for assembly.
- We want to create confidence for all potential attenders that we are in reasonable compliance with official orders, requirements and appropriate health and safety protocols.
- We want to make sure God will be known for the right reasons and his reputation will rise in our community and not create confusion or questions with our behavior, attitudes or communications regarding our decisions and actions going forward.
- We are not in a hurry. We want to take our time and do things wisely and well. We do not want to create unnecessary risk for people for the sake of speed or by being unwisely reactive. We want to take care of you well during this process.
- We have not closed church. Our church is active in ministry and we are looking for ways to expand our impact during this time.
- Because we value unity, we want to learn from and with other churches in our area so we are seeking broader counsel and ways to serve together so we can responding to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.
Click Here to take the Survey
In order to make meaningful plans going forward, we’ve put together a survey to assess your experience with our online worship and online small group experiences and to ascertain your readiness for next steps.
Please keep in mind, unless things change, an outdoor service would be “all in”. At this time, there will be no children’s ministry and the playground will not be available. There is a possibility that we will have the same kind of tent available to us that we used for the Day to Remember – a 40x80 foot poleless variety. We would need to practice social distancing while assembled, and weather conditions could preclude us from meeting given social distancing requirements and attendance restrictions. Outdoor services may be periodic at the beginning moving to a more consistent schedule as official restrictions ease and other conditions improve.
I am asking each family to fill out the survey completely. You will note, at the beginning of the survey, you are asked to provide your family’s identity and how many people are represented by your responses. We are requiring this in order to be able to fill out the rest of the survey, not to be invasive, but to know whom and what the responses represent. We may be able to discern trends from certain demographic groups – like, how families with children are answering certain items, as compared to households without children, age and health related information, etc. Where applicable, please give us as much detail in the comment boxes as possible to aid our decision-making.
Again, our heart is to minister to and with you all safely and responsibly. Given all the various views about responses to the pandemic we can be divided by our responses or drawn deeper into Christ and his Church. Our intention is to see God working more deeply in us among us and through us in a spirit of unity during this time. We want to learn how the church will be different and more powerful on the other side of this. So let’s lean in, love each other well, and show our community we can be trusted to walk out our faith before them in a way that demonstrates wisdom, care, and compassion.
Survey Prayer: Father, as our fellowship responds to these questions, I pray you will fill our hearts with your grace for each other, for concern for our community, and with wisdom and discernment for our next steps. May we consider our responses, and word things with grace, so that those reading may see our heart for You and others. Slow us, give us patience not to run ahead of you. Draw us forward to you with a pace and in such a way that our next steps will accelerate your Kingdom come and the accomplishment of your will, in us, among us and through us. In the name of Jesus.
Thank you all so much for your input. Let’s hear from the Spirit together…
May 14, 2020 Update
Hi HCC Family,
As you probably heard yesterday, Governor Hogan stated religious services can reopen and operate indoors at up to 50% capacity, with a strong advisory to begin with outdoor services. The Governor advised as well that we start slowly and safely, and take extra precautions in line with disinfecting and mask wearing protocols in public situations. We were very surprised by that announcement (we figured we’d be limited to 10 people or less for quite some time).
The staff and Shepherd Leaders have had several conversations in past weeks in anticipation of a much later opening, realizing we needed to get ahead of any announcements. We put in orders for touchless hand sanitizer stations, masks and other supplies. And, of course, these are back ordered, as even several weeks ago folks were still trying to get reasonably priced, legitimate supplies. In order to produce our live streaming capabilities away from the building we’ve had to disassemble significant amounts of equipment and move it to homes in order to be able to record, receive, mix, format and send the video content each week. Normal worship team schedules, practices and preparation have been radically different. And the social distancing requirements yet in place make reopening a significant challenge.
So, we wanted to get to everyone as soon as possible with some thoughts about moving forward and help set some expectations and eliminate frustrations. There are significant issues to manage as we consider reopening for larger crowds, as you can imagine. We are suggesting a several Step Process for Reopening.
Step One: Moving quickly to establish protocols for use of the Fellowship Hall and Family Bathroom to allow for Small Groups and AA meetings as soon as possible.
