COVID-19 and Temporary Closure at First Baptist in Beverly

In light of the increasingly urgent public health situation, we have made the difficult decision to suspend normal church operations until further notice. This decision has been made not out of fear, but out of love for our community and in consideration of best practices for protecting public health. We intend to do our part to help our beloved congregation and community to slow the spread of disease and mitigate its effects in order to keep our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. We will continue to monitor recommendations from public health experts and will make informed decisions about what to do beyond that time.

We will move our Sunday worship services to an online format until further notice. Please join us via our First Baptist Church Facebook page on Sunday morning 10 a.m. and watch for a ‘live’ pastoral reflection and gift of music by Esther Chang. We will also post an edited video for the weekly Bulletin and web page.

All church gatherings in our church building will be cancelled until further notice. This includes small groups, choirs, youth groups, committees. The church now has a Zoom account set-up, and we will be using it to conduct some committee/church meetings (some will be on hiatus until further notice). Please watch your email for any communication from the church or your committee chairs, as this pertains to you, for any upcoming Zoom meeting sessions.”

Every Thursday morning at 10 a.m. there will be a Zoom Church Coffee Time with Julie. Watch the Facebook page and Bulletin for the link and login information.

Church office is closed until further notice. Your pastoral staff are available via email and phone.

Church Meal program on Monday nights and Saturday lunch for neighbors in need will continue to function on a modified basis. Boxed meals will be provided from the gym.

How did we come to this decision? In recent days, we have been doing an enormous amount of reading and listening. We have listened to the wisdom of public health experts and epidemiologists, watched as other countries and communities have struggled with virus spread and overwhelmed healthcare systems, and taken note of how other congregations have responded. Earlier this week, our governor declared a state of emergency for the state of Massachusetts. Public health experts are recommending reducing in-person gatherings and activities. Many public schools are also closing temporarily.

We have come to believe that we are at a decisive and critical moment, with the opportunity to respond proactively in an effort to keep our whole community safe. We believe we have a moral responsibility to do so.

How will we still be church if the building is closed and we aren’t gathering together? First and foremost, as members of the body of Christ, we are always the church together, whether we are gathered or scattered. This suspension of normal operations is temporary. Perhaps we can think of it as a new form of Lenten discipline for our congregation and community – a season of doing less and, perhaps, discovering new gifts in the midst of it. We let go of one form of our life together, trusting our future to the God of resurrection. Additionally, we maintain our concern for each other, and especially for the lonely and vulnerable among us. We encourage you to check in with each other via text, phone, email, video chat, and even “old-fashioned” mail. Let’s be creative, consistent, and persistent in reaching out to each other and reminding each other that we are connected, valued, and most of all, loved.

Finally, if there are particular ways your church family can serve and support you, please let us know. We have church members who are already volunteering to help get groceries and/or supplies for those who need help with such. If you need that kind of assistance, we will get you connected to those volunteers (if you want to offer that kind of assistance, please let Julie or Kent know). And if there are other things you need help with, please let us know that, too.

Parents of youth and children: Your kids may be feeling anxious and confused by what they are hearing at school and seeing on social media. They may feel frightened about getting sick or about their loved ones getting sick, or they may feel invincible and not understand what the fuss is about, or they may not even really know what they are feeling or how to think about any of it. Please reach out to your pastoral staff if you’d like additional resources. Let them know that church activities are cancelled not because we are afraid that you or they are about to get severely ill, but because we love them and love our community and are trying to do our part to protect our community.

In the meantime: Please take care of yourselves, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Follow all the recommendations for personal hygiene. Minimize being out in public, but try to get some fresh air when you can. Reach out to others in whatever ways you can, both to offer support and to seek support. Take the time to pray – for those who are sick; for those who are scared; for those who are economically impacted; for healthcare workers; for students whose studies (and much-anticipated competitions, performances, and events) have been disrupted; for the leaders of communities, congregations, countries, and healthcare systems; and for the church in all places. Be assured, too, of our prayers for you and for our community.

We will continue to monitor this public health situation and take into account recommendations for best community practices, and we will update the congregation as needed. Go to church web site for updates: fbcbeverly.org. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns. Email Kent Harrop at kharrop@fbcbeverly.org or Julie Flowers at jflowers@fbcbeverly.org or John DeNardo at jdenardo@fbcbeverly.org or call the church office at 978-922-3295.

With you in the love of Christ,

 

Rev. Kent Harrop Rev. Julie Flowers.

If you would like to make a gift to the church at this time you can do so by mail to 221 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA 01915, or by donating online at https://www.fbcbeverly.org/donate/