In light of efforts to slow and contain the spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), we have modified how we gather together for worship and discipleship for this season. For the foreseeable future all Garber worship gatherings will be online, streaming at 8am and 11am on Sundays, and encourage you to join us online HERE, on Facebook HERE, or Boxcast if you prefer to stream from Roku/Firestick. If you need help with this please contact the church office. We are encouraging folks to gather in small groups in homes if they feel comfortable (and are healthy and not vulnerable to this illness), meeting on Sundays to stream together and fellowship together. If you need assistance in any way or need to speak with a pastor, we invite you to call the office 252-637-4022.
We are still the body of Christ, and the Lord is in control.
We seek to continue to be distinctly His in all seasons.
A few things to remember:
- Do not panic. "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." - 2 Timothy 1:7
- Love well and without fear, but be wise in the manner of physical contact.
- In times of uncertainty remember we are a people who have a certain hope in Jesus Christ. Be a radical hope-dealer.
- When faced with plagues the Church has historically been actively caring for those in need and fearless for their own lives. May we be more concerned for one another and not merely ourselves, and may we not lose sight of the Gospel in trying times. In times like this, when people experience their lack of control over circumstances, may we point them to the One who is in control.
- Pray for those who are already sick, particularly those who are especially vulnerable.
- Stay informed (not uninformed or misinformed). For up-to-date information and to learn about symptoms - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html for local updates - https://www.facebook.com/carolinaeasthealth/
- Choose to be connected, even if it needs to be only through phone or internet, be intentional about connectivity to the body of Christ.
- Even when we feel alone, children of our Heavenly Father are NEVER alone.
How we are proceeding for the upcoming days:
- With a desire to love our neighbors as ourselves and an abundance of caution for the members of our church and community amidst a global pandemic that is affecting our nation, all Garber worship gatherings are moved online until further notice. Please plan to worship online this Sunday at HERE, on Facebook HERE, or Boxcast if you prefer to stream from Roku/Firestick. We livestream at 8am and 11am. Consider joining with another family or a neighbor or two to worship together (click HERE for a great resource for small gatherings). Invite others to join us online, as well. Each week we sing together, pray together, and hear what God’s Word says about freedom from fear, peace over anxiety, joy amidst sickness, and life that conquers death. In addition, we share important information about countless opportunities we have as a church to make God’s love known in our city and around the world during these days. Needless to say, you don’t want to miss these Sunday gatherings online!
- In addition, all Garber buildings are closed until further notice. The only exceptions to this are for staff and/or volunteers whose work necessitates being at the building, including those who are working on key initiatives across our city during this time (like Backpack Blessings) and those serving in worship. All other groups which normally meet on Sundays and during the week are encouraged to explore alternate means of staying closely connected with one another. For more information on individual ministries and/or meetings, please contact the church office.
Why are we moving our worship online and closing our campus?:
- Our goal in these decisions, as in everything we do, is to glorify God as biblically and wisely as possible. By God’s design according to God’s Word, the church thrives on gathering together face-to-face as we love one another, care for one another, and encourage one another by doing things like singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another. As much as we are thankful for technology that allows for us to do many of these things online, a biblical picture of a church prioritizes being together in person. This is why Christians around the world gather together every single Sunday at the risk of their lives. If they are caught, they will be persecuted, potentially imprisoned, and possibly even killed. But it’s worth it to them because this is what it means to be the church. These brothers and sisters in Christ have much to teach us about the value of physically being together as a church family.
- At the same time, the reasons above concerning why we normally gather in person are the same reasons why we are choosing not to gather in person right now. Because the Bible calls us to care for one another and love one another (and all our neighbors) as ourselves, we believe the best way we can do that in light of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is by not gathering in person. If we were to come together for a normal Sunday with over 600 people across New Bern, the likelihood is extremely high that unknowing carriers of this distinct and different virus would expose many others to it. Those exposed would then scatter from our building into and beyond our city, increasing the likelihood of people not only at our buildings, but in and beyond our city, being exposed to this virus. All of this would be harmful for church members and guests as well as people far beyond our church, many of whom are more at-risk physically due to either age or medical conditions. For these reasons, we believe the best way we can love our neighbors as ourselves in this unique time is to participate in publicly endorsed strategies of containment, including social distancing (defined by the CDC as “remaining out of congregate settings and avoiding mass gatherings”). Further, in light of the hundreds of people who normally meet at different times in our buildings all throughout the week, we believe the wisest way to love them all is to limit their exposure to this virus by closing our buildings.
- This does not mean, however, that we are closing the activity of the church. Quite the opposite is true. This is a time for us to be the church like never before! Continue reading below and listen online each Sunday for more information about how we are working together to glorify God as His church during these days.
How are we glorifying God through groups, ministry to families and children, and the ministries during this time?:
- We are encouraging groups across our church to consider alternate means for staying as biblically and closely connected to one another as possible during this time. Go HERE for more detailed recommendations and resources for groups. In addition, we have compiled recommendations and resources for families, students, and children during this time, check those out HERE(under construction).
How can we spread God's love across our city during this time?
- In the midst of a global pandemic, we want to be a clear picture of God’s love across our city. One of the ways we can show God’s love is by participating in publicly endorsed strategies of containment, including social distancing. That’s why we’re not gathering together in person – because this is one of the best ways we can love others right now. At the same time, we don’t want to isolate people who are in need all around us. As a church together and as individual Christians, we want to care for others in any way that we can according to all the health and safety guidelines and recommendations made by government leaders and health professionals.
