And the plot thickens…
May 20, 2020 (about 11:41 AM ;0)
There have been a few questions since the Governor’s opening-up-the-state press conference. Right now it doesn’t impact what we are doing since the Mayor has yet to open-up Anchorage (of which we are a part). So this weekend will be very much like last weekend (although a bit chillier according to the weather forecast).
We will be opening up the windows to circulate fresh air so dress warmly- it could get chilly.
Please keep praying for all of us (health and wisdom as we move forward) and thanks for being such an amazing group of people.
Jesus is awesome!
PS: here's the link to our Eventbrite reservation system.
May 15, 2020
We are cautiously going about the process of “opening up” our worship services to having more than just the people putting on the service in the building. It doesn’t mean the virus is gone or not a problem still- it just means we are just as concerned about the Riverside family’s emotional and spiritual well being as we are your physical well being.
So starting this weekend (May 16/17) we are inviting 40 people to join us at each service. The invitation is for anyone who feels comfortable venturing back into the building with others and spending an hour or so social distancing and caring for your own health and the health of the other members of the Riverside family who are worshiping with you.
We’ve been hesitant to make this move but I’ve been talking to health professionals who call Riverside home and together we think we’ve worked out a plan that is cautious and as safe as we can make it.
This is NOT a test of your spirituality. You're not twice as holy because you worship inside the building. If you are concerned about your health please stay home and we'll see you when this is all over.
Since only 40 people can attend any given service (50 when you count in the worship team, tech team and pastor Ed) we will be using Eventbrite to reserve a spot at each service. You can go to our events page and reserve your spot by clicking here. If there are no more spots then you’ll need to stay home and worship along with us on the livestream (sorry about that). Please don’t come to the building unless you’ve got a “ticket” because that will put us over the limit of 50 people per service.
And please, if you reserve a spot and life happens and you can’t make it message pastor Ed and let him know.
We are required to have a Covid mitigation plan for reopening so here’s Riverside’s “plan”:
1. If you are sick/symptomatic stay home and get better before venturing out.
2. No more than 50 people at each service.
2. Everyone attending practice social distancing of 6 feet (with the exception of people from the same household).
3. No coffee or donuts. Sorry. We can’t provide food or drink of any kind right now. You can however bring your own. And your elementary school teacher would be aghast that you don’t have to bring enough to share.
4. Kitchen will be closed.
5. No kids church. Kids will have to sit in the worship service even during the sermon (sorry kids).
6. No touching (fans of Arrested Development have George Senior’s voice running through your mind right about now). No handshakes or hugs. We suggest finger guns from at least 6 feet away (introverts you’re welcome).
7. Masks are suggested by the State but not required. I know there are a lot of strong feelings about the wearing of face coverings in public. The State recommends wearing a mask to church but does not require it (see health alert 010).
8. We will have separate entrance and exits. Entrance will be through the double doors on either side of the building. Exits will be through the fire doors at the front of the auditorium.
9. We will have hand sanitizer throughout the building and hand washing available in the bathrooms. Please try to limit the number of people in the bathrooms to just two at a time.
10. Communion will be offered. Cups will be double stacked (cracker in bottom cup and juice in the top cup). We will not be passing plates- communion plates will be on tables stationed on either side of the auditorium so practice social distancing when going to the table to get your cups please.
11. We will be using plastic chairs for the immediate future so we can easily wipe them down after each service.
I’m sure there will be more to come. This is not going to be a smooth process but you want the good news? You have chosen to make Riverside Community Church your home so you’re used to less than smooth processes, aren’t you? Most folks who would be bothered by our total lack of organization and administrative prowess are most likely long gone to one of the churches in town that are well-oiled-machines when it comes to things like this. But we will get through together.
