Keeping Our Community Healthy

APRIL 1ST AT 5:30 PM 

Dear church family:

This afternoon Governor Reeves issues a shelter-in-place order for the entire state.  However, after a careful review of Executive Order No. 1466 (and No. 1463, incorporated within 1466) we have determined that Grace Bible Church is already in compliance.  The order provides an exception for religious organizations to continue to operate so long as no more than ten people are gathered and we comply with the CDC guidelines on hand washing and social distancing. 
 
Therefore, this weekend we will operate as we did the last: we will record a full worship service and broadcast on Facebook Live and YouTube Live on Sunday morning at 10:30.  Our Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/gracebibleofoxford/, while our YouTube Live broadcast can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/c/GraceBibleChurchofOxford.
 
Our Grace groups can continue to meet through Zoom.  I also plan to continue to record daily devotions.  As we will finish our Mark study tomorrow, we plan to begin a new study on the book of Acts on Friday.  Acts, which has 28 chapters, will take us through to the end of April. 
 
Finally, thank you for how you have encouraged, prayed for, and supported the staff and the elders over the past couple of weeks.  It’s meant so much to us to know that our work matters to you and the church is a vital part of your lives.  
 
If we can do anything for you, please let us know.
 
In Christ, 
J.D. 

MARCH 27TH AT 9:00AM 

Dear church family:

Our community is now finishing our fourth full day under a stay-at-home order.  How long this will last no one knows, except the Lord.  

However, the elders and staff at Grace are working to make sure we stay connected.  This weekend, Lord willing, we will again record a full service and put it on both Facebook Live and, for the first time, YouTube Live.  These livestreams will begin at 10:30 Sunday morning.  Drew will preach on the last part of Luke 7, where Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman.  Danica also plans to livestream her children’s lesson Sunday morning around 9:45.  

We apologize for the issues with the Facebook Live feed this past Sunday.  Please bear with us; there is a learning curve to all this technology.  However, we believe we have resolved all the problems and we will be able to worship together in real time (if not in the same place) with no technical problems this Sunday.  

Also, during this time of isolation we plan to release a video Bible study each day on a chapter of the book of Mark.  The videos typically go “up” at 5AM each day.  Tomorrow, our devotional will cover Mark 10.  Currently the Bible studies are available on Facebook, Instagram, and the GBC website.  On this schedule, we will finish Mark on April 2.  If we still find ourselves under meeting restrictions then, the plan is to cover a new book beginning April 3.  

As always, please let us know if we can do anything for you.

In Christ, 

J.D. Shaw 

MARCH 19TH AT 3:30PM 

Dear church family:

Last night the elders met and decided to indefinitely suspend all public worship services of Grace Bible Church.  It was not easy to make this decision, but we felt that given the world health crisis we had no other choice.  

We will, however, broadcast a worship service each Sunday morning at 10:30 on Facebook.  We will try to make these services as normal as possible, with singing, prayers, Scripture reading, and a sermon.  We plan to record these sermons at Oxford Middle School.  

Please make plans to watch the service at 10:30 on Sunday morning.  Although it is not possible for us to assemble physically, I trust that God will honor our attempts to worship together in this way.

The church will also provide our small group leaders with the ability to organize videoconferences through Zoom with their Grace Groups.  If you’re in a group, be on the lookout for a communication about this from your group leader.  If you’re not in a group, let us know and we’ll do our best to plug you into one.

For more detailed information about these changes, please watch this video below.

These are extraordinary times and uncharted waters.  We are praying for you.  Please keep the leaders in your prayers and let us know if we can do anything for you.

In Christ,
J.D.

Information about future Sundays at GBC from Grace Bible Church on Vimeo.

MARCH 16TH AT 4:30PM

Dear church family:
 
I’m so thankful we were able to gather at Oxford Middle School for worship yesterday.  It was a tremendous encouragement to me.  Below are a few updates I’d like to pass along to you.
 
Looking ahead to Sunday, March 22
 
We are truly in uncharted territory.  This afternoon the President, along with the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, released guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including closing all schools and limiting gatherings to ten people or less for the next fifteen days.
 
Obviously, this will have an impact on how our church gathers this coming Sunday.  The elders plan to meet Wednesday night to finalize Grace Bible Church’s approach to this weekend’s worship services. 
 
Expect an announcement via email and Facebook Thursday morning with instructions on how we will meet as a church family during this extraordinary time.
 
Read the Bible together
 
Many of us will have more free time with our families and friends than we’ve had in a while in the coming two weeks.  Let’s use this time to read God’s Word together. 
 
Since gatherings have been significantly restricted for the next two weeks, I thought we could read through the sixteen chapters of the gospel of Mark.
 