Step Two – Get staff back working in the space in some capacity. We will need to transition equipment and some or all staff work back to the building at some point. When, how, logistics.
Step Three: Assemble a group to assist the staff and Shepherd Leaders in planning for reopening. If you are interested in being a part of a Reopen Team, contact the church office at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-734-0601. We want to get input and assemble sub teams to look into:
- Setting cleaning and disinfecting standards and oversight.
- Procuring needed supplies
- Indoor seating capacity and social distancing set up, overflow space preparations, contact tracing requirements, attendance, potential seating reservation system.
- Outdoor service options, needs, schedule, playground restrictions.
- Discussing what we can and can’t do: (ie. Communion, Coffee and Connection, Bathroom use, etc.)
- How to handle our children and teens (we have very small meeting spaces and must still keep social distance).
- How and what to communicate to others who use our building (AA, DSS, OFH).
Step 4 – As soon as possible, move from prerecorded services, to live services on Sunday mornings produced by our worship, tech and teaching teams and live streamed to our folks without congregation attendance.
Step 5 – Plan a reopening outdoor service to celebrate God together as soon as is feasible, recognizing we will still need to have live streaming capacity for a while.As you can see there are many things to work out along the way, but it is very encouraging that we are on the road to reopening for Sundays and other ministry needs. Again, your leadership is asking for patience as we do our best to follow the guidelines and Phase 1 protocols to insure your safety and all those who may soon be a part of HCC in more public ways. We want to continue to be a great example to our community of caring and cooperation. Please let us know if you want to be a part of the planning and decision making team for reopening. Looking forward to seeing you soon.
May 12, 2020 Update
- It was so encouraging to hear all the kids bringing their Mother’s Day tributes to their moms.
- To see Mike Chavis, Avery, Adam, Greg and Jordan, and Noel and her crew, Pastor Jeff, and all the worship team reading scriptures, to see Linda McCully open the service, do announcements, different folks leading communion – sharing stories of how they have been seeing God move in their lives, and how they’ve been challenged during the pandemic. Pastor Jeff and Nikki, Greg bringing messages, updates, prayer needs, and great videos, pictures of the congregation doing encouraging drive bys.
- And then there’s all the behind the scenes things still happening like fixing the parsonage – Now Brandon house roof leak, finding and replacing a new washing machine for the Brandon house – thanks Greg.
- Laurel Lagan continues to put our visuals together, creating message theme slides, our front banners by the street, slides for other uses. Paul Chan putting together some of our worship slides.
- Edward Van Landeghem working on a joint worship team project.
- We are zoom meeting with staff weekly, with Home Groups and Small Groups. Some of you are meeting offsite away from your homes in parking lots and parks, just to be able say hi from your cars or in lawn chairs to stay sane and connected at a social distance.
- We had our first all Church game night. I was on with my family and had a great time – thanks to Ryan and Larissa Arist who hosted the event on Zoom.
- We’ve had great Zoom Youth Groups continue to meet Sunday evenings and Tuesday and Wednesday evenings too.
- And our Kids Ministry team delivered or mailed packets to all the kids on our roster over the past several weeks to keep our children engaged in learning about the Bible and God’s love.
April 29, 2020 Update
Pastor Greg here. I hope you are all still hanging in there during this prolonged quarantine. If you are like me, the walls seem to be a little closer each week, and the desire to get out and do something, anything, outside of our home is pretty intense!
So, I am shooting this video from my backyard before the rain comes again this evening.
I hope you all enjoyed sharing time with Nikki Lerner on Sunday sharing about persistence and leaving us with the question, How far are we willing to go to pursue Jesus and the promises he has in store for us? I know I have been chewing on that question a lot over the past few days. Thanks again Nikki for sharing your gifts with us.
Well I wanted to update you on a few things happening around HCC this week.
First, we want to pass on our condolences to Kim Dunkin on the passing of her father, and to the Stutelberg family and the passing of Darlene’s nephew Chuck, their great niece Sydney’s father. Our hearts and prayers go out to you during these difficult times. Please do not hesitate to reach out to them with a card or an email.
