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As coronavirus cases are starting to surge in Chicago (which is going to be further complicated by entering what was already the normal flu and cold season), we wanted to give more guidelines for making sure that we can safely maintain meeting together for worship and fellowship.

We want to continue being Bible directed, which involves loving our city and our neighbors by trying to prevent the spread of COVID until there’s a vaccine or treatment (i.e. Rom. 13:10). And we want to continue to be local government informed (1Pe. 2:13-17).

Recommendations:

· Please be sure to RSVP to church services early every week! This helps us to follow city limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings and also helps us know who may be exposed in case of future infections.

· During this season, if you are feeling sick please do not attend worship, even if you don’t think you have COVID. Oftentimes how people respond to a cold and COVID can be very similar.

· Please default to getting tested if you are feeling ill. If you get tested negative, other people may not have to get tested. If you are positive, however, others have the chance to get tested so they can make informed decisions on how to avoid further infecting others in the community.  If you have tested positive, please let us know here.

· We encourage you to receive the flu vaccine this year. Although influenza is less deadly than COVID-19, it is also very infectious and can confuse people with whether they have COVID or not. This can negatively impact ability to go to work, school, or other things.

· Please follow city recommendations and guidelines for travel restrictions as best as you can.

· Please follow CDC recommendations on mask wearing and hand hygiene as best as you can.

· And remember: even if you may not be in danger of serious complications from COVID, you can start a chain of infection that can ultimately infect someone who is more likely to have serious complications. Please do not see these measures merely in the context of individual protection. They are in place to also help others.

The following are two flow charts to help you think through what to do if you are directly exposed to someone with COVID or are experiencing COVID-like symptoms.

Introduction

Praise God that the numbers continue to improve and our city is preparing to gradually resume ‘normal’ life!  As this progresses, here is our general plan for resuming in-person meetings.

Bible Directed

We desperately and rightfully long to be together again. The next section of psalms that our church is getting ready to go through in our Bible Reading Plan – the ‘Songs of Ascent’ – were sung as pilgrims anticipated worship at the Temple. We can certainly relate to the sentiment expressed in Psalm 122:1 – “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”

As we’ve said from the beginning of this season, we must not forget that assembling together around Jesus is fundamental to what a New Testament church (ekklesia) is. We have tried to safeguard this truth by not attempting to produce an online version of ‘church’, but rather to let the lack be felt and drive us to deeper reflection and prayer (listen to Episode 2 of the Immanuel Pastors Podcast for more). Therefore, we are especially eager to resume Sunday gatherings as soon as reasonably possible.

Local Government Informed

But the Bible also directs us to love our neighbors (Rom. 13:10) and to submit to our governing authorities (1Pe. 2:13-17). While the President recognized churches as essential and some in other parts of the country are already re-convening… and while the Governor has lifted restrictions on Illinois churches, our particular setting requires a slightly slower pace. For the sake of our local witness and local public health, at this point we will be following the re-opening guidelines laid out by our Mayor.

Phases 1 & 2

Though it was hard, we stressed staying home as much as possible and when outside using social distancing and face masks during the first phases of this pandemic. Small Groups and Prayer Meeting happened via Zoom and Sunday services were cancelled.

Phase 3

Since the Mayor declared that the City could enter Phase 3 on June 3 we still have not gathered on Sundays, but our Small Groups began having an in-person element. Some have been uncomfortable or unable to come and so we still have a Zoom option for joining in. Plus, Small Groups have not been able to have over 10 people present (including kids), so some people have had to opt to stay home and join via Zoom on certain weeks. Those come have to wear masks and keep a safe distance. We encourage outdoor gatherings as much as possible. But this has been a welcome step forward towards embodied re-engagement with each other.

Phase 4

As soon as Chicago enters into Phase 4 (which in the current plan allows for gatherings of up to 50 people) Small Groups will have no attendance limit and we will move to begin having Sunday corporate worship again! It won’t feel like March 8th did. It won’t even feel like March 15th (our last Sunday together when we had started to implement several precautions). But it will feel good.

In the months and years to come, we want to be up front that we are not expecting a totally COVID-free church, but we will have a COVID-safe church. This is not a comprehensive list, but here are just some of the safety measures we plan to have in place at first:

· There will be a lot of hand sanitizer.

· Everyone will have to wear and sing with masks.

· We will not offer Kids’ Corner.

· No handshakes or hugs.

· There will not be any food, besides the Lord’s Table (and we have a plan for distributing those elements in an extra careful way).

· Offering baskets will not be passed but will remain stationary.

· There will be no bulletins and it will be BYOB (bring-your-own-Bible).

· Surfaces will be wiped down after every use and The Meeting Place will be professionally cleaned every week instead of every month.

· Seating will be spread apart.

