Rappin’ With 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

In House Worship

The morning after President Trump declared churches to be essential, and that governors should allow them to open, I received a text message asking if there would be “in house worship” the next day. Sadly, I had to say we’d just be online.

Being able to worship online has been a blessing, and I’m very grateful to every-one who has made it possible. However, we are all anxious to get back to church, and I read just this morning that nearly half of regular churchgoers are apparently tired of online worship because they haven’t done so in the past four weeks.

No one thought the restrictions would last this long, and we’re all ready for things to get back to normal. But, as we’re being told, the best we can expect in the near future is a “new normal.” The elders pondered what that might look like at Tuesday’s meeting.

Once the decision is made to resume corporate worship, we’ll begin gradually, and with several changes to assure the safety of those gathering. To comply with guidelines, we will tape off every other pew, and encourage families to sit together. For the first week or so, the nurseries will be closed, and no children’s worship or Sunday School will be offered. To avoid contamination, no bulletins will be passed out, and outlines and manuscripts will be available on tables to be personally picked up. Offering trays will also be on the tables, and communion will already be in the receptacles on the back of pews. We will probably reduce the number of songs we sing, and remain seated while doing so. We will offer no refreshments in the fellowship hall, and those who wish to visit will be encouraged to do so in the parking lot.

I know all this sounds draconian, but we don’t want to appear rebellious against those in authority over us, and we do want everyone to be as safe as possible. When we determine we can worship together again, services will be live-streamed online as well as recorded for later viewing, and no one will be expected to come if they are at high risk or are uncomfortable doing so.

God Bless, Rick

Not a Typo

As Dave noted when sending me the total offerings that had come in for April 26th, “Not a typo.” The $39,059.16 in the statistics column is for real! Sort of.

The regular offerings that had been sent to the church for the month totaled just under $20,000, which is about $500 a week under our pre-quarantine projection. What shot the number soaring was a $36,000 gift that had been sent for missions. The donor had taken funds out of his retirement account, and asked that we use them to meet special needs that exist in the missions we support. After evaluating the needs we were aware of, three were selected.

$17,000 was sent to Theo to purchase a vehicle. His truck was almost beyond repairs, and he has had to rely on public transportation and taxis to minister to the churches he oversees and to meet the various needs that exist. The churches in Jamaica are very dependent on support from others, and we have always been Theo’s primary supporter. We bought him his first vehicle nearly 30 years ago, and he managed to replace it once, but due to a decline in support and expanding needs was unable to purchase another.

The second recipient was Haitian Christian Ministries. Mark Zimmerman is on their board, and after consulting with him we decided to send the school $10,000 to help with a much needed bathroom and septic system. Mark said it was desperately needed, but was not something that’s easy to get supporters excited about.

The final gift went to Kent Paris. As you know, Kent is one of very few who offers biblical hope and healing to those who are caught up in sinful sexual confusion. He has recently had overwhelming health and financial struggles, and has even been banned from using Facebook for posting content that was deemed hateful. The $5,000 we were able to send not only met pressing needs, but was a great encouragement to him and Sherri.

The remaining $4,000 is being held for anticipated needs that may be soon coming from Mexico or elsewhere.

God Bless, Rick