This Sunday Pastor Allan will be starting a new teaching series and to help him with this, he is asking us to shoot a very short 15-20 second video or send in a written email response answering the following question:
"Because of the pandemic I am uncertain about ..."
So we would love to hear what you are uncertain about. Remember this could be serious, or it could be funny! Just send your emails to email@example.com and if you have a video, just email me and I will send you an upload link.
Believe it or not, Mother’s day is just around the corner, and the “CrossWalk” team wants to help celebrate Mother’s Day! So Parents, please have your children check out the link below to watch a video led by Eva Davis. The kids will be creating an easy Mother’s Day activity to help celebrate mom on her special day! Activity Link
During our staff meeting we have been looking for opportunities that we can use our building to serve during this pandemic. We are exploring the possibility of hosting a Red Cross blood drive at our building in the near future, but we thought it would be helpful to see if we had enough interest from our own HCC family to have a good jump on donations. I have included a link to a survey via a google form. We would like you to fill that out so that we have a better understanding of whether or not we should move forward with locking in a date.
Blood Drive Survey Form
One last thing before I go, this Friday, May 1st at 7pm, Ryan Arist is hosting the first ZOOM HCC game night with a Hawaiian theme. There will be games for families, singles, anyone whoever, everybody is invited. You can join the meeting by clicking on the link provided below
Family Fun Night Zoom Meeting Meeting at https://zoom.us/j/93013995848 and the Meeting ID: 930 1399 5848.
For more information, contact Ryan Arist at firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, that’s about all for this week, Don’t forget to call in and join our Prayer conference call each Thursday at 7pm. It’s a great time to come together and pray.
I look forward to worshiping with you online this Sunday at 10am.
Hope you have a great rest of your week!
April 7, 2020 Update
Hi HCC Family,
Hope you have been enjoying the nice weather the past few days! So nice to able to step outside in the yard and soak in a little sunshine over our quarantined bodies! Well I hope you were able to tune in to our 10 am service on Sunday. Reports were that the stream seemed to go pretty well and only a few minor buffering moments. If you didn’t have the opportunity to watch live, the service is uploaded and available on demand on our website. Just click on Watch and you will be able to watch the service in its entirety.
Just a few troubleshooting notes, I am starting to broadcast the livestream a few minutes early each Sunday to allow folks to tune in and make sure everything is working ok. Once I start the livestream, you will see a 5-minute countdown video will begin playing. If you can’t see that video or hear it, try refreshing your screen. By default, when the sermon.net media player comes on, the default setting has the audio muted. If you don’t hear the audio, just click on the little speaker Icon on the bottom right of your media player.
This week the live chat worked a little better. Sermon.net is continuing to work on that feature so that it can handle the increased load.
A special thanks to everyone who has been working behind the scenes to put together our Sunday Experiences. It definitely is a team effort!
It’s hard to believe that we are only a few days away from Easter Sunday! I’m sure all of us can say that this has been the most unique Lenten season that we have ever experienced, right?
As we have been putting together the elements for this week, we thought wouldn’t it be cool if we could see many of the members of our church family on Easter Sunday. So we are asking as many of you as possible to send in a recent selfie picture, or a family quarantine picture that we can make a family slide show that we can share as part of our Sunday live celebration. All you need to do is take the picture on your phone and either email it to me at email@example.com or if you have my cell number you can text it to me. If you can do it by Thursday afternoon that would be fantastic! And don’t forget to keep shooting those videos. After you do just email me that you have a video, and I’ll send you a personal upload invitation.
Some other good news is that we were able to contact our mortgage lender and they are going to defer our church mortgage payment for May, June, and July. That is just so amazing. We are also looking into some of the government grants and relief programs that churches now qualify for during this challenging time. So we will keep you updated on those things if and when they progress.
We also want to share the latest update on Dave DiCarlo. News from his wife Susan is that David is now out of the ICU. He is weak and they are all very anxious for him to come home. So we are praying for peace and patience as they wait for the time when they can all be reunited. Dave is on the long road to recovery, and we are so thankful that he is alive! Thank you everyone for your prayers.
