Thursday, March 26, 2020
Greetings, again, Grace Church Family,
I just wanted to provide you with an update as we continue to navigate this very unique situation together as a church. First, I just want to let you know that my family is doing well. Katie and the kids are feeling healthy and our kids are still learning as we get a taste of what homeschool families do on a regular basis. Aside from any inconvenience we may feel, we mostly just long for the day when we can meet together as a church again when we can see all of your wonderful faces.
In the meantime, we will continue to Livestream our Sunday morning services. While certainly not an adequate substitute for our gathering, it is still a way for us to remain somewhat connected to each other as we sing, pray, and hear from God’s word at the same time together. Many of you have expressed concern about our ability to continue this after additional measures were taken last week to further restrict social interaction. Thankfully, the Governor’s “Safer at Home” order specifies that local churches are essential business and so long as we can continue to put together healthy teams, with less than 10 people, 6 feet apart, we will continue to provide a Livestream. Please note: if you do not have a Facebook account you can join our Livestream on a computer. However, if you want to watch on a tablet or smartphone, you will need to have a Facebook account.
In light of this commitment, please be attentive each week to those who continue to lovingly serve our church body in corporate worship during these challenging times. Pray for their health, safety, and ministry. As you are able, consider sending them a note of gratitude for their personal encouragement. Many of you have done that for me during this time. I am so grateful for that, and for you, and I want our other servant leaders to be able to experience the same encouragement from you that I have.
Ministry In the Days Ahead
Obviously, these changes will affect much more than just our Sunday gatherings in the days ahead. It is not really feasible, or even necessarily desirable, to simply try to move all of our meaningful ministry to online, virtual environments. But I want you to know what the church elders and staff will be focusing on in the immediate days and weeks ahead.
We want to focus our time and energy on identifying and serving those who are most significantly impacted in day-to-day life by our current situation. More specifically, we have in mind checking in on those who live alone, as well as with students and younger people who have been displaced from school while a parent/parents must continue to work away from home through this crisis. We also want to connect with, pray for and encourage those who work in areas that are likely to have increased stress on themselves and families during this time, like healthcare workers, grocers, and delivery drivers, as well as those who work in administrative roles supporting them. If someone comes to your mind, please don’t wait for us; don’t hesitate to reach out with a phone call, prayer, and a word of encouragement.
Our church website (graceinracine.com) is an important tool for supporting the ministry we want to see happen. Along those lines, we have adjusted our home page to best facilitate that. There’s a clear place to get every update, which you can expect will be at least once per week from here on out. There’s also a clear way to go straight to our Livestream, as well as access resources to serve you and your family as you prepare for worship. We included an easier, more streamlined way to give online. And lastly, we have added two very important categories: you can let us know if you need help during this time (food, toiletries, prayer, conversation), and you can let us know if you are willing to provide someone else with help. If you are in need of help during this time, please let us know. If you are eager to help others, please let us know.
Above All, Guard Your Hearts
Most importantly – and I really mean that – most importantly, be sure to pay careful attention to what is going on in your heart during these times. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Right now I am confident that many of us are being almost constantly bombarded with news, updates, and information. While I am thankful for all the things that technology can enable us to do, at the same time, I don’t believe we were designed to handle the near-constant stimuli that is coming at us. That becomes compounded even more when much of that stimulus is negative or creates uncertainty. If we’re not careful, the cumulative effect of all that can wreak havoc on our spiritual lives.
So, Grace Church, please be careful. Pay attention to what’s going on in your hearts. Make sure – take great care in ensuring that you have time when you shut the TV off, turn the phone off, turn the noise down, and quiet your heart before the Lord. Now as much as ever, spend time reading God’s word. If you don’t have a current reading plan, just start reading a few Psalms every day. And pray. I am asking God to work in my heart through this situation and to show me where I need to know Christ more in all of this. Friends, God loves to answer that prayer.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:7)
May you all remain firm in your faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel.
PS – Have a prayer request? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have an offering? Give online at graceinracine.com or mail a check to Grace Church, 3626 State Road 31, Racine, WI 53405.
Grace Church Family,
At times like these first and foremost, what we need are anchors for the soul: The Lord is our refuge and strength. While we may feel like we are surrounded by uncertainty, we have a sure and steady anchor in Him.
These are unprecedented times, both in terms of COVID-19 itself and the drastic measures that are required to slow it’s spread, as well as how quickly the news cycle is moving and information is changing. It can feel like as soon as you come to terms with one measure, it changes. Along these lines, as Grace Church’s leadership makes decisions about how to best honor God and care for His people during this time, we want to avoid having to make those decisions on a week-to-week basis. At the same time, we don’t want to simply cancel indefinitely, even though we realize that may need to become a reality in the future.
For now, we have decided to cancel all Grace Church activities through Saturday, April 4th. This includes our Sunday morning worship gatherings (3/22 and 3/29), as well as Life Groups. We will keep the church building closed while the staff continues to work remotely until at least March 31st. In the meantime, we will continue to provide a Livestream of Sunday morning worship at 9:30 AM through Facebook Live. https://www.facebook.com/graceinracine. Our hope is to be able to provide that as long as we can do so responsibly, practicing social distancing and having less than 10 people gathered at once.
We are very much aware that these measures may need to extend beyond the timeframe mentioned above. We will be watching things very closely over the next few weeks, while we remain in close contact with medical professionals and local authorities who are able to give us good counsel.
