River Bend’s plan to return onsite in the next few weeks

I was glad when they said unto me, “Come, let’s go into the house of the Lord.” – Psalm 122:1

Jewish Pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem would recite and sing this psalm as they were nearing Jerusalem. For many of them, the wait and trip to Jerusalem had been long and tiresome, but they were going to make it. They just had to wait a little bit longer.

In many ways, I feel like those pilgrims waiting with anticipation and excitement to return to worshipping my Lord in the fellowship of other believers. 

It will come soon, dear family but not quite yet. Let me outline our plan.

First, let me share with you my guiding principles as we prepare to return to church.

We must be safe, sensitive, and understanding of others.

We must be full or grace.

We will continue to be missional; we have a story to tell to the nations.

We must always be loving.

This week I had a unique opportunity to be on a phone call with over 700 pastors and the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick. On the call, the Lt. Governor outlined and expounded upon Gov. Abbotts’ directive to churches about when they could open. There are two guidelines churches are being asked to follow.

1. While in church, continue to follow social distancing, especially stay six feet apart. This includes seating areas, restrooms, and hallways.

2. Follow proper sanitization procedures before, during, and after people are in your facility.

The first guideline of social distancing means we will only be able to have about 50 people in our Worship Center at a time. We are now working to create overflow worship space in the Ground Zero youth building and in our larger classrooms.

This Sunday, Todd and a team of tech-savvy people will be checking the wi-fi strength and equipment in all these spaces.

The second guideline is about sanitization. Over this last month, we have been limiting the amount people who have come into our buildings, and we have been cleaning our facilities on a regular basis to ensure the safety and health of anyone entering. We have purchased specialized sanitization equipment to make this process easier. Because of the demand for such equipment, our new equipment won’t arrive until June. Until then, we will use disinfectants and “elbow grease”. Next week we will be asking for volunteers who can help us wipe down every surface throughout our facilities. We will also have to continue this process after we begin to meet.

Although the governor’s words did indicate churches could meet this Sunday, once those words were unpacked, pastors across our state began to realize that was a near impossibility.

Yes, we want to resume services, but we must do it in a way which is safe. Here is our plan.

On May 17, we will celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating seniors. This year, we have students graduating from high schools, colleges, and one student earning his master’s degree. If you are graduating or know someone who is graduating, we want to honor them, so please contact us.

On May 17, the Worship Center will be reserved for the graduates and their families. Remember we can only have 50 people in the Worship Center and that includes the people running sound, the cameras and leading worship. The other spaces I mentioned earlier will be available for worship (Ground Zero and large classrooms).

On May 24, we will meet for worship utilizing all our spaces. There will be no Bible studies on campus or childcare available. Children will remain with their parents, so please exercise caution and concern when you return.

As much as we want everyone to return, it is important to know that not everyone should return. If you have a compromised immune system or other underlying health issue, I encourage you to say home, stay safe, and stay healthy. You can still stay connected through Zoom Bible Studies and worship on Facebook live. We love you and miss you, but we will see you at church later when things are safer for you.

We will continue putting our services on Facebook live even after we return to worship in our facility. In fact, we have just purchased the necessary equipment needed to make this an ongoing worship option.

This week, many of our adult Sunday Morning Bible Study classes will be offering Zoom Bible studies. If you wish to join a Sunday Morning Zoom Bible Study and have not received an invite, give me a call at 281-797-4208. I can get you connected.

Let me share with you one more guiding principle I am leaning heavily upon during this time…be FLEXIBLE. Even as I type this, I am aware things are changing weekly. We will do our best to adapt our plan and communicate the best we can.

Please continue to be in prayer for our church and our leadership.

Love you all, Pastor John