The readings begin Wednesday with Mark 1.  Here’s the schedule:
 
Mark 1:           March 18
Mark 2:           March 19
Mark 3:           March 20
Mark 4:           March 21
Mark 5:           March 22
Mark 6:           March 23
Mark 7:           March 24
Mark 8:           March 25
Mark 9:           March 26
Mark 10:         March 27
Mark 11:         March 28
Mark 12:         March 29
Mark 13:         March 30
Mark 14:         March 31
Mark 15:         April 1
Mark 16:         April 2
 
I plan to record a brief video devotion for each day’s reading, which will include a few questions you and your family, roommates, or friends can discuss.  We’ll post the videos on our Facebook page early each morning.  For example, we’ll schedule the Mark 1 video to go up at 5AM or so on Wednesday, March 18.
 
Many of you have your own plans for Bible reading or family worship.  I’m not asking you to discontinue those patterns.  But my prayer is that with the extra time many of us will have these readings can serve to connect us as a church family while we must remain physically separated for the next few weeks. 
 
Check on vulnerable neighbors

Our health professionals continue to tell us that the most at-risk are those over 65 and those with chronic diseases such as heart or lung disease or diabetes.  If you have neighbors or friends that fall in those groups, give them a call and make sure they have the food and medication they need. 
 
If any member of Grace Bible Church has any need, please do not hesitate to contact me. 
 
Prayer
 
Below are some ways I’ll be praying this week.  As you have the opportunity, please pray with me:
 
Pray for the doctors and medical professionals who are on the front lines caring for those who contract coronavirus;

for medical researchers who are diligently working to create a vaccine for this virus;
 
for wisdom for those in authority over us in the government, including the president, vice president, governor, lieutenant governor, and local officials;
 
for wisdom of our health officials, including Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s State Health Officer;
 
for our church to respond to the stresses of the coming weeks with thoughtfulness, wisdom, and love, and that through our wise service we would be salt and light in our community; 
 
for the continued advance of the gospel even as this trying moment continues to unfold;
 
for those hurting financially in Oxford and Lafayette County due to the coronavirus outbreak;
 
and that God would ultimately be glorified.
 
As always, please let the elders know if there is anything we can do for you. 
 
In Christ,
J.D.


MARCH 14TH AT 8:00PM

Dear church family,

The elders met tonight for over an hour and decided to continue with our plans to worship tomorrow at 10:30.  

This has not been an easy decision, and we understand if people disagree with it.  We certainly understand if people decide to stay away.  We are aware of the governor’s request. However, we feel compelled to offer the chance for our people to worship together tomorrow, particularly since the state health officer has not changed his recommendation on the safe size of gatherings (250 people or less).  We believe we will not meet that threshold tomorrow.  

Some reminders about the service:

1. 10:30 service only
2. No nursery, but the atrium and nursing moms’ room are both open with audio and video of the service
3. Hand sanitizer at every entrance to Oxford Middle School
4. Offering buckets won’t be passed out but set up at stations around the auditorium
5. No handshakes, fist-bumps, elbow knocks, or holy kisses (not that Grace Bible was ever a big “holy kiss” church in the first place).
6. Livestreaming available at Grace Bible’s Facebook page
7. At-risk groups (sick, over 65, and those with chronic illnesses) urged to stay home  
8. If you have reason to believe you’ve been exposed to the virus, we strongly urge you consider to remain at home
9. No one should feel any pressure to attend.  Only come if you can do joyfully and in good conscience.  

We are all in uncharted territory.  Please pray for that we can love each other and our community well in the days and weeks to come.  

In Christ,
J.D. Shaw, for the elders of Grace Bible Church 


MARCH 13TH AT 6:00PM

Dear church family:

Our church’s response to the coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve.  We still plan to meet this Sunday, March 15, at Oxford Middle School.  No local, state, or federal authorities require or even suggest that a church our size should not meet.  

 However, given the understandable concerns of so many in our church family and in our community, we have decided to make the following changes to our Sunday morning schedule: we have canceled all activities at the 9:15 church hour, and we will not have a nursery for children at 10:30.  As you might imagine, it has become increasingly hard to secure volunteers to work in our nursery and children’s programs.  

Therefore, we will have only the worship service in the auditorium at 10:30, with plenty of room in the atrium for people to watch all or part of the service if they so choose.  

We will not pass the offering buckets after the sermon, but instead will have them set up at the exits to the auditorium for those who wish to give or have filled out a bulletin insert.  We will also have hand sanitizer at all entrances to OMS.  Please give yourself a dollop on your way in Sunday morning.  

These precautions, along with the other “social distancing” instructions we’ve all heard, should provide a safe environment in which we can all worship.  

