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Updated June 26, 2020

Dear Church Family,

 

Since it’s been a bit over three months since our church family has been most obviously impacted by Covid-19, I thought it would be helpful to review where we have been as a congregation and what we have learned as a congregation. I also wish to communicate where we are likely headed. I hope that you take the opportunity to read what follows, although it is lengthy. Like many of you, I find all the news surrounding Covid-19 to be quite tedious, but we must be attentive to this new reality, and I wish to be thorough about what I am communicating.

 

Reflections on the past three months:

 

March 22nd  we held our first two live-streamed services, one at 8:30 and one at 11:00. From the start we were committed to holding a distinctively traditional live service and a distinctively live contemporary one. While that decision has proven to have been an important one, the core questions asked prior to that decision were just as important.

 

From the start, in no particular order, there have been Five Guiding Questions:

 

1) What will create the least amount of upheaval for our church family? Whatever creates the least amount of upheaval is what we will work toward, period. Thanks to the efforts of multiple people and by the grace of God, our church was able to live-stream both services from the start. We are here to serve one another.

 

Galatians 2:10: As we have opportunity, let us do go to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

 

2) What will facilitate our worship of God in the most robust and meaningful way? Our church does not exist merely for us, but for God. While this should go without stating, we should state it nonetheless.

 

Psalms 99:5: Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his holy footstool! Holy is he!

 

3) How can we best support small-group consistency and coherence? We value most highly the community that is formed in settings such as (but not limited to) Sunday School. Anything we can do to encourage community in that regard, we will do. We were very grateful that so many of you learned to use Zoom and have done your best to adjust to doing community virtually.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25: Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

4) What can we do to best serve everyone in the church? We have not wanted to leave anyone underserved. In a substantial way, our virtual presence has extended our ministry to those who have not been able to attend services in person. One of my strongest regrets is that we had not already established a virtual presence long before Covid-19 ever existed. As you know, sometimes God forces

the church forward in strange ways.

 

Philippians 2:3: Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

 

5) How can we do life together as a church family in a way that is in step with the greater community around us? Initially, this was simple to navigate as stay-at-home orders were quite clear. Furthermore, we have wanted to do our part to flatten the curve by taking into consideration the recommendations of the CDC and other appropriate authorities.

 

Romans 13:1: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

 

What has NOT changed over the last three months?

 

The one thing that has not changed has been the top five questions of concern. I doubt that they will change within the next year, as they seem to be entirely reasonable.

 

1) What will create the least amount of upheaval for our church family?

2) What will facilitate our worship of God in the most robust and meaningful way?

3) How can we best support small-group consistency and coherence?

4) What can we do to best serve everyone in the church?

5) How can we do life together as a church family in a way that is in step with the greater community around us?

 

 

What have we learned in the last three months?

 

Although the original five questions are good ones to ask, they do not in and of themselves guarantee we will all be completely satisfied with where our church family settles in terms of actions, activities, or lack thereof. For a host of reasons completely unrelated to character deficiencies or any other such unfortunate judgments people tend to make of others, we are going weigh things differently.

 

•   Those of us more prone to value individual choice will weigh things differently than those who have a more collectivist mindset.

•   Those of us more prone to trust government, science, and/or journalists will have convictions that are a bit different than those who are less prone to believe those sources.

•   Those of us who lean into statistical analysis are going to have different responses to the five questions above than those who lean more into personal experience and anecdote.

 

In short, each one of us is different from other, and that’s a good thing. However, the differences between us can be difficult to navigate. Therefore, what I have asked of the church family is that rather than agreeing on every Covid-19 issue and particular response, we would more broadly agree to do three core things:

 

We will agree to be:

 

1)    Flexible

2)    Patient, and

3)    Accepting of One Another

 

Not only are these life-choices rooted in the gospel, but they are attractive features of a church. Please, take the time to do the following thought experiment.

 

Imagine being a part of Church A,  the kind of church family where everyone bends in service to one another (flexible), where everyone waits upon the Lord and upon one another (patience), and where everyone accepts one another just as in Christ God has accepted you (acceptance)? Try to visualize being a part of such a community.

 

Now, imagine being a part of Church B. This is the kind church filled with inflexible, impatient, and judgmental people. The members need things to fit themselves, for service isn’t given so much as it is received. They do not tend to wait on God, people, process, or for solutions to present themselves. People in Church B also tend to make lists longer than God’s list and (at least in their hearts) tend to hold other people accountable to the lists they themselves have created.

