Dear Grace Bible Church family,

I’m glad to be writing to you today with some great news.  After 12 weeks of “virtual” church at home, we are making plans to meet together once again for worship this Sunday morning!  

You may already know that governor Cuomo recently announced that he is giving churches the green light to meet in person again.  This provision is not without its restrictions, and a long list of accompanying guidelines, but we are thankful for it nonetheless!   And so we met last night as a Combined Board to discuss our path forward and begin making the necessary preparations.  

Personally, I am very thankful to God for this opportunity.  It has been a difficult couple of months.  We have all, to varying degrees, felt the weight of the ongoing pandemic as well as the cultural & political unrest around us.  It has been unsettling and disorientating, to say the least.  But what better way is there to regain our footing and perspective than to gather with the people of God and center our attention on His love, sovereignty, justice, righteousness, mercy, and goodness?  This Sunday we will gather again in obedience to the Scriptures, which tell us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16)

Our gathering, however, will not be without its challenges.  As a leadership team we are still committed to do our best to submit ourselves to the governing authorities and to care well for those who are more vulnerable in our midst.  Practically speaking, that means that we have carefully considered the NYS requirements & suggestions for public gatherings and what it looks like to put those things into practice in our context.  

As a result, we will be putting a number of safety protocols in place, and trust that you will willingly adhere to them alongside of us.  We feel strongly that these protocols be followed carefully and consistently.  

These procedures will be as follows: 

1.  In order to meet the required 25% occupancy limit, we will meet in the gymnasium until further notice.  
Thankfully, God has given us a large gym which allows for quite a few chairs to be placed at safe distance from one another.  Still, we will prepare the auditorium as an overflow room should we exceed the allowed occupancy in the gym. Please be prepared to move to the overflow area if necessary.  But either way, we will have plenty of space between the two rooms, so don’t let that stop you from coming.

2.  We will strive to practice physical distancing wherever possible.  
This means we will: 
Place chairs in “family groups” (of various sizes to accommodate your family) that are approx. 6 ft. away from other chairs.

Encourage social distancing for all who enter the building, including encouraging you to find your seats quickly upon entering, discouraging handshakes and hugs, limiting the number of individuals in each restroom, etc.

Begin our first row of chairs 12 ft. back from the worship team on stage to accommodate for the specific guidelines laid out for singing.

3.  We will do our best to adhere to the protective equipment guidelines & cleaning protocols we have been given by NYS.  
Specifically, this means that we will:
Ask each person to wear a face covering at all times when moving around inside the building.  You DO NOT need to wear your mask when seated, but should wear it upon entry, when moving to and from your seats, using the restroom, etc.  We have purchased some disposable face masks and are glad to provide them for you should you need them.

Ask each person to wear a face covering when singing.  We are aware that this will feel awkward, but we feel that singing together is important enough to push through the awkwardness!  If you are uncomfortable wearing the mask, you are welcome to remain seated or stand with us and simply enjoy listening to the singing of others.

Refrain from passing offering plates or communion supplies.  The offering plates will be available in the back, and the dropbox located at the Welcome Center is available.  When we have communion together, we will provide individual packets.

Put specific cleaning protocols in place to ensure that the appropriate areas and surfaces are disinfected before and after use.  In addition, hand sanitizing stations are available to you in the hallways and foyer.

We recognize that taking these precautions will not feel “normal,” and in fact may seem excessive to some of you, and perhaps not strict enough to others.  As I said earlier, this is our best attempt to comply with our authorities, do our due diligence to provide for your safety, and still be able to have a functional worship time together.  Thank you for being gracious with us and for loving one another as we figure this out together.  

Here are a few more details regarding this coming Sunday:

Our service will begin at 10:30 am, and will last approximately 1 hour (We are limiting our service time in an effort to serve our families with young children).  You may park on either side of the building and enter through the main lobby or any of the gym doors.  Restrooms will be available, but we encourage you to use them at home to limit the need here at church.

Weather permitting, we encourage you to come a bit early (10-10:15) for a time of outdoor fellowship.  Some of us will be gathering on the lawn behind the gymnasium (the red house lawn) to chat, catch up, etc.  Join us, and bring your own coffee!

Families with young children are welcome and encouraged to attend, but we will not be providing any children’s ministries at this time.  Please consider bringing crayons, coloring books, etc. to help your little ones keep busy… but we understand your kids may make some noise or have a hard time sitting still, and that’s OK!  We want you to be here, so please don’t hesitate to come if you’re comfortable doing so.  

We want to encourage anyone who is hesitant to attend for any reason to feel free to stay home.  Obviously, if you’ve been sick, or someone in your household is sick or has a fever, it is important that you stay home.  But, you may be hesitant for other reasons.  Perhaps you’re in an at-risk group, feel frustrated or uncomfortable with the protective protocols, have young children that will find it hard to sit, or simply are not ready to interact with others just yet.  If so, that’s OK too!  We will provide a live stream of the service so you can enjoy it at home with us.  (Details regarding the live stream will come later in the week)

Finally, as we meet together this Sunday, please know that you can be a big help to us!  You can help us by willingly adhering to the expectations above, lovingly encouraging others to do the same, and happily focusing your attention not on our limitations but on our opportunity to finally worship with one voice together again!  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!

One last thing… If you’re planning to attend the service this week, would you take a moment to email us (grace@gbcnewfane.com) or call the office (716-778-9081) by Friday to let us know?  This is not a requirement, but simply a courtesy to us so we have an idea of how to plan.  

Again, thank you for being understanding, patient, and gracious through this whole process.  It has been a long 12 weeks, but we’re back!  And Lord willing, we’ll all be encouraged and He will be glorified in our gathering this week.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me.  I love you, and can’t wait to see you face to face! 

Serving you because of Him,

Pastor Dave