· Entrance, exit, and traffic flow will be streamlined to maintain safe distance and minimize touching handles.

· Those who are sick or susceptible should stay home.

· RSVPs will be required and the Welcoming Team will keep a count to make sure we do not exceed 50 people.

The 50 person limit does not leave much wiggle room for visitors, but we think we can meet like this for a while and evaluate our options as the fall and the possible return of students approaches. Perhaps there will be new developments in the spread of the virus and/or government guidelines by then. We will also be prepared for the possibility of needing to move back to Phase 3 at some point.

The logistics and legalities of outdoor services have also being explored, but at the moment seem to have too high of a liability.

Conclusion

We want to communicate openly with you about our plans. Obviously, circumstances are constantly shifting and plans are always subject to the Lord’s will (James 4:13-15). We will keep monitoring the situation.

In the meantime, we ask you to keep praying: for us as leaders, for each other, for your own soul to remain in Christ’s love, for the revival of the Church, for the lost around us and around the world, for the abatement of this virus, and ultimately for the return of Christ. Keep pursuing the Lord through private and family worship routines. And keep pursuing relationships with your brothers and sisters through things like our Saturday Morning Prayer Meetings, weekly Small Group Bible Studies, discussing the Sunday Guides, participating in the Facebook Group conversations and events… and through reaching out individually.

We hosted a Town Hall Zoom Meeting for members of the church to discuss this on June 21.

 

Updated 6/24/20

‘If disaster comes upon us,

the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine,

we will stand before this house and before you —

for your name is in this house —

and cry out to you in our affliction,

and you will hear and save.’

2 Chronicles 20:9

In the New Testament era, there is nothing special about a particular place. We can come before God’s heavenly throne anytime, anywhere by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19; cf. 4:16). Let’s join together and cry out to him during this season!

We’re moving our regular weekly Prayer Meeting to Saturday mornings at 10:00 AM via Zoom for the time being.

Peace I leave with you;

my peace I give to you.

Not as the world gives do I give to you.

Let not your hearts be troubled,

neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27

Members and Attenders of Immanuel,

All schools in the state of Illinois closed down on Tuesday and will not re-open until at least March 30th. These missed days will not be made up because the closure is due to what they refer to as an “act of God.” We believers know that this unusual time is indeed from the hand of our sovereign Lord. And we trust that he has wise yet mysterious plans for this disruption to our daily lives. We will be doing much reflection on what those might be in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

For now, we wanted to communicate some important information with everyone.

Sunday Services – After much prayer, thinking, counsel, and deliberation, we have decided to suspend our regular Lord’s Day gathering starting this Sunday (3/22). This was not an easy decision. But the state of Illinois has now mandated the cancellation of events of more than 50 people. As a church of 88 members plus children, regular attenders, and visitors this does not allow us to all assemble together, nor does it seem wise at the moment. We want to preserve the unity of the body and promote the safety of our city, and so we are regretfully taking this extreme but temporary measure. We will re-evaluate this decision every week as the circumstances are constantly changing.

We also have decided not to do a ‘livestream’ of a service. We are not judging other churches that have chosen this option, but we feel like it would be wisest not to allow anyone to think that such an activity can replace what is meant to happen in the assembly of the saints. During this season we pray that you would remember fondly all the sweet times we’ve had together at The Meeting Place and long deeply for our future reunion there.

We will be giving you more guidance and resources for how to be spending your time on Sunday mornings (and all the other days).

Small Groups – Hopefully you already received communication from your Small Group Leaders that we have asked Small Groups not to meet physically together for the time being. Each group, however, is encouraged to communicate regularly, share updates, and even experiment with different ways of sharing insights from the Bible Reading Plan and staying in touch via technology. Your Small Group will be a great way to still be connected with other people in the community during this time.

Prayer Ministry – We are working on different ways to have online prayer meetings and organize prayer walks. We are mobilizing our Intercessory Prayer Team to ensure that everyone is covered in prayer. And please reach out to them at prayer with any items you need specific prayer for!

Children’s Ministry – Our Deacon of Children’s Ministry is working on getting curriculum and activities for you to use at home with your children. And the Elders will be sharing more resources for Family Worship.

Koinonia – Our Deacon of Koinonia is working on some creative and fun ideas for ways to still foster community life during this season. Stay tuned…

Member Support and Mercy Ministry – Our budget has funds built in to meet tangible needs inside and outside our church community. If you have or know of any financial needs during this time that the church can help meet OR if you would like to contribute extra money to this fund, please contact the Elders!

We will be communicating with you regularly as we go through this together. For now, we encourage you to keep up a regular schedule, keep reading the Bible Reading Plan and good books, keep memorizing and meditating on Psalm 1, pray… and (as was said in last Sunday’s sermon) do all this before and more than you watch the news and Netflix.