 

Please, take the time to answer the following questions:

 

 

What church family do you want to be a part of, Church A or Church B?

What church family do you think is most attractive to other people, Church A or Church B? What church family is most repulsive to other people, Church A or Church B?

Do you think it is possible that God sometimes introduces circumstantial stress to a church family to help it, not to harm it?

 

 

Considerations for the Future

 

At this point no one seems to be anticipating a rapid return to the “way things were” prior to Spring Break of 2020. Cases in Texas are spiking, hopes of the summer sun giving us an assist have passed, and this morning’s Coronavirus Task Force briefing was not terribly cheerful. We and other churches will be navigating this situation for some time. Therefore, you may be wondering, What should we expect for the next few months?

 

1)    Our children’s ministry and youth ministry will make a concerted effort to minister to children and youth on a personal level in groups of ten or less.

While large group gathering are inherently problematic, smaller groups are perceived to entail less risk and are easier to monitor in terms of the safety of social distance. I know that Ellen and Mark are passionate to do whatever they can do for our children, youth, and families.

 

2)    As a church we will do all we can to support our adult classes while simultaneously expecting social distancing.

If live-streaming a class from the property at 10th  and Main on Sundays makes sense to a class, we will work to support that. If a class wants to mix “in person” with “remote access” we will work to support that. We want classes to thrive, and we will support our classes in whatever way we can.

 

Please, understand that the word support means support, not mandate, direct, nor command. Each adult class can determine for itself what it believes is best for the members of the class. For example, if a class wants to meet on Sunday mornings at the church building, it is free to decide for itself if it wants to do so. The Rock, the fellowship hall, the historic sanctuary, and the

 

Ministry Center are viable options for socially-distanced classes if any of our classes and their teacher(s) determine that this option works best for them.

What works best for one class may not work best for another. For some classes, continuing to meet via Zoom will be the best option. There may be a class or two where everyone prefers to

be physically present to one another. There may be a class that can navigate a half-present/half- remote approach. Some classes may choose to meet at another time. What is of primary importance is that the classes do what is best for the members of the class, and we believe the members of the class are perfectly capable of making that group decision.

 

3)    We will take special care to be reputable.

Proverbs 22:1 states, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” Concern about community perception is entirely appropriate consideration. To not think about one’s reputation is foolish and a bad testimony.

 

As a church we will continue to emphasize social distancing. We will also continue to

recommend (thought not require) masks. We will be especially safety oriented when it comes to children and youth. If Covid-19 worsens and the governor rolls back gatherings at church facilities, we will comply. A considerable reason for the aforementioned is reputation.

 

Let’s do another thought experiment. Suppose we do not comply with state and local standards. Suppose we step out ahead of schools and other churches when it comes to children and youth ministry. Suppose we don’t social distance when gathered. Also, suppose someone with Covid-

19 showing no symptoms comes to an event and gets others sick. Now, let us imagine the possible conversations that would follow:

I heard some people got sick at Main Street Baptist Church. I guess when people get together every weekend for a year, stuff is going to happen. It happens to churches from time to time. Yes, there was a little outbreak. I think a dozen people traced their Covid-19 exposure back to that church.

Were they social distancing?

No.

And I heard that a child got sick, at church. Is that right?

Yes.

Wow. That’s kind of messed up!

 

 

Please, let’s all be careful to protect our reputation, and, more importantly, God’s reputation. Many people are looking for an excuse to not take Jesus seriously. Let us do our best to not give them an excuse.

 

 

Also, let’s be careful to protect others in addition to ourselves. Dr. Fauci observed earlier today, “A risk to you is not just isolated to you. Because if you get infected, you are a part…of propagating the dynamic process of the pandemic. The chances are that if you get infected, you will infect someone else.

You have an individual responsibility to yourself, but you have the societal responsibility.  We can be either part of the solution or part of the problem. As believers, we know the importance of putting others first.

 

May we be thoughtful of others. As we do that, and as we do life together as flexible, patient, and accepting people who are loving our community in a practical way by doing our part to peacefully impede the spread of Covid-19, we just might have a chance to send a positive message.

 

May God continue to bless all us as we move forward together,

Ernest

Updated May 28, 2020

Dear Church Family,

There’s an account of a man who served as a police officer in a northern native settlement in Canada. One day a rabid wolf wandered into the aboriginal settlement. The man eventually shot it, but not before it attacked a young man and his grandmother in their home; making kindling out of a chair, the young man used it to protect himself from his attacker.

