Change: Update from Tim 3-13-20 at 5:45PM
Dear All Saints Family,
After a significant amount of prayer and conversation our church leadership has decided to change course from what I announced yesterday. We now believe that it is in the best interests of our church and the larger community for us not to gather for worship on the following two Sundays, March 15 and 22. We are also suspending all campus activities until then.
What has changed since yesterday? In one sense nothing. Everything I said in my email yesterday is still true – Jesus is still with us in the midst of the COVID-19 storm. That is still our only ultimate hope and comfort in whatever crisis we face as Christians – because Jesus has endured the storm of the cross and been raised from the dead we need not (and must not!) fear anything in life or in death.
So, we are not cancelling gathered worship out of fear, but out of love, especially love for our neighbors. The COVID-19 virus presents a unique threat to older adults and those with underlying health conditions; we are seeking to love them, the most vulnerable among us, by cancelling worship – to love them as ourselves. We are also seeking to be part of the community and national effort to prevent our health care system and hospitals from being overwhelmed by sickness from this virus. As Christians we love our neighbors, our city, our nation, and our world and want to do everything possible to communicate that love – Christ’s love – to them, even if that means temporarily setting aside something as essential and precious to us as worship.
It is of the utmost importance that we still seek Christ and his means of grace in this time. To that end:
- There will still be an opportunity for you and your family and friends to worship with All Saints this Sunday and next at 10:00 AM. I and other All Saints staff members will live cast a version of All Saints’ normal Sunday liturgy. Please use this link and join us. I’ll be preaching from John 4 and the story of the Woman at the Well.
- The church staff is also working on creative ways to promote the use of All Saints 10 Spiritual Formation practices as individuals and families and in small groups during this time. Please take advantage of those as they become available.
- Please also reach out to one another and your neighbors during this time. Make phone calls, send text messages and emails, write letters, even gather in small groups if possible and appropriate. Pray for and with one another. Find other ways to follow Hebrews 10:24-25: “Let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
My dear friends, it is a joy and privilege to be your Senior Pastor. I will sincerely miss seeing your faces these next two Sundays. But I believe this decision is best during this unprecedented time. Never forget: you are not alone! The Lord is with his people always, throughout every storm.
A Note from Tim
We find ourselves today living in a historic time and dramatic moment. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) seems to be everywhere around us even if there aren’t yet any confirmed cases in Austin. And, understandably, many are afraid. Everyone should be concerned… and wise about how to live through this health crisis that our entire world now faces. Concerned, wise, but not afraid. That’s what our neighbors, our city, and our world need from us in this moment. They need to see that we believe Jesus is still (as always!) in the boat with us.
In Mark 4, we read the story of Jesus calming a storm at sea after having slept through the first part and been accused by his followers of not caring if they die. Other gospels also tell of this story, but I like Mark’s version best for this particular cultural moment. Mark’s gospel is the most dramatic and fast-paced. In chapter one Jesus is baptized and Mark says the heavens are “torn” open; then in chapter two several friends tear open the roof of a house to lower their paralyzed friend down to Jesus; many other healings happen in chapters one, two, and three with Mark rushing his readers from one event to the next using the word “immediately.” When we get to chapter 4 and Jesus’ words “Peace! Be still!” we’re already worn out and really need to hear Jesus speak and assure us that He is indeed still with us, sometimes so calmly that it seems like He’s sleeping.
That’s our greatest comfort in any time of crisis – that God the Son, who’s already conquered sin, death, darkness, and fear is always with His people. “Peace! Be still!” One of my greatest hopes and prayers right now is that All Saints will continue to be a community of spiritual calm within the midst of this current storm, despite how unique, unprecedented, and powerful it is or may become. It’s not the greatest storm Jesus has faced. He endured the cross. He will lead and carry us through this.
So, how are we, as a worshiping community, going to exercise appropriate concern and wisdom as we face COVID-19? Proverbs 11:14 says, “In an abundance of counselors there is safety.” I have spoken to numerous professionals and experts in various fields – health, education, government – as well as many other pastors around our city, state, and country. Our church leadership will continue to do so, recognizing that this coronavirus pandemic is a very fluid and fast-moving situation. For this Sunday we have decided to still gather for worship in one service at 10 AM, though we are making numerous adjustments in our usual practice to mitigate the possibility of transmitting this virus.
Also, this is the current decision for this Sunday only. As new developments and details emerge we may change or adjust our current decision and will communicate as directly as possible and as quickly as possible.
We all need to recognize that most people who contract COVID-19 will be just fine, but some people with certain underlying health conditions, and elderly people, are uniquely at risk. So, if you, or your family, are sick in any way, please stay home. Also, if you are in a high-risk category because of other health concerns or your age, please consult your doctor and follow the counsel of medical professionals. We will live-stream our entire worship service for those who stay home to “tune in” and still participate virtually.
If you decide to join us for worship, here are the adjustments you will notice:
- No Bread - Serving Communion "in one kind" - The teaching of the Church has always been that Communion received "in one kind" - either bread or wine - is still participation in full Communion. So for the time being, All Saints will serve only the wine/grape juice in individual cups at Communion.
- No water in the baptismal font.
- No Passed Offering Bowls - There will be an offering bowl available at the entrance to the Interim Sanctuary in which to place tithes & offerings on your way to worship.
- No offering stones at the entrance.
- No black sign-in pads.
- No Donuts or Bagels - We know this is a big one (especially for the kids). There will be pre-packaged breakfast bars and coffee available before and after worship.
- Greeters will welcome you with a smile and a wave and direct you to the bulletins, but will not be passing out bulletins.
- No "active" Passing of the Peace - No pressure to shake hands in order to be hospitable. At this time the most hospitable way to welcome others is with a smile and a wave.
- You may also notice the staff regularly wiping down and sanitizinghigh-traffic areas.
We’re still going to gather together for worship because the Lord Jesus is still in the boat with us, and we need to hear him speak and make his presence to us known. We are the Church. This is what we need. This is what we do. We first and foremost gather together to worship the King who slept not simply on a boat in a storm but in our death on the cross, and was raised from that deadly sleep to be with us and make himself known through us to a world that’s still, as always, in desperate need of him and his saving power. “Peace! Be Still!”
Find the most up-to-date information on the spread of Coronavirus in Texas from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
What you can do
- Pray for recovery for those who have the virus and for comfort for those who have lost loved ones. The Church is a praying people and it is our vocation as Christians to intercede for the world at all times, and in times like this in particular.
- Make use of the hand sanitizers and tissues available throughout the campus in the back of the Sanctuary, the Narthex, bookstore, Nursing Room, and main restrooms.
- If you or your child(ren) have symptoms of a cough, disease, or a fever within 24 hours, please stay home. If you are scheduled to volunteer, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to notify the staff to let us know you're not going to make it.
- Wash hands regularly and thoroughly. Hand sanitizer, while helpful, is not a substitute for hand-washing.
- During this time there is a lot of information circulating about the Coronavirus, which leads all us to ask questions, even the smallest of our saints. Children's author Sally Lloyd-Jones recently published a very helpful article on Top Tips on Talking to Children About Scary News that we recommend to all parents looking for help with this tough conversation.