Dear HP Family,
We are not discouraged. We miss being physically with you. We miss the warmth of your hugs, the sound of your voices singing, and the sight of your children smiling. Like you, we’ve felt sadness, stress, and concern. These are challenging times, but we are not discouraged.
Parents are spiritually leading their families. Over thirty of you are volunteering in new ways. God’s Word is being preached, praises are being sung, people are caring for one another, and we’ve felt the togetherness during communion, even while apart. Our online worship has reached most of you and even beyond our membership. We have a growing list of principles we’ve learned and things we’ll apply in the future. We are not discouraged.
The 2:20 Food Pantry has served more people this month than any in our history, and they’ve done so with ingenuity and care. We’ve prayed for people online, on the phone, and through mail. Cards are being written to children and senior adults. DVDs of the service are being delivered to those without internet. God’s provision has allowed us to continue our full support of local and global ministry. And while some have lost jobs or wages, first-time givers have emerged. We are not discouraged.
We hope you aren’t discouraged either. May God’s encouragement be felt in your heart today. He loves you. He cares for you. He sees your trials and tears. Fear not, for He is with you.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve spent time listening, praying, and thinking about our next steps. Our goal was to make a plan for May so that we could adequately prepare. So let me tell you the “what” and then I’ll tell you the “why.” And know that these decisions were much easier after listening to Elders, staff, leaders, and volunteers. They were in agreement.
- Continue with our Sunday morning online service through the month of May. This means that we’ll continue to encourage groups to meet online, our teams will continue to call, write cards, pray, and care. We’ll reserve plans for June until later.
- If things in Tulsa go well with the lifting of restrictions, we’ll begin to consider some smaller group options as a next step in the future.
- It is wise to see how Tulsa County and beyond responds with the gradual lifting of restrictions. If cases spike, we'd be foolish to re-open prematurely. If we opened our doors and one HP person tested positive, we’d be immediately managing a health issue, scrambling to return services back to online only (again), causing a 14-day quarantine for all of us, and bearing the weight of more uncertainty.
- We will need lots of lead-time to prepare our programming for a live service. We know some people will not immediately return when we open our doors again, so we'll still need to include a full online service. But doing this AND doing a live service (and doing both really well) is going to require quite A TON of work on our end, including training of volunteers.
- We want it to be a warm, positive, worry-free experience before going back. We need to continue working through plans to address cleaning, spacing, and helping our less-concerned folks be sensitive to our highly-concerned folks. The New Testament gives us great guidance in stressing the priority of being considerate of one another.
- If we open too soon, we might be a hindrance to the Gospel to our community. We’ve heard from enough unbelieving friends who’ve been dismayed at churches projecting a lack of concern for their community. Our unbelieving friends interpret this as churches prioritizing "being together" over the safety of the community. This is a very real issue and it's at the heart of our mission. We'll need to use prayerful discernment to decide.
- Current recommendations are still for most places to have fewer than 10. The church gets an exception, but we don't feel obligated to exercise that freedom until it's wise. We want to be supportive of our government officials in spirit and law. We can be the church without large gatherings right now. We miss a lot of people and it will be healthy for us to return, but we won't return because "it's not church without a building" or "it's not church without our traditional program." We don't want those false pressures to force us.
- Children's programming and nurseries aren’t allowed with these initial loosening of restrictions. Parents could keep kids with them, but that's easier said than done with little ones. We’re listening to our parents and our CM Team.
- We can't open until a large portion of our volunteers also agree that they can return. Many of our volunteers have little kids. Others have compromised health. Still others care for the elderly. We’ll continue to listen to their feedback.
- There's no need to panic. We are praying for God to use this crisis in ways that will shape and refine his church around the globe.
Perhaps this summer will return us back to living in a healthier place, but it probably won't ever return to exactly like it was before. Remember when you used to walk your friend to the airport gate, hug them, and wave good-bye? Then 9/11 happened. Then TSA security. That tragedy gave us new normals that we now navigate (sometimes with frustration but we don't fight it). Covid-19 is also going to give us new normals.
Thank you for praying with us, ministering to others with us, worshipping with us, and loving us. We’re thankful. We’re encouraged.
If you aren’t joining us on Sundays at hptulsa.com at 10:30, you’ve missed out on incredible fellowship and worship. Please join us. If you would like a DVD of the online service so that you can watch it on your TV, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highland Park Christian Church
We continue to pray diligently, listen attentively, and work feverishly to pursue our vision of helping people Love God, Love Others, and Serve Together in this challenging season. We’ve heard the words of federal, state, and city leaders, as well as dozens of you. We were touched by the outpouring of encouragement and support we received from you after announcing our revised decision on Saturday. We were especially impacted by our members from the medical community who are praying for the best but preparing for the worst – and the “worst” would place heartbreaking stress and sorrow on them. We are committed to responding not out of fear, but out of love. We’re holding together the commands to trust God, love our neighbors, and encourage one another. We’re optimistic about God’s ability to miraculously work through times of crisis.
The Elders want you to know the following:
We’ve launched a care initiative.
- Every small group and Bible class is asked to escalate their care for one another through any means necessary (including phone calls, video meetings, social media, meeting needs, etc.) We’re working to equip them to do so.
- A group of Elders and volunteers will be reaching out to any HP person not connected to a group or class at this time. They’ll offer pray, listen for needs, foster community, and ask them to help care for others.
- We’re creating ways to care for those in need. We also encourage everyone to care for the people God has placed in your lives through work, school, church, family, and neighborhood.
- The 2:20 Food Pantry is revising its system so we can still serve the hungry in our community. We’ve also welcomed PECE (our brothers and sisters from the Eritrean church who share our building and partner in service) to receive pantry assistance if needed. This addition was already in the works. They are eager to also partner with us in contributing food and volunteering.
We’ve launched a prayer and devotion initiative.
- Daily devotions online from a collection of Bible teachers to help you through this time (launching soon and available as a resource for other churches)
- Midday pray on announced days from 12:00-12:15
- Prayer request form so you can share requests online with our Elders and prayer team
Our Sunday morning services will be online-only until at least April 5th. No public or large (10 or more), in-person meetings, Learning School, studies, or classes will take place on our main campus for at least three weeks. At that time, we’ll reevaluate.
Let’s practice this together:
“Are you meeting Sunday?”
“Yes, but not in the building.”
We’re ramping up our online offerings to lead you, your family, and maybe a couple of friends through meaningful times of worship. The global church has creatively found ways to worship in secret, in forests, in living rooms, under trees, or without buildings for two thousand years. Now is our time to be creative. Please join us online Sunday at 10:30 AM.
Our church offices will continue operations, but staff may not be as accessible if you come to the building. We encourage church family to contact our ministers and staff by phone or email until our offices resume normal activity.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).