A Special Invitation and An Admonition
by Robert C. Veil, Jr.
Next Sunday evening, October 4, 2021, all members and guests are invited to assemble in-person for our 6:00 PM worship service at the church building. This will be the first time since March that we have been able to do so. Since March, coronavirus restrictions have been carefully and faithfully observed by the congregation, under the direction of our elders. At first, all of our assemblies were entirely virtual (online). No gatherings of any kind were permitted in the church building for several weeks. Since then, under a prayerfully-devised plan, we have been gradually getting back together in groups and increasing numbers. Social distancing and the wearing of masks, as well as other precautions, continue to be observed in compliance with state laws.
It is now believed that we have ample space in the auditorium, together with overflow provisions in the multipurpose room, to invite the entire congregation back on Sunday evenings, and all members and guests are encouraged to attend. Assuming this process goes as anticipated, we will be gradually returning to normal meetings on Sunday mornings as well, to eventually include our children’s Bible classes.
A Painful Summary of What Has Happened to Us
As mentioned above, our full, in-person assemblies have been suspended since March 15, 2020. Although we have continued to meet virtually (online), and have offered practically a full slate of Bible classes to keep all of us engaged and informed, we have diligently obeyed the governmental restrictions regarding COVID-19. Beginning with Friends Day 2020, each of our major gatherings has been canceled or postponed since March, including both of our previously-scheduled Gospel Meetings this year. The annual Clothing Giveaway was replaced with an effort to provide school supplies to area children. The annual Picnic in the Park was canceled, as was our annual Ladies’ Day, which would have been the 24th consecutive annual Ladies Day here at Central. Our annual Vacation Bible School, as well as youth trips to Horizons and Christian camps were canceled. Brotherhood lectureships, like the West Virginia Christian School of Preaching lectureship, were converted to online programs. Our annual Fourth of July fireworks community outreach, and all fellowship meals were canceled. Morning and evening ladies classes as well as the Young Professionals class were indefinitely suspended.
In addition to all of these cancellations, numerous planning sessions, weekly elders’ and preachers’ meetings and other events have had to be conducted by conference call or similar methods. This has been challenging and difficult, and in my opinion it has taken excessive time and reduced our efficiency beyond measure. There have been other changes as well. Preachers’ office hours have been modified to provide for more work from home. Social gatherings, work sessions and other events at the church building have been drastically curtailed.
All of this has been brought on by a virus no one could foresee, and governmental restrictions none of us could escape. How much loss to congregational morale, spiritual engagement, encouragement and faithfulness to the Lord remains an open question. I believe this has been especially difficult on our seniors, particularly those who struggle with internet and related technology. I also believe that all of us have been injured to some extent by increased isolation and loss of social interaction and fellowship.
I do not enjoy going back and summarizing such a difficult year, but I believe it is important to properly appreciate where we are and where we have been. I think it is essential to put things into a proper perspective looking forward. We are going to have a precious opportunity to assemble together again next Sunday evening, and I am encouraging every member to take advantage of it. Especially those who did not previously attend on Sunday evenings regularly, or may be feeling particularly disconnected from the congregation about now. This is a chance to make some progress toward moving forward in a constructive way. It is an opportunity to encourage one another and begin to rebuild after such devastating loss.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.