Not a typo… again!

No, it’s not a typo! The offering for September 6th really was $53,329.00! Perhaps I better explain.

In our last church paper I shared that the elders had decided to resurface part of our parking lot. I had noted that the bid to do the entire lot was $110,000, but that since $66,000 would pretty much deplete our bank account, the decision was made to just resurface what we could afford.

The next day I received a text from a church member that said a check for $44,000 would be in the following Sunday’s offering, so we could do the whole thing! When I told “Cousin Bill” that we now wanted to do the entire lot, he told me that was really good for the church. To finish the job in several years would have cost substantially more.

When discussing the cost, however, he mentioned that he wasn’t certain, but thought the bid may have been for $112,000. When I checked, he was right, and when I hesitantly mentioned that to the donor, he said not to worry about it. Another $2,000 would be the next offering!

As amazing as all that is, there is even more to the story. You may recall that back in April we had $36,000 given to the church. When I mentioned that we were in need of parking lot repairs, the donor indicated that he really wanted the funds to go to missions. We of course honored his request, and were very happy to make it possible for Theo to buy a vehicle in Jamaica, start a major bathroom project in Haiti, and meet special needs that Kent Paris was facing in his ministry with those facing homosexual and gender issues.

Apparently God honored the desire to meet mission needs before our own, and saw to it that our needs were met as well.

There is still another amazing part to this story. Many churches are struggling financially due to the restrictions in place due to COVID-19. We, on the other hand, have not only been blessed with two amazing offerings, but checks began coming in the mail regularly when we couldn’t meet, and the level of giving has remained above what we projected we might need before the year began!

God is good, and His people are faithful!

God Bless, Rick

Worship, Study, and Fellowship

When everyone was told to shelter at home due to the developing pandemic, and churches were told to close their doors, we obeyed. We cancelled our services for March 15th, as we had done previously due to weather emergencies. By the next Sunday, however, we were online, and we maintained a purely online presence for twelve weeks.

We wanted to maintain normalcy as much as possible, so the praise team came to the building and recorded praise songs, hymns were recorded from home, communion meditations were videoed, and I continued preaching through Mark’s gospel, in coat and tie, to empty pews.

None of this would have been possible without the hard work and technological wizardry of Chris Luzio. I can’t thank him enough for all he did to make it possible for us to stay reasonably connected.

Then, at a specially called elders’ meeting on June 4th, the decision was made to open our doors on June 14th, and begin offering in-house worship. We put in place procedures we thought would decrease the likelihood of exposure to the virus, and 74 showed up for worship. Chris was also able to provide a live-feed so those who felt they should remain at home could worship remotely with their brothers and sisters. We have averaged 70 in-house for twelve weeks, and nearly that online.

We are now excited to announce that we are transitioning back into a full program of worship, study, and fellowship. The youth group kick-off is scheduled for September 13th, and youth groups and adult study will begin, Lord willing, on the 20th. Children’s worship, Sunday School classes, and a nursery will hopefully be available on October 4th.

A big shout-out must also go to Casey Blakely who is now fine tuning our new sound system. The system has been designed to assure that quality sound will be delivered throughout the auditorium, with no dead spots. If you are able to safely gather with your brothers and sisters, come hear it for yourself this Sunday at 9:15. I’ll be looking for you.

God Bless, Rick

Mountains

There’s something very special about mountains, and I’ve been fascinated by them since childhood. I used to look at pictures, and dream of actually seeing one. When our neighbors said they were going to the Smokey Mountains for vacation, I looked it up. Those weren’t mountains; they were just big hills!

My first glimpse of an actual mountain took place during spring break my freshman year at Lincoln. A couple of friends and I were heading to California in a Pontiac convertible when we spotted our first mountain in New Mexico. We decided to drive to it, and followed a gravel road until stopped by a fence. It looked like it was just a short ways off, so we climbed the fence and started walking. We never got to it! They’re even bigger than I thought!