Don’t forget if you need anything or if you have a prayer need please don’t hesitate to contact Pastor Allan or myself by shooting us an email at Allang@harfordcommunity.org and firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 31, 2020 Update
Good Morning HCC Family,
Hello from Lutherville. I hope you are all doing well. I think today is Tuesday, it’s hard to keep track these days, right? Wow, what an amazing time we are living in right now. At the beginning of this year, I don’t think any of us could have ever imagined that we would be facing this health crisis. A lot has changed and continues to change by the minute. It’s pretty wild. Well, I wanted to let you know that I am doing great, and Lorraine and our girls are all healthy too. Everyone, either working or taking classes online. I personally, want to thank you all so much for all of your thoughts and prayers over the last couple of weeks. I so appreciated the calls and text messages checking in on us.
Well, hopefully you had a chance to tune in and live stream our 10AM worship celebration on Sunday. It seemed that our stream provider fixed the stability issue that we experienced last Sunday. Feedback about the service was pretty encouraging. Thanks again for continuing to hang in there with us as each week we continue to make adjustments and improvements in our Sunday live stream experience. This past week we tried adding a live chat feature which would enable us to connect and check in during the broadcast. This chat feature was set to go live only during the live broadcasting. Of course we tested this a couple times throughout the week, and it worked fine. Surprise surprise, once we started the stream on Sunday it totally stopped working. I contacted the stream provider immediately during the stream, and in almost seconds, the tech support team at sermon.net responded back to me and told me that the chat feature had become unstable due to the heavy load, much like the load issue they repaired last week with the broadcast. They reassured me that they would be putting extra effort into fixing the issue for this coming Sunday. So we will try it again, and hopefully it will work and give us an added opportunity to check in, share comments, with Pastor Allan who will be moderating the chat.
Just remember that if for some reason the sermon.net stream does not work, or has issues, you can always switch to our Youtube channel. This stream channel is totally separate from our Sermon.net stream. The Youtube feed will not have the live chat feature, and as always, you can always watch or download the message on our
Looking ahead at the upcoming weeks, we would like to hear and see some encouraging stories from all of you. What has God been doing in us, among us, and through us as families, as neighbors, as citizens. In order to try and capture this, we would like you and/or your family to creating short 2-3 minute max encouraging videos that we might use during our live stream on Sundays. Most of us have a smart phone, with video recording capabilities. So I would like you to shoot a brief video and then upload it to a shared google drive folder. Please know that with your upload of your video, you would be giving us permission to share it via the web, and during our live Sunday stream. Please note that when shooting these videos, do not share any information that you would not want shared publicly, and please use discretion when sharing personal information. The idea is to have opportunities for all of us to see and experience what God has been doing in the lives of each other during this quarantine. This might be a good project for your children, teens, or the whole family to do together. After shooting your video on your phone you can upload it to this shared google drive folder https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ToktkfzQatn-MNrunNpsio8oIpzeqOW_?usp=sharing
Also if you know of anyone who is not receiving these email updates please have them send me their contact information so that I can add them to our constant contact database.
Friends we are going to get through this. Let’s continue to draw closer to God, and closer to each other and continue to love each other enough to stay home and save lives.
I miss seeing you all in person, and I look forward to receiving some short videos very soon.
May God bless you all,
March 24, 2020 Update
Praying you all are doing well in our new normal. So many adjustments have been happening. There is an elevated Fear of Missing Out these days, news reports, latest restrictions, the implications on our jobs and families, and travel and the access to goods and services. We are having ample opportunities to practice our faith, model good responses to our leaders, and look for ways to lighten the load of those in our households and neighborhoods.
I want to thank Noel and her family and Katie and Jesse for pulling together a wonderful worship set for us last Sunday.
We are grateful that Pastor Greg is feeling a bit better, though he is still struggling with some symptoms of a cold or flu. I’ve been in contact with Dave DiCarlo, the person in our fellowship with the Corona Virus. He is doing better each day, Praise God, but still needs prayers and encouragement. Pray for protection for his family living under the same roof trying to keep their distance.
