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Hey, Mt. Carmel family! I know that I have been filling up your inbox and social media this week, but I am simply trying to make sure that everyone knows of our plans for the return to indoor services this Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

Pastor Micah worked hard this week to create an excellent video that reminds us of why we go to church. He included footage from some of the churches in Page County—purposely displaying that we are all on the same Gospel team, following the same Chief Shepherd. I would strongly encourage you to watch the video here

(You'll see clips from Rileyville Baptist Church, Rileyville Gospel Church, Page Valley Baptist Church, and He is For Us Ministries with Pastor Archie Webster.)

This afternoon, Pastor Mike, Pastor Micah, and myself met this afternoon to finalize all the details and to spend a good deal of time in prayer for our church. All three of us understand that we are incapable of leading this church without the direction and power of God. Our plans may provide safety, but they can never provide salvation. God alone is capable of bringing what we truly need most—His presence!

I want to answer one question today: “Should I come back to church?”

Usually this question runs through the mind of someone who has been away from church for a time after walking a path that took them away from God. Today, however, this question is being asked by dear saints of God who have not assembled together with other believers in months—through no fault of their own. There was no wandering from God. There was no rebellious abandonment. Churches simply closed their doors for a time to protect their flock from an infectious disease that was quickly spreading across the world.

And now that churches are opening their doors again, a very valid question is being asked, “Should I come back to church?” Let me do my best to answer that question.

Who should definitely be staying home?

Anyone who is experiencing the symptoms associated with the coronavirus should stay home. We must be committed to the health and well-being of those around us.

Who should consider staying home?

Right now, health officials are telling us that the greatest at-risk individuals are the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. While we would not turn any healthy individual away from joining us for church, I would want those who are at-risk to take wise steps of action before attending church. 

What precautions has the church taken?
We will be using separate entrance and exit doors. We have hand sanitizing stations at every entrance. The chairs in the auditorium have been spaced out to provide social distancing for everyone in attendance. The facilities will be cleaned thoroughly before and after the service.

What about masks?
As required by law of all businesses, we have posted a sign on the door informing everyone that the state of Virginia is currently under an order for masks to be worn indoors. However, no one will be enforcing the order. We will have masks available at the entrance if you would prefer to wear one.

What else should I be concerned about?
First, we will be singing. When we first started preparing for our return, we briefly considered a church service without singing. But part of the glory DNA of Mt. Carmel is the worship through song. Singing is such an important ingredient in a worship service, so we will be lifting our voices in song on Sunday. Please consider this when making the decision as to whether or not to join us on Sunday.

Second, we are family. Families have a very hard time expressing their love to one another without handshakes, hugs, and other expressions of physical touch. Again, no one will be enforcing an elbow-bump-only greeting, but please be consciously aware of the health of your fellow Christian brothers and sisters. It may be especially difficult to show restraint if you see someone for the first time in a long time on Sunday. All I ask is that we please be considerate of one another. 

As much as I would love to have our entire church family back together on Sunday, I know that it may be a while before that happens. Please know that I want you to make the decision that is best for you right now. It may not be the same decision that someone else makes. It will be ok. I promise not to talk about you behind your back (at least I won’t talk about you too much).

I love you and am praying for you today! God bless you!
Pastor Brian