Marilyn and I have been to the mountains many times, both with and without the kids. She never liked driving mountain roads in a van, but loved it on a motorcycle, and wasn’t afraid. She could always see the edge of the road.

My Hunley grandkids had seen the mountains of Disney World several times, but had never seen the real thing. With Grace heading off to college, I figured this would be my last chance to get them there. In spite of a tornado that almost altered our plans, we packed eight people in a minivan and headed to Colorado for a week of high country adventure.

The day we spent driving rocky trails in Jeeps was over the top…literally! We danced on the edge with mountain goats! But as much fun as that was, the highlight for me was when Grace looked at the mountains and said she had never seen anything so amazing. Indeed, there is something very special about mountains.

The Bible mentions them almost five hundred times. When God spoke to Moses He did so on a mountain top. And I can relate to the Psalmist when he said, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

As amazing as the mountains are, I can’t wait to see heaven!

God Bless, Rick

Coming Back to Church

I found a letter on my desk last week. The sister who wrote it was not happy with me. I had said in church the Sunday before that due to the pandemic I wasn’t encouraging anyone to come to church. I admitted it was a strange thing for a preacher to say, but she insisted it was a wrong thing for a church leader to say. And she was right.

She suggested that some were simply getting out of the habit of coming, or just found watching the service on TV more convenient. I told her I said what I said because I didn’t want to guilt anyone into coming who shouldn’t come. If she’s right, it’s time for me to pull out the guilt card!

Obviously if you are at increased risk, and are avoiding being around others because of health concerns, you should take advantage of the opportunity to worship online for the time being. I certainly would not want to encourage anyone to go against their better judgment and do something that would needlessly endanger their health, or the health of someone under their care. And I realize that by not providing a nursery it’s difficult to worship while trying to corral little ones. But if there is really no good reason for you not being here, you need to be here. And we have done everything we can to make it as safe as possible for you be here.

Every other pew is taped off, and social distancing is encouraged. Doors to the auditorium are left open to facilitate air flow, and to allow people to slip in and out without coming in direct contact with anyone if that is their desire. Those who want to socialize a bit are encouraged to do so in the parking lot. And we do encourage the use of masks. In fact, some, like my grumbling grandkids, have been ordered to do so.

To end on light-hearted note, I have to tell you how someone who happens to share my first name responded when I asked why he had started coming back. He said he had run out of soup crackers for communion.

Rest assured communion will be waiting for you in your pew when you come this Sunday.

God Bless, Rick

Opening the Doors… All of Them

After being closed for thirteen weeks due to the pandemic, the church doors will be open this Sunday, June 14th, for in-house worship. And all the doors will be open!

In an attempt to facilitate distancing and minimize risk, we will be encouraging those coming to use any of the three doors into the auditorium as an entrance and exit. And the doors will be left open during the service to maximize air flow.

Upon entering you will find sermon outlines, manuscripts and pens near the doors, along with an offering tray, hand sanitizer, and masks. Communion will already be in the receptacles on the back of the pews, and every other row of pews will be taped off.

Families are being asked to sit together, and to leave space between themselves and other families or individuals. The use of facial masks is being encouraged, especially while singing.

The nurseries will be closed, and parents are asked to keep their children with them at all times. There will be no childcare, children’s worship, or Sunday School until it is determined that it is safe to offer such.

There will be no refreshments offered in the fellowship hall, and those who wish to visit after the service are encouraged to do so in the parking lot.

I want to emphasize that we do not expect, nor want, any who should not gather with others because they are at increased risk, or have family members who are at risk, to come. And obviously anyone who is not feeling well should not come.

We will be offering a live-feed of the service for those who decide they should not come but wish to worship along with those who do, and the service will be recorded for those who desire to utilize it as they have been doing.

I can’t express how pleased I am that the elders decided it was time for us to begin offering a worship service at the church. I won’t be shaking your hand at the door as usual, but I am so looking forward to seeing many of you this Lord’s Day.

God Bless, Rick