To our dear Strand Baptist Family,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. By now we are all familiar with the Corona virus pandemic that has wreaked havoc across the world. In South Africa, the number of confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus is edging towards 50 000. More than 1000 people have lost their lives to the virus. This is a tragedy and we grieve for every life lost. Our prayers are with those who are mourning, as well as those who are working hard to keep the spread of the virus in check.
While this pandemic is far from over, there are signs of hope. We are grateful that many of our initial fears have not been realized. The mortality rate, while still tragically high, is mercifully much lower than initially anticipated. Of those South Africans who have been diagnosed with the virus more than 51% have recovered. When the lockdown started the medical experts were clear about what we should expect: Covid-19 is here to stay, but we can buy ourselves time to prepare for the inevitable outbreak. We have – at great cost – managed to flatten the curve.
The first steps in reopening church
For that reason, government has taken steps to relax restrictions, restart the economy, open schools and, more recently, allow public worship. On the 26th of May 2020 President Cyril Ramaphosa declared that places of worship may reopen for services during Lockdown Alert Level 3. This means that, starting on the 1st of June, churches may have congregational worship services subject to strict conditions.
Reopening Strand Baptist church
After much prayer and consultation, the Executive have decided to reopen the church for public worship, starting on Sunday the 14th of June 2020. This gives us adequate time to put the necessary measures in place to ensure compliance with the regulations and the safety of our members and adherents.
We recognize that these are trying and uncertain times. We therefore still encourage all those who are over 60 and those who have underlying medical conditions to stay at home. The services will still be recorded and will be made available as soon as possible on our website. The daily podcast will continue for as long as the lockdown is in place.
For now, at least, we will not have Sunday School, Bible studies, ladies’ meetings, or prayer meetings. We value these ministries and view them as vital parts of our church ministry. As restrictions are lifted and more people can attend, these ministries will be reopened as well.
Because of the 50-person attendance limit, members and adherents are asked to RSVP for services. Please confirm with the church office no later than the Thursday at 16:00 if you intended to join our Sunday service. You can contact the church office via phone or email. If you have not notified the office, you will not be allowed to attend on Sunday. If we receive more than 50 requests to attend, a second service can be arranged.
What to expect when you arrive
Before every service, the building will be sanitized as per government regulations. Everyone who attends must wear a mask for the full duration of the service. When you arrive, a team of volunteers will sanitize your hands, take your temperature, and ask you a few questions.
Once you enter the building, an usher will show you to your seat. Only 50 chairs will be made available and will be spaced at least 1,5m apart. Sadly, we will not be allowed to sing, but music will be played as we enter the sanctuary. The pastor will be on the stage and has to stay at least 3m away from the congregation while preaching.
Once the service is over, those in attendance can move to the exits. Again, the ushers will help to maintain social distancing. Coffee and tea won’t be served after the services and we request that members refrain from socializing after the service.
A call to prayer
Life in a fallen world is not without its risks. Romans 8:21 reminds us that the whole of creation is in “bondage to corruption”. We experience the effects of the fall all around us, now more so than ever. Life can be quite perilous. Yet we somehow find ways to mitigate risk and manage our fears.
The apostle Paul had an interesting perspective about the dangers that he faced. In 2 Cor. 11 he catalogues some of them. They included beatings, imprisonment, stoning and being shipwrecked. How did he cope with it all? He gives us the answer in 2 Cor. 12:9: “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Instead of removing the danger, God assured Paul of his grace.
We would like to assure our members and adherents that we will do what we can to manage the risk of infection at our services, but there are limits to what we can do. We therefore ask everyone to seek the Lord in prayer, ask for his wisdom and guidance, and pray for the safety of his people. Now is a time for prayer: “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15).
Because of Christ,
Pastor Pieter Pienaar