There were about 150 sled dogs in the village—more than a match for one sick wolf—yet the intruder was left alone to do her work. Why? The man explained that in order to prevent the dogs from fighting and wounding each other, they had each been tied to wooden stakes spaced far enough apart to prevent them from reaching any neighboring animal. Because of this, the wolf walked freely among the dogs, killing some and badly wounding others. In isolation they were no match for their foe, and they suffered terribly for it.

Is this a compelling picture of the need for every Christian to be connected to a body of believers! Alone and isolated, Christians present themselves as much easier prey for the schemes of the Enemy of our souls.

Of course, no one should blame the owner of the dogs for keeping them socially distanced from one another. After all, the master of the kennel was only doing what he thought was best for his animals. However, hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it?

Our Master warned us about the dangers of isolation. When God created the church, God formed it with a group of people who wouldn’t always get along. Yet, God knows that we need each other far more than we do not. Being together has always entailed risks and downside, but they are calculated risks that are far outweighed by the upside of the spiritual, emotional, and relational strength we gain from one another.

We need each other. Sometimes personal choice and necessity will keep us distant, but we do need each other. That is something about our human condition that time will not change, since we were made for community, made in the image of God, and made for love.

While each one of us will have his or her own convictions, we as a church body want to do every single thing we can to ensure a robust sense of community while simultaneously respecting individual choice and conviction.

  • This is why we have opened up the Contemporary Service to people who want to be personally present during that worship service.

  • This is why we have committed to livestreaming both services for years to come.

  • This is also why we are now opening the 8:30 Traditional Service to any who wish to attend…STARTING THIS SUNDAY.

  • This is also why STARTING THIS SUNDAY masks will be optional for both services. (By the way, we will not be the first church in Georgetown to have adopted this policy, in case you were curious to know.)

Practical Questions:

  1. Where will the Traditional Service be held?

Due to our commitment to continue social distancing, the Traditional Service will be held in the Ministry Center.

 

  1. How will this work for those of us who want to attend “masked” but are not comfortable around people who will be “mask free”?

Those who choose to worship “mask free” will be seated in the front two rows of tables located nearest the stage. Seating for the “mask-free” will be around tables clearly marked with beige coverings. Those choosing to attend with a mask will be seated in the tables further from the stage, behind those not wearing masks.

 

  1.  Is this going to be “divisive”?

It certainly does not need to be! For more than a decade we have had people attending two worship services, and yet we’ve remained a family. In our more recent past, we’ve had some worshiping on campus, while most have chosen to stay at home, and yet we’ve remained a family. We will do very well as long as the two questions Whom to do you serve? and How do you serve Him? remain more prominent than the lesser questions of What service do you attend? And How do you attend it?

                Concerns over COVID 19 protocol are loaded with the massive freight of political and scientific disagreement. We all know that. I would also hope we know that as your pastor my calling is not to settle matters of politics and science. While the teachings of the Bible do have political and scientific implications, our calling as church first and foremost is the advance of the good news of Jesus Christ. We do not want secondary matters to distract us from our primary commission as the body of Christ.

                Along those lines, I hope you will join me at home or in person, in one way or another, as we continue in our series on what we need to know from God and receive from Christ so as to best navigate this odd season in which we find ourselves. This Sunday’s message will be particularly relevant.

Also, we will be celebrating communion this Sunday. If you are at home, please, be prepared with bread and drink. If you attend in person, know that we will have pre-packaged grape juice and bread. During the foreseeable future, we will be practicing communion in the most sanitary way we can. May God bless all of us together as we move forward one step at a time!

 

Sincerely,

Ernest

Updated April 29, 2020

 

Dear Church Family,

 

As Texas slowly begins to reopen, the staff and the church leadership of MSBC have prayerfully weighed our options for worshipping together in person again.  Beginning this Sunday, May 3, we will continue to live stream both the traditional service at 8:30 and the contemporary service at 11:00 on our website, Facebook, and YouTube.  We will also have limited availability at the 11:00 service only for you to gather with us in the Worship Center.  Please fill out the attached survey to let us know if your family plans to attend so we can properly prepare.  We will be adhering to the following guidelines of the CDC to help prevent the spread of illness:

  • All attendees will be required to wear masks, especially while singing.  (If you do not have a mask, the Sowers of Warmth have provided a small number of masks that will be available at the doors.)

  • Maintain social distancing of 6 feet.  No handshakes, hugs, or even elbow bumps are considered safe at this time, but big smiles - even behind a mask - will go a long way.

