Friday, May 29, 2020

Back to Campus on June 14!

     The time has come for our church to return to campus!  Thankfully the church never stopped being the church and God continued to move among us during the time our campus was closed.  After almost three months of being closed we are entering Phase 2 of our return to campus.  I shared with you Phase 1 three weeks ago in this blog also.

June 14: Back to Campus and Livestream continues

     On Sunday, June 14 we will open the doors of our worship center and welcome those who are able and willing to come.  We will also continue to livestream our services and will acknowledge that for a while (or perhaps permanently) we will continue to be a church that gathers both physically and virtually.  (We have discovered that many of our Winter Texans are able to join us year-round now as well as several individuals participating from other parts of the US and even other countries).

     The way we will gather on campus will be different from the way we gathered before the COVID-19 pandemic.  Yet, we trust it will be a meaningful experience, especially as our hearts are tuned with God's Spirit and are filled with gratitude.  We have gathered virtually and have enjoyed worship from the comfort of home.  When we gather physically we will be considerate of one another.

     In this post I share with you about the measures and protocols we will take when we return to campus in order to minimize the risk of virus transmission among our congregation.  This is a long post but it is important that you read it thoroughly to ensure the best experience possible for you and for others.

Wise Counsel and Difficult Decisions 

     For the last couple of months our leadership has been praying, listening to authorities and experts, consulting with denominational leaders, exchanging information with other pastors, and seeking the advice of our pastoral staff team, our coordinating council, our deacon body and the COVID-19 advisory team at Calvary.  These individuals have offered godly wisdom and informed insight.

     All of our decisions have been guided by prayer, data and wise counsel.  Our determinations of dates and measures are not driven solely by government agencies, although we have listened to them.  Our decisions are not driven by any kind of media frenzy although we have listened to many sources.  We have resisted the pressures from individuals on extreme sides of this issue.  Our primary motive is love.  We love you.  We love our congregation.  We love our neighbor.

     To say the least, this has been a very difficult process.  We realize that not everyone will agree or like our decisions but we have the confidence that (1) We have sought the Lord's guidance (2) We are making decisions on what we think is best and not as a reaction to anything or anyone (3) Our church has the fortitude and spirit of unity to get past all this and focus on God's glory and God's mission.

     Whatever we might believe regarding the statistics that are shared daily regarding COVID-19 cases and deaths, I think all of us agree that the virus is real and that it is very contagious.  While we do not think that we can completely avoid all risk of transmission, we do believe there are measures we should take to protect one another as a loving fellowship of believers.

     This is not a matter of faith vs. fear.  We are not afraid nor paranoid.  We trust God but we still lock the doors of the building and set the burglar alarm.  We realize that trusting God does not mean negligence.  We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our bodies, our building, and our congregations.  We have the freedom to meet but with freedom comes responsibility.  Love involves self-giving.

Schedule of Services

     We will return to our previous schedule of Sunday worship services as follows:

     09:30 AM Classic (worship center only)

     11:00 AM Contemporary (worship and student centers)

     12:30 PM Español (worship and student centers)

     Livestream continues!  We will livestream all three services at the times indicated above as well.  You can click here and bookmark the page for our livestream.  Watch Parties encouraged!  One of the options for those who continue to join us via livestream is to host or participate in "watch parties."  In other words, gather as groups in a home on Sunday, watch our livestream and then have a group discussion and fellowship.

     In order to observe social distancing in our worship center, capacity will be limited to about 200 people or so.  If we reach capacity in the worship center, we will open an overflow area in the student center where approximately another 75-100 individuals can participate in corporate worship.

     Our worship services will be about 60 minutes in length in order to provide sufficient time between services for people to exit, sanitize the worship center, and for the next group to enter.

Who Can Come and Who Should Not

     Our church will open its doors to all people that feel comfortable and ready to be in a large gathering and do not display symptoms of a virus nor have been in recent contact with someone with COVID-19.  People in the vulnerable segment of the population are strongly encouraged to participate remotely via our livestream.

     Please stay home if you,

  • have any cold or flu type symptoms like fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, congestion, diarrhea, nausea or loss of taste or smell (please do not attend until 10 days after symptoms have ended);
  • have had contact with someone you know has COVID-19 within the last 14 days;

     The CDC informs us of individuals with a higher risk of infection.  Those in this segment of the population are encouraged to take additional measures of caution, including the option of participating remotely via livestream.  The complete list of higher risk individuals can be found here and includes older adults, immunocompromised individuals, and people with asthma or liver disease, among others.

