To: the FBCF Church Family

From: Pastor Bill

Tuesday, December 8, 2020


Hi Folks,


It was not an easy decision when  we went online only in March.

It was not an easy decision when we went online only again in July, and again in early August.

But this has been a gut-wrenching decision, largely because we are only weeks away from Christmas.


Being torn, I have been in contact with our Church Staff and Deacons over the past few days.  With the feedback that I have gotten, I would say that about 30% think we should keep meeting in person, about 30% think it is a toss-up and can go either way, and about 40% think we should go online only for at least the rest of December.  Collectively, here is some of the thinking.


On the one hand, you can argue that people want to be and need to be together at Christmas.  Besides Easter, the Christmas program and then the Sunday before Christmas are two of the biggest Sundays of the year.  If people do not feel safe, then they have the option of staying home and watching online.  For those that want to be here, to not have these services would be a major disappointment.


But on the other hand, we may be setting ourselves up for some major regret.  We have yet to have someone contract the virus here, but that could change at any time.  What if one of our folks were to contract it here and pass away?  It has been reported that a nearby church recently had 30 folks test positive and 4 die.  Is it farfetched for that to happen here?  It would hurt our church family, and it would hurt our testimony in the community.  You can hear it now… “You had nine people affiliated with your church test positive in one week, and you kept having services?”


A few other things to consider.

  • I just got another text telling me of another of our folks testing positive!
  • We had 202 here about a month ago, but the attendance has dropped down since.  (Understandable, predictably, as Covid-19 cases have risen, our attendance has dropped.) That was 77% of last year’s (pre-Covid) average of 262.  This past Sunday we had 106, which is 40%. 
  • Several people have shared that they plan to soon go into a “preventive quarantine.”  Because they do not want to risk being exposed to Covid and then not be able to enjoy Christmas with their loved ones, they plan to soon isolate themselves as much as possible.
  • Our health care facilities are currently being overrun, and if we were to even accidentally have an outbreak we would not be doing our part to aid our healthcare workers.


The bottom line is that we are reluctantly, with disappointment and frustration, deciding to go online only for the rest of the month, and will evaluate as we go regarding January.  For me personally, I would rather live with disappointment and frustration rather than significant regret.


I met someone last week for the first time.  In time I found out that they are a believer and are very involved with and committed to their church family in Maryville.  But they shared how very disappointed they have been over the infighting that Covid has brought about in their church family.  This conversation reminded me once again of how thankful I am for the humility, grace, and self-restraint that our church family has shown during these challenging times.  This is another opportunity to demonstrate those qualities.


Regarding our Quarterly Business Meeting tomorrow night, we may struggle to meet the quorum, so here is the game plan.  We are going to meet in the auditorium, where we can spread out, and will streamline it.  In other words, we will not have any old business and we will not do the typical reading of ministry reports.  We will shoot for a fifteen minute meeting, so that we can free up the auditorium for the recording of Sunday’s service.  Fortunately, due to your faithful giving, we are going to propose a few expenditures, including something toward debt reduction.  Along those lines, let’s work to finish the year strong in our giving.


One last thing.  Christmas is often a lonely time for people.  There will be less travel this year than most, so some of our folks are going to be alone.  I understand that this is not going to work if you are having a family get-together, but are you in a place where you can invite someone over for a Christmas meal?  Maybe it is just inviting over a couple of others.  Maybe you can enjoy eating together and sharing some favorite Christmas memories/traditions.  If you need help with this, contact me or Tammie and we will do what we can to join you together with some others.


Well, if I do not see you tomorrow night, I guess I will see you Sunday morning, online.  Go to  Sometimes there is trouble with the link, so you can also go to Facebook Live or YouTube and search for our church, and you should see the service.  Take care; God bless!


Love you folks,

Pastor Bill


Bill Gowder

Lead Pastor

First Baptist Church Friendsville


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