A Letter From Our Pastor

Posted: December 9, 2020

Dear Church Family,

As I write this letter, our state and community are experiencing a significant surge in the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Our congregation has certainly felt the impact as more than a dozen church members having contracted the virus.

On November 18, our Church Administrative Council met to evaluate our church’s response to the spreading virus in our community. At this meeting, following state guidelines and with the assistance of contacts at the CDC (Center for Disease Control), we developed a policy and plan that would be implemented if the infection rate increased beyond the threshold of safety for indoor gatherings.

In the wake of this meeting, in late November and early December, our community experienced a rapid rise that has led us to an unprecedented level of daily new cases. Due to this unexpectedly quick increase, the Church Administrative Council met again on December 8, 2020, and acted upon the previously approved policy to temporarily suspend all indoor in-person group gatherings to be effective on December 13, 2020. (This includes Sunday school, worship, and small groups of the church as well as programming of the Academy of Arts, Smoke Rise Weekday School, and Smoke Rise Preparatory School.)

This decision was not taken lightly and was not an easy one. Members of the Administrative Council universally expressed disappointment and regret that this step was necessary. But they also unanimously voted that it was a necessary one. We have committed to re-evaluate in early January to determine when we can safely resume in-person gatherings. We are hoping and praying that we can be back together early in 2021.

Let me make it abundantly clear that this is not a decision to close Smoke Rise Baptist Church. We will continue to worship, to learn, to care, to serve, and to give. We will be streaming services from our sanctuary with ministers, musicians, and choral ensembles. We will continue to engage in spiritual formation through our Zoom formats for Sunday school classes.

I want you to know that no one in this church is more disappointed than your pastor. It has been such a blessing to see people in the pews once again at Smoke Rise and to sit-in on Sunday school classes meeting on our church campus. I look forward to the day when we are not only able to worship and learn together in-person, but even to enjoying fellowship with one another, exchanging handshakes and hugs, and enjoying Miss Lou’s fried chicken. I believe with all my heart, based on what we are hearing from medical professionals and the scientific community, that this day is drawing nearer. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are closer to the end of this pandemic than ever before. But we must continue to be cautious and courageous, valiant and vigilant, wary and wise.

On a brighter note, I am excited and pleased to share with you two wonderful worship opportunities that will be taking place in December. On December 20 at 5:00 pm, our music ministry will present a virtual concert called “Sing We All Noel” which includes multiple choral and instrumental works. It will be a wonderful celebration of the Christmas Season. Then, on Christmas Eve, we will host an outdoor communion and candlelight service in our church parking lot. This event will be both meaningful and memorable. You do not want to miss it.

Be in prayer for our community and our country. Be in prayer for our church and our church’s leaders. Be in prayer for all those who have lost loved ones in the past year.

Continue to be engaged in the ongoing ministries of Smoke Rise Baptist Church. Shine your light and sing your carols and prepare the world for the coming of the Christ Child.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Chris

COVID-19 Worship and Operations Plan

Updated: November 23, 2020

The United States is facing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has resulted in extended public health warnings. On November 18, 2020, the Administrative Council reviewed and approved updated worship and operation plans for Smoke Rise Baptist Church.

Worshipping “online” remains the surest, safest and preferred way for congregants to stay safe in worship during the on-going pandemic. If you are enjoying this option, we urge you to continue doing so for your safety.

You should not attend in-person worship unless you have thoroughly and seriously considered all the consequences to you and your health. Adherence to restrictions adopted for in-person worship does not eliminate the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Restrictions adopted by our church are designed to decrease your risk of being exposed to or contracting the virus. Before you decide to attend in-person worship, we urge you to read all the information about the potential risk to your health and safety at the following webpages:
(a) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html
(b) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html

The Administrative Council approves updated restrictions consistent with the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control as follows:
(1) If attendance patterns require more space to accommodate increased social distancing, the staff should institute two worship service times.
(2) Continued observance of social distancing guidelines to include new set-up in the sanctuary designed to maintain nine (9) feet or more between persons and/or family units during worship (a 50% increase in distancing for worship over prior guidelines).
(3) Temperature checks reading lower than 100.4 to attend worship.
(4) Wearing facemasks that cover the mouth and nose, with masks worn above the nose at all times while in the building during worship.
(5) Compliance with all other recommendations of risk management that remain in effect, including sanitation, cleaning, handwashing, personal hygiene, disinfection, and special rules of ingress and egress.

Under what circumstances would in-person worship be cancelled or suspended?
Informed by consultation with contacts at the CDC, the Administrative Council authorizes immediate suspension or cancellation of worship based on any one of the following:
(1) If combined local and/or regional hospital capacity to treat COVID-19 patients in the greater Atlanta area reach a threshold of a 75% or higher limit on capacity (excluding hospitals in Gwinnett County where need exceeds capacity under typical circumstances). If capacity reaches 70%, the Administrative Council shall convene an emergency meeting to review worship and operation plans.
(2) If the seven-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 residents reaches a combined threshold averaging 40 or higher in counties contiguous to the church (Dekalb, Gwinnett and Fulton). If the seven-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 residents reaches a combined threshold averaging 35 or more but less than 40, the Administrative Council shall convene an emergency meeting to review worship and operation plans.
(3) If our ministry staff is under quarantine due to a COVID-19 exposure.
(4) If the Administrative Council approves a cancellation for any other reason it deems prudent for the safety of persons in consultation with the ministry staff. The science and recommendations are updated daily. Specific markers may be revised over time if new guidance or information is provided by public health authorities.

In the event worship is cancelled due to reasons (1) or (2) above, all other events and activities at the church will also be cancelled until conditions on the ground change, including all children and youth activities of all kinds.

If we cancel in-person worship for any reason, staff will make every effort to broadcast worship online each Sunday. If you do not have access to online worship opportunities, please contact the church office to find out how we can help you get access to online worship or other means of worshiping with us in a virtual or digital format.

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