by: Pastor Brooks
Dear Liberty Baptist Tabernacle Family,
As of this writing, Pennington County is now in the “minimal to moderate” classification level for COVID-19/Coronavirus “community spread”. In addition to this, our Rapid City Council passed ordinance #6412 tonight. This essentially requires the closure of all nonessential "on-site and on-sale patron" businesses and places of recreation through April 8th. The ordinance will remain in effect for 60 days, but there will be periodic reassessments made along the way to determine the need for continued enforcement. The ordinance will be automatically repealed at the end of 60 days unless the need to readopt is necessary. Governor Noem has made it clear our state is not likely to hit peak infections until late May or early June, so we need to be prepared for this ordinance to be readopted.
I’ve maintained throughout all of this that we will continue to follow the CDC guidelines and do our best to honor our government in the process. By taking all recommendations into consideration and making decisions accordingly I believe we demonstrate our concern for our community. Due to community spread in Pennington County, the time for more stringent prevention practices has arrived.
The CDC guidelines for “community and faith-based organizations” once minimal to moderate community spread has occurred is to apply the following guidelines:
1) Implement social distancing measures:
a) Reduce activities (e.g., group congregation, religious services), especially for organizations with individuals at increased risk of severe illness.
b) Consider offering video/audio of events.
2) Determine ways to continue providing support services to individuals at increased risk of severe disease (services, meals, checking in) while limiting group settings and exposures.
3) Cancel large gatherings (e.g., >250 people, though threshold is at the discretion of the community) or move to smaller groupings.
4) For organizations that serve high-risk populations, cancel gatherings of more than 10 people.
I would like to address how we are handling all these recommendations:
1a) I have reduced activities by canceling our Sunday school hour and our bus ministry until further notice. I have consistently recommended to those at increased risk of severe illness to stay at home during this time.
In an effort to implement further social distancing measures, Pee-wee Club is canceled, our Patch Club will only meet for two more weeks and then cancel (assuming our county isn’t in “substantial” community spread by then). Also, our Wednesday night discipleship class and choir will be put on hold until further notice.
1b) We already offer audio recordings, and we are working at getting video recordings posted to our Facebook beginning this Sunday morning.
2) Certainly as a church body, our goal at all times is provide support to all we can, but we will make sure going forward that we do so within the confines of limited group settings and exposures.
3) Our local officials have not set a gathering threshold recommendation for faith-based organizations; however, it is clear from the ordinance that their intent is to severely limit gathering numbers across the city by closing business and recreational facilities.
The CDC recommendation is to cancel large gatherings and move to smaller groupings, both of which we have done. By virtue of much lower attendance, large gatherings have effectively been canceled, and by adding a second Sunday morning service we have further implemented smaller groupings.
4) Due to this fourth recommendation, it is clear to me the CDC’s intention is to have all who are high risk stay home until further notice. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- If you are 65 years or older, have a blood disorder, have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, have a serious heart condition, have a compromised immune system, are undergoing cancer treatment, have diabetes, have a kidney disease, have a liver disease, or are on medications which can weaken your immune system, and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have recently been pregnant.
- In addition, stay home and seek medical attention if you have any symptoms of being sick (cough, fever, or shortness of breath). Stay home if you have been around those who have exhibited these symptoms.
To summarize this point, per the CDC the only people who should consider attending church at this time are those who are below the age of 65, have no known preexisting health conditions, and are not experiencing any symptoms or been around those who have shown symptoms.
For those who are unable to attend it is imperative to maintain a church schedule as much as possible or when this calms down you will have a more difficult time getting back into the swing of things. We will try to live stream to make this possible, but at a minimum we will upload video recordings as soon as possible.
For those who still chose to attend while we are in the minimal to moderate level of community spread we will practice “social distancing” by maintaining distances of 6 feet or more while in service and no hand shaking. We will continue to clean high-touch areas frequently. Please cover all coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow, avoid touching your face as much as possible, and please wash your hands frequently. Perhaps we will add foot washing to our services as well, just to be safe (just kidding).
To be clear, our Biblical rights as a Church body, nor our Constitutional rights are being infringed upon by our city; therefore, the decisions I have laid forth is what me and our deacons have deemed appropriate at this juncture for this body of believers. These are not decisions I take lightly!
Looking ahead… We need to be mentally prepared for the long haul. Should our county enter “substantial” community spread, which seems likely given our population, then the CDC recommends canceling faith-based gatherings of any size, and at that point we would go to video services only.
It’s critical during these times that we grow spiritually and not get lazy. I hope all who experience extra “down time” will also take extra time to spend with the Lord through prayer and in His Word. Don’t let all the noise of the world crowd out His “still small voice”.
It is such a joy to know the Lord and to have peace which passes all understanding, especially during days like these! If that’s you then be sure to tell others of the peace and joy our Lord Jesus Christ offers to whosoever will call upon Him for salvation. Use this time of the world’s uncertainty to witness to others more fervently.
God has a purpose in all of this – trust Him in the valley like you do when you are on the mountain.
James 1:3-4 “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Stayed tune for more updates…