  • Tables have been set up in the Worship Center at distances of at least 6 feet apart, and we ask that only one household sits at each table.

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often.

  • People over 65 and children under 5th grade are strongly recommended to remain home for now.  There will be no childcare, so any children who come need to be able to adhere to the same guidelines.

We cannot wait to worship with you all again, but until then, please continue to pray for our church as we navigate reopening.

In Christ,

Christi Rich

 

Please click here to take the survey.

Updated March 25, 2020

 

Dear Church Family,

          I sincerely appreciate the way everyone is responding to this “light and momentary affliction.” You are responding well! In what follows, I hope to communicate plainly as to how things will operate moving forward.

LAST SUNDAY’S ENGAGEMENT

Thank you all for making this past Sunday a special one. Attendance for our first Sunday-morning virtual gathering was strong.

          In case you are interested, here are the numbers:

          Traditional Service: 222 units reached

          Contemporary Service: 829 units reached

          Live interaction between Ernest, Bret, and Mark at 5:00: 798 units reached

          “Units reached” means very broadly some computer or mobile device was tuned into the streaming event for at least three seconds. There is no way to know how to interpret that data with any precision since we do not know if one person or a group of people were viewing the device. Furthermore, we don’t know if that one person or that group of people viewed the whole of the live-streamed event or just a small portion.

          What we do know with certainty is that our church family made it a point to tune in to the services, that many of you invited people to attend the virtual services, and that many people who have never been to a service at Main Street Baptist Church “came” for the first time. Thank you for inviting your friends! At the very least, the numbers for Sunday were encouraging.

          We also know, based on the feedback we’ve received, that the adult and youth classes went well. Teachers, thank you!

NEXT SUNDAY’S IMPROVEMENT

We did receive feedback on how to improve the Sunday morning live-streaming. We appreciate not only the feedback, but also the spirit in which it was given.

On the positive side, we received a great deal of encouragement about doing the services and discussion live. Some of you said you felt like you were there. Others of you were quite glad we did not pre-record. Others of you were very appreciative and gracious in thanking those who worked diligently to set-up live-streaming so quickly on such a short runway. Again, special thanks to the team of people who helped our live streaming get off the ground and flying. It was not easy. Many thanks have rightly been expressed to Kenneth Gailbraith, Mark Rich, Alan Hart, Mike Truit, and Jeff Theisen. That we were able to do anything at all on such short notice and on the tail-end of Spring Break was a testimony to the service of these fine men and to God’s provision.

As for the constructive suggestions for improving the morning services…we are on it. We knew going into Sunday that we would have difficulty capturing the screens/lyrics/images. We are working on that. We are purchasing another camera, and we are in the process of changing software that will be friendlier to multiple media platforms. We are also addressing the “signal strength” issue that caused the fifteen-minute delay to the Traditional Service.

While we do want to make improvements to our live streaming, please do not expect the production of large mega churches who have been doing this for years. Our highest value in this season of social distancing is maintaining church family connection. Our top priority is not fabricating something slick. Of course, we do want to make appropriate improvements to help facilitate connection, and we sincerely appreciate the feedback.

WEDNESDAY EVENING ONLINE PRAYER SERVICES AT 6:00 P.M.

On Wednesday evenings we will continue to gather in an online format at 6:00 for prayer service. That time will include a ten-minute devotional, the sharing of prayer requests, and prayer.

SUNDAY EVENING Q & A SERVICES AT 5:00 P.M.

On Sunday evenings we will continue to gather in an online format at 5:00 for a question and answer period. Mark will continue to field questions presented through Facebook life and through texts he receives. 

THE IMPACT OF SHELTERING IN PLACE

Sheltering in place will not impact any of the above services. We never have more than ten people in the building for any of our streaming services.

ON A FINAL NOTE

          Keep praying! There is so much for which to pray, so do it throughout the day.

          Remain faithful in your giving. I know it’s not especially easy, but God is faithful. Visit msbchurch.com/give for easy online giving.

          Keep reading your Bible! At the conclusion of the Wednesday 6:00 p.m. service and Sunday 5:00 p.m. service, we will read aloud the chapter of the day from Luke or Acts. Do your best to stay on track.

          Do NOT come to the buildings at 10th and Main if you are not “Essential Operation” personnel. I do not enjoy telling people to stay away, and we all miss one another. However, shelter in place. It is essential that we essentially do what is only essential.

          Stay in contact with your small group and class. They would love to hear from you.

