The Psalmist boldly declared in Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” When the Psalmist penned those words, I am pretty sure that he was not finding himself coming out of a pandemic that had totally changed so much of his life. Yet, he (like us) knew how meaningful and special it was to gather together in a place of worship – a sanctuary to experience the grandeur and majesty of God. For over 100 days (as I write this to you), Hazelwood Baptist has not been able to meet physically together since March 15. We have “met together” in other ways albeit virtually through Facebook, Zoom meetings, texts, emails and other forms of communication. But the one component that we treasure the most – our “physical gathering” – has had to be placed on hold.
After much prayer and discussion, the Leadership Team and HBC Staff, along with consultation with our deacons and the input of our Safety/Security Team, have determined that HBC is now at the point where we can begin gradually to emerge out of physical isolation and begin the exciting process of “reopening” our facility. Out of an abundance of caution, we will be “reopening” the sanctuary only – beginning on Sunday, July 5. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some things for you to expect and various changes that will be in place in order for us to safely gather together.
Here are some practical pointers. We will only be entering and exiting the sanctuary through the main front door which will be propped open to eliminate the touching of door handles. Greeters will be stationed at the doorway and enthusiastically greet all that gather to worship. We will maintain a decorum of social distancing once inside the sanctuary by having rows of pews available for you while having other rows closed off – in order to provide healthy spacing. Sermon notes and announcements/reminders will be available for those entering the sanctuary. We will not be “passing offering plates” but will have beautiful hand-crafted offering boxes (thank you Roger Schultz) for you to share your tithes and offerings. We will have rest room facilities available for you - including a restroom in the foyer of the sanctuary as well as men’s and women’s rest rooms off the hallway from the sanctuary. We will be cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces before and after our gatherings. Hand sanitizer will be available for your use. We encourage the use of face masks and will have them available as needed. Once again, the sanctuary (and previously mentioned rest rooms) will be the only portion of our facility that will be accessible. The remainder of the HBC facility will remain closed. At this time, we will not be able to provide a nursery. We will also not be able to have a time of handshaking or hugging (I know – the pain is real!).
For the foreseeable future, we will only be gathering for our Sunday morning worship service. We hope to be able to soon reintroduce Sunday School as well as Wednesday night activities. We will not be able to have a choir at this time, but rather will be led by our Ensemble and soloists. We will continue to stream our worship service via Facebook Live. We can’t wait to see you. However, if you are not feeling well or you have been ill, please wait until you are healthy to rejoin us in the sanctuary.
Here is what we WILL have: a gathering of the most loving and Christ-like people that I have ever known. We will welcome new faces into our midst and continue to show the love of God in amazing ways. We will, once again, find strength in being with each other on an incredible journey. And I can hardly wait! )
I know that things will be different and there may be some who feel that we are being overly protective. But, my friend, I would rather err on being too protective through an abundance of caution than to flippantly “re-launch” without sufficient regard to health or safety. Thank you, in advance, for your understanding and your patience.
I look forward to seeing you on July 5 for our “soft” reopening and then on July 12 as we gather together and rededicate ourselves to the mission that God has called us to as we celebrate our 103rd Anniversary as the people of God known as Hazelwood Baptist!
As I close, please let me share a personal word with you. I want to commend you for everything that you have done in honoring Jesus Christ through this unprecedented time. You have done so through your financial giving, on-line worship, your prayers and support through your care and concern for each other. You have been such wonderful encouragers and have been the hands and the feet of Jesus in so many ways. I am grateful to God to be the pastor of such a compassionate, generous and faithful church.
You are loved! ________________________