Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Sent by Email at 2:34 PM
Dear Church Family,
I don’t think I had ever paid attention to how much the Bible talks about disease, and God’s protection of his people in the midst of it! I have been living in close connection with Psalm 91 over the last few days. It promises you who dwell in the shelter of the Most High that the Lord will “deliver you from the deadly disease” (v.3); that “you will not fear the disease that stalks in darkness” (v.6); and that “no plague will come near your tent” (v.10). Of the many blessings that I trust will come for us this season, may a renewed confidence in the relevant and living nature of the word of God be one of them for us!
I just finished a staff “meeting” on zoom. I’m so happy to report to you of the continued faithfulness, creativity and intentionality with which the church staff is serving in this strange season. Most staff members will never appear on a facebook live session, but I don’t want you to be unaware of all that they are doing to stay in touch with those under their care and to carry on our vision of equipping you to live ordinary life as the faithful presence of Jesus’ love (even if, right now, ‘ordinary’ takes on a new look!). We have a great staff team!
NEW! Shepherding Plan
In the same way, your elders and deacons have stepped up to continue their work of serving and shepherding this church. As of last weekend, the congregation has been divided up into 31 groups, each under the care either of a pastor or an elder and a deacon. Members of the church should be hearing from one of these officers this week. This gives us a way to regularly check in with you and to know of any needs that you might have, as well as a way to remind you that you are not alone!
Worship this Sunday
As much as this season has proven to be a surprising way for us to connect with one another, we long even more for it to be a season in which we are able to connect with the Lord in new and fresh ways. Hopefully you have figured out how to access the Sunday services. There will be one slight change this week – the service will stream as it has on facebook, but it will also be accessible at 10:45 AM on YouTube. Our Tuesday and Thursday prayer services will also continue on facebook (you can access those after the fact as well by scrolling to the Video section).
NEW! Weekly Guide for Morning & Evening Prayer
Last Sunday we spoke about being brought back to the “good portion” that is Jesus. As we seek to do that together, we are also now providing for you a pattern of morning and evening prayer that we can practice together as individuals, as families and as a congregation. This season has disrupted the routines and schedules we have lived by. Anxiety and fear are knocking on the doors of our hearts. If there’s ever been a time we need to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear his voice to us, it’s now. Here is a video from Joey with more detailed information, and you’ll find the prayer guides which will change weekly, here. We invite you to join us.
Emergency Funds Available
There have been a few virtual meetings of elders over the last few days. The finance team met to talk about what sort of adjustments we might need to consider during this season. We are certainly blessed to have entered this season in a position of financial strength, but rest assured that we are monitoring the situation that we might continue to fund both the fundamental parts of our life together AND to bless others around us. To that end, the Session is considering steps to ready the Good Samaritan Fund for what we expect will be increased use in the coming season. We know that there are those among us who are facing financial challenges that would have been unimaginable a few short weeks ago. If you are in that category, be on the lookout for an announcement in Friday’s weekly update about how you might be able to access these emergency funds. If you are in immediate need of assistance, contact me or one of the other pastors. At the same time, if you have the means to do so, the coming trials that many will face are a great opportunity to use what God has given you for the good of others. One way to do that is by giving to the Good Samaritan Fund.
So many of you have made the transition to give online and by mail. Thank you! The fact that many around us will face financial insecurity in the days ahead means that it is more important than ever for those who are able to give generously in this season.
Personally, I want to thank you, on behalf of the other pastors and staff, for all of your encouraging emails, calls and texts during these last couple of weeks. It is such a privilege to be your pastor. As much as I am ready for this season to be over, I am grateful for the way that it has brought us together in the bond of the gospel that no virus can touch. During this season, so much of what we do and love as a church has been taken from us. Yet in ways far deeper than that, I have seen who we are as a church with clarity like never before. May that encourage us in this season, and may it guide us once we are back together.
Please continue to reach out to me or any of the staff as you have need.
With love and gratitude,
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Sent by Email at 8:15 PM
Serve Saturday – Plan B!
There are two main ways that we can love and serve our neighbors here on Signal Mountain. The first and most important is to practice social distancing as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19. But alongside that, we are working to provide you with simple, safe ways that you can take concrete action to live as the faithful presence of Jesus’ love in these unordinary times. Below are three simple ways that together we can do this:
LETTERS TO MEMBERS
There are a number of Signal Pres members who won’t be able to get out much as we wait for the virus to subside. We’ve compiled a list of these folks with their addresses, and we invite you to write a letter to these friends to brighten their day. E-mail Christie Gilliam by Friday, March 20 at 9 AM and she’ll get back to you with 1-2 names and addresses of people to whom you, your children, or your whole family can write.