          Continue to spread the word about our multiple live-stream services and Sunday School classes via Zoom. Your invitations are making an impact.

 

With love and respect,

Ernest

Updated March 21, 2020

 

Dear Church Family,

Thank you for being patient as we worked on how to live stream the church services tomorrow morning.  We will be streaming on Facebook Live at 8:30 and 11:00 am.  If you are on Facebook, make sure to like and follow Main Street Baptist Church (@msbcgeorgetown).  If you aren't on Facebook, don't worry.  We will have a link embedded right on the church website.  Go to msbchurch.com.  At the very top, in the orange banner, you will see a button that says "Watch Live".  Click on that and it will take you right to the services. 

Looking forward to worshiping with each of you tomorrow,

Ernest

Updated March 20, 2020

 

Dear Church Family,

I am looking forward to this Sunday for three reasons: 1) Everything will be different, 2) Everything will be the same, and 3) God will show up.

Everything will be different in the sense that we won’t be in a building together on campus. The doors to the buildings will be closed on Sunday, which is a first in the history of the buildings at 10th and Main.

Everything will be the same in the sense that the church is moving forward, because the church is not a building. God’s people will still gather together in prayer, around the Bible, and in worship. We will still be available to one another in a very personal way through the blessing of the Internet. Even the schedule is basically the same: 8:30 Traditional, 9:40 Sunday School via Zoom, and 11:00 Contemporary.

God will show up. He always does when His people gather together. I am also confident that many people have been praying for you and for others, and I know the difference prayer makes. I’m also especially excited to bring the message this Sunday entitled “He Gives Peace that Calms All Fears.” God does that, and He will this Sunday.

I’m expecting a good turnout along with a powerful Sunday morning. I’m especially happy that some will be joining us who haven’t been able to do so for a while, such as Dennis and Karol Chapman. Dennis told me that he’s even bringing his dog, Benny, to church on Sunday. I’m glad. Benny shows his teeth a lot...and it’s not because he’s smiling. Benny just needs Jesus.

Maybe you’ve got some “Bennys” in your life. Inviting them to church this Sunday would be good and very low-key. They could use some peace.

Sincerely looking forward,

Ernest

Updated March 18, 2020

 

Dear Church Family,
 
I mentioned in the email sent to the church family six days ago, “Precautions will ramp up as the virus expands.” I also mentioned that “our church family will operate in rhythm with the community around us” and that we would be prepared to live stream Sunday services as early as March 22. Well, the virus is expanding on a national level, the rhythm of the community around us has changed by a few beats per minute, and we are ready to live stream. Starting this Sunday, March 22, the two services and all adult Sunday School will be virtual. While the offices will remain open, and while the Children’s Day Center will continue to operate in cooperation with the direction of local authorities, regularly scheduled church-related meetings at the location of 10th and Main will be on hold for at least the next eight weeks.
 
In what follows, the staff and I will do our best to answer questions we anticipate will be most prominent. If you have other questions, please, email us at office@msbchurch.com.
 
What will the virtual Sunday morning schedule be?
8:30 Traditional Service
9:40 Sunday School
11:00 Contemporary Service
 
What will the Traditional Service be like?
The Traditional Service will be virtually the same as it has always been, only virtual. There will be prayer. There will be hymns. There will be a sermon. We are attempting to change as little as possible.
 
What will the Sunday Schools be like?
We will be using Zoom to facilitate community and conversations within Sunday school classes. With the help of your Zoom App which you can download onto your smart phone, tablet, and/or computer, or by going to Zoom.com on your web browser, you will be able to meet live with your entire class. The technology is easy to use once you’ve used it.
 
This evening all of our teachers will be trained. Those teachers will in turn have the opportunity to show those in their class how to use the app.
 
If you are curious to see how it works, go to youtu.be/VnyitUU4DUY. If you want more than an introductory video, there are other more extensive “how to” instructions online. Please, don’t fret. Your church family will help you to get comfortable quickly with the technology in advance of Sunday morning.
 
What will the 11:00 Contemporary Service be like?
It will be somewhat similar to our current service. However, during the message there will be an opportunity to ask questions and to leave comments during the message. Following the message, Bret and Mark will assist in a “talk-back” time.
 
Will you be using Facebook, YouTube, or Zoom for the 8:30 and 11:00 service?
That is yet to be determined. You will know well in advance of Sunday. We are currently assessing what will be the best option.
By the way, Kenneth Gailbraith, a relatively new member of Main Street, was involved in the live streaming ministry in a church in Arizona before moving to Georgetown with his family. He is now, of course, assisting us with setting up the virtual media ministry of Main Street. (Apparently, God takes care of us! Read Psalm 16.)
 
