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A COVID-19 Wake Up Call

Hey Strong Tower Church,

 Our leadership team met this morning to discuss our best course of action for the next two weeks regarding in-person gatherings.  After much discussion and prayer, we have decided out of an abundance of caution to go back to online services only at both campuses for Sunday, June 28th and July 5th.

Part of our mission in sharing the love of Jesus, means doing our best to protect the health of each person who calls Strong Tower Church home. We will continue to monitor the situation over the next two weeks in Westmoreland and Lafayette, and will plan on being back together as soon as possible.

We appreciate your prayers and understanding during this difficult time, and look forward to worshipping with you online this Sunday, June 28th at 10am.

And just like that we were back to online services only.

As many of you know I took a hiatus from writing once this whole pandemic started.

I didn’t have any idea of what advice to give, and you didn’t have time to listen anyway.

I’m not sure that much has changed since then, but I thought it might be helpful to some to share what we’re currently dealing with, in case you find yourself in a similar situation, or perhaps so you can avoid getting into the same situation.

Like most of you we went to online only services sometime in mid March. It went well for several weeks, but after Easter we started to see less and less people watching each week.

We tried to do online groups and other things to keep people engaged, but it just doesn’t compare to meeting in person.

So, as our state started to loosen restrictions on businesses and restaurants, we started to put a plan in place to get back to in person services.

We reopened our buildings, we have two campuses, on Sunday, June 14th which was later than most other churches in our area.

At the time, we really hadn’t heard about anyone having the virus in our area. There were cases, but they were very rare, and the symptoms seemed to be pretty mild for those we heard about.

We took precautions including social distancing, hand sanitizing, no touching, etc.

We also offered masks for those who wanted them, but no one wanted them. It seemed unnecessary at the time.

And that first Sunday back went better than we expected. Almost 80% of people came back, and it really felt great. We had some new people show up for the very first time, someone signed up to begin serving, and another asked when she could be baptized.

Our staff breathed a collective sigh of relief, and the next day I went on a ten day vacation.

On day nine of my vacation, I received a text that said “We have someone who tested positive for COVID-19 that attended and served this past Sunday.”

Our team worked quickly to contact everyone who was in close contact with the person, and we notified the rest of our church through social media and email.

Upon returning from vacation and hearing more details about who the person had been in contact with and how the number of cases were increasing in our area we decided to close our doors once again for at least the next two weeks.

The person who tested positive showed no symptoms at the time, and has had very mild symptoms since. They didn’t test positive until Wednesday, which means even though we notified people as soon as we knew, they had already been around a number of people since Sunday.

One of those people who had been in close contact had been around her 80 something year old mom that week, and also her 90 something year old mother-in-law.

Now, it starts getting all too real.

Luckily they haven’t shown any symptoms, but we still have a week to go. Pray that none of them catch it.

I share this story not to scare you into keeping your doors closed, but to remind you of the very real risk that still exists in most of our small towns.

If you’re going to open your doors, make sure you take the necessary precautions to keep people as safe as possible, and have a plan in place for what you’re going to do if someone ends up testing positive.

What happened at my church was a reminder that we’re not getting back to normal any time soon.

While we wait, I’ll try my best to keep you updated on what I’m learning and the steps we’re taking to be ready when that time comes.

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