Calvary Church COVID-19 Update
Dear Church Family,
I am writing to you with a broken heart, a grieving heart, yet one that is trusting in the Lord to guide us through this difficult time we are all facing. Simply put, I miss you and miss our times of gathering together in-person for worship.
The act of public worship is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a Christian can embrace. Yes, there are multiple ways that Christians can gather together, but the act of public congregation across generational lines to glorify God and seek the mutual edification that comes from praying together, working together, singing together and focusing on God’s truth together is essential and life giving.
By now, nearly every person is familiar with our reasoning to suspend in-person gathering last Spring and to move to online only worship. When we re-opened our campus the first weekend of June, we were optimistic that we could move through a few gradual stages to return to more normative rhythms of worship by the end of Summer. Unfortunately, in June two related things happened. First, the numbers of COVID-19 positive cases in our area began to radically spike, and secondly, the virus began to directly and radically impact our church family.
As I previously shared with you, by the first days of July we had 6 staff members who had tested positive for COVID-19 and 3 were hospitalized. Given those circumstances, our leaders met together and decided that the best and safest course of action was to return to online only worship for the remainder of July. When we met again in late July, we made the decision to extend our online only policy through the end of the Summer.
Fortunately, nearly all of our staff has recovered from the virus and there have been no new cases among our staff and leadership team. Unfortunately, one of young men, Casey Gray, who had been serving as Student Director at our Seminole campus continues to struggle and indeed is in a battle for survival having been on a ventilator for more than a month. You can read about his case and receive updates through this Facebook group.
Nearly every day I have felt the pull of needing to re-gather our church family against the deep sadness of Casey Gray’s battle for survival and the desire to keep others as safe as possible. There is no resolving this tension.
We all are realizing that we must make our way forward in the months to come in a COVID-19 world. There is no way we can eliminate all risk to this virus, but we must mitigate the risk as much as possible, resume the lives we have, and pursue the purposes God has given us.
To that end, I want to share with you our plans for safely re-opening our campuses in the next few weeks. As I do please keep in mind the following assumptions:
• We want to be able to re-gather with our generational ministries (preschool, children and students) back in place.
• We want to re-gather with a schedule that would be sustainable going forward in a COVID-19 era for an indefinite period of time.
• We know that many of our members and regular attenders will continue to remain at home watching online. For this reason, we are working harder than ever and will continue to prioritize our online viewing experience and engagement.
• We may not be able to do everything we were previously doing. Some activities that were considered part of our normal programming pre-COVID-19 will not be resumed for some time and others will be changed. There are many reasons for these changes that may not be apparent to every person. Some of our ministries, especially for children and preschool, require an enormous amount of volunteers to execute and we have to plan for reduced numbers of volunteers for the foreseeable future.
• In all of our on campus ministrie, we will follow the best health guidelines including social distancing, a limited or no-touch experience, and the wearing of face masks.
• Some of the details continue to be worked out and we will do our best to keep you fully informed as our re-gathering approaches.
• As always, we have to be flexible and circumstances could change in ways that force us to alter our plans.
With all of that as a backdrop, here are our plans for the upcoming weeks and re-gathering of our church family.
Calvary Christian High School will resume on campus school on Wednesday, August 19th. Our school has prepared an excellent plan going forward and we believe getting our students back on campus is very important.
Calvary Church will begin re-gathering in person for public worship services on Sunday, September 13th. Here are some details for our re-gathering plans:
• We will have 2 services each Sunday, 9:00AM & 11:00AM at each campus.
• During each service, children’s and preschool ministries will meet during the service hours. We will ask parents to pre-register their children for preschool ministry.
• Student ministries will meet on Wednesday nights at each campus. Our student ministry time will feature a combination of large group and small group time each week. Our Student Ministries will begin to gather on Wednesday August 26th, a few weeks earlier than the rest of our church. For updates in our Student Ministry, visit Calvary.us/Family-Ministries.
• College and Young Adults (CYA) will be kicking off their semester of ministry on Thursday, August 20th. Visit Calvary.us/College for more details.
• Adult groups will be given the choice of continuing online or meeting in-person. Due to several factors, we are discouraging adult groups from meeting in person on our campuses on Sunday mornings for the immediate future. We encourage adult groups to either meet online, or to gather as a group at a time other than Sunday morning. We will be working with each group on a case-by-case basis and we will have plenty of groups, both online and in person, for you to connect.
• Wednesday night activities will begin at all campuses on Wednesday, September 16th and will include adult groups, students, children, and preschool ministries. A mid-week worship/Bible-teaching hour will be led by Dr. Jeremy Westbrook on our Clearwater campus and will be broadcast online across all Calvary platforms at Calvary.us/Watch.
We will continue to bring you further details and all the updates regarding Calvary’s schedule through our website at Calvary.us.
Perhaps the most oft-repeated phrase over the last few months is “We’ve never been through anything quite like this.” It’s true, but none of this has caught God by surprise. We have suffered much by not gathering together. We have cooperated fully and we have carefully followed all the best practices and health guidelines. We will continue to operate with the utmost care and concern for your safety and health. At the same time, it is important that we allow our church family to come back together and worship the Lord.
I hope that many of you will plan to return with us on September 13th. Many others will continue to connect with us online for the foreseeable future. To all of you, I cannot thank you enough for your patience and your loyalty to our Calvary family through this ordeal. I am honored to be your Pastor and I cannot wait to see you again.