Hope Notes 03/18/2020 – Special Edition

March 18, 2020

Hey Hopers!

I’m subbing in for Lois today because most of our normal announcements are postponed, cancelled, or in limbo. In the meantime, I have news on many different fronts for Hope as we adapt to these overwhelming and challenging times. I’m excited to see God’s work in our church, even though it will look vastly different from what we’re used to.

First of all, we serve a God of miracles! He loves His children and is with us in these moments. There are many reasons for people to feel unsettled, afraid, and even panicked.  But we trust in the Lord, and our hope remains as strong as ever.  I believe He will guide us through these days and USE us for His glory. My life verses are Proverbs 3:5-6 which say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”  We still believe that trusting God is a better way than trying to gather all the information available or trying to figure out what makes the most sense humanly.  We believe that leaning on Him as our security and hope enables us to have hearts full of peace and even joy, and opens our hearts to hearing His direction for our steps each day. Whenever I have a struggle to trust Him – which shows up as fear, worry, frustration, anger, or any other symptom – I remember that He has given His Son for my salvation.  If He is so good to love me that much, how can I not fully trust in Him?

Now to some details…

SERVICES

With the new government recommendations and guidance, we are not going to be having any normal services or groups at church.  For Sunday, we will stream the service at 10 am.  That will allow us to keep the group at church very low, as well as allow us to ‘meet’ together as a church, even though we’re not in the same building. I’m trying to keep the service as normal as possible, so we’re planning on a little over an hour.  Please join us, whether you’re by yourself or with your family.  One suggestion is to use a casting device (like Chromecast or Apple TV) to stream our Facebook live to your TV.  A bigger screen can help it feel a little more like you’re with us.  And for the music, if you have some kind of soundbar or Bluetooth speaker, you’ll probably enjoy the music part a little more.  Rest assured, those of us at church are safely serving, embracing all of the social distancing guidelines we’ve been given.

Additionally, Wednesday night Bible study will be an online gathering at 7 pm starting NEXT Wednesday, 3/25.  We’ll use our Facebook live stream as we have been, but it will just be me talking into the camera. I’m hoping to have a better strategy on enabling comments and questions during the study by then.  For now, I’m thinking it will be about 30 minutes and I’ll continue in Ephesians, but we’ll trust the Lord to direct our conversation and the topic of our study.

Our other ministries (kids, youth, young adults) are at work trying to figure out how to minister effectively in these times. Stay tuned for each of those ministries, so that when we have a strategy, you’ll be part of it!  Follow all of our Facebook and Instagram pages so that you’ll stay in the know.  We want to serve families, not add extra work. So we spent much of yesterday seeking the Lord together as we discussed how to best serve each of you.

GROUPS AND SPECIAL EVENTS

For small groups, we’re going to strongly recommend that each group abide by all guidelines given by the government. Meeting online through Google Hangouts or Zoom is an option. Of course, taking a break for a couple of weeks is also an appropriate step.  We don’t know when the restriction to any gathering of more than 10 or suggested curfews will be lifted, but until then, we need to be people who don’t ‘resist’ the authorities God has placed over us.

Unfortunately, at this point we need to cancel our Kids Egg Hunt on 4/4. And we were about to announce a church meeting for 4/1 to talk about our service times, our special HVAC projects, and some other issues.  But that meeting is also postponed indefinitely.  As for Good Friday Services, we’ll have to wait to see where things stand as we get closer.

HELPING ONE ANOTHER

Now onto a different discussion.  This is definitely a time where many will be in need of help.  And I’m confident that many of you are ready to help. As a church, we want to do all we can to be a hub so that needs can be met and people can safely help one another. Our Needs Team is going to be taking the lead on receiving requests and offers of help.  You can reach them by emailing needs@hopechristianfellowship.org. They will follow up with you and then coordinate either getting you what we can or directing the help you can give.  Of course, as believers, our help is not always so formal, and many of you are already helping one another as well as many outside of our church.

If you find yourself in need of some help, we’d love to help.  We have food and supplies at church, and we’re going to give out whatever can be helpful to people.  In our pantry, we have canned and dry goods, as well as some freezer items like meat and bread.  We also have some toilet paper and some disinfecting wipes.  If you are in need of any of these items, let us know and we’ll give you what we can as long as we have those items available.

Of course, financial needs are also a part of this crisis. And we’re ready to do what we can to help financially. Our benevolent fund exists to help in this area, so please let us know if you find yourself in need of money.  With extraordinary times come unforeseen struggles, so we’re going to look carefully at each case that comes our way – even ones that don’t fit our normal policies and procedures.  We’ll try to be faithful in helping as many as we can.

And on the job front, we have information at church about jobs that are available. I’m sure if you find yourself in jeopardy of losing your income / employment, you’ll be doing all you can to find another job.  We’d love to help if we can, and we have some resources through our Needs Team to help connect people with opportunities.

If you are ready to help, (of course you are!) please let the Needs Team know what you can do. Some may need help with grocery shopping (especially seniors and immunocompromised people) or a ride to a doctor.  Others may need babysitting or some help fixing something broken in their home. Or if you want to give financially toward any family or financial need, let them know.

SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING

With so much changing, it is undoubtedly a time where your spiritual well-being will be put at risk. On top of that, some of our normal spiritual ‘anchors’ like worship, fellowship, and regular services have been severely restricted.  So as your pastor, I’m asking you to not let this time be one of spiritual decline or distance.  That will take intentionality as well as some determination to find what works. Here are some ways you can stay on top of your spiritual health.

·         Read your Bible daily. There are many plans and apps available. We gave out one this year that was a plan to read the Bible in a year.  It had 5 days of readings per week so that there was some buffer for missing a day. Find one you can stick to and use it.

·         Pray. One of the most powerful privileges you have is to talk to your Savior.  He listens and He cares.  When you’re overwhelmed, worried, discouraged, or suffering…. Pray!  And let that conversation bring you close to the One you trust. 

·         Stay connected through at least Sunday morning services.  Embrace the challenge and sing with us.  Get your Bible and take notes.  Open your heart to God’s voice each Sunday. We may not be in the same room, but we can be together anyway!

·         Music.  We have a church Spotify account (hcfmusic) with our worship songs for each week (from the original artists) as playlists.  Be strategic in the music you’re listening to during these days. Make your own playlist or find one on any music service. Feed your soul with the songs you sing along to.

·         Be intentional relationally.  Our church is a family.  No virus can change that. But sometimes, we need to be more ‘on purpose’ in those relationships.  So look for those opportunities or ideas to stay in touch with your fellow Hopers.

GIVING

Lastly, just a brief note to ask each of you to remain as faithful in your giving as you can.  We have online giving that you can set up through our website. We have a ‘text to give’ option.  And you can simply mail a check (or have your bank mail a check through a bill pay option) to the church. Our address is 246 King St, Woodbury, NJ 08096. Don’t wait or pile up your giving.  We will need it during the coming weeks to operate and pay our bills.  Giving to our church is in large part supporting the people who have devoted their lives and careers to serving the church family full-time.

I am sad to be missing out on our normal conversations and times together.  But I am glad that our Lord will walk with us through whatever is ahead.  And I’m thankful we can also walk through this together.  God will use us in these days and in all the time afterwards.  Let’s be faithful as His people to our Lord and to one another.

As always, I’m here to serve you in any way I can.  Feel free to email me at markott@hopechristianfellowship.org.

In Christ’s love


Pastor Mark