Your Pastors,

Nathan & Theo

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, we have a great opportunity to demonstrate our difference from the world (the topic of this coming Sunday’s sermon passage in 1 John).

This means that we exhibit peace in the midst of panic because we know him who is from the beginning (1Jn. 2:13,14). So many passages of Scripture come to mind that call us not to be anxious (i.e. Ph. 4:6-7), not to be worried (i.e. Lk. 12:29), not to fear but find refuge in God (i.e. Ps. 46:1-2), etc…

We are ultimately not even afraid of death (i.e. Ph. 1:21; Heb. 2:15). And we have the message that can rescue people from eternal death (i.e. Jn. 11:25). Let’s be sure to share the gospel with a hopeless world during this time and recognize its power to go viral (see Mt. 13:33).

Some trust in the banks and financial institutions, some trust in government health professionals, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Ps. 20:7). We don’t set our hope on the uncertainty of riches (1Tim. 6:17), but our treasure is safe in heaven (Mt. 6:19-21).

We believe in the mercy of God (see 1Chron. 21:13 and surrounding context) and we believe in the power of prayer (James 5:16). Let’s pray for God’s common grace to curb COVID-19 through health care researchers and workers and other means. Let’s pray for those who are suffering in various ways (physically, emotionally, economically…). And mostly let’s pray for this to be an occasion for people to pay attention to God and the things that really matter eternally and not just continue to go through life with the illusion of invincibility, immortality, and the inevitability of human progress.

Let’s remember that gathering together every Lord’s Day to express God’s worth and our oneness in Christ is an important part of what it means to be a church (i.e. Heb. 10:25; the Greek word translated ‘church’ carries the meaning of an ‘assembly’).

We will continue to monitor the situation, but at this point, taking into consideration our church size and general age demographic together with the current outbreak level in Chicago, our normal Sunday services for praising, praying, preaching, and participating in the Lord’s Table together will continue. However, out of love for each other and our neighbor we will take extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus:

· The Set-Up and Tear-Down Crews will be extra vigilant to wash hands, maintain cleanliness, and wipe down surfaces.

· The Welcoming Team will open doors for you as you enter The Meeting Place.

· We will greet each other with a holy elbow bump, instead of a kiss or hug or shaking hands.

· Chairs will be set up farther apart from each other than usual.

· We will have hand sanitizer stationed in the line for the Lord’s Table for everyone to use before taking the elements.

· We will not pass baskets but will leave them out on the back table for you to put your offerings in.

· Table Talk lunch is cancelled for this Sunday.

· If you are immunocompromised and/or elderly we suggest not coming to service.

· If you are sick or have been exposed to the coronavirus, we ask that you not come to service.

If you feel like you need to stay home, please let a pastor know so we can care for you appropriately during this time.

We are also monitoring this issue with respect to Small Groups and other gatherings and will keep you posted.

One of our body’s own medical professionals recommends consulting www.cdc.gov/coronavirus for more information and tips about preventing the spread of the virus (i.e. clean your hands often; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; cover coughs and sneezes; maintaining a safe distance…).

We have tried to balance faith and prudence in this approach. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact Pastor Nathan.

Don’t forget to invite a friend to dinner and a movie tomorrow (10/12) at The Meeting Place. Fall themed food and fellowship starts at 5:00 PM. Then American Gospel will show afterwards.

This Sunday (10/13) the Marathon will make it harder to get to corporate worship, but not impossible. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Plan ahead. And walk if you can.

Spots are filling up fast for Dinners for 8! Sign up here if you haven’t already.

This Sunday (1/6) we start our new meeting times:

Sunday School (for kids 2nd grade and up) and Prayer Meeting now starts at 9:00 AM

Corporate Worship now starts at 10:00 AM

This Sunday, August 12, we will not be having our regular service at 1443 W. Roosevelt Road. Instead the whole church will be up in Wisconsin at our Annual Immanuel Summer Retreat!

Be advised: this upcoming Sunday the Chicago Marathon will be winding through our city, including a large part of the UIC Area (Taylor to Ashland to 18th Street west of Halsted).

In years past we used to have our service in the afternoon or evening, but the last couple years we have met at our normal time of 10:45 AM and it has worked just fine. Just plan ahead and leave early.

Walking or biking is best. If you have to drive you can get off on Roosevelt Road from the 90/94 exit.

Here is the website with more information.

This next Sunday (11/27) we will be having a Joint Service with our Spanish-speaking sister church – Cristo el Redentor.

                                                            

Please note:

 

(1) The time is 10:00 AM.

(1) The address is 2005 S. Blue Island (Citlalin Gallery & Theater).  See the map below (the lines in black indicate areas where you will find good parking on SUNDAYs in the AM)…

 

 

From @immanuelchicago on Twitter

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