Great news! Our health officials who have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation have determined that it is safe for us to begin meeting this Sunday, May 31st. This news came to Mainers on Friday. On Sunday evening, our Leadership Team (Deacons and Staff) met and grappled with the question of ‘How may we open First Baptist in the safest way possible?’ We talked for a considerable amount of time, walked the building and considered everything we could think of.
Last week, we were hoping Maine would follow the lead of Massachusetts and allow a number of attendees based upon 40% capacity. They did not. Our governor’s office determined that no matter the size of the building, they will only allow a maximum of 50 people each service for now. We want to maintain a positive Christian testimony with our local officials and community. We understand what we do affects all of us in the congregation and in the city. We want to love our neighbors as ourselves.
It is important to me that you understand that I never looked at the situation of the church being closed as ‘We would go to church, even during a pandemic, if they would let us.’ President Trump or Governor Mills is not the head of the church. I am not the head of the church. Jesus Christ is the head of the church. He wants us to be wise and socially responsible. Also, this was never an issue of religious liberty for me. It was an issue of public health.
Bottom line. Scientists think it is safe for us to gather again. Because of Maine’s restrictions of 50 persons per service, we are changing our worship times to 9:00 am and 10:30 am. The auditorium will be roped off in such a way that First Service participants will sit on one side and Second Service participants will sit on other side. Therefore, you will sit in an area where people did not potentially spread germs in the service before you. We are placing tape between pews to not only socially distance horizontally, but also vertically.
Don’t forget, the CDC states that people from the same household may certainly sit together without consideration for socially distancing from each other. While you are enjoying the worship service, we don’t want you to feel that you have to wear a mask. But, if you want to, please do so. No one will judge you either way. However, as you are entering and exiting the service, please wear a mask. This is because it is more difficult to physically distance at the entrance and in the walkways. Yet, no more difficult than going to the grocery store. Between the services, we will clean the important areas.
Unfortunately, we will be unable to pick up anyone using the Van. Since all entrances except the front will be locked, parking will only be available in the front lot adjacent to the front doors. There will be no Sunday School for any age group or Children’s activities. Also, take note of the corded off areas inside the building including the gym, elevator, balcony and 2nd floor.
This Sunday’s 9:00 and 10:30 am services are an experiment. If we need to have more worship times, we are certainly willing to create more services. Our current thinking is that some will stay at home at the beginning. We totally understand that. We don’t want anyone to feel pressured into going to church, even if the doors are open. If, for any reason, you want to wait, please wait.
During the last weeks, several choice servants of the Lord worked very hard to maintain the church and bring you the worship services through television, radio, YouTube and clicking on an email. When you have the opportunity, please express your appreciation. Even though the building was closed, Bob Stinson continued to work hard to maintain the church by painting large areas. Also, every Thursday evening at 6:30, he recorded our services for television and YouTube.
Matt, Mara, Erica, and Kyle (drummer) sang to an empty auditorium because they were thinking of you and doing it for God’s glory. Many weeks, I sat there and just felt the tension leave my body as I soaked in their heart-felt songs. Seth Mishkin, Matt and Mara’s son, who had only been shadowing Richard Pierce in the radio room for a couple of weeks, took over the radio room which enabled us to continue this critical ministry. Mark Cowan, another priceless servant, did it the first couple of weeks.
Annette Sorensen continued faithfully in the office during the entire time. She is such a gift to FBC and me. Wanda Brawn worked countless hours in order for us to continuing feeding the needy in Portland every other Wednesday. At first, it was every Wednesday, but it became logistically impossible to maintain every week. Last, but certainly not least, Peter Sorensen was there every Thursday night running the difficult soundboard in order for all of it to be recorded. This is not to mention his coming over to assist Bob in painting the trim or the hundred other things he does for the Lord at FBC. Thank you priceless servants of the Lord. You do what you do to serve Jesus and we all are blessed because of you. Personally, I can’t thank you enough.
As you consider coming back to worship this Sunday, May 31st, please be patient with us. It could be a little awkward at the beginning. Just seeing you and being together again will be worth it!
[May 26, 2020]