We have pulled several pieces of equipment from the Sanctuary streaming capabilities and moved them to Pastor Greg’s house.
We will be moving our prayer time to Thursday evenings because we have a Home Group that meets Wednesdays and they will be meeting online during the call time. So please be aware we are shifting to Thursday evenings at 7:00pm. The conference call number is 267-930-4000 – and the access code is 726-797-105. We will ask that no one use our church conference call number at the time except for the prayer call please.
Our Small Groups are figuring out ways to connect, using Zoom, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google hangouts and our conference call number. 18 of our teens and youth ministry team met on Zoom this past Sunday afternoon. If you have a teen, please try to connect with Ryan and the team for how to get connected with everyone.
Other small groups are using the conference call number for their gatherings. Please let me know by email if you are using the conference call number and what day and time, so we can prevent conflicts. We will send out a list of those using the number so there will be no conflicts as only one group can get on at a time.
Please know that our office and the entire church building is shut down right now. The heat has been turned way back and bear minimum systems are running. We are trying to save money any way we can. If you need to get us for something please use Allan or Greg’s email addresses. Greg@harfordcommunity.org or mine which is Allang@harfordcommunity.org.
If you do not have Right Now Media access, please let us know. RightNow Media is like Netflix for Bible Study and Small Group and Devotional material. It also has extensive videos for children and teens. If you are looking for something for morning devotions with your kids – it has hundreds of options. We can send you a link to get on to our church account and you will have full access to all the material.
We will be sending out information by Friday on how to access the next Sunday worship and message for March 29. We will be taping and posting it ahead on our website, so you aren’t restricted to Sunday morning at 10:00am for watching. We know that the Sermon.net website crashed last Sunday due to an overwhelming use of their site by hundreds of churches around the country. We will be posting the message there through our website, but are also looking at Facebook and YouTube as direct links. We will let you know Friday about those options.
Noel is connecting with some of our other favorite worship leaders like Pastor Jeff Smith and Nikki Learner to see if they can record and send us some worship sets for upcoming Sundays.
We want to remind everyone to please continue your faithful giving during this time. If you haven’t signed up for online giving, we encourage you to do that, for its ease and convenience. You can just go to our website: www.Harfordcommunity.org and click on the Giving link and find ways to give either instantly or find sign up information for longer term giving options. As a reminder it is far less expensive for the church to process ACH giving from your bank account, than credit card giving – which costs over 2% of your gift. ACH direct debits from your checking account costs only .25 cents. So, if you can, use the ACH method either through your own bank or through the giving options through our website. If you have questions you can email Lesa Schepers our Financial Manager at email@example.com.And finally, please stay tuned, look for constant contact messages for further updates and changes. And if you have any needs please let our Pastors know. We will do all we can to respond and help and enlist others where we can.
March 18, 2020 Update
Another incredible week. New restrictions. New cases. Stock market upheaveal. Daily updates and changes, it is hard to keep up. We were in the throes of trying to decide building use issues and will conference call with our small group leaders in just a few minutes so we can update you all on the plans going forward with that before the day is out.
For our HCC related news:
Amidst all this as leaders with HCC we are also attempting to figure out a lot of this on the fly. And we are very grateful for your generous and gracious spirits as we navigate all this together.
And we are all attempting to figure out how to conduct our lives as we keep appropriate distance from others, sanitize everything and ourselves repeatedly and try to keep up with all the constant changes being announced by the hour.
Some of us are attempting to run businesses or being highly impacted by almost no work, or out of control new work demands depending on our industry.
Many of us are wondering about work options, trying to work from home, juggling kids, school, and all the other things that have to happen. It is a new day.
We know many of our college aged folk are back from their institutions gearing up for online classes and wondering about next steps in the job market and summer plans. Parents are trying to tackle the interesting challenges of having adult children back who have been used to a lot of independence – now incorporating them back into households while continuing to get up for work and having existing schedules and obligations.