REACH OUT TO YOUR NEIGHBORS
This is a great time to let your neighbors know that you can help them if they have needs in this season. Give the neighbors whom you do know a call or send them a text to say that you’re thinking about them and that you’d love to help if they have needs. For those you don’t know, write a note and put it in their mailbox or at their front door introducing yourself and letting them know that you’re available.
KIDS OF GROWTH FOOD BAGS
Kids of Growth is a ministry that works with kids and their families in the Chattanooga Westside neighborhood. These families are some of the most food insecure in our city, and there are no grocery stores in their area. We partner with Kids of Growth throughout the year, but the closing of schools presents a unique challenge to this community, as students who receive free school lunches will be out of school for the foreseeable future. Some of our members are working to provide these kids and their families with food in a time that they otherwise won’t have access to this source of nutrition. Below you will find items that are being requested. You can drop off food supplies at the homes of Camille Ward (907 Adams St.) or Sara Fowler (12 St. Ives Way). Monetary gifts can also be made through the church (designated to Kids of Growth) for groceries to be purchased.
Suggested Foods (preference is for non-perishable):
Bread, peanut butter and jelly, fruit cups, canned soup, canned ravioli, Hamburger Helper, fruit snacks, Goldfish/Cheese-Its, pudding cups, apple sauce, Easy Mac, peanut butter crackers, granola bars, cereal, Cuties, oatmeal, Pop-tarts.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me, Joey or to Christie Gilliam. These three options offer simple, concrete ways we can love and bless our neighbors in our church, in our neighborhood, and in our city. Please join us in praying that God would bring about fruit from this work, and that most of all people would see in the name of Jesus the hope and life that we realize we need so clearly now.
Every blessing in Christ,
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Sent by Email at 3:49 PM
Dear Church Family,
As promised, we want to keep you updated on our actions and plans during this season. There are a couple of things that have not changed since last we talked.
First, God is still on the throne. The Lord reigns! The proclamation of Psalm 97 is still true, which means that the promise of Romans 8:28 is as well. Even this season is one in which our sovereign God is working all things for the good of his people and the glory of his name. That means that you and I are still safe when we run to the promises of God as our refuge, even as more and more worldly ‘refuges’ close around us every day.
Second, the church is still the church. As you’ll read below, we are continuing to take steps to ensure the safety of our staff, our congregation and our wider community. That means that pretty much everything looks less than normal right now. But beneath that, we are still seeking to care for you, to teach you, and to point you to Jesus, even as we are hopefully equipping you to do the same for your family and neighbors.
SO, WHAT IS THE CHURCH DOING RIGHT NOW?
As of today, we have asked all staff to work from home for the time being. Like many of you are doing with your own jobs, we will be carrying on the work of the church through online communication and meetings. If you need (or just want) to speak with someone, or for a pastoral emergency, call the church office at 886-2190. The recording will direct you to a pastor who is on call. If you have a non-urgent question or need, you may contact any staff by email. Staff email addresses are found here.
Worship will be online only this Sunday. Everyone is encouraged to join us at 10:45 on the church’s facebook page. We have decided that facebook will be the primary gathering spot for our online content during this season. Like many of you, I did not have a facebook account (or any interest in one) prior to all of this. But I signed up for one this weekend in order to be connected to the church family over these next days. I encourage you to do the same by visiting facebook and following the simple steps. The recorded service feed – as well as the feed for other live events we will have over the next days – will be available on facebook after the live feed is over and on YouTube later that day. You will receive a bulletin (and children’s bulletin) for our online worship this Friday via email. It will also be available on homepage of our website.
ONLINE GATHERINGS & CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER
There are other ways that we will be meeting virtually this week. Student Ministry D-Groups are meeting online tonight, and tomorrow, Thursday, at 6 PM we will host a time of prayer through our Facebook page (the same place we hosted Sunday morning worship). During that time we’ll join together in prayer for our world, country, city and church. Instructions for accessing the service and a guide for this time of prayer will be posted on the church website on Thursday, and the entire family is welcome to join as we pray together and hear from God’s Word. This gathering will last around 15 minutes.