     Families worship together.  No classes will meet on campus Sunday morning, including adults, students or children.  Families who come to campus on Sunday morning will sit together in the worship center (while providing social distancing from other families/individuals).  We will provide children with some simple materials to engage in worship and be mindful of them as they are present.  It will be like bringing all our living rooms together!

Love your Neighbor: Wear a Mask!

     We request that everyone who comes into our worship center wears a mask or face covering when entering and exiting the building.  We understand the wearing of masks has become controversial for some people.  Nevertheless our leadership (pastoral staff, advisory team and deacon body) have deemed this best for the church.  We view masks as a way of being considerate of others, caring for their wellbeing.  Read the CDC's recommendation regarding face masks here.  Gathering with God's people means checking our individualism at the door and being considerate of one another (Philippians 2:1-4).

Sanitation and Hygiene

     Personal hygiene and facilities sanitation help minimize the risk of infection.  Read the CDC's list of measures here.  Thus we will,
  • provide hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting our building
  • encourage you follow these guidelines to wash your hands
  • sanitize our door handles, our pews and other surfaces you with which you may come in contact
  • sanitize the areas above before and after each worship service
  • request that when sneezing or coughing you cover your mouth with a tissue or do so inside your elbow

     In order to minimize risk of infection we will also take the following measures:
  • There will be no printed bulletin (we continue to refer you to our e-news, website and social media: facebook and instagram).  Our team works hard to make sure all these channels provide the communication you need.
  • There will be no congregational greeting in our worship services.  We will practice the "holy wave"!
  • We will not pass the offering plate.  There will be offering boxes at every entrance and exit where you can deposit your offering.  As it is the case now, you may also worship God through giving by doing so online, or mailing your check to the church (1600 Harvey, McAllen, 78501), or bringing it by the office during the week.

Connecting Point and Café Temporarily Closed

     During this phase our new connecting point will be closed.  We are looking forward to the appropriate time for a dedication service of this beautiful place which will be a blessing to many.  We will also keep our Student Center Café close during this phase.

Dedicated Entrances and Exits

     When you arrive on campus there will be people who will point you to our dedicated entrances.  After the service you will be directed toward dedicated exists.  This will ensure a smooth traffic flow.

Bible Fellowships, Home Fellowship and Other Groups

     Beginning June 1 and throughout the summer Bible Fellowships, Home Fellowships and other groups may gather again.  These groups, including ABFs, may meet in homes on any day of the week and at any time they choose.  Some groups may decide to gather in a home on Sunday mornings, watch the livestream together and then enjoy discussion and fellowship.  If so we encourage you to take pictures and upload them to social media with the hashtag #calvarywatchparty

     Some ABFs may choose to meet on campus.  If so, we ask that they meet at a time other than Sunday morning and that they coordinate their meeting times with our Pastor for Administration and ABFs: Paulo Gatan (

     All groups, whether meeting in homes or on campus are asked to observe hygiene and social distancing protocols to protect each other from the risk of infection.

Summer Events

     We will share more information regarding summer events at a later time.  For now, please note the following:
  • VBS has been postponed for the first week in August;
  • Camp Zephyr has cancelled both kids and student camps (our staff is working on providing alternate experiences);
  • The Fourth of July tailgate party on campus has been cancelled (The City of McAllen has cancelled the parade and is doing multiple fireworks displays throughout the city rather than one central one).  We encourage families, Bible Fellowships and Home Fellowships to celebrate in homes and reach out to neighbors;
  • Valley Project will be adapted and details will be shared at a later time.

Closing Remarks

     We are so thankful to our leadership who has been thoughtful of you and the rest of our congregation.  This process has been neither easy nor fast but we trust will prove to be caring of you, our congregation and our community.

     As we gather again on campus, many things will feel different.  The way we joined in worship together three months ago will seem so distant.  But several things will remain the same: (1) God is good and worthy of our praise; (2) The Holy Spirit is present among his people ready to manifest his power as we allow Him; (3) His Word is faithful and will speak to us when we are listening; (4) His church will be refined, grow in maturity toward Christ-likeness and remain strong (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 4:13-16); (5) We will continue to love one another with a servant heart; (6) Jesus still saves and redeems!

     We ask that you continue to pray for our church and our leadership.  We ask that you prepare yourself prayerfully for our return to campus.  Whether you join us via the livestream or physically on campus, we look forward to what God will continue to do among us.  We serve a mighty God and He has done great things and He will do greater things still!  His Spirit is our bond!

     Please fill out the Together Again Survey to help us honor God and serve you better.

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