Pastor Kirby's COVID-19 Church Update

July 22, 2020

E-Blast Special Edition

Sunday Worship to Resume September 13 with Smaller Groups Encouraged to Attend the Taping of Worship Services on Thursdays Beginning August 13 

The Leadership Team met on Tuesday, July 21, to discuss the next steps for our church and the latest information about the COVID-19 virus in Arizona.  The team felt that it was important to set a date to look forward to for our resuming Sunday worship, barring any additional spike.  There was good discussion on starting worship in mid-August and after Labor Day.  There was some discussion about having a “soft opening” for worship as well.  

During that meeting, 14 of the 15 members of the Leadership Team present came to a consensus that the church would resume regular Sunday Worship Services on Sunday, September 13.  In addition, it was decided that church members would be encouraged to attend worship on Thursdays, beginning Thursday, August 13, when the worship team videotapes the Sunday service.  There will be social distancing measures in place which means people, other than couples, will need to be six feet apart the entire time. The Leadership Team made the decision that masks must be worn to protect, and show love, for our fellow members and attendees. 

The discussion centered around the strong desire of our membership to come back in person to worship together, and the status of new COVID-19 cases and deaths in Arizona peaking last week. Yesterday, there were 3,500 new cases of the virus and 134 deaths. In some statistical areas, the numbers have dropped, but it is too early to see a trend.  

The decision by the Leadership Team will allow time to see how the trend of new cases, deaths, and ICU patients develop in the next month.  The plan will allow a smaller group of members to attend the video worship in person on Thursdays, beginning August 13. This will provide our various teams (Technology, Music, Ushers, Greeters, etc.) to develop their plans during those services, and help prepare them for the large opening on Sunday, September 13.  

Tentatively, Sunday worship times beginning on September 13 will be 9:00am and 11:00am.  With social distancing in place, the Building and Grounds Committee has stated that we have room for 84 persons at each service.  As the time gets closer, we will ask members to let the office know by phone, or e-mail, their service time preference so that we can plan accordingly.  

The Thursday worship times for the service will be at 11:00am, beginning on Thursday, August 13.  Please let the office know by phone or e-mail if you are planning to attend, so that preparations can be made.

The greatest concern for the Leadership Team continues to be the ongoing welfare of the congregation.  Our congregation is in the high-risk category, including many members with underlying medical conditions.  

The Leadership Team believes that during these weeks prior to our reopening, worship and ministries will continue taking place through FBCSCW. Through our website, worship services, messages, and Bible Study is available, as is ongoing inspiration and other resources. The number of people on our website and viewing the worship services has grown during this time.  

The Zoom Bible Study classes continue to teach and interact, which leads to growth. We have other Bible Study leaders sending out Bible Study outlines and notes to help their members. If you are not on one of our Zoom Bible Studies on Sundays, just let the office know and they will make arrangements. 

The Watchman Prayer Ministry, with 100 prayer warriors praying 117 hours each week, is making a difference, as is the Prayer Chain and the wonderful job Ginny Denton is doing in sharing prayer requests on a very timely basis. 

Deacons, Bible Study leaders, members, and others are calling and contacting the members of this congregation. Friends are calling friends, and needs are being met. The people are the “church”, and the building is just where we meet.  Ministry takes place, both in the gathering place and in the community.  

It is hard not to be together as a church family in-person.  The fellowship is missing. But September 13 is coming. Until then, please take time to call, e-mail, or text folks in our church directory, your friends, and Bible Study members.  Let them know they are valued and thought of during this time. Make sure you tune in to the Sunday Worship Service and Bible Study on the website. If you do not know how to get on our website, please call our church office.  They will walk you through the process.

Thank you for your continual prayer for our Leadership Team which consists of our Response Task Force, Deacons, and Retired Ministers.  During our meeting, we practiced social distancing with each person being at least six feet from the next person, and all wore masks, as well. 

We continue to accomplish the work of the Lord together as His Body. 

