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Coronavirus: What It Means for Sylvania

by | Mar 13, 2020 | Pastors’ Blog | 0 comments

New updates will be posted here as they are available. The updates are recorded in chronological order (most recent at the top).

Update from April 29, 2020

Sylvania Family & Friends,

I know with Governor Abbott’s recent announcement, you are all curious about when we will be getting together again “in person” for worship in the sanctuary at Sylvania Church. Well, we will all have to wait just a little longer.

Sylvania’s plan has always been to exercise “stay at home” and “social distancing” protocols from the original CDC recommendation of 8 weeks. This would have us coming back together on May 17. After discussing the current situation, the elders have decided to maintain our original “soft reopening” date of May 17.

This decision allows for three key things to happen. First, we get to see how things go related to infection rates during the Phase 1 Reopening Stage. Second, we will be able to gather good information about the best, safest practices for reopening, rather than rushing into something for which we are not prepared. Third, it allows us to describe in full detail all of the steps we will take to maintain safety and good health once we are able to return to worshipping together in the same physical space.

A few things I can share with you at this time. IF we are able to meet together on May 17, it will not be “business as usual.” The two biggest differences will be Sunday School and childcare. We will not have Sunday School (at least, not on site. Virtual options may still be available). We will not have childcare or Children’s Church. We will all be in the sanctuary together. A return to these things will occur at a later date.

One benefit that will come from all of this is the continuation of the Virtual Worship option. We will continue to have this available, now as a normative part of the Sylvania experience. For those who are at risk, sick, or concerned about the return to a social environment at the early stages, this will continue to be a sound and good option for you to use.

As May 17 approaches, we will continue to update you on our plans and procedures. We look forward to the day (whenever that is!) that we can all come back together, face to face, and worship the Lord as one body. Until that time, may we all continue to be patient, and faithfully endure the oddity of these days. May God’s grace, love, mercy, and peace shine down on us all.


Update from March 19, 2020

Sylvania Family and Friends,

The elders met last night and discussed what things need to look like for the next several weeks. Per the CDC recommendation, there is a suggested 8-week break from social gatherings larger than 50 people (one recommendation moved that number down to 10). So, what does this mean for Sylvania Church? We are planning, as of this email, to have “virtual church” for the full 8 weeks – which would have us gathering in person again on Sunday, May 17. This date is flexible and fluid; it hinges on the evaluation of material we receive from experts in the field over the course of the next several weeks. IF the gathering restriction is lifted sooner (we pray this is the case!), we will meet sooner. IF it is extended longer, we will extend ours as well.

What does all of this mean for the larger life of our church? Let’s look at each item in turn.

Corporate Worship

We will be using Facebook Live as our chief instrument for streaming our corporate worship services. Many of you have Facebook accounts and can log in and watch. If you have an account, you can also interact with the service through the chat option. Several of you do not have a Facebook account. You can still watch the service, live, through the link provided below. Sylvania’s Facebook account is set to allow even those without a personal Facebook account to watch our live streams. You can use this link to participate in these services: Facebook Live. Whether you watch the services live or at a later time, we would love for you to comment in the thread or on the post later. This can be our version of saying “good morning” during our virtual worship service.

The corporate worship services will also be recorded, like they were this past Sunday, for those unable to participate during the live stream. They will be available on the church website and loaded to the Sylvania YouTube Page. Our strong encouragement, however, is that if possible, we try and worship “together” during the live feed.

Small Groups, Sunday School, Wednesday Discipleship

The elders of Sylvania all agree that we need to strive to still have life on life around the Word. We will be reaching out to the teachers, leaders, and facilitators of these groups and encouraging them to contact you about “virtual meetings.” There are several free, online options that would make this work (Zoom, Skype, etc.). Even if it is sharing a few brief thoughts from the Word and a time of concentrated prayer for one another, the elders feel it is valuable for us to continue engaging one another in smaller group settings. We will strive to do this as soon as possible, hopefully within the next two weeks.

Giving

Many have asked about giving during this time. There are three main options you can use for this. First, you can use our online giving platform, which you can access here. Second, you can mail your gift to the church: 2801 SSE Loop 323 – Tyler, TX 75701. Third, you can bring them by the church office, if you happen to be out and about. We will still have people in and out of the office since we are a small staff and have few “walk-ins” during the week. I would recommend calling first (903-592-1591).

Communion

During this time, the elders also feel that it is important for us to continue participating in the Lord’s Table together. This is a bit tricky, given our current circumstances. However, we think it can be done. Because we are in the Passover season, most stores will have access to “unleavened” bread. Also, each of you should have easy access to grape juice or wine (I know, I know) …

During our time apart, we will take the elements together. The continuation of this activity will give a physical reminder of the spiritual truth: even though we may be separated by time and space, we are still one body in Christ.