This Saturday’s Serve Saturday has now become Safe Serve Saturday. We have three options of ways to serve our church, our neighbors and our city all while honoring the guidelines about social distancing. Look for an email from Joey about this later today.
Many of you have asked about how we might be caring for older members of our congregation during this season. We continue to work on ways that we can do this, even while protecting those members by maintaining our social distance. One of the best things any of us can do is pick up the telephone and check in with those we know! Again, whether you are young or old, if you need any assistance and are not sure who to ask, please contact the pastor on call.
We continue to ask that you remember to honor your financial commitment and giving to the church. We are committed to paying our salaried and hourly employees during this season, as well as to maintaining our support of ministry partners at home and abroad. If you are able, consider giving as well to the Good Samaritan Fund. We know that some in our church will find themselves in unexpected financial hardship as this season continues, and this fund is the way in which we will be able to support them. You may give online, through the tithe.ly app, or you may mail checks to the church (612 James Blvd). Any contributions to the Good Samaritan Fund should be so indicated on the check.
Once again, thank you for your patience and flexibility in this season. It is evidence of your faith in the God who is on the throne, and who is at work among us now and always.
You will hear from us on Friday of this week with a worship bulletin and any other updates. Until then, stay well, and keep on heeding Paul’s charge to the Corinthians: Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
With much gratitude,
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
As we seek to continue living as the faithful presence of Jesus’ love while entering unchartered territory as a church body, we are committing to you to communicate as consistently and transparently as possible. Bookmark this page and return to it as your source for updates about our response to COVID-19 and information about how to continue living out our mission in these changing times. You can also follow us on facebook (Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church) and instagram (@signalpres).
Sunday services are now streaming live at 10:45 AM on Facebook Live. To access the service, you’ll need to go to facebook.com on your phone, tablet, or computer (sign up for an account if needed). In the search bar at the top left, search “Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church”. Our church will be the first result.
Be sure and “Like” the page so that you get updates and notifications.
On Sunday morning, go directly to facebook.com/signalpres, where you will see our live stream.
If you miss the live service, you can view it immediately after it ends by going to the Videos section on the facebook page. It will also be posted on YouTube, though not immediately following the conclusion of the service.
Now more than ever your gifts to Signal Pres are making a difference in our ability to love and care for our members, our community, and our world. Through your regular financial giving, you not only enable the pastors and staff to continue to meet the changing needs of our congregation, but you also are making a direct impact on many of our long-time Community Partners who are on the ground serving our community in this difficult season. Additionally, your support sustains our missionaries all over there world, many of whom are in high-risk areas as Coronavirus continues to spread.
A growing need we have in this season is to provide for church members who have suffered income loss due to the economic effects of Coronavirus. Designated gifts to the Good Samaritan Fund are used exclusively to support our congregation through financial assistance to pay bills, buy groceries, provide medical care, and other such essentials. Simply write “Good Samaritan” in the memo of your online gift or check.There are three ways to continue to fulfill your financial pledge to support Signal Pres:
- Give One-Time or Recurring Gifts Online here
- Give One-Time or Recurring Gifts through the Tithe.ly app
- Mail Checks to 612 James Blvd, Signal Mountain, TN 37377
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Sent by Email at 10:31 AM
WATCH VIDEO UPDATE FROM SCOTT BOWEN
Dear Church Family,
We (your elders) met this morning to consider the best course of action for these next weeks. As we talked, there were a couple of assumptions and convictions that guided us, and sharing those with you seems a helpful way to begin.
First, we have a responsibility to care for and protect our congregation, especially those who are older or in ‘high risk’ categories. This goes without saying.
Second, we have a responsibility (and a special privilege as the church) to care for and serve our entire community. In other words, we need to think not only about doing whatever we can do in order to make sure that our people do not get sick, but also about doing whatever we can do in order to make sure that no one gets sick. This means that we need to think about altering the way that we gather and live as a church in order to do what we can to help curb the spread of this virus in our community, city, nation and world (this is called flattening the curve, and is what is behind recommendations by our governor that people not gather in large groups).
In the end, this second conviction has played a large part in the following steps that we will take as a church community:
Effective immediately, we are suspending all gathered church programming. That means that there will be no worship services held tomorrow, 3/15. We will have a short, live broadcast at 10:45 am on facebook live. We invite you to join us virtually for that by visiting facebook.com/signalpres.
Effective 3/22, we will hold worship services in an online only format. Between now and 3/22, the staff will work diligently to prepare for live streaming, to communicate with the congregation about how to participate. We will do this until further notice.