 

Pastor Kirby for the Leadership Team

 

 

 

 

 

June 24, 2020

E-Blast Special Edition


With Arizona Spiking in COVID-19 Cases, FBCSCW will continue our “Pause”

The Leadership Team met on Tuesday, June 23, to discuss the latest information about the COVID-19 virus from the CDC and from the Arizona officials. At that meeting, the decision would be made as to whether or not it was in the best interest of the church to open our doors for public worship at this time.  

The unanimous consensus of the Leadership Team is that it is still not in the best interest of our congregation to have worship services start in our facility, at this time. Maintaining the health and protection of the congregation is the top priority during this pandemic. 

It was decided, by all 15 members of the Leadership Team that were present, that it is in the best interest of our congregation to continue our “pause.” The Leadership Team will meet again in July to review the latest information from the CDC and from the Arizona officials. 

The greatest concern for the Leadership Team is the ongoing welfare of the congregation.  Our congregation is in the high-risk category, including many members with underlying medical conditions.  Below are some of the facts that were considered.

According to AZ Central, Arizona is just now reaching the expectations of when the peak would hit the population. Arizona has had more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases in six of the last seven days. There have been 3,000 new cases in three of the last six days. On Tuesday, June 23, there was a high of 3,591 new cases. Arizona now has 59,974 cases of the COVID-19, with 34,992 in Maricopa County. The County has reissued an order that when anyone goes out, they must wear a mask. Social distancing is still one of the keys. 

The Department of Health Services stated that Arizona reached a new high for hospitalizations on June 23. Inpatient beds and ventilators in use for both suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients hit their highest-ever numbers on that day. The same is true for the ER visits and ICU beds. As of June 23, 86% of current inpatient beds, and 88% of ICU beds, were in use.

There has been more testing, which is one component of this spike, but that is not the only reason. During the past three weeks, cases increased by 170% and tests increased by just 84%. During the week of June 15, 19% of tests were positive. 

There have been 1,463 reported deaths so far in Arizona, and 75% of those have been people who are 65 years of age and older. 

 

These statistics are not meant in any way to bring fear, but rather knowledge of what is happening around us.  With Christ living in us we should not fear, rather we are to be wise. Being wise is knowing what is going on and striving to find ways to stay healthy and care for one another, as well as to share Christ in creative ways.

With the full knowledge that some churches in our area have re-opened, the Leadership Team felt it was important for us to continue to watch what happens in those churches and in our state.  It is also recognized that there are prominent churches in SCW who have chosen, like us, to not open at this time.  Dr. David Johnson, Executive Director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, cautioned churches about meeting at this time. He encouraged churches who had not begun meeting to wait until this spike was over.  His comments come out of concern for the churches themselves.

The Leadership Team continues to believe that worship and ministries are still taking place through FBCSCW, even during this time of “pause.”  Through our website, worship services and messages are viewed, Bible Study is available, as is an ongoing inspiration along with other resources. The number of people on our website, and viewing the worship services, has grown tremendously during this time.  

The Zoom Bible Study classes continue to teach and interact, which leads to growth. We have other Bible Study leaders sending out Bible Study outlines and notes to help their members. 

The Watchman Prayer Ministry, with 100 prayer warriors praying 117 hours each week, is making a difference, as is the Prayer Chain and the wonderful job Ginny Denton is doing in sharing prayer requests on a very timely basis. 

Deacons, Bible Study leaders and members, and others are calling and contacting the members of this congregation. Friends are calling friends, and needs are being met. The people are the “church”, and the building is just where we meet.  Ministry takes place, both in the gathering place and in the community.  

Twice a week, we send out the FBCSCW E-Blast to inform, encourage, and inspire.  Once a month, we send out by mail our Upbeat newsletter to provide insights, news, and spiritual inspiration. 

We know all too well how hard it is not to be together as a church family in one place.  The fellowship is missing.  It is for each of us on the Leadership Team as well. That time will come for certain. Until then, please take time to call, email, or text folks in our church directory, your friends, and Bible Study members.  Let them know they are valued and thought of during this time of “pause.” 

Thank you for your continual prayer for our Leadership Team, which consists of our Response Task Force, Deacons, and Retired Ministers.  During our meeting, we practiced social distancing with each person being at least six feet from the next person, and all wore masks, as well.  

It was evident that you were praying for this team as there was such a sweet spirit in their meeting, with concern and compassion for our congregation.  Please continue to pray for the Leadership Team as they strive to continue to hear from God. They will meet again in July to evaluate and discuss the next steps for our church.

 

Pastor Kirby for the Leadership Team

May 27, 2020


E-Blast Special Edition



New Timeframe for Potential Worship Services


It is good for us to remind ourselves of where we have been as we look forward to what
is ahead.


We “paused” all our gatherings and ministries on March 18 and set a potential date of
returning to church as usual on Sunday, May 3. The Response Task Force, Deacons,
and Retired Ministers had hoped that the Coronavirus would have diminished to a point
that it would be safe to hold services again.


The Leadership Team met on Tuesday, April 28, to make decisions on what authority
we needed to follow, what plan we should use to gradually re-open all ministries when
the time was right, and on what date we should re-open. At that meeting, it was decided
to follow the CDC recommendations. The process to re-open was agreed upon by
consensus, and it was determined that it was too early for us to re-open, giving that we
are serving a high- risk community. It was agreed to wait until June to re-open, and this
group would meet again at the end of May to review and discuss the specific date for
services to begin again.


This Leadership Team met yesterday, May 26, for just over an hour, discussing what
our next steps would be as a congregation.


The majority consensus of the Leadership Team is that it is still not in the best
interest of our congregation to have worship services start in our facility at this
time. Maintaining the health and protection of the congregation is the top priority
during this pandemic.


It was decided, by 14 of the 15 members of the Leadership Team present, that it is
in the best interest of our congregation to continue our “pause”, and to set the
potential timeframe of returning to churchwide worship in July.


The greatest concern for the Leadership Team was for the ongoing welfare of the
congregation. Our congregation is in the high-risk category, including many members
with underlying medical conditions. Over Memorial Day weekend, many people around
the country, including here, celebrated while not following the social distancing criteria.
The majority of the Leadership Team felt it was best to evaluate what happens over the
next several weeks with those who did not follow the recommendations.


With the full knowledge that some churches in our area are beginning to re-open, the
majority of the Leadership Team felt it was important for us to watch what happens in
those churches as they begin to worship together. This will give us a good indication of
how the safe distancing protocols are working, or about things that we need to adjust or
change to make our congregation as protected, safe, and healthy as possible.

The Leadership Team believes that worship and ministries are continuing to take place
through FBCSCW, even during this time of “pause.” Through our website, worship
services and messages are viewed, Bible Study is available, as is ongoing inspiration
and other resources. The Zoom Bible Study classes continue to teach and interact,
which leads to growth. The Watchman Prayer Ministry, with 100 prayer warriors praying
117 hours each week, is making a difference, as is the Prayer Chain and the wonderful
job Ginny Denton is doing in sharing prayer requests on a very timely basis.
Deacons, Bible Study leaders and members, and others are calling and contacting the
members of this congregation. Friends are calling friends, and needs are being met.
The people are the “church”, and the building is just where we meet. Ministry takes
place, both in the gathering place and in the community.


The need that is not being met during this time of “pause” is that of fellowship among
the members of this community of faith, especially enjoyed when we come together for
worship. It will come again, and we believe it will be stronger. Until we can get together
again, let’s continue to call, text, e-mail, and visit (if you can stay six feet from the other
person). This will help and will go a long way to encourage and inspire each other
during this most challenging time.


Thank you for taking the time to pray for our Leadership Team which consists of our
Response Task Force, Deacons, and Retired Ministers. During our meeting, we
practiced social distancing with each person being at least 6 feet from the next person,
and all wore masks, as well. All had the opportunity to speak from a microphone to the
topics we were discussing, and the microphone was sanitized after each speaker.
It was evident that you were praying for this team as there was such a sweet spirit in
their meeting, with concern and compassion for our congregation. Please continue to
pray for the Leadership Team as they strive to continue to hear from God. They will
meet again at the end of June to discuss our re-opening for July.

Pastor Kirby for the Leadership Team

April 29, 2020

E-Blast Special Edition

 

New Timeframe for Potential Worship Services

We “paused” all our gatherings and ministries on March 18 and set a potential date of returning to church as usual on Sunday, May 3.  The Response Task Force, Deacons, and Retired Ministers had hoped that the Coronavirus would have diminished to a point that it would be safe to hold services again.

This team met yesterday, April 28 for two hours, discussing what our next steps would be as a congregation. 

The unified consensus of the Leadership Team is that it is not in the best interest of our congregation to have worship services start in our facility at this time. Maintaining the health and protection of the congregation is the top priority during this pandemic. Therefore, our congregation will NOT meet at our facility on May 3.

It was decided by the Leadership Team that it is in the best interest of our congregation to continue our “pause” and set a potential timeframe of returning to churchwide worship in early to mid-June.  This timeframe is open to change, depending on what we find with the CDC guidelines and what is happening in our area. 

Below you will read the rationale and thought processes from the 17 people who are on the team that met Tuesday.  

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to pray for our Leadership Team consisting of our Response Task Force, Deacons, and Retired Ministers.  We were blessed to have 17 of our Leadership Team members who were able to attend, and three others who sent their comments and thoughts for us to consider. We practiced social distancing as each person was at least 6 feet from the next person, and all wore masks, as well.  All had the opportunity to speak from a microphone to the topics we were discussing, and the microphone was sanitized after each speaker.

It was evident that you were praying for this team as there was such a sweet spirit and a concerned, compassionate heart for our congregation at this critical time in our lives.  On the one hand, we know that our congregation desires to get back together and have that sweet fellowship in-person, sharing with each other, and in Bible Study and worship of our Heavenly Father.  On the other hand, there is the deep concern that we are a high-risk community of faith, and we have the great responsibility to protect the congregation.

 

The Meeting

In the two-hour meeting on Tuesday, we discussed many topics and addressed many issues and questions. There was a spirit of unity, thoughtful discussion, and consensus on most issues, and on other issues a willingness to join the majority to make a consensus.

The Overarching Topics of Discussion Were Three-Fold

First, what criteria or entity should we be watching and following as to when the best time to have public worship services again? There were three options we reviewed and discussed. First is the CDC and National Coronavirus Task Force; second, Arizona and Governor Ducey; third, as an autonomous congregation, just do what we feel led to do that honors God.

There was excellent discussion on this topic. At the end of the discussion, there was a unanimous consensus that we follow the CDC/National Coronavirus Task Force guidelines.  Those guidelines follow a three-phase process for opening a state and the country.  Arizona is still growing in the numbers of cases and deaths.  The virus has now reached us.  In Sun City West last week, it was reported that we had 6-10 confirmed cases. That number jumped to 49 over this past weekend.  There could be several reasons for that jump.

The Leadership Team felt that the CDC focuses on the health aspect surrounding the virus.  Governors across the United States are concerned about the health, but to a larger degree, they are concerned about getting their communities going again and getting the economy up and running.

The team understood the need for both perspectives.  If Governor Ducey saw Arizona as all retirees, he would have a different plan in place.  He would work his hardest to take care of the health issues.

The Leadership Team felt what we need to do as a church is that we must, first and foremost, take the perspective of protecting and caring for the short and long-term health of our congregation. Therefore, it was decided that we would follow the CDC guidelines with the understanding that, as an autonomous congregation, we can be flexible if things change more quickly than we might have thought.

A second issue discussed was how to gradually integrate all the various ministries while using the CDC guidelines which include social distancing, washing hands a lot, wearing masks, etc. 

The team discussed our committees, councils and ministries, as to when and how they could safely be integrated back into the full church schedule. We addressed many details about each ministry, and how to make sure we can follow the CDC guidelines which is meant to keep us protected and safe.  At the end of the discussion, there was full consensus to gradually bring in each ministry group. When we have our first worship service, this more detailed plan will begin and move us down a path of celebration of ministries.

The third issue we addressed was when should we resume our meeting together for worship.  This decision was communicated at the beginning.  This was probably the one issue that did not require the group to reach a consensus.  The point for the Leadership Team was that they are charged with protection, nurturing, and caring for our congregation.  As a high-risk segment of society, we must realize how quickly health issues come on.  The team was unanimous on the timeframe of restarting our public worship service and how to make it as worshipful and safe as possible.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The ministerial staff will keep watch on all developments and continue to work as they have been, striving to communicate clearly to all leadership and congregation. The support staff will continue to serve faithfully while accomplishing their assignments. Many of those assignments are geared to communicate with the congregation to keep them informed.

The Leadership Team will continue to monitor things happening in the country, and in Arizona and with the CDC, to see if any adjustments need to be discussed. They will meet as needed to discuss any changes that have occurred that might give us a clue on the best time to start back in worship.

We are asking the church membership to continue to pray for this virus to be eliminated, to pray for our country and the world which is in pain, pray for your staff, and for your opportunity to find ways to not only grow and fellowship, but to touch your neighbor or friend with God’s compassionate care.  Keep calling, texting and e-mailing the members of your Bible study class, and your friends and other church members.  This encouragement is a blessing. This is a powerful season for God to bring about revival and spiritual awakening. “Lord, that is what we desire. Here am I, send me.”

 

Pastor Kirby for the Leadership Team

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

 

RE: Coronavirus Update from your Pastor and Church Leadership

 

Dear FBCSCW Family,

These are unprecedented times for most of us as we face COVID-19.  I have been in contact with the Emergency Management representatives in AZ, the leadership in SCW, our Arizona Baptist Convention and a number of pastors in our area to strive to discern the very best for our congregation going forward.

We have been praying for wisdom from God as to how our church should respond to the COVID-19 virus.  I Chronicles 12:32 states, “from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do….”  It is an obscure passage in the Old Testament about a group of men within the people of Israel. They “understood the times….”  It means that they knew the significant happenings of their world – events and movements, trends and ideologies, current and worldviews. 

The men of Issachar didn’t simply know those signs, but knew how to then live in light of them. They had a sense of what to think, how to act and the manner in which to respond…the role their lives had to play in light of the moment in which they lived. Knowing the signs of the times, and how then to live, has to be the most pressing challenge facing any life.  Wisdom…

This morning I met with the Response Task Force and then with the Deacons and retired ministers from our church.  They do understand the perilous times we live in today. They are wise as to how we should move forward as a church to do our part in helping curb this deadly virus before it takes so many lives.

It was with conviction that those present unanimously decided that the church should “Pause” all of our gatherings and meetings for 45 days beginning today.  Therefore, there will not be a Wednesday service tonight.  They felt that the danger to our vulnerable church and community is great as this virus spreads.  It has now been confirmed in our area and will continue to spread.  This is dangerous for each of us but, also our neighbors. 

I like what Dr. David Johnson said, “Paul says, ‘Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law’ Rom. 13:10.  In this situation, love means making sure we do not do anything that could spread the virus further and do harm to others. It also means caring for those in our congregation who will suffer in other ways during this time.” It is a time to demonstrate Christ’s love to our neighbors.

 

From today through Saturday, May 2nd we will not have any gatherings. Our office will be open during normal office hours unless it is deemed unsafe.  We ask that you not come to the office if you are sick and if you do come, please speak with our ministry assistants from the doorway. Our phones and emails will be available.

There will be additional information on Thursday about watching this week’s sermon on Sunday morning through our website and many other details through our email blast.  Please check out our website for more information.  If you have never been on the website, just call the church office and our staff will help you to navigate it. (www.fbcscw.org

 

Below is a more detailed description about all the gatherings we are putting on “Pause” during this difficult time.

 

 

Timeframe:

Wednesday, March 18 – Saturday, May 2, 2020

 

Affected Meetings/Events:

  • Sunday Bible Studies

  • Sunday Morning Worship Services

  • Sunday Morning Fellowship Time

  • Sunday Evening Topical Studies

  • Wednesday Night Bible Study/Prayer

  • Choir and Ensembles

  • Easter Musical

  • All Administrative and Service Committee/Council/Ministry Meetings (If there is an urgent matter of business a group of 10 can possibly meet; otherwise, meetings by email is best)

  • Any other gathering

 

God Bless,

 

Dr. Kirby Kennedy

Senior Pastor

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17419 N. Conquistador Drive, Sun City West | 623-584-5738 | office@fbcscw.org