Dear Immanuel Family,

Greetings in Christ Jesus, our Risen and Ascended Lord! 

I am writing to you on this Ascension Day 2020, inspired by the words and promises of Jesus given to His disciples: “Surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) The church is facing immense challenges during this pandemic, but we are not alone.  God is still in control, and His favor continues to rest upon us in Christ. 

Even while we remain vigilant in taking the necessary safety precautions recommended to combat this disease, we also need not live in fear.  Remember how the disciples were “sheltered in place” on Easter Day, thinking that Jesus was still dead?  Then they encountered the Risen Jesus Christ, and He transformed their lives!  Those disciples boldly went out to change the world, even in the midst of great danger and even martyrdom.  We too our Christ’s disciples, and we can serve our Lord with the same conviction and courage.  Christ is Risen!  Christ is ascended! Christ is coming again!  Faith overcomes fear, every time.

Over the past weeks, our Elders, Board of Directors, and Church Ministry Staff have been prayerfully discussing the re-opening of our church for worship.  We have consulted outside experts, and have wrestled with all the details to do so safely. Overwhelmingly, our leadership has decided that we should open as quickly as we can.  The best-case scenario is that this will coincide with the Governor’s state orders, but even if it doesn’t, we will still move forward to open.

Our goal is to have our first live worship service back in our sanctuary no later than Father’s Day, June 21st.   If we are able to do so safely prior to this date, our timetable may be accelerated.  In the weeks to come, I will be updating you regularly on all the requirements that this entails, but here are some of the details I can share with you now.

  • We will open for one worship service at 9:30am.  An online worship service will continue to be offered on our YouTube channel for those who are not yet ready to join us on campus.
  • We will put in place the necessary safety precautions to gather together safely.  Because guidelines are continually changing from the CDC, we will follow whatever current recommendations are made at the time of re-opening.  This may include:
    • Facemasks, touchless thermometers, and hand-sanitizer stations
    • Seating capacity reduced to 50%
    • No Fellowship Hour or Sunday School
    • Holy Communion served in the pews (as well as drive-thru Communion)
  • We are considering having sign-ups for worship (similar to signing up for the Tabernacle Experience) so that we can control the number of worshipers.
  • We will insist that the elderly, those who are sick, or those who have been exposed to someone with Covid-19, refrain from worshiping with us in person until it’s safe.  Each worshiper is expected to be responsible for their own welfare and the welfare of  others.

We welcome your feedback and your continued prayers as we prepare to worship together again on our campus.  To share your suggestions or concerns, please email us at: info@immanuelriverside.com

Let me also update you on three other important items:

  1. Immanuel has received an SBA loan for $325K!  We thank God for His provision for us, as this was not an easy process for approval.  These funds will be used to pay our part-time staff that had been furloughed.  We are now able to pay them retroactively from March 15 through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.  This will also help us to pay our Preschool Staff who have continued to serve our families but have not been receiving any income from tuition.  Finally, this will allow us to offer our teachers and church staff extra Hero Pay for all the incredible work they’ve invested in helping us to become an online church and school.
  2. Because we are currently unable to hold a Voters Meeting, our Board of Directors is monitoring closely the budget and leadership of the church.  We cannot hold elections or formally approve a new 20-21 budget until the Voters can meet.  The Board has determined to initially approve a new budget until the Voters can give their final approval.  The Board Members will also remain in their positions until the Voters can elect new members.  If you would like to nominate someone to our Board of Directors, please email us their name and contact information.
  3. Our schools have continued to work hard in serving our families with outstanding online instruction!  We are also currently offering Child Care for essential workers in our Preschool, and will begin to offer Child Care for older children through our Kids Kare Program starting June 1st.   Looking ahead to the new school year, we are currently planning to hold classes on campus as long as it is safe to do so.  Because we are a small, Christian school, we are able to be much more flexible than public schools, and will work diligently to continue to provide an excellent Christian education for our children.  Of course, this may still include some online learning.  Our new school year will begin on September 1.

Finally, let me offer you a word of encouragement.  I have been inspired by our church and school response to this pandemic.  You have continued to be faithful in serving Jesus, loving your neighbor, and supporting our ministry.  Thank you!  I am reminded of the words of St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5: 

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.  We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.”

If we can serve you or pray for you in any way, please reach out to us.  We’d love to hear from you.  

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Steven