A New Masking Update
With the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant, the Spiritual Leadership Team (SLT) requests that masks be worn once again during and throughout worship services and while in the church building, whether you are vaccinated or not vaccinated. The SLT continues to follow recommendations from the Douglas County Health Department and the CDC.
A message from Pastor Matt re: the 5/26 Douglas County recommendations for masking, etc:
The current county recommendation is to remain masked and socially distanced when with those who have not been vaccinated, leaving an unhelpful level of ambiguity in our context. Knowing that we have some in our congregation who have not received a vaccine, especially children who cannot, and wanting to show Christian hospitality to those members of the church family, we are asking for a transitional approach.
We ask that you wear masks and remain socially distanced while in the building, and while moving from place to place, and especially when you are around children or persons you know to be unvaccinated. But if you are vaccinated, you are welcome to remove your mask when you are settled in your seat, or whenever you are outside.
Staff and worship leadership will continue to remain behind the Plexiglas barriers when we speak and sing.
Of course, you are more than welcome to continue to wear masks whenever you want, depending on your level of comfort. As we all try and figure out what is best for ourselves and our families, let Paul’s words in I Thessalonians be our guide: “be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to…encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them…rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
In-Person Church Orientation and How-tos
Beginning Sunday, May 2, we’ll have worship in the FBC building as well as online on YouTube! Watch this video to know what to expect.
In-Person Worship Start Date
On May 2, we will begin worshipping in-person in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. [UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: as of August 2021, we have two services, an in-person-only one at 8:38 a.m. and one that’s both in-person and livestreamed at 11:00 a.m.], and masks and social distancing will be observed at all times within the building. Several of the elements of worship will be amended or altered for safety.
Meanwhile, the service will continue to be livestreamed, as it has been over these last several months. If we reach a socially-distanced capacity in the sanctuary, we will overflow to the Judson Room, then to the narthex, and finally as needed to the Roger Williams Room (with the livestreamed service projected).
Finally, we will continue the status quo of offering Sunday school virtually, with a goal of Promotion Sunday in August for beginning a “hybrid” format of in-person and virtual participants. While the format and worship elements will be different, it will be wonderful to once again join one another in sanctuary worship on Sunday mornings!
In-person Worship Plan
The Spiritual Leadership Team (SLT) has created a plan for in-person worship to continue, which will guide our gathering in the coming months:
· Following Douglas County Health Department Guidelines. As we have done from the start of the pandemic, we will continue to follow guidelines of the local health department for recommendations of inside in-person guidelines. Once the county recommends gatherings of 100 persons or more, we will set a date for two weeks later (for logistical preparation and communication) to begin in-person worship in the sanctuary.
· What will worship look like? For the first few weeks/months once we begin worshipping inside in-person… [UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: as of August 2021, we have two services, an in-person-only one at 8:38 a.m. and one that’s both in-person and livestreamed at 11:00 a.m.] on Sundays, and ask in-person participants to observe social distancing and wear masks. The service will continue to be livestreamed, for those who wish to worship at home. We have been experimenting with plexiglass shields in the sanctuary for speakers/singers, who will be unmasked as they lead worship, but all other worshippers and tech crew will wear masks. If we run out of room in the sanctuary, due to social distancing protocol, overflow seating will be in the Roger Williams Room, where the service will be livestreamed. Congregational singing (with masks) will be included in the worship, but worship elements like passing of the peace and communion will be adjusted for safety. Oh, and bring your own coffee!
· What about other programming besides worship? A lot of our programming changes gears in the summer anyway, so instead of changing to a different model for a couple of weeks and then changing again, it makes sense to simply continue the status quo on those programs. Sunday school (for adults and young people) will continue virtually until the Fall, while Youth ABY will continue to meet Sunday afternoons in-person as they are currently. Chancel Choir will plan to start meeting in the Fall like normal. We will not start up Wednesday night activities this school year. Other virtual activities, such as the Two-Way, and occasional Lunch and Learn offerings, will remain virtual, as will meetings such as the SLT.
If you have questions about the plan, please contact Moderator Joanna Gillette or Pastor Matt. Meanwhile, continue to be in prayer for the safety of our community, and the safe return to in-person activities of our congregation.
After surveying the congregation again, the Spiritual Leadership Team determined that the responses show an unclear picture of how many would return to in-person worship. While some participants are more than ready, many still express concern about meeting in person, especially if congregational singing or other elements of worship return. Coupled with Douglas County’s recommendation to keep inside groups to 15 or fewer, the SLT elected to offer more special virtual worship opportunities but not return to in-person worship at this time.