Why exactly has Main Street Baptist Church moved to virtual services?
To be clear, government authorities have not forced the closing of the building. The decision has to go virtual as a congregation is strategically appropriate for three main reasons:

  1. Preservation of our small group connection: We want everyone who has been connected in small groups and Sunday School to remain connected. Even if a class could continue to meet on campus at 80% of “pre-COVID-19” levels, we believe that the people in every class would want to make adjustments for the minority that no one would be left out of community. It is love more than fear that motivates the transition to virtual church for a season of time.

  2. Health concerns: While we as a ministerial staff are generally confident in the ability of our adults to choose for themselves their levels of social distancing, one person’s risk-assessment does not match another’s…and that’s the point. When the doors of the building are open, there will be people who come to church who really should not come. While most of us loathe the condescension of denying others their personal liberty, as shepherds we have an obligation to protect the healthy from those who may not be.

  3. Community Cooperation: Many larger churches, schools, and universities have already closed due to legal obligation. While due to our more moderate size as a congregation we have no such obligation as of yet, we certainly do wish to cooperate with the greater community effort.

 
What are the opportunities for ministry to people from hard places in the next few weeks?
Unfortunately, there may be plenty of opportunities. While there is still no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Williamson County, there may come a time when we open our Ministry Center for child-care or for possible emergency medical care. The potential use of our building space to serve others around us is yet another reason to be supportive of embracing a virtual online approach to church community for next several weeks.
 
What will our children and youth be doing?
They will be doing plenty! Both Ellen and Mark have plans and will be/have been communicating those plans to children/youth workers and their families.
 
How can I give?
Visit msbchurch.com/give to get started with online giving.  Or text a dollar amount to 512-648-4393.  You can also mail or bring a check in during office hours.
 
Is the church office still open?
The church office is still open.  Beginning Monday, March 23, we will have reduced office hours:  Monday - Thursday, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm.  The pastors and ministers are still available anytime via email or cell phone.  The church voicemail will be monitored even on weekends.  Please, if you need any type of assistance, reach out to us.  We are still here to support our church family.
 
Please, know that we will keep you up to date on any new developments. Please, continue to steer clear of the virus, panic, judgmentalism, and prayerlessness. Finally, please, know that we are not backing away from going to church. What we are doing is moving forward doing church together and being the church God wants us to be.
 
Looking forward,
 
Ernest

Updated March 17, 2020

 

Dear Church Family,

Thank you for the prayers! While a more detailed email will follow tomorrow before noon, I wanted to let you know that for at least the next eight weeks, Main Street classes and services will be virtual. Services will be live-streamed and all classes will be conducted via Zoom.

I know you are wanting to know more details, and you will get them in the morning. Just know that I have appreciated your prayers, and that we are confident that we are moving forward in a positive and constructive way for the benefit of our members, the community around us, and our Lord.

We are NOT backing away from our identity as A Family of Priests Revealing Christ, nor are we backing away from our core values of People Matter, Service, and Kingdom Growth. We ARE pressing forward TOGETHER in an adjusted way. We are NOT cancelling church for eight weeks. We ARE advancing as the church in a time that needs us to be the church God has called us to be.

There will be more to come tomorrow. Just know that I am looking forward to an exciting couple of months to come. It’s going to be good!!!

Grace and Peace,

Ernest

Updated March 12, 2020

 

Dear Main Street Family,

The COVID 19 Virus has occupied the majority of news reports over the past few weeks.  While we do not want to overreact, it is critical that we do not ignore the obvious danger involved.  Precautions will ramp up as the virus expands. What follows is what we can and should expect from one another in the present:

  • Presently we have not changed any activities or programs. 

  • Our church will continue intentional efforts to ensure that counters, doorknobs, and other places of contact are being antiseptically cleaned on a regular basis.

  • Do not shake hands or hug anyone at church gatherings. While the absence of hugs and hand-shaking will feel very odd to many of us, please, see this intentional but moderate social-distancing as the act of warmth and compassion for others that it is in a time of containment.

  • Use hand sanitizers every time you see one. We will have them scattered across the campus for easy access.

  • Often and throughout the day, wash your hands for 20 seconds, which is about the time to sing Happy Birthday twice.

  • For the sake of your church family, stay home if you are coughing, have fever, or feel lousy.