We know those of you with children home for the week are trying to figure out some new rhythms, schooling needs and resources, ways to keep your children engaged in good things and not just screen time it 8 hours a day.
We will be doing another live stream service on Sunday morning with a skeletal crew (limit 10) in the building this coming Sunday at 10AM. We have received good feedback from last week so far about the experiences some of you had. And we will be sending a survey to you today to get feedback from all of you ( we hope) about how things were for you and your family or friends as you live streamed. We’d like to hear about sound quality and volume, the balance of the mix of instruments and voices, video quality, etc, and just how it was to participate remotely. (Keep in mind we have significant limitations with our technology, and we are constantly tweaking things to make it better. This will not sound or look like a multi-million dollar production. Please be kind with your responses!)
I know it can feel a little weird singing alone or in a small group when you are used to being surrounded by the sound of others, and feeling that spiritual synergy and dynamic in the room on Sundays. I appreciated Pastor Jeff’s encouragements to join in and follow the lead of on screen words and leaders, as we can connect together in these ways in real time across our region. You might be surprised to know that we had 67 unique Sermon.net participant connections (many of them with multiple people involved) and others watching with You Tube at the same time. People were tuned in from Toronto- Canada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and of, course Maryland and other places. We figure somewhere between 130 to 150 of us were connected together, singing, learning, taking communion, and fellowshipping in our own ways.
We hope you will join in again this coming Sunday morning. We also want to encourage you to continue reading the Lenten Devotional book – Rediscovering Jesus. It is a great daily connection many of us are doing together.
We will be hosting a conference call prayer gathering (Wednesday, Mar 18th) this evening from 7PM to 7;30PM. On your screen are the details for the call.
Conference Call number: 267-930-4000 - then access code 726-797-105 #
We’d like to suggest a couple of conference call courtesies.
Since we may have several participants, if you call in after the prayers actually begin, please DO NOT announce yourself.
And it would be helpful if you are just listening and not praying out loud, to put your phone on mute, so the rest of us do not hear all your background noise, particularly if you are using your speaker phone to hear.
If you have any prayer requests please send them to Allang@harfordcommunity.org prior to 6:45pm so we can assemble them. Please protect anyone’s identity you don’t want repeated over the air.
During the call Allan, will at times, invite others on the call to pray. So please participate when asked one at a time.
The Marriage Works conference has been canceled for this weekend. If you signed up for that you likely were informed by email, so be looking for that. It looks as though they will be trying to reschedule for June, depending on how things go. We will communicate about that when it comes around, so you won’t miss it.
Our classes scheduled for 201 on March 29 and 301 from April 19th are being rescheduled. We may attempt to do a group on line version of these in the future as we researching some of that in the next week or so.
During our message this coming Sunday we will be sharing some background about the way the Church of Jesus has responded to epidemics in its past history to see if there are some lessons we can learn there as well as the admonitions of scripture to serve those in need. We will also be sharing some practical ways you and your family can connect to some great resources for family time, devotions, Bible study and some things we are looking into to do small groups remotely. As I said at the outset, we are conference calling with our Small Group leaders later this morning and will be getting information to you about our decisions concerning meetings at our building and in homes.
Thanks to those of you who have been sending us links to resources and sharing your ideas. We are attempting to handle all the suggestions and shifting information we are getting from our officials. We will do all we can to keep you updated on matters related to HCC. We miss you, and look forward to a time to be back together - altogether. Have a blessed week. See you Sunday
March 14, 2020 Update
Hi HCC Family,
Wow, what an incredible last couple of weeks it has been. Things have been changing so rapidly, it's no secret we are all in uncharted territory with this COVID-19 outbreak.
- Economic markets are shuddering
- Pro and college and now high school sports have shut down
- Schools won't reopen until the earliest of March 30
- More and more colleges are sending home their students
large crowds and establish social distance in all public interaction situations. Fear and uncertainty are coming to many, and anxiety is high right now for many people, particularly our most vulnerable.
Last evening all of our church leadership got together on a conference call to discuss various issues going forward. We prayed, asking God for clarity, and a balanced and well-reasoned approach to keep us safe and connected. Varieties of perspectives were shared and what follows comes from that exchange.
