COVID-19 Updates

Email From Ray Cortese Sent To Congregation May 14, 2020

I couldn’t be more proud of the way our church family has responded to the COVID-19 challenge. You guys have trusted our Father, and not been paralyzed by fear, you’ve loved each other and your neighbors beautifully by heeding the authorities and sharing lavishly, and you’ve not only participated in online worship, but you’ve spread the word to your family and friends so that our online viewing numbers have been staggering. On top of all that, you’re continuing to support the mission of “making all things new” so faithfully and sacrificially that April was our best giving month of our fiscal year (excluding December!). You are a dream church to lead and serve. I love Seven Rivers and I love each of you.

I am anxious for us to return to everything lovely about gathered worship. Radiant greetings as we park our cars and head inside, joy in the narthex (and sometimes donuts), visiting with our “pew buddies,” watching the room fill up with old friends and visitors we’re anxious to welcome to the party, absorbing the energy of the worship team as they jump start our hearts. Meeting Jesus in sweet prayer, celebrating new members, kissing babies in baptism, being challenged by the power of the preached word and then exiting to warm hugs, children running and yes, sometimes donuts! So, when will we begin the march back toward this kind of weekend bliss?

Our plan, after conferring as elders and staff, considering the local situation and listening to our governor and health experts like the CDC is to proceed as follows:

  • May 2020 (Phase 1) – Online worship only. The church office will reopen on Monday, May 11.

  • June 2020 (Phase 2) – On June 6/7, we will resume sanctuary worship and continue online worship. Nurseries and children’s church will resume with special precautions for maximum health and hygiene. Our target number for sanctuary worship is 200-300 people per service (20-30% of capacity). Those 65 and older, those with compromised immunity or other health issues and those who are uncomfortable attending for any reason are strongly encouraged to continue worshiping online. During this slow on-ramp toward “normalcy,” congregants should feel free to continue online worship with no stigma attached. Sanctuary worship isn’t to be regarded as more faithful or obedient behavior, in fact, the choice to stay home may be the wise and obedient choice for many.

  • July 2020 (Phase 3) – Continue both sanctuary worship and online worship. The target attendance for sanctuary worship will be 300-350 per service. The Summer Bible Conference in July has been canceled.

  • August 2020 — With the onset of school, we will welcome back all who wish to attend on weekends. Online worship will continue indefinitely for those who cannot yet safely attend.

The resumption of sanctuary worship will be accomplished by a number of safeguards. Heightened cleaning protocols will be practiced. There will be no greeting time in the worship service, no passing of the offering plates or attendance pads and extra care will be exercised in the serving of the Lord’s Supper. We will urge the keeping of a reasonable distance in seating and in pre/post service interaction. For now, we’ll have to learn that it’s okay to just smile and wave to one another! No food will be served (at least in June). The wearing of masks is neither encouraged nor discouraged, it’s a matter of personal choice. What we most emphasize strongly is that if you or anyone in your family is sick (with any communicable illness), that you not come to worship or bring your children.

Special care will be taken to provide a safe environment for our children. All children in nurseries and children’s church will have their temperature checked when they check in. No food will be served. The number of children per room will be limited. Heightened cleaning protocols will be practiced after every service.

  • Camp Seven Rivers is being called off for the first four weeks of summer. Our hope is to hold camp (both preschool and grades K-5) the last four weeks – from the June 29–July 3 session, to the July 20–24 session.

  • In order to help us plan for the safest services possible upon our resumption in June, we’d like you to fill out this simple survey . If projected attendance exceeds our targeted limit—then we will encourage some of you to continue with online worship.

Brothers and sisters – we like our plan, but that’s all it is… a plan. It’s based on what we know in the early days of May. We all know the COVID-19 situation could improve or deteriorate any day. Thus, depending on the guidance of wise counselors and much prayerful deliberation, we will continue to alter the plan as circumstances dictate.

Let me remind you – this COVID-19 crisis is a gospel opportunity. Do some good reading. Meet a neighbor you don’t know. Share more liberally. Write a text to build someone up. Guard your mind from toxic political bickering. Enjoy God and be amazed that He enjoys you!

Email From Ray Cortese Sent To Congregation March 19, 2020

Our staff team is such a delight to labor, laugh and do life with. They are talented, smart, love Jesus and love you guys so beautifully. I consider working with them one of God's greatest gifts to me.

We've spent the first few days of this week prepping to lead our church family and love our community well during this unprecedented Coronavirus calamity. Here's our structure going forward and the staff member tasked with leading each initiative.

  • Online Worship - Adam Hill

  • Congregational Care and Staff Care - Adam Jones and Robyn Shipes

  • Community Care (this is care for those not in our church family) - Chad Townsley, assisted by Paul Manuel

  • Communication (this is emails, videos, devotions, etc) that will be delivered to our members throughout the week to keep our church family informed, encouraged and mobilized) - Brandon Lauranzon

  • SRCS - Dana James

  • Budget/Finances - (Donations to churches are expected to plummet due to the lack of gathered worship services and the economic malaise which will result from the Coronavirus disruption of our stock market and economy, thus this is one of our biggest challenges as we will have to make many hard decisions to stay financially upright.) - Blair Commons

  • Golf Improvement, Online Shopping, Netflix Binging (and attempting to take credit for all the good work of our team!) - Ray Cortese

The rest of our excellent staff are wonderfully assisting with all these initiatives.