During this time, the Grace Church staff will be working on creative ways we can find connection together as a local church during this period of social distancing. Also, look for a video update for the congregation coming soon. In the meantime, there are some very important things that we are asking you, the Grace Church body, to do:
Please commit to joining us on Facebook Live on Sunday, 3/22 and, 3/29 at 9:30 AM. While we cannot be together, we can still have some level of connection with each other as we all tune in together to sing, pray, and hear God’s word. We will continue our normal sermon series through the gospel of John. I am struck by how remarkably well God’s word is able to speak directly to our situation, even though we planned to be in this part of God’s word months ago, long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. So please continue to gather your families together and have your Bibles open as we worship together.
During this time we have a wonderful opportunity to engage the world around us and empathize with the sense of concern and fear that many people are experiencing. Even more so, we have the opportunity to point them to the one true anchor of our souls and let people know why we can come through all our anxiety and fears by casting them on the one who cares. Very practically speaking, you can invite friends and neighbors to join us on our Livestream Sunday mornings as many people may be more inclined to listen now than ever before.
We are so grateful that God has enabled Grace Church to be a particularly faithful and generous church in the area of giving. I know for many of you that giving is best expressed in person on Sunday mornings. I know that many of you just like the physical act of bringing your offerings to the church in order to give as an act of worship during our worship gathering. As that is not a possibility during this season, we want to ask you to give online, at least as long as we are not able to worship together in person.
It’s pretty easy to set up. Just go to our website at https://www.graceinracine.com/giving/. If you need help setting it up, you can call our church office. Even though our building is closed, you can leave a message and we will respond back promptly. If you are unable to use one of our online giving tools, you can also mail a check to Grace Church, 3626 State Road 31, Racine WI 53405.
While we look for creative ways to connect during this time, please don’t wait. Take advantage of all the online tools that are available, be proactive, and connect with others in our church. Start a post on Realm in your Life Group and ask what people are doing to stay busy and grounded during this time. Use Facetime, Skype, or Zoom to connect with other members. Especially consider those you know who live alone; reach out to them to make sure they are healthy, safe, and have some level of ongoing connection.
Most importantly, please pray. To say that another way, let’s trust God together during this time. We can do that primarily by demonstrating our dependence on Him through prayer. Pastor Ryan Boyer put together a prayer guide for our daily use during this time. You can access that here: https://graceinracine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Prayer_Guide.pdf.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1–3)
On behalf of the Grace Church Elders, grace and peace to each of you!
Pastor Mike Matheson
Dear Grace Church Family,
I am sure that many of you have been following the news of COVID-19 as things have been unfolding very quickly. The situation seems to be changing by the day, if not every few hours. Along those lines, last night (Thursday, March 12) the elders came together to very intentionally slow ourselves down, seek wisdom and counsel from trusted medical professionals, consider the requests of the authorities that God has placed over us for our good, and, most importantly, to pray, asking God what is the most caring thing we can do for our church and what will honor Him most? Even after much prayer and discussion, we decided to sleep on it, continue in prayer, and touch base again today (Friday, March 13) to make a final decision.
Based on the uniform recommendation of multiple local medical professionals, as well as local and state government requests, out of a desire to honor God’s authority over us by honoring the authorities over us (Rom 13:1-2), and out of a desire to love another and our neighbors by considering their health and wellbeing, we have decided to cancel all Grace Church activities for the coming week (3/15 – 3/21) beginning with our Sunday morning worship gathering (3/15).
We will continue to monitor the situation very closely while we continue to pray and seek wisdom, guidance, and discernment. Please be aware that there is a possibility that these measures may need to continue for some time. You can be confident that our goals will be to glorify God as we seek to uphold the best interests of our beloved church family. We will also do our best to communicate with you as soon as we make any decisions concerning the weeks ahead.
In the meantime, we need to remember that God is still at work. And while we may not be gathering together as a church body this Sunday, that doesn’t mean that God is not able to work in us. So, this Sunday (3/15), we want to invite you to tune in to our worship service on Facebook Live at 9:30 AM (https://www.facebook.com/graceinracine/). On Saturday night, take a look at the songs we’ll be singing (check the Facebook page or our website to see the Worship Guide). Read John 3:22-36 in advance. Prepare your heart to worship by hearing His word. On Sunday morning, set up your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Moms and Dads, gather your little flock around you. Have your bibles open. Sing together. Say “Amen” together as we pray. Know that God is able to build His church even through this situation.
These may seem like troubling times. But remember what our Lord Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.” (John 14:1-2)
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Mike Matheson
March 13, 2020
Dear Grace Church Family
In response to a request from state health officials regarding COVID-19, starting Sunday, March 15th, we are canceling all events scheduled and held at Grace Church until further notice. This includes Sunday morning worship service, all mid-week programming, and Seniors Bible Brunch Ministry. This decision is being made in response to a request from the Wisconsin Department of Health that gatherings of 250 or more should not meet in order to slow the spreading of germs through our community. You can learn more here. We want to be wise and proactive in caring for our church family and the Racine community.
While we will not be gathering this Sunday on our church campus, we will be on Facebook Live Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., sharing worship and the sermon for your spiritual growth and encouragement. Please join us on Facebook in your homes! You can access this from our Facebook page here. You can also access our podcast on our website at graceinracine.com.
We will be evaluating this situation week to week and keeping you informed every step of the way. During uncertain times like these, we each have an opportunity to share the gospel and care for our neighbors. Please be looking for ways to share Christ during this time with your friends, family, and neighbors. Let’s keep our eyes and hearts focused on Him during this time!
We also want you to know that we are here for you! If you need to talk or pray, please call the church office at 262.632.2111 – we would love to connect with you!
None of us want to cancel church and ministry, but out of an abundance of caution, praying, seeking counsel, and following the guidelines from the State – the elders are unanimous in canceling all Grace Church activities held on our church campus starting Sunday. We will be deciding week to week whether we are holding services and other ministry events or not in the coming weeks.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Grace Church Elder Council