 Other churches in our community have decided to cancel their services.  We honor and respect their decisions, but do not yet feel it is necessary for us.  Frankly, I’m jealous for us to all to worship together this Sunday.  It may be that, for safety’s sake, this Sunday is the last chance we’ll have to see one another for a while.  Christianity is an embodied faith.  It is not healthy for us to live in too much isolation.  Therefore, as long as health care professionals say we can safely meet, I want us to do so.

However, I do not fault anyone who, out of prudence, decides to stay away from our gathering this Sunday, particularly those in at-risk groups.  Please know that we love you and will help in any way we can.   

Please continue to pray for the elders as we seek to shepherd the church through this time.  Please pray for the staff as well.  It has been challenging week for them, first organizing our Sunday morning activities, then wrestling with how to best respond to all the news surrounding the coronavirus.  

Please reach out if you have any questions. Also, given the fluid nature of this situation, please remember that this may not be the last communication you receive from us before Sunday!

In Christ,

J.D. Shaw, for the elders of Grace Bible Church


MARCH 12TH AT 3:00PM

Dear church family:

 The elders at Grace Bible are monitoring the developing situation with Coronavirus.  We have been in contact with health care professionals in our community and other pastors in Oxford, and we’ve reviewed the most up-to-date information available at the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH).  Their website, which is very informative, is www.healthyms.com

Thus far our public health officials are not recommending that either schools or churches cancel gatherings in response to the coronavirus. 

 As of 12PM on March 12, they’ve suggested that organizations consider cancelling any gatherings of more than 250 people.  We have historically had about this number on the Sunday after spring break.  With the news that Ole Miss will extend spring break one more week, the number of our college students in attendance will probably be low.  We think it unlikely we will break the 250 person threshold this week. 

 Therefore, we currently plan to meet at Oxford Middle School with our regular schedule on Sunday, March 15. 

 MSDH has urged people over 65, those with chronic heart and lung conditions, and those with diabetes to avoid gatherings of more than 250 people.  In following those guidelines, we ask those in the above at-risk groups to strongly consider staying home this Sunday morning.  If you are sick (fever, cough, sneezing), we also ask you to stay at home.

We hate to ask anyone to stay away from church, and so we are working on broadcasting our service on Facebook Live for those who cannot attend in person.  The link is  https://www.facebook.com/gracebibleofoxford/.

We will have a full schedule on Sunday morning, which includes core seminars, GraceLand, and Emma’s Friends.  The middle school should actually be one of the safer buildings in town, as it has been not only empty of students because of spring break but also disinfected by school staff this past week. 

On Sunday morning, we won’t have donuts, and we won’t pass the offering buckets.  We’re doing this in order to limit amount of physical contact between individuals.  We will have offering buckets set up at the back and front of the auditorium, and you can place your offering or bulletin insert in one of the buckets after the close of the service. 

As you’ve heard many times by now, please wash your hands regularly, refrain from touching your face, and practice appropriate social distancing when greeting one another on Sunday morning (e.g., no handshaking).  We’ve been assured by medical professionals that, at this time, those are appropriate and sufficient precautions.

Why not, you might ask, just cancel services on Sunday?  Because corporate worship of the people of God is a vital part of the Christian life.  Hebrews 10:25 says that believers should not give up meeting together.  While conditions in the future may deteriorate to the point where we must cancel services (for example, this was done during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic), we want to wait on such a drastic step until it is absolutely necessary.

To summarize:

  1. We will meet this Sunday, March 15, at Oxford Middle School
  2. People over 65 and otherwise at-risk are strongly urged to consider staying home
  3. If you are coughing, sneezing, or have a fever, please stay home
  4. Practice social distancing on Sunday morning

This is an extraordinary situation.  The last time the World Health Organization declared a pandemic was in 2009, for the H1N1 virus.  I was a pastor then, but it never crossed my mind in 2009 to send a letter like this to my church.  I don’t recall anyone even suggesting that churches cancel services. 

 This situation is fluid, changing daily and, at times, hourly.  Please pray for us as we seek God’s wisdom in leading our church in worship while, at the same time, exercising the utmost concern for the physical health and well-being of the members of Grace Bible Church and those who regularly attend our services.  

In Christ,

J.D. Shaw, for the elders of Grace Bible Church

 

P.S. Some good resources for the coronavirus from a Christian point of view:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-we-know-coronavirus/

A helpful summary of the facts surrounding the coronavirus

https://www.russellmoore.com/2020/03/11/dont-quarantine-the-great-commission/

 Reflections on the importance of Christian worship and appropriate steps to take for public health

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/march/your-church-and-coronavirus-advice-for-churches-from-surgeo.html?utm_source=connection-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=2728369&utm_content=701570182&utm_campaign=email

Detailed information on social distancing