Beloved, this morning I read how a Communist interrogator once threatened persecuted Romanian pastor Josef Tson, "Don't you realize I have the power to kill you?" To which Tson replied, "But do you not realize I have the power to die?" God's children are not afraid of adversity, viruses or death. God's church will prevail - not even the gates of hell can unnerve her! So let's trust God and love our neighbors!

Email From Ray Cortese Sent To Congregation March 17, 2020

Today, SRC is pivoting from our routine practices to take advantage of the great opportunity that's before us. The rapid spread of the Coronavirus in our world is providing the Church of Jesus Christ an opening to minister compassionately to our neighbors. So as of today...

  • All SRC worship gatherings, classes, small groups and other events will not meet until further notice. This is in conformity with the direction of our governor and the CDC. Even more importantly, this is in conformity with Jesus' command to "love our neighbors!" Our worship last weekend was a delight; there was a palpable sense of relief and joy at being together after days of nothing but ominous warnings re COVID-19. What fun it will be when we are able to reopen our doors to gathered public worship...I'm already savoring that day. In the meantime, we will be posting our worship on our website and other social media platforms on Saturday for you to watch and engage with on the weekend.

  • We have assembled a Coronavirus Care Team to meet the needs of any we can help in the community. Please help us let the community know that we are ready and desirous to help them with errands, groceries, prayer and if absolutely needed....yes, we'll even deliver toilet paper! As much as we are organizing to serve our community, the best way that we'll accomplish that is through you. Check on your elderly neighbors, and keep your eyes open for people that our Father will bring across your path that will need a hand.

  • During our hiatus from public gatherings, we will be communicating with you through our website and social media venues. We will be posting regular information of all church-related news, and short videos to stay in touch. In fact, here is a wonderful 7-day devotional a friend wrote to help us think biblically during the Coronavirus epidemic.

  • Seven Rivers Christian School is shut down for two weeks (one of which was already scheduled for Spring Break) and along with all other schools, likely to be closed for longer. Our school will continue fulfilling their mission beginning March 30 by providing curriculum, instructions, testing and all else needed for our students to continue to learn at home. Our teachers are using this week to prepare to implement a rigorous home education program. I'm so proud of our whole school team!

  • Our staff is ready to help any of you through the duration of the virus epidemic. Call us for prayer, for counsel or for practical help. Small group leaders, please be proactive in checking on and caring for those in your group.

So, SRC family, this could be our finest hour. Let us be unafraid, even joyous in adversity, let us be constant in our thankfulness for the goodness of our Father and let us be abounding in compassionate care for our neighbors. I am so proud of you, Seven Rivers Church, you are a delight to lead and love.

Email From SRC Pastoral Team Sent To Congregation March 12, 2020

Dear Seven Rivers Family and Friends,

We are all concerned about the potential spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19). Our local health officials have been in regular contact with the CDC. They have informed us that while Citrus County is at low risk for an outbreak, it is wise to be prepared to respond due to the high percentage of older adults in our community. While highly transmissible, the virus does not pose a significant threat to younger adults and children.

As of now, Seven Rivers Church and School will continue without interruption. All services, classes, youth events, small groups, etc. will continue to meet until further notice. We encourage you to follow common sense and best practices for good hygiene.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

  • Sneeze or cough into your elbow.(If someone coughs near you in church, don’t give them the evil eye—there’s currently a lot of pollen and allergy issues!)

  • Stay home if you have any symptoms of a cold, flu, or virus or if you’ve been caring for a family member with these symptoms. Please stay home if you’ve been on a cruise or traveled to an area of significant infection in the last 14 days.

For more detailed recommendations and regular updates visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . For updates on any changes to the schedule at SRC, visit the Seven Rivers website.

Out of an abundance of caution we are temporarily implementing the following measures:

  • Additional hand sanitizers have been placed throughout our buildings on campus.

  • While we already adhere to rigorous cleaning and disinfecting of our common spaces and surfaces (including pews, handrails, children’s rooms, and bathrooms), we will now also be wiping down door handles and knobs during and after large gatherings.

  • The “Meet and Greet” time during worship will be suspended and greeters are being encouraged to refrain from shaking hands.(Don’t “bump” elbows, it’s just weird!)
  • Any other collective practices (i.e. communion, eating, etc.) will be analyzed and adjusted as needed for optimal hygiene.
  • Our Senior Ministry event for the month of April has been cancelled.

Any calamity or disaster is not only a call for caution, but an opportunity for neighbor love. Thus, our Deacons, Pastoral Care Team and a newly forming Coronavirus Care Team will be ready to be mobilized to offer assistance to anyone in our church or community who needs physical or spiritual care.

For over 2,000 years, through plagues, wars, and natural disasters the Church of Jesus Christ has been a source of hope and compassion. Faith, not fear, should be our animating principle. Calm, not conspiracies, should be our societal contribution. Prayer, not panic, should be our spiritual practice.

We are regularly monitoring the rapidly changing situation and will communicate quickly and clearly should conditions and/or recommendations change. If you have any questions or needs, please don’t hesitate to call the church office (352.746.6200).