 

If the virus begins to spread rapidly in our area, the following are some possible actions we will take.  We will communicate through all our channels of communication if any of these changes are enacted.  Most of our possible changes will be triggered by school closings or public event cancellations. Our church family will operate in rhythm with the community around us.

 

    • If circumstances dictate, the first regular program events that will likely be cancelled will be all Wednesday Evening Activities.  What makes the Wednesday evening activities particularly susceptible to cancellation is the serving of food; but this would affect all activities, not just the meal.

    • We need to be very careful how refreshments are handled on Sunday mornings.  Everyone needs to help in this regard.  There is a possibility that we will need to discontinue for a short time the eating and drinking of refreshments on Sundays.  You will know in advance if we decide to do that.

    • We plan on having Sunday Worship unless the virus totally gets out of hand.  

    • A team has been assembled and is currently working so that Main Street Baptist will be live streaming Sunday morning service as soon as possible. As early as March 22, people who choose to miss services will be able to watch services live via Facebook.

    • In the event that we are required to move into a season of remote worship and ministry, we will be ready and willing to do so. The church is the people, homes are great places for ministry, and worship services can be live-streamed. The church existed long before buildings, because the church is the people and not a location.

Navigating the next few weeks involves many risks. Please, be aware of the following dangers:

  • The Coronavirus: Apparently the virus is twice as communicable and ten times as deadly as the regular flu. The danger is real.

  • Fear: While FDR may have overstated the case that the only thing to fear is fear itself, fears can outpace reality. As of this writing there is no confirmed case of Coronavirus in Williamson County, our nation is taking aggressive and appropriate steps to contain the virus, and according to Worldometers.info of the 1,311 active cases of coronavirus in the U.S. population of 330,000,000+ only 10 of those active cases are considered to be serious or critical.

  • Judgmentalism: Whether we think others to be overreacting or under responding, we should all have the humility to know that we do not know what will or will not happen next. If a healthy young person chooses to not attend services for a season, we will not judge. If senior adult with preexisting conditions chooses to be in the building every time the doors are open, we will not judge. We should assume that every MSB family member is doing their best to discern what God would have them to do. We will not judge one another for our individual/family responses.

  • Prayerlessness: The less people know the more they talk. Such is only human nature. However, as we discuss the news and changing developments that seem to come on an hourly basis, let’s not forget to talk to God. Let’s not forget to pray for our leaders, the CDC, and health professionals who are on the front lines of dealing with the coronavirus. Let’s not forget to pray for other authorities, state and local, that they have a wisdom from above concerning what to do and what not to do. Furthermore, let’s pray for the physical and spiritual well-being of people around that globe.

 

Praying for you as I know you are all praying for me and for one another,

 

Ernest

Updated June 30, 2020

Dear Church Family,

You may have heard that beginning this Friday, face masks in Georgetown will become even more commonplace than they already are. I recognize that this change will cause many of you to wonder about what that change will mean for our Sunday morning gatherings. In short, it won’t change very much.

I hope that you will take the time to read the burnt orange text below, as it is exactly what currently appears on the Georgetown city website. What appears in bold italics underlined are of my doing to help you more readily identify what is most germane to our church family.

The city website reads as follows:

In consultation with other mayors in Williamson County and out of growing concerns about the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in the community and the increasing number of those hospitalized and in the ICU, Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross issued an order to impose additional requirements on businesses.

Read Georgetown’s order here.

Employees and customers at commercial businesses should begin wearing face coverings immediately. Starting Friday, July 3, businesses in Georgetown will be required to adopt and enforce health plans that require face coverings for visitors and staff when physical distance cannot be maintained. This applies to all commercial businesses that directly serve the public, as well as City facilities.

The order will remain in place until Williamson County reports a positive test rate of 7 percent or fewer over a two-week average. The Georgetown order is similar to those in other Williamson County cities, including Round Rock, Hutto, Taylor, Leander, and Cedar Park.

“We know masks help against the spread of COVID-19, and that is our top priority now,” Mayor Dale Ross said. “The State and Williamson County have left this decision up to local jurisdictions. My fellow Williamson County mayors and I are not taking this step lightly. However, based on recommendations from the local health authority, we know it is our best shot to ensure the collective safety of all county residents, while allowing businesses to continue to operate.

“This is particularly true for Georgetown, with the large number of vulnerable people in our community,” he said. “Here, we are a family. We care about one another. No matter our differences, we always show up to support one another. Wearing a mask and keeping our distance when we’re out in public is a small price to pay to show we love and care for our neighbors.”

The order states that, at a minimum, businesses must require all employees and visitors age 10 or older to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth, when 6 feet distance cannot be maintained.

 

The order allows for a few exemptions:

  • When exercising or engaging in physical activity outside.

  • While driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver.

  • When wearing a mask poses a mental or physical health, safety, or security risk.

  • While pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment.

  • While in a building or activity that requires security surveillance or screening, like banks; and

  • When consuming food or drink.

 

Businesses may also implement other measures to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, such as temperature checks or health screenings.

The order states businesses must post the health and safety policy or plan in a location where employees and visitors can see it.

“The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to facilitate economic success for our community and believes Mayor Ross took the necessary step, which will help protect our community, prevent another shut down, and ensure our businesses can be successful moving forward,” Chamber President Jim Johnson said. “Many businesses in Georgetown already require masks, physical distancing, and other safety requirements. This order makes those practices standard across all facilities, and supports our local business owners, their employees, and their efforts to keep Georgetown safe and open for business.”

These orders apply to commercial businesses and City facilities. Exemptions from this order include other governmental agencies, such as federal buildings, State offices, and school districts; construction activity; and places of worship. However, all entities are encouraged to voluntarily adopt similar requirements.

 

Enforcement

Individuals who believe the order is being violated by a business in Georgetown can report it to the Georgetown Police Department’s non-emergency number: 512-930-3510. Businesses found in violation of the order will be given a citation and fined up to $1,000 per offense.

If a business has a customer who is unwilling to abide by the order, the business can ask the individual to leave. If they refuse to leave, the business can call 911. Georgetown police will respond, and if the individual still refuses to leave, the individual may be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.

 

Face coverings

Face coverings do not substitute for the need to maintain physical distancing. Face coverings, combined with physical distancing, decrease the risk of spread.

“Our community’s health takes everyone’s participation,” said Derrick Neal, Williamson County and Cities Health District executive director. “The best way to keep the balance of safety and the ability to be outside our homes will require everyone to follow the CDC guidelines that have been proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Wearing face coverings and social distancing have proven to be the most effective ways to reduce the spread of germs.”

For maximum effectiveness, the face covering should cover both the nose and mouth and attach securely behind the ears. Coverings should be washed after each use with hot water and detergent, and hands should be washed immediately after touching the cover.

Face coverings should not be placed on children younger than two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.

People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even mild ones, need to stay home, except to seek medical care. Mild symptoms in COVID-19 positive patients include:

  • Sore throat

  • Body aches

  • Headaches

  • Change in the ability to smell and taste

  • Nasal congestion

 

For more information and updates, visit bit.ly/COVID19GTX.

 

In light of the above, I would like to make several observations:

 

  1. Main Street Baptist Church has already adopted similar requirements.

  2. The city directive is mandatory for commercial businesses, not places of worship.

  3. However, we have voluntarily adopted similar requirements, for we are concerned about collective safety and the continued operation of our local economy. We are not taking this lightly.

  4. Face coverings are required when distance of six feet or more cannot be maintained. In the Ministry Center, six feet of distance can easily be maintained. Furthermore, we will continue to emphasize that it must be maintained.

  5. As has been the case from the beginning, Main Street has always recommended face coverings on top of the social distancing, though face coverings are not required. What has always been expected is social distancing in all settings because face coverings do not substitute for the need to maintain physical distancing.

  6. Restaurants are allowed exemptions from facial coverings (for food and drink). Why? The reason is likely that in those particular commercial businesses people who have been seated have been seated (presumably) only with those who are part of the same household as the driver and at a six-foot or greater distance from other customers.

  7. At the entrance to Main Street Baptist Church we currently have posted a safety policy in a location where employees, members, and visitors can see it.

 

Additional encouragement:

 

    • Let’s all cooperate with our community and with one another.

    • Let’s all do our best to operate by these rules that most people think are rather reasonable and a relatively small price to pay for physical and economic health.

    • Let’s all try to bring a mask on Sundays (when we come to 10th and Main.) Even if you think you will not be wearing one, you may be inclined to wear it more than you thought. I have discovered that I would much rather wear a mask while talking to friend who doesn’t quite understand how far six feet is, than to back-up and then back-up once more. I’m growing more accustomed to my mask, and that’s probably a good thing overall.

 

May God bless you, and may you be safe and faithful!

 

Ernest

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(512) 869-7854

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