Greetings to my family at The Bridge Church,
We live in uncertain times, and the status quo of life seems to be changing on an almost hourly basis of late. Just seven days ago I was on Sabbatical, preparing for a busy upcoming six weeks of study, travel, and teaching—and today I’m back at work navigating what is the most surreal experience of my ministry career since the weekend our roof blew off in a spring storm in 2015.
Seven days ago we wrote you a letter encouraging caution and explaining how we would respond to the Covid-19 fears while continuing to gather for weekly worship—and today I’m here to tell you that meeting together is no longer a safe or responsible option in this climate of social distancing and self-isolation.
As a pastor, it grieves me deeply to cancel our in-person worship gatherings, but I know that while the church is an embodied gathering of the people of God here on earth, that in times of duress and crisis, the Holy Spirit can, and does, unite us together in ways that are not ideal, or normative. And I truly believe that this is one of those times. As such, it is with both a heavy and hopeful heart that I am announcing today that The Bridge Church will be suspending in-person worship gatherings for the next three Sundays.
Beginning with Sunday, March 22 we will be moving to an online-only service offering with opportunities for interaction through a number of digital platforms. On Friday with the weekly newsletter, you will receive a link to The Bridge Church YouTube channel where we will broadcast a Sunday morning service at the usual time of 10:30am. You can join us for worship from home on any device that can access YouTube. The service will include most of the normal elements of our Sunday morning gathering including singing, scripture, prayers of confession, and even lessons and activities for families with children from our Family Ministries department. Along the way you will be encouraged at different points to interact and connect with people in your church family. More information about that feature will be coming later this week. For the first week we will not be celebrating communion, but we have plans in place for how we can even share the table in future weeks if the situation persists.
For those of you in a small group, we have made provisions for your group to continue meeting as well during this time of isolation and social distancing. We have secured a license to a teleconferencing service called Zoom that will allow small group leaders to create a virtual meeting that can be easily accessed for free from computers, tablets, and smartphones. Even if you don’t have a modern device, there will be a voice-only line for you to be able to call-in to the meeting a participate from your landline. We will be communicating with your small group leaders this week about the technology and they will be in touch with you before your next group meeting.
We will also be sending all regular attendees an email this week with details about who your new flock elder is and the ways in which you can get in touch with them. Watch for that email Wednesday or Thursday and make sure you check your junk mail for any message coming from email@example.com you won’t want to miss out on important communications.
Next, since I am now back from Sabbatical (although in reduced capacity until April 1), I will be making myself available for online gatherings, prayer, and Q&A times through the same platform that the small groups will be using twice per week. The ongoing times are still to be determined and will be updated in subsequent communications, but the first meeting will be Thursday March 19 at 2:30pm.
Lastly, it should go without saying that just because the church will not be gathering in person does not mean that we can stop the spiritual discipline of giving. During the next few weeks there will be a number of options for those of you who don’t normally give through pre-authorized debit, or the church’s PushPay app online. Remember, at any time you can text the phrase TBCGIVES to the number 77977 to access our online secure giving portal using any Visa or Mastercard (including Visa debit cards). And beginning this week we are providing an option for you to give via interac e-transfer to the church directly by sending money to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that church is not a service that we pay for, but rather we give to the local church as an expression of worship toward God. If you are suffering financial hardship during this season due to a reduction or elimination of working hours as things are shutting down, we encourage you to take that into consideration as you calculate your giving. And if you find yourself in crisis as a result of what is happening in our world right now, please reach out to your flock elder or either of your pastors for help. The compassion fund is robust, and we want to care for you.
Thank you for your continued patience and understanding not only with the continually changing circumstances, but also with the abundance of communication that you will be receiving from us in the coming weeks. We know that it’s easy to be overwhelmed at a time like this but remember that we do not face these days alone. Jesus has given us his Spirit, and by that Spirit he has given us his Church. We are in this together, even as we are apart.