To my brothers and sisters in Christ at Grace Chapel -
As I begin to write this to all of you, I struggle to put into words how our lives have been flipped upside down, how, in what seems to be in a blink of an eye, everything we experience as “normal” has changed. We have had to adapt how our children learn, change the way we go to work, and find new ways to socialize in a time of “social-distancing”. We have had to grieve the loss of loved ones alone, fight through loneliness, and redefine life, as we know it. Some have had circumstances harder than others, but we all remain impacted by the events of our world.
I want to remind you of these words that I shared over a month ago, words that continue to bring me great comfort, the words of Isaiah, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” We have a REAL and LIVING God that does not desert us when difficult times fall on us. Rather than leaving us alone, to fend for ourselves, He is the God that walks next to us in the good times, carries us when we are exhausted, and pulls us from the valley when life gets too difficult.
I want to thank you all for your continued prayers, patience, and understanding as we have and continue to navigate through these changing days. Romans 5:4-5 tells us, “…and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I am convinced, by the grace of God, that we will come through this stronger than ever - stronger in our faith, stronger in our witness of Jesus, and stronger in our relationships to each other.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been in communication with the Missouri District, pastors in Missouri, our circuit pastors, and our Board of Elders to formulate and finalize a plan that would allow us to begin worshipping together at Grace Chapel while following the guidelines set by St. Louis County officials and the guidelines suggested by the Missouri District. The plan that I outline below has been put together after much prayer, thought, and conversation. It is a gradual “re-opening” plan that has the health and safety of our people as top priority. If you are not comfortable attending worship services at this time, please know that it is OK and I would encourage you to continue to join us for worship online. While the dates stated below are our target dates, they are subject to change if it is determined that it is not safe to return to worshipping together.
Phase One (Weekends of May 23rd/24th, May 30th/31st, June 6th/7th)
Holy Communion, with a time of prayer and devotion for individuals and family units, will begin being offered on Saturday evenings from 4pm - 5:30pm and Sunday afternoons from 12:00pm – 1:30pm.
~ Individuals and family units are being asked to please sign up for a 10 minute time slot by following the link provided on the church website (www.gracechapelstl.org), emailing Pastor Nate directly (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by calling and leaving Pastor Nate a voicemail (314-868-3232 x213). Up-to-date availability will be available on the church website or via Pastor Nate. Please, no “walk-ins”. Please remain in your vehicle until it is your reserved time. Out of love and concern for everyone, we are asking that you wear a mask. Please also use the hand sanitizer located inside the main doors upon entering and exiting the building. Please know that precautions are being taken to assure a safe and healthy opportunity to gather.
We will continue to stream Sunday morning worship at 9:30am. The easiest way to connect is to go to our website www.gracechapelstl.org and click the “Livestream Worship” icon in the upper right-hand corner of the home screen. We also have DVD and audio CD copies of the service available. Please contact the church office to arrange mailings.
Phase Two (Weekends of June 13th/14th, June 20th/21st, June 27th/28th, July 4th/5th)
“In-person” worship resumes. Worship services will be offered at 4pm Saturday evening, 8am Sunday morning, and 9:30am Sunday morning. We will continue to stream Sunday morning worship at 9:30am.
~ Due to capacity restrictions set by St. Louis County and for the health and wellbeing of our church family, worshipper capacity has been limited to 40 people per service. This capacity allows us to be able to provide a safe worship experience by allowing us to maintain proper social distancing and allow for proper sanitation before and after worship services.
~ Individuals and family units are being asked to please sign up for their desired worship service by following the link provided on the church website (www.gracechapelstl.org), emailing Pastor Nate directly (email@example.com), or by calling and leaving Pastor Nate a voicemail (314-868-3232 x213). Up-to-date availability will be available on the church website or via Pastor Nate. In order for us to maintain capacity numbers, you must sign up for a service; please, no “walk-ins”. We are asking that you sign up each week; slots do not carry over from week to week.
~ Out of love and concern for everyone, we are asking that you wear a mask. Please also use the hand sanitizer located inside the main doors upon entering and exiting the building.
~ Please sit one family per pew. Pews have been taped off to allow proper social distancing.
~ Hymnals and pew bibles have been removed in order to aid in sanitation of the worship space. Service bulletins will be available in the pews for your use. At the end of the service, please take the bulletins home with you. Please do not dispose of them in the church building.
~ Please refrain from greeting one another via personal contact, i.e. hugs and handshakes.
As “In-person” worship resumes, Holy Communion will also begin to be offered during the worship service. When attending worship, please follow Pastor Nate’s instructions regarding how we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. Precautions are being put in place in order to protect the health and wellbeing of those worshipping.
As we begin to celebrate Holy Communion again within the worship service, Holy Communion on an individual basis will formally cease. If you are not comfortable being in worship and desire to continue to receive the Lord’s Supper, please arrange a time by emailing Pastor Nate directly (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by calling and leaving Pastor Nate a voicemail (314-868-3232 x213).
It is important to note that the guidelines set forth by St. Louis County and the recommendation of the Missouri District both encourage that in-person bible studies, Sunday school, social gatherings, etc. continue to be postponed until further notice. We will continue to follow that guideline. We will continue to gather for bible study online on Thursday mornings at 10am and Sunday mornings at 11am. I am continuing to develop other opportunities that we can continue to grow in God’s word together. More information on bible study opportunities can be found on the church website.
What do Phase Three and possibly Phase Four look like? The short answer is that this entire situation is fluid and ever changing. I pray that as we move past Phase Two we can continue to open up, resume worship, and have opportunities to be with each other. I would ask for your continued prayers as we continue to walk this path and monitor the situation in the weeks to come.
In closing, I want to encourage you by saying that I am continuing to hold all of you in my prayers. Cling to Christ; He is our strength, our hope, our support, and our ever-present help in times of trouble.
In His Grip,
Pastor Nate Ruback
“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7