I know there are A LOT of very strong feelings about how to proceed in this new reality we find ourselves in. As the church (and you are included in that word- the church is not the building located at 10301 Eagle River Loop Road- the church is the people who meet in that building and if you’re reading this then that applies to you as well as everyone else that calls Riverside home) our number one goal is unity and encouragement through all of this. Some people may feel like we are going overboard with all these precautions and are starting to feel fatigue from all the eye rolling. Some people may feel like we are being cavalier opening up again so soon and that we’re not going far enough in our procedures. It’s the way it’s always been in the church. Not always with this issue but there’s always been one issue or another that threatens the unity of the church. Paul had a lot of advice about how to handle that in Romans chapter 14. You can read the whole thing sometime but here’s how Paul sums up those who disagree with each other over matters of opinion- in this case whether it’s ok to eat meat sacrificed to pagan idols:
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. Romans 14:1-4 (NLT)
What was going on in Rome? One side felt like it was no problem to eat the meat sacrificed to a pagan idol that showed up in the meat market the day after it had been sacrificed to Apollo (or Diana or Jupiter or…). The other side felt like it was wrong to eat that meat- they felt like it was idolatry to even consider it. The meat eaters rolled their eyes at the non meat eaters. The non meat eaters shook their finger in the faces of the meat eaters. The result was not what the church is supposed to be about. Paul’s answer? Stop it. Both of you.
So when we all find ourselves back together at the building we call home let’s keep in mind Paul’s advice from Romans 14.
I can’t wait to see everyone again. Pray that this process goes as smoothly as is humanly possible (or whatever that passes for at Riverside) and pray for each other. I am looking forward to the day that this will all be in the past and we can resume what passes for an ordinary church service.
Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free of fear. You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away. Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help. Job 11:16-19 (NLT)
I can’t wait til all of this is like “water flowing away”.
See you soon.
Jesus is awesome. ?
May 8, 2020
Mother's Day @ Riverside
Hey everybody. Things are loosening up but with only 50 folks allowed at a time at church we don’t see how to “open up” Riverside and make room for everyone that wants to come back to church.
So this weekend we will still be online only ?? but it is Mother’s Day so we’re still going to do a slideshow honoring all our ladies (whether you are a mom or are a lady that ever have ever had a mom).
I’ll still do a separate show for each service so send me 3 pictures of you ladies with your kids or moms or any combination thereof. Bonus points for quarantine themed photos ??.
I know this is SUPER last minute but I need the pictures by Friday night at 9 pm.
Send your photos to EagleRiverside@gmail.com please with the subject line "Mother's Day 2020" and don’t forget to let me know which service you’ll be watching.
March 20, 2020 11:15 AM
Hey Riverside- this weekend we begin our "online only" weekend services schedule in order to comply with the no-groups-over-10 rule.
We'll be streaming from Riverside with only essential personnel (that sounds so official- me and the worship team) so stay home, stay safe and when you tune in let us know you're there so we can say hello.
If you haven't done it already you might want to gather the supplies you need to take communion with us. Traditionally grape juice (or wine) and unleavened bread (without yeast). For the unleavened bread you can use matzoh crackers or even pretzels (we once had to do communion with those little goldfish pretzels which was strange but delightful because it reminded me of Jesus feeding the 5,000 but I digress).
And if you don't have juice, wine or unleavened bread/pretzels then make due with whatever you can find that best represents those things. I would have been fired from most churches for even suggesting such a thing but there is precedent in the Bible for the people of God wanting to worship Him but not having everything in place to worship Him exactly as prescribed and so what did they do? They made due the best they could. I'll be publishing a reflection on that story in coming days.
As always please keep praying for Riverside and for our entire world as we try to navigate this new reality we find ourselves in.
God bless. Fear not. Do this in remembrance of me (Jesus- not Ed ;0) and never forget- Jesus is awesome!
March 13, 2020 2:00 PM
We have been talking to health professionals to get their best thinking in this situation so that we can make the wisest decisions possible regarding gathering together during this time or going to online church only. At the time this was posted there has only been one case of Covid-19 substantiated in Alaska and health officials believe they caught it before it could be spread to others. Obviously there’s no telling if there are undocumented cases already here but for now we’re going to try to walk a line between caution and panic so that those of us that call Riverside home will have a place to gather and find comfort.
Here are the highlights of the lengthy post to follow:
1. Church is on for this weekend (March 14/15, 2020)
2. No kids classes at any of the services.
3. Please stay home and watch online if you are sick, have been in contact with someone who's sick or if you're worried you might get sick (part of the more vulnerable demographic).
4. No handshakes or hugs at church until this passes.
5. The kitchen will remain open this weekend (this means donuts and coffee) but please sanitize your hands before entering the kitchen and help your kids to do the same.
