November 19, 2020
Dear City Road Chapel family and friends,
Recently, at our Charge Conference meeting, I was asked about the future of in-person worship given the rise in COVID cases in Nashville, our state, and the nation. “Will we have to close worship?” I was asked. And, I answered as honestly as I could: “I simply don’t know.”
You may remember when the COVID epidemic first hit our city, Nashville created a phased reopening plan. Our Church Council decided at that time to wait to restart in-person worship when Nashville entered the Phase 3 status. After a false start in June (when Nashville entered Phase 3 for only a couple of weeks), we finally came back together in October when Nashville finally moved into Phase 3. We have met now for several Sundays in the Sanctuary, masked and distanced, averaging around 30 folks per week. I believe that we have taken the appropriate steps to try and keep all safe, yet there is always a risk when groups gather in an enclosed space.
As we have seen infection rates increase in the past several weeks, we have seen our city leaders do what they can to avoid rolling back to Phase 2 status. They believe that we have better information now about the causes of the disease and that with proper masking and distancing businesses, including churches, can remain open on a limited basis. Rather than returning to an earlier phase, the approach now is to tweak specific regulations in the current phase.
Personally, the rise in infections makes me nervous. We have seen church and community members deal with the disease, and at least one former member die from complications from the infection. Our hospitals are nearing capacity and the trend line doesn’t seem to be flattening.
The biggest concern for me, however, is Thanksgiving. From all indications, the greatest source of spread of the infection is through small family gatherings and interactions. With the coming holiday, we will see families come together for a great feast, but also an increased risk for sharing more than turkey. Folks will be coming together from other cities and states that have limited masking and uncontrolled outbreaks. While no one intentionally puts others at risk, the coming together of folks from all over (including children who have possibly been exposed at school) creates a greater opportunity for the spread of the disease.
Trust me, I hate missing out on these important holidays. Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday of all (and my cousin cooks an awesome turkey!). But, after much reflection, Mary and I will be doing a private Thanksgiving at home alone. Given my job of working with you all, I think it’s the safest course of action.
Now, I’m not asking you to give up your plans to gather with your family next week. You most likely wouldn’t listen to me if I did. I hope and pray that it’s a safe gathering, and that everyone remains safe.
However, what I am asking is that if you participate in a large family gathering, you consider delaying your return to worship for a couple of weeks. Most studies continue to suggest that folks can carry the disease for up to 14 days after infection, even if they have minimal or no symptoms. Waiting to gather with your church family would ensure that we avoid spreading germs from the family gathering to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Now I know, there are some who believe that the COVID outbreak is a political ploy, that the disease is no worse than the flu, and that we are making a big deal about nothing. However, I think our friend Judy Wilson, who has been battling the disease, has the best take on that. Recently, in a comment on a Facebook post, Judy wrote:
Having this horrible illness myself I realize that yes I too could die. This is very real, affects all people, and should be taken very seriously. Please people wear a mask. It could save your life or the life of someone you love.
So, will the increase in infections lead us to suspend in-person worship? That is a decision that will be made after much prayer and consideration by our Church Council. We will look at the best data and guidance we can get to make the most informed decision we can make. Our goal is to keep everyone as safe as possible, knowing that we are all called to take risks in bringing forth God’s kingdom, but not to be foolish in disregarding the wisdom we have at our disposal.
I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving, wherever and however that may happen. And in the midst of the great feast, raise a toast of thanks to our God, who loves us more than anything.
With Christ’s love,