During the summer months, FBC Spiritual Leadership Team sought the congregation’s input through a survey to gauge people’s comfort level with returning to in-person worship. The overall consensus of those who responded to the survey was that we should continue to meet virtually until further notice. The SLT continues to meet monthly, and will continue to evaluate the situation based on congregational input as well as developments surrounding COVID-19 in the Lawrence community.
First Baptist Family,
What’s next for worship at First Baptist? That question has been at the heart of meetings involving the Spiritual Leadership Team and Worship Ministry the last couple of weeks, as we determine the next steps for our worship in the midst of pandemic. After several long and difficult conversations, the leadership has determined that the most meaningful worship experience at this time is a continuation of our current virtual worship format, offering for the immediate future a worship service that is engaging and participatory online.
While we are not sure how long we will continue worshiping in this way, the Spiritual Leadership Team will be reaching out to members of the congregation via survey, soliciting feedback on what our timeline might look like as summer rolls into fall. Keep an eye out for that communication and plan to share with them your thoughts.
Here’s the invitation link to our 165th Birthday party on Zoom, complete with trivia, a pageant, and cake!
Grace and peace, Pastor Matt
The very evening after we released the 5/14 phase-in plan, Gov. Kelley issued an update extending the full phase-out date to no earlier than June 29. Therefore, FBC’s date for returning to in-person worship is now no earlier than July 1. (As before, this date is subject to change.)
Here’s the plan for phasing in FBC in-person worship in coming weeks and months. Watch the video below, where Pastor Matt talks about the coming weeks, discussions among folks on the Worship Team and Spiritual Leadership Team about next steps and when we might consider returning to in-person worship, and more.
You can also read this Phase-in Procedures letter.
Pastor Matt talks about a couple of new additions at the end of the virtual worship service on YouTube Premieres beginning this Sunday, 3/29. Notably, we’ll have “narthex time” after the virtual service ends to allow for post-service conversation (and, a bonus for those who didn’t toggle “autoplay next video” to off—it will keep YouTube from starting whatever it thinks is the next video you should watch!) Following that, at 12:30 p.m., we’ll have a virtual 2-way sermon discussion on Zoom for all who would like to participate. (Sign up here if you’d like to have the Zoom link sent to you.) Watch the video for more details.
New Ways to Be Church at FBC
A letter from Pastor Matt and Joanna Gillette, FBC Moderator
Dear First Baptist members and friends,
As you are no doubt keenly aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a drastic affect on the lives of individuals and families across the world. In an interim guideline issued by the CDC on March 16, the CDC recommended that “during the next 15 days (March 16–30, 2020), individuals and organizations should cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 10 people or more throughout the U.S.” Earlier recommendations called for a ban on gatherings of 50 or more for the next 8 weeks. In response to these recommendations, First Baptist Church plans to suspend all in-person events through May 10. Pastor Matt, Joanna Gillette (moderator) and the Spiritual Leadership Team (SLT) will continue to monitor the situation and adjust this plan as appropriate, following local and federal guidelines.
The leadership at FBC is committed to maintaining our community and continuing to provide vital services throughout this tumultuous time.
The ministry of our church is not cancelled. We will find new ways to Worship, Wonder, Welcome, and Work together.
A few practical reminders:
All community activities that typically take place in our building have been cancelled until further notice. This includes Boy Scouts, Music Together, PATH, Tai Chi, Fencing, etc. Many of our members have a key to the building. Please consider the building closed for now and do not plan to come and go as you normally would.
Remember that as the work of the church continues, so do church expenses. You can fulfill your pledge or make an offering via check (mailed to 1330 Kasold Drive, Lawrence, KS 66049), or use SimpleGive for online giving here on our church’s website. Of course, we understand some will need to alter their giving patterns, due to a change in income. For those who can take up the slack, please consider increasing giving as a way to support those in need.
Special thanks is due to the church staff for their dedication, creativity, and LOTS of extra hours to completely redesign the way we do church! If you have questions, comments, or concerns about the choices we have made, please contact Pastor Matt or Joanna directly.
With all of this being said, here are some new ways to continue to be church at First Baptist! It’s a lot of information, so we’ve broken it down into four sections based on the 4Ws model (Worship, Wonder, Welcome, Work).
A New Way to Worship
Beginning on Sunday, March 22, worship services will be conducted virtually (online) for as many weeks as possible. The worship service will be recorded during the week. Worship leaders may record their contributions in the sanctuary, or from another remote location. The service will be released at 10:45 on Sunday morning via YouTube Premieres. This technology offers a hybrid between a live-stream experience and a traditional YouTube video. Participants will watch the service at 10:45 a.m. and interact via chat functionality. An online bulletin will be available so you can print it or view it on a second device and follow along.