6. Stay tuned because this is a fluid situation and things can and do change quickly.
For clarification of the highlights read on.
We’ll have all three regularly scheduled gatherings but there will be some more changes as we attempt to understand and deal with this present reality.
1. We will be eliminating our kids classes at least for now. Kids will be welcome but will be in the auditorium with their parents rather than going to their own classes. Why? Mainly because the Alaska State Health department has requested that organizations not gather kids from different schools together. The hope is that if an outbreak comes to Alaska they will be able to trace its source to a particular school but if we’re mixing kids from all kinds of different schools together that will make tracing the source much more difficult (and we’d just as soon that Riverside wasn’t ground zero for the outbreak ;0) I know that if kids come to church with their parents they will be mixed together to a degree but not to the degree that sticking them in a small classroom with toys that they all touch and surfaces they all touch. Obviously this was a difficult choice for a church like Riverside that LOVES kids but as I said, we are attempting to walk a very thin line between panic and caution and this seemed like the most prudent way forward.
2. Communion will be served quite differently. Rather than passing a plate stations will be set up around the sanctuary where folks can pick up the cups containing the bread and the juice. If you would rather not take communion that is your decision and nobody will think less of you but for those who take deep comfort in communion we want to make it available.
3. PLEASE: If you are currently sick or in one of the more sensitive groups please stay home. If you have someone at home who is sick please stay home. One of the reasons many churches are closing their doors and going online only is due to an abundance of caution over their more vulnerable populations. Many of those most vulnerable are the very ones that feel an obligation to show up at church any time the doors are opened. We pray that you will all care for yourselves and not take unneeded risks with your health. I would add that if you have someone at home that is high risk that you consider staying home so you don’t bring something back with you without realizing it and put that person in danger.
4. We will continue with the no handshakes or high fives and continue to employ the waves, finger guns and smiles that we went with last weekend.
5. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
6. We are going to keep the kitchen opened for at least this weekend but please recognize that’s one of the hotspots for potentially passing on bugs. We will have signs up and hand sanitizer stations at both entrances asking for everyone to please sanitize their hands before touching anything in the kitchen to help prevent spreading any bugs around the kitchen area.
I know this may seem like much ado about nothing for some of you. If you’ve been on Facebook you know our nation is split on the seriousness of this virus. As I said earlier, we don’t want to give in to panic but we also don’t want to needlessly spread a sickness that we still don’t know that much about. As one of my friends put it to me- “Alaska may have a chance to dodge the bullet and we should all do our part.”
So what can we do as a church in response to this situation? A few suggestions:
1. Fear not! One of most repeated commands in the Bible is simply, “fear not!” That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful and cautious but it does mean that our heritage handed down to us throughout the history of faith is one of courage, strength and power. So do not give in to panic or fear.
2. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. It’s part 2 of the greatest commands. What does it mean in this situation? We’re all still figuring that out, aren’t we? For one thing, if you’re not one of those who might be most impacted by contacting the virus do your best to keep the spread of the virus down. The phrase “flatten the curve” is being used all over social media and is a big part of what it means to love your neighbor who desperately needs to stay virus free. Compassion is free no matter what you think of this virus scare. Please ask yourself, “what would Jesus do?” BEFORE you post or comment.
3. Share your abundance. Just as “fear not” is one of the most repeated commands in the Bible there is another theme that is repeated over and over to a church in crisis- they’re called the “one anothers”. Share with one another, bear with one another, care for one another. The point is, if you’ve got extra of something share the wealth. If this proves to be something that lasts for weeks or months there will be a lot of need in our community. We will look for ways at Riverside for folks to express needs and put them together with people who have more than they need.
4. Pray. Never stop praying. Prayer is powerful and God is in control even when it doesn’t seem like it.
As always we will be live-streaming our services through Facebook. The church is in a unique position in history where we can continue to gather even if we’re stuck at home.
And please pray for wisdom and guidance for the leadership of Riverside as we attempt to navigate this brand new territory and pray for understanding and patience for all of us moving forward. Riverside is an incredibly flexible group of people and I know God will guide us as we move forward and do our best to figure out what it means to be the church in this trying and confusing time.
Fear not. Love your neighbor. Take care of yourself. Wash your hands. Jesus is awesome!