You probably know from any quick view of the history of the church of Jesus, it has been during times of great social stress: wars, famine, sickness and plagues that the Church of Jesus Christ has shone most brightly. Like the world’s first responders, it been believers in Jesus who have run towards the needs, not retreated from them. And in a strange twist of timing, we at HCC have been considering over the past number of weeks the key Prevailing Question that drives our church
How is God going to be known – in us, among us and through us? What a time to raise the question in the present circumstances.
As we answer the question we want to balance the imperatives we have to continue to share the gospel, worship God, pray, give and serve, - consider what other churches are doing as they are listening to the Holy Spirit, - and cooperate with the mandates coming to us from those in authority in our community and country God has placed among us to lead and protect us.
Regarding the next several Sundays here’s is how things are going to go. We aren’t canceling our services, we are just moving them online for the next three Sundays in March.
- We want to continue to worship – but worship differently together. We are asking all our people to tune into a Live Streaming of our worship service tomorrow, March 15, at 10:00 AM. You can access it through our church website – Harford Community.org, on your phone, lap top, internet connected smart TV. Many of you have used our streaming system when on vacation, or when sick, or not able to get here. Now we have the chance to use it all together.
There will be no children or teen ministry groups meeting.We encourage you to prepare some communion items ahead of time, so we can share it together when that time comes during the service. And please participate with singing, giving, and other actions those who are leading may suggest. Our worship team and Pastor will be in our building this Sunday along with a few of our Shepherd Leaders and others who will be available to serve. We want to make sure that if a small number of you feel a deep need to come to the building tomorrow you are welcomed. If you need prayer or desire to be present with us, or to welcome any newcomers who might show up the doors will be open. But we will be creating the necessary social space, so the sanctuary seating will be limited.
- We have never had our entire church attempt to Live Stream at the same time, so this is a technology experiment with our web hosting service, which many other churches will be using in high volume through the next several weeks. We hope it goes well technically and we’d like to encourage everyone to participate, singing, communing together and hearing a message from God’s Word, together, just in different places, like a multisite church meeting in homes all across our area. Some of you may remember when we’ve done Home Group Sunday’s in the past, where we met in homes over the Christmas holidays a time or two.
- For Sundays March 22 and 29. Our intention is to have a full worship service prepared, taped and available online at 10:00AM. We will give further instructions about that next week.
- Next, we’d like to focus these next several weeks on ways we can be of service to one another and to others around us in our neighborhood and community. There will likely be opportunities to check in on an elderly neighbor, help volunteer taking meals to shut ins, be an encouragement to someone who is fearful, look out for someone needing help in a myriad of ways.
- During the next several weeks we’d like to offer a conference call prayer time on Wednesday evenings at 7:00PM. We will send out details with the number to call and ways you can send in prayer requests.
- We will be looking into ways of communicating through blogging, Facebook, and other methods to stay connected during these weeks. We will communicate early next week about small group meetings and other events that had been planned, so stay tuned.
- Our church office will remain open during these weeks, Monday through Thursday from 8:00AM to 4PM, until further notice. So please feel free to come by if you need something.
As much as this change may be unsettling in some ways for a while, I pray it can be exciting and energizing too. We will be learning much as we take this journey as a community and nation – and as a church body. As you know, we are not alone in this. God is still in control. In fact, isn’t it amazing how a microscopic virus can turn this sophisticated and self-reliant world upside down in the matter of a few weeks. Let’s be available to be used of God in great ways during this season. I pray the extra time you have with your school aged children will be special, memorable, and greatly blessed by God. Please let us know if you are experiencing financial hardship due to layoff or job issues during these days. We want to help where we can.
Remember, God calls us in his Word to cast our cares and anxieties on him, for he cares for us. Jesus said, “Trust in God, trust also in me”. Somehow, all of this is going to work together for our good as we love God and are called according to his purpose. Let’s use this unique time to be the church differently to make a difference.
Blessed to serve with you,
Pastor Allan and Pastor Greg