Coronavirus (COVID-19) Harrisburg's Plan

COVID-19 and Harrisburg's Plan to Love Our Neighbors

Dear Harrisburg Family,

I didn’t think I would be sending this information out to you this week. As I wrote my letter to you last weekend, I didn’t anticipate how quickly things would change. Every day more and more people are diagnosed with COVID-19, and with the increase there are hard decisions to make. For instance, schools and colleges are closing, organizations are canceling conferences and meetