Dear City Road Chapel family and friends,
As you have surely seen in the news, we are seeing an unprecedented spike in the number of COVID infections throughout the United States, including here in Tennessee and Nashville. This has led city leaders to impose restrictions on gathering sizes and bar/restaurant operations. But, due primarily to political concerns, the Health Department has left churches on their own in how they respond to the rising numbers in their communities.
Yesterday, our Bishop published guidance for churches in thinking about when we might need to suspend in-person worship based on the testing positivity rate. The bishop shared that medical professionals from the Church Health Center have said that churches need to suspend in-person worship when the positivity rate exceeds 5%.
While Tennessee and Nashville are better than other parts of the country, we currently have a statewide positivity rate of 16% and a Nashville positivity rate of almost 11%. The counties that border us have higher rates, running between 18 and 25%. And, the trendlines for all show that these numbers are rising.
Based on that information, I reached out to our Church Council (our elected leaders of the church) to think together about our in-person worship. I shared my concerns and the latest data available. The consensus among our council members is that we should suspend in-person worship until after the first of the year, or until community data demonstrates that our spike in infections is heading down rather than up.
Thus, we are suspending in-person worship effectively immediately. We believe that this is the best means of keeping all safe.
I should note that we are not the only United Methodist Church making this decision. As of today, Donelson Heights, Connections (Andrew Price, McKendree, West End, Rehobeth, and several others have suspended their services.
Please know that this was a difficult decision. This coming Sunday is the beginning of the Advent and Christmas season and we know how painful it is to not be coming together for worship in our Sanctuary. Yet, as John Wesley laid out in our General Rules, one of the tasks of discipleship is to do no harm. It’s not an easy task, but it is part of our calling to love one another sacrificially.
While we won’t be able to experience our beautiful sanctuary in person, we will be making every effort to try and make our online experience one that includes the beauty we all know and love. I want to thanks Ronald Davidson, Jim Nelly, Anita Bingaman, and Jerry Bingaman for coming in to decorate the sanctuary, and we will be making sure to record our services as much as possible in that space. We know it’s not the same, but it is our prayer that it will be a marker of hope for the day when we will be able to celebrate Advent and Christmas together again, hopefully next year.
If you have any questions about this decision, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May God be with you in a special way throughout this Thanksgiving weekend, and through the entire holiday season.