If you aren’t able to join us at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday morning, you can still watch the video any time. FBC already has a YouTube Channel where you can find an archive of sermons dating back to March of 2014. Visit https://youtube.com/LawrenceFirstBaptist to access all of our content (click the “Subscribe” button to get updates when new content is added.) Once we have a direct link for each week’s service, we’ll also share the link via Facebook, Twitter, and the COVID-19 page at www.firstbaptistlawrence.com/updates.
We also do a podcast each week, which can be found here on our website, on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, and also via an Amazon Alexa skill. If you have an Amazon Alexa device, enable our skill by saying, “Alexa, enable First Baptist Church Lawrence.” Then, to play a sermon, say, “Alexa, ask First Baptist Church Lawrence to play latest.” Beginning with the worship service on 3/22/2020, the same content from the video will be podcasted as audio only.
While some elements, such as the passing of the peace, may look quite different in this environment, you can expect to see many of the components of worship to which you are accustomed, including special music, prayer, scripture readings, and of course, a sermon. The Tech Team is continuing to evaluate additional options to enhance our virtual experience. The SLT, FBC Tech Team, and Digital Outreach Coordinator Susan Pauls will also be looking for ways to improve in the coming weeks. So, please be prepared for adjustments along the way as we attempt to respond to the needs of the congregation and engage in some creative worship planning.
A New Way to Wonder
Spiritual Formation is going to look a bit different in the weeks ahead. Many of the adult Sunday school classes will be meeting remotely via Zoom video conferencing. If you are already a regular attendee of an adult class, contact the church office if you need the Zoom link to your Sunday school class. If you are not a member of a class and are interested in trying one, contact the church office (email@example.com) for more information about attending a virtual class.
For children’s Sunday school, we have shared materials for families to work through together. An Illustrated Lent for Families: Reflections on Prayer invites families to focus intentionally on the spiritual discipline of prayer during the Lenten season. By exploring different Gospel passages of Jesus engaged in prayer, families will be encouraged to learn new ways to expand and enrich their experiences of prayer, individually, as a family, and in community. Families with children in 5th grade and younger should have received an email from the church office with a PDF that contains devotionals, activity pages, and color pages for you to print. If you do not have the ability to print at home, please contact the church office to request a printed copy. If you do not currently have a child enrolled in Sunday school, but wish to receive this resource, please contact the church office (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Plans regarding youth Sunday school and ABY are underway. Parents of youth should have received an email from Spiritual Formation Intern Dava Cooper regarding upcoming activities. If your youth is not currently enrolled and would like to be, please contact the church office for info. (email@example.com)
A New Way to Welcome
While we aren’t going to be chatting over coffee in the vestibule any time soon, there are still plenty of opportunities to make sure that members of our community feel welcome and connected. The Spiritual Leadership Team has decided to reboot the Shepherd ministry that some of you may remember from years ago. Each member of the SLT will be assigned a list of individuals and families to check in with. We’ll be checking in with you to see how you are doing and what you might need.
We have launched forms here on our website to give folks an opportunity to volunteer to help in various ways—from picking up groceries, to helping out with technology—and also to give folks a way to ask for assistance and prayer. The network of volunteers will be available to help serve the needs of our congregation.
If you would like to VOLUNTEER during these days, complete this form here on the church website. (The title of the page is “Be the Hands and Feet of Christ.”) There are a variety of ways to help while still maintaining a safe social distance.
If you NEED ASSISTANCE or PRAYER, please complete this form. (The title of the page is “Ask for Help.”)
We’ll be communicating with each other a lot more on social media. While we aren’t meeting in-person, our social presence might be the only welcome some people see. Please use your comments to demonstrate the true character of the FBC community and be kind to one another.
A New Way to Work
Some of the mission work we do together will become even more important in the days ahead. We expect our food pantry to serve even more families as the economic ramifications of this situation continue to develop. The FBC in-house food pantry will continue operations with modifications to limit contact with our patrons. The mobile food pantry distribution scheduled for March 28 will proceed (unless otherwise informed by Harvesters), but plans have been made to modify the distribution process to mitigate contact between volunteers and guests.
Other missions we participate in such as L.I.N.K. and Family Promise will also be impacted. Family Promise has suspended the congregation rotation program for now, hosting families in alternative locations. They continue to work with clients remotely through case managers and their Diversion program (helping families navigate the enormous complications and needs during this crisis). We’ll stay in communication with the organizations who manage these ministries to determine the safest course of action. L.I.N.K. continues to serve, but with a much different setup. Contact Neal Purvis for more info on L.I.N.K.