A group of elders, doctors and others are working over these weeks to adapt what we do in order to continue the work of ministry in a way that honors the kind of social distancing that we need to be practicing right now.
Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church is not a Sunday morning service in the sanctuary, nor is she a people confined to a building. The church is a community of people who have given their lives to the Lord who redeemed them, and to the mission he has given them. That means that Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church will be open and at work during these days of uncertainty. Our church will be at work as you worship with your family and small groups in homes, as you reach out to one another and as you serve and love your neighbors, shining as lights of gospel confidence and love for a panicked world to see.
While none of us is excited about this season in which we find ourselves, it is not lost on us that we are entering a season in which we will be forced to live in ways similar to the early church that we have been studying together in Acts. We know that was good for the church – a season of great power and fruitfulness for the people of God! We have every expectation that it will be the same for us.
Along those lines, please do remember to continue your financial support of the church in this season. You can do that by mail, or online at www.signalpres.org/give. We desire to continue to supporting not only our staff but also our mission partners across this city and world.
Again, in the days to come, we will follow up with more information and with answers to the many questions we know you have.
Do not be afraid…you are mine (Isaiah 43:1). These are good words to remember! They apply now as much as ever, even as they remind us of the God who reigns over us in every season. To him be all glory and honor as we explore these unchartered waters together!
Thursday, March 12, 2020
Sent by Email at 5:23 PM
Dear Church Family,
As things change quickly around us with news of closings and cancelations, your Session desires to remain in communication with you concerning our latest thoughts and plans about our schedule.
The Elders will have a special called meeting on Saturday morning at which time we will discuss what, if any, changes need to be made to our schedule and practices in the days and weeks ahead.
At this point, the plan is to proceed with our normal Sunday morning schedule. That said, we would like to reiterate what we said in our communication to you earlier this week. If you or someone in your household is sick, please stay home. What’s more, if you are particularly vulnerable because of age or underlying health issues, please use your own best judgment, which might mean staying home.
As your Session meets, certainly we will do so in confidence that our Lord is not surprised by any of the twists and turns that these last days have brought. As we have planned for Lent as a season of repentance and renewal, this is not what any of us had in mind. That said, I am reminded of Luke 13 when Jesus was asked about tragedies that had struck the region of Galilee and Judea. People wanted answers and reassurance, and he told them to repent. His point is good for us right now: the frailty of life and the uncertainty of the world around us remind us that we have one rock, one fortress, one deliverer. Our safety is always only in him. As the psalmist says, The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
You can expect to hear from us again on Saturday afternoon about any changes that we deem to be in the best interest of the church in these days ahead. Rest assured that we will be seeking to make decisions that honor the Lord even as they witness our confidence in him and our desire to be a part of the overall health and well-being of our community, city and nation. We covet your prayers for the Session!
I am grateful for you all,
Monday, March 9, 2020
Sent by Email at 2:05 PM
Dear Church Family,
On behalf of the Session, I want to share with you the steps that we are taking as a church in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In truth these are wise practices year-round, even if this current virus were not present.
First, we will not be having the extension of the gospel during worship—at least through Lent. This reflects the wise practice during times of illness, recommended by health professionals, of refraining from shaking hands, hugging, etc. Certainly, we want to greet one another and our visitors warmly, and we will continue to do this even if smiles and elbow taps replace handshakes for a while!
Second, we are asking you not to come to church if you are sick with a cough, fever or malaise. We appreciate those of you who place such a priority on corporate worship and gathering with your brothers and sisters in Christ! You show great love for your brothers and sisters in your faithful presence with us. But if you are sick, remember that you best show that same love for them by staying home. Sunday service recordings are available on CD in the church office and MP3 sermon recordings are posted online here.
Third, your Session is in communication with local health professionals and will enact any precautions that those professionals deem wise or necessary if/when this particular virus comes to our area. As with health professionals, we are and will be particularly mindful of older members of our congregation. We will do everything possible to make sure that our congregation and visitors stay healthy! Should that mean changes to normal practices in the weeks ahead, we will certainly communicate that with you.
Finally, let’s remember that even this COVID-19 outbreak is an occasion for us to live into our vision as the church, living ordinary life as the faithful presence of Jesus’ love. Some around us will panic. Others will be dismissive. Let’s be faithful as we entrust ourselves to our good and sovereign Father, always using common sense but never succumbing to fear, and never ceasing to pray for and serve the weak and vulnerable among us—including the sick.