- We have a network of relationships with schools and other churches, and they have shared with us about the need for food for children in light of them not being in school, and for families in light of various challenges at work. As a result, in cooperation with Backpack Blessings we are working to pack and distribute helpful products to people across our city. For more details and to see how you can help click HERE.
- In addition, we are also encouraging church members to reach out individually to people in your neighborhoods who might need help during this time. Seek to be an answer to prayer. Share generously and do not hoard your resources at their expense. Consider inviting them to join you and your family in gathering during one of our worship streaming times (Sundays at 8am and 11am) to participate in worship together. For more information and helpful suggestions for hosting a small group gathering click HERE. If your neighbor is unable to join in a small gathering, invite them to join us online from their own home, encouraging a connectivity to the body of Christ and the influence of His Word and presence.
- Finally, if you are a member of Garber and you have specific needs for help, please contact us HERE.
How should I respond physically to the coronavirus?
- If you are sick with a cough or running a fever, or you have a compromised immune system in other ways, we encourage you to remain at home and/or seek proper medical attention. Please also alert your church family so that we can best help and support you.
- If you are elderly or have existing medical conditions that might place you at higher risk in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we strongly encourage you to limit your interactions with others during these days. At the same time, we ask you to please let us as your church family know how we can best help and support you.
- Regardless of age or medical condition, we encourage everyone to take certain steps to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus, flu, and other illnesses, including:
- Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- Using hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available;
- Not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
- Staying home if you are sick;
- Covering your cough or sneeze;
- Disinfecting objects and surfaces regularly.
How can I respond spiritually to the coronavirus?
- The coronavirus (COVID-19) is yet one more reminder that we live in a fallen world of sickness, sin, suffering, and death. Ultimately, none of us are immune to any of these things. But that’s why the gospel is such good news. God has not left us alone in this world of sickness, sin, suffering, and death. He has come to us in the person of Jesus. The greatest news in all the world is that Jesus lived a life with no sin, died on a cross to pay the price for our sin, and rose from the grave in victory over sin and death. Now anyone anywhere who turns from their sin and trusts in Jesus will be forgiven of all their sin and restored to relationship with God forever. That means that through Jesus, we never have to fear sickness or death because we know we have eternal life with God.
- If you do not know that you have eternal life with God, we urge you to put your faith in Jesus. And if you do know that you have eternal life with God, we urge you to share your faith in Jesus with others. Times like these remind us all of the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. So let’s spread the greatest news that death has been defeated and eternal life is available to all who trust in Jesus.
- Pray for mercy for the sick, strength for doctors, insight for researchers, and wisdom for officials.
- Look for opportunities to love and care for others, whether they are sick, isolated, marginalized, poor, or oppressed.
- Avoid every semblance of prejudice or racism. In light of the origination of this virus in Asia, it has been grievous to see a rise in racist incidents against the Asian community. A large segment of our New Bern population is Asian-American, and we want every Asian-American (as well as Asians around the world) to feel and know the love of Christ. So just as we do in any circumstance, guard against all prejudice or racism in your thoughts, your words, and your actions.
- Even if we are unable to gather at certain times, stay closely connected to the church family. Gather with smaller groups as appropriate, and participate in worship gatherings online if that’s the only option.
- Continue to faithfully give financial offerings online HERE or by mail so that the ministry of the church thrives all the more in the midst of difficult days.
- Reflect often on the brevity of life, the urgency of eternity, and the beauty of the gospel.
For those that are on campus (essential staff and volunteers/mission volunteers), a few things to know on campus at Garber:
- Our facilities are cleaned regularly every week by our amazing site team and cleaning crews; this includes all spaces on our campus from the sanctuary to the bathrooms.
- Due to this season we are adding additional measures, including sanitizing all doorknobs, hymnals, Bibles, welcome pads, etc. in our worship spaces before Sunday services and before Wednesday night events. We are also sanitizing other meeting spaces after every use.
- If you or a family member in your home is sick or has shown any symptoms/fever, please be mindful of others and choose to stay home. Similarly if you or a family member has a vulnerability to this sickness, please be mindful and choose to stay home. Join us digitally and stay connected via internet/phone.
- On the Garber campus we have hand sanitizer placed generously throughout the building and in all bathrooms. We encourage you to make generous use of hand washing and hand sanitizer.
When we do gather, even in small-group settings, a few modifications to how we engage in communion together:
- Before communion, we encourage you to wash your hands or sanitize. As always, all servers use hand sanitizer on their hands thoroughly before serving.
- Receiving communion, please hold your hand flat for the bread to be placed upon your hand. Avoid reaching and thereby touching the server's hand.
- We will offer bread at a size that may be dipped into the cup without the fingers touching the wine. We will switch to fermented wine for the hygienic character of the alcohol.
- Remember that the Church has traditionally taught that the fullness of communion is available by receiving either the consecrated bread or wine. If one is fearful or unsure regarding the cup, it is permissible to receive the bread alone.
While we seek to be responsible and diligent, not taking unnecessary risks or being reckless in our regard for others' health, we also seek to live boldly as Jesus' hands and feet, and to live as a people of trust and faith in Christ who do not neglect meeting together (even if we have to come up with creative ways of gathering!). Wherever we are, let's continue to be His people in a broken world, pointing to our Healer and Redeemer.
Yours in Christ