The Nicaragua mission trip has also been affected. Our host organization, AMOS, has suspended all incoming mission trips through the end of May; our church’s trip was planned for five days later, beginning June 5. Our hosts have been increasingly worried about what the effect of the virus will be on the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and the Nicaragua team expressed great concern that our trip could potentially cause more harm than good. Therefore, the team met and determined that the best course of action would be to postpone an in-person trip to 2022, and give the money already raised to our missionary partners at AMOS. If you would like to add to this donation, please use the SimpleGive online giving tool and select the Nicaragua drop down. Please make your donations by March 31. We want to express gratitude for all who participated in this endeavor: generous donors who helped give to the mission of Nicaragua, team leaders Dava Cooper and Matthew Johnston who led well, and team members prepared and ready to sacrifice their time and energy for this mission. Now, they make one final sacrifice of this long-awaited trip, so that the people of Nicaragua will be cared for and safe. Thanks to all, and please continue to pray for AMOS and their ministry in the days ahead.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to continue to be church at First Baptist!
The ministry of our church is not cancelled—only our physical presence together. Our congregation has faced nearly 165 years of trials and tribulations, including war, economic devastation, and societal upheaval. Yet, God remains faithful and we as God’s people remain faithful. May this chapter not be a story of despair, but one of hope in the power of the Gospel to prevail in all times and places!
Grace and peace,
Joanna Gillette, Moderator
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
In the midst of what is easily the most significant worldwide pandemic that any of us have seen in our lifetimes, this reminder from Paul is timely and powerful. These words from 2 Timothy 1.7 guided us in worship this past Sunday, where a few dozen gathered at the sanctuary with significant social distancing practices in place. Others have participated in worship online in the hours since (find the entire 3/15/2020 service here). All members of our First Baptist family are facing this threat, separately and together. It has already impacted the ways that we can be together as a church, and it will continue to do so in more extraordinary ways. The CDC has recommended that organizations cancel events with 50 members or more, a recommendation that will radically change the way that we practice our faith.
And yet, not even this historic worldwide threat will keep us from being church.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. This means that we will have to practice our faith and our community in different ways, but it does not mean that we stop being First Baptist together! This Wednesday evening, the Spiritual Leadership Team will meet (remotely) in order to discuss and pray about our faith practice in these days. We will talk about what this recommendation means for our worship, our spiritual formation, our care, and our service. Please pray for these leaders as they discern.
Please stay tuned here on this page for important updates with the latest information as we continue to discern together what next steps look like. And please continue your shared faith practices that make us who we are: prayer for one another and the world, financial giving so that the work of the church can continue, and care of our FBC family as you call and check up on church friends or members of your Sunday school class. We want to make sure that no one falls through the cracks during these days. As Emily Raymond reminded us in worship on Sunday, there are those who may feel left out in the cold during these days; let’s all do our part to reach out with the warmth of Gospel love.
Some of the most powerful words shared on Sunday morning were those of Rev. Lee Carlson, who ended his testimony of trust with this Haiku poem of his own creation. May it be a good news reminder of God’s love to us all during these days.
When life tumbles inRev. Lee Carlson
Though I fall from God’s right hand
I’m caught by His left.
Due to health concerns stemming from the potential of an COVID-19 outbreak in Lawrence, and in conjunction with the CDC’s recommendations for faith community gatherings prior to an outbreak in the community,* First Baptist will be amending our schedule for the next several days. Here’s a rundown of what is coming up:
Sunday morning, 3/15
No 8:30 service
No Sunday school classes (children, youth, or adult)
10:45 service will be conducted as planned, with amendments for safety.** Please decide if you are healthy and low-risk enough to attend; we understand if you choose to opt out.
Sunday evening, 3/15
No American Baptist Youth
No Lunch and Learn
No Wednesday evening activities, including the meal, Two-Way, youth and young adult groups, or Sacred Music Academy
This Wednesday evening (3/18), the Spiritual Leadership Team will be meeting to discuss next steps and a long term plan. That meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. (as always, all members are welcome). We should know more following that conversation about next steps and long term plans.
A note from the FBC finance ministry: To keep on track with your financial stewardship giving, you can use SimpleGive for online donations, or mail your check to the office.
Thank you for your patience as we work out a faithful and wise response to this potential outbreak. If you have questions, concerns, or simply need to talk in the middle of some tough and trying times, please feel free to contact Pastor Matt.
*The following is the CDC’s website page regarding resources for community and faith groups, and has guided our decisions and amendments to program and worship: https://www.cdc.gov/…/20…/community/organizations/index.html
**The worship service will be amended due to the changing context, including a break from the Lenten sermon series for a special message from Pastor Matt: “A Spirit of Fear.” For those unable to attend, stay tuned later on Sunday to the church website for a digital version of the service.