Going Forward & Making the Most of The Opportunity

These unusual times call for unusual measures. Yet, we should praise God that this has taken place during our current technological era. We will still be able to participate in the Word and prayer, in fellowship, and care for each other. As we gain new information and insight, we will adjust whatever about this plan that needs adjusting. Please be diligent to continue checking your email and social media threads.

One last item: it has been brought to my attention that several people that normally are not part of our Sunday gathering either viewed the Facebook Live stream of our service or watched it after it was recorded. Let’s make the most of this opportunity. Many are part of congregations that do not have the same access (for whatever reason) to the use of technology in this way. Many are not active in any congregation and might be hesitant to come to a “traditional worship service.” Yet, they may be more than willing to participate in a “virtual worship service.” Let each of us “Conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Colossians 4:5).

 

Update from March 16, 2020

Sylvania Family and Friends,

First, I want to thank all those who made the “online church” experience this past Sunday a success. It was a blessing to still “gather,” even if it was at a distance!

Second, I know many of you have questions about what the next several weeks will look like for Sylvania Church. Here are some things to know:

  1. The elders are having our regular meeting tomorrow night. Most of our discussion will center around the COVID-19 concerns, the recommendations of the experts, and how that will impact our religious gatherings. Please pray for us as we seek the best course of action for the people of Sylvania Church.
  2. If the decision is made not to meet in larger groups for an extended period of time, we will use whatever technology we have at our disposal to continue to create community around the Word.
  3. We will also be discussing the impact these current concerns will have on our small group ministry. While it is true our small groups are well within the “safe number” for meeting, we also want to be mindful of those members that are 60+ (most at risk) and our younger children (those least capable of proper “social distancing”).

Third, if during this time you have any needs at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Kyle, or one of the elders. Even though these are unusual times, we do not want anyone to struggle or suffer without support. If there are physical needs, we as a church can still find a way to meet those. If there are spiritual needs, these can be met as well. Do not allow our absence in the sanctuary to be considered an absence from one another’s lives.

As we move forward, be encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:35, 38-39: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  (…) For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

Update from March 14, 2020

Sylvania family and friends,

As we have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation, we have made a consensus decision not to meet in the morning for corporate worship.

However, we will have the availability to worship together. We will be trying out a “technology option.” We will use Facebook live to stream the service at our regular time. Kyle (and a few musicians) will lead in song and I will preach. You can use this link (https://www.facebook.com/pg/SylvaniaChurch/posts/) to join us at our normal 10:20 time.

Please continue to watch for more updates as we look to make plans for next Sunday.

Also, continue to pray for one another, those infected, and those in leadership (both in the church and around the country).

 

Update from March 13, 2020

Sylvania Church Family,

We are carefully and closely monitoring the situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19). Like you, we take this very seriously and want to assure you our #1 priority is the safety and well-being of everyone who comes on our campus. We are also paying attention to recommendations from the CDC and local and state officials here in Texas.

What Won’t Change This Weekend or the Next (March 15)

  • As of now, our Sunday morning worship service at 10:20 AM will still take place.
  • Small groups will meet based on the wisdom and discretion of each group. This is a case by case decision. Keep in mind children’s inability to make a good practice of “social distancing.”

What Will Change This Weekend & the Next (March 15 & 22)

We will not have:

  1. Sunday School
  2. Children’s Church
  3. Childcare during the worship service
  4. Wednesday activities (evening or morning)

Looking to March 29

Right now, we intend for all regular activities to resume after a two-week break, but we will continue to monitor updates from the CDC, local, and state officials.

Here’s what you need to know when you come:

  • All our restrooms have plenty of soap and water. We should all follow the recommendation of washing our hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, which is one of the most effective ways to combat the spread of any virus.
  • We recommend fist bumps, elbow bumps, or just a gracious smile and wave right now.
  • We will not pass the offering plate. The ushers will be standing at the rear of the sanctuary to collect your offering as you leave.
  • During this time, we encourage you to consider using our online giving platform https://www.sylvaniachurch.com/give/

Here are some things you can do:

  • If you or another member of your family isn’t feeling well, please stay home.
  • If you are immuno-compromised (and/or over the age of 60), please consider staying home.
  • If one of your children isn’t feeling well, please keep them home until they are illness-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours.
  • Wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds, and avoid touching your face.
  • If you decide to stay home due to illness, please let your elder know. We want to be able to pray for you and minister to you.

Encouragement

We realize these are uncertain days for everyone, but one thing we are certain of, God is a Sovereign God and He is watching over us and will get us all through this (Psalm 37:25). The Word reminds us, “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). Encourage your unchurched friends and family members of all the above and feel free to bring them with you to Sylvania Church this Sunday.

***IF ANYTHING SHOULD CHANGE REGARDING THESE PLANS, WE WILL NOTIFY YOU AS QUICKLY AS WE CAN.

Pastor Phillip and the Elders

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