UPDATE – JUNE 17
TFC Family and Friends,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:2–5) I love these introductory words from the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi, because it captures well the heart of this pastor and leader. He loves the church, he prays for them and blesses them for sharing in the Christ-exalting gospel movement of the day. He finds great joy in knowing them and sharing life in Jesus.
I too am filled with joy and gratitude as I think about and pray for you all in the body of Christ that is Trinity Fellowship. To live and serve the Lord with you is a unique privilege, and that partnership in the gospel that Paul speaks of is alive and continues in the local church. If you are reading this update it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask yourself, “Am I partnering in the gospel ministry of the church? Is my heart inclined to worship and the pursuit of fellowship and service in the church?” There is no shortage of struggles, temptations, fears, and distractions that keep us from the means of the grace that God has provided, but it is precisely in such times that we need His grace and assurance the most.
Praise God we are gathering again in the sanctuary for worship! Keeping some physical distance, wearing masks inside, and reducing the handling of common items has its challenges. However, it really is a small sacrifice and act of service to worship together, encourage one another, and remind each other that the church remains in the midst of so much change.
As of this update, the state has moved into “Phase 2” of the reopening Arkansas guidelines. This loosens some restrictions on fellowship and gathering indoors for other meetings (i.e. Christian education). The number of tests for COVID-19 in the state has increased significantly, which means the number of positive cases have also increased. Thankfully, the vast majority of these positive cases have come with little or no serious symptoms. Please continue to pray for those most affected by this illness, and for Governor Hutchinson and his advisors as pressure mounts to reopen the state even while the cases of the disease increase.
The Session of TFC is no less concerned for the physical and spiritual welfare of our church family and neighbors than in weeks past. We are considering the guidance for places of worship carefully, as well as the general response of the congregation to this guidance. These have not been easy decisions, and we thank you for your patience and discernment when gathering in a large group. Those of you who may not be feeling well, are more vulnerable, or work in places where there may be higher risk of exposure have served the rest of the body well. Thank you and we miss you! Just a reminder that the order of worship, sermon, and giving is all available on the church website.
Moving forward, the Session will continue to wear face masks while indoors for worship and in a spirit of unity we encourage the congregation to do the same. We are not communicating that masks are optional at this point, but if you choose not to wear a face mask indoors, we strongly encourage you to keep one with you when physical distancing is harder to maintain. Face masks will be available on the table in the entry way. Physical distancing, sanitization, and refraining from physical contact outside the family unit as much as reasonable remains the expectation. A little motto that I have adopted when outdoors is, “If you can’t keep the space, then cover your face.” The Session is hopeful that such a position will be the case indoors in the near future. We are assessing the effects of this response each week and will keep you informed.
It remains uncertain when we will begin Sunday school for all ages. We would like to finish the spring term over the summer, but it is looking more likely that classes will resume in the Fall. Bible studies and other small group or team meetings are encouraged to meet in person with appropriate physical distancing or using an online platform over the summer months. The small group ministry of the church (most commonly referred to as “MCGs”) will see some significant changes beginning in September and you can expect more information on that in August.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading a lengthy update. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to come to me or another member of the Session. We are listening, and we desire to be faithful in a place and time that looks very different than any of us could have imagined. In stranger and more fearful times than many of us have ever experienced, the words of Puritan Pastor John Flavel ring true, “There are hard texts in the works of God, as well as in the word of God. It is becoming for us to be reverent.”
The Lord is good and faithful. He is our Rock and Refuge. He is the One who keeps our lives and He will keep His church in the face of all adversity and evil.
Grace and peace in abundance,
UPDATE – APRIL 29
TFC family and friends,
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 106:1). Though we have not gathered in person for worship in almost a month a half, our God is good, and He is working in us for the glory of his name. I am so very grateful for each of you, and pray that the hope we have in the finished work of Christ alone has been and will continue to be an anchor for your soul. Reading and meditating on the Psalms these last few weeks has been an important reminder for me, and I trust for you as well, that we have an unshakable refuge and strength in this storm.
Let’s be encouraged and press on in the confidence of our God who is wisely and powerfully preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions in this pandemic. Here are the beautiful words that the Heidelberg Catechism uses to describe God’s providence and our response to it:
Q. 27 What do you understand by the providence of God?
A. God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.
Q. 28 What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?
A. We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love; for all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move.
The elders of TFC have been thinking over what it will look like for us to come back together again for worship and other group activities. We are adhering to the guidance of the Governor of Arkansas and trusted medical professionals as to when it would be appropriate to gather again, what mitigation policies we would like in place at the church, and what risk we are willing to accept.
We intend to follow the proposed phases for reopening that will slowly expand the number of people that can meet together with appropriate distancing and protective measures. The Session strongly believes that once the state can reasonably advise gatherings of 50 or less people, we will resume worship in the sanctuary. We will likely place some restrictions on the more common areas (i.e. fellowship hall, nursery, cry room etc.) in the first few weeks we come back together, but you can expect those to be minimal. We want to be wise, but we are also eager for God’s people to meet together again in worship, study, fellowship, and general care for one another.
The reopening phases are anticipated to begin next week for the state of Arkansas, so unfortunately, we will not be gathering for worship in the sanctuary on May 3. It is difficult to set a date, but it may be later in May or early June before we come together again. Thank you for your patience and faithful support of the church through your prayers, encouraging words, volunteer work and gifts. In God’s good providence this will pass, and as at all times we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Grace and peace in abundance,
UPDATE – MARCH 19
Dear TFC family and friends,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Prophet, Priest, and King is robed in majesty and worthy of all glory and honor and blessing! It is my prayer that you are running this race with great endurance, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior with each day that He gives. Now is a day of his compassion and patience, now is the day of salvation.
I have some important information to pass along. Based on much time in prayer, the personal perspectives of those we trust, and the general recommendations of both the medical community and government authorities, we have decided to suspend Sunday morning worship services for the next 3 weeks. Given the uncertainty of the situation surrounding the spread of COVID-19, it is difficult to put a time stamp on this suspension. We hope to gather again in the sanctuary for worship at 10:00 am on Easter Sunday morning, April 12th, but we will keep you informed through weekly correspondence. Suspending worship services also includes Sunday School and Prayer and Praise Services. Weekly Bible Studies may choose to continue meeting, postpone their gathering, or meet using a virtual space of some kind.
The assembly of the saints is a vital component of our life in Christ, which made this a difficult decision. We will miss gathering with each of you for prayer, fellowship, singing, and times of feasting from God’s Word and at His table. May the absence of these things make us all the more grateful for the blessing of God and His grace in giving them to us. We look forward with great anticipation to that Lord’s Day when we will assemble again, and even more so to the eternal Day of the Lord when we will rest and feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
We continue to pray for God’s mercy and for the many who are and will be affected by this virus. What is an inconvenience for us in many ways, is an important reminder of God’s sovereignty and providential care. We can take comfort and assurance through the words of the Psalmist, “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” (Psalm 33:18–22)
As more non-essential gatherings are canceled, and unnecessary contact avoided, we will keep you informed of our intentions as a local church through email, postings on our website, and personal messaging. You can expect more frequent phone calls and/or video messages from the church leadership simply to “check in”, encourage one another and spend time in prayer. We are also exploring what audio and visual options may be helpful to facilitate worship and study at home or in smaller groups.
The Lord bless you and keep you, and we thank you again for your prayers, patience and embodiment of Christ in this challenging time.
Grace and peace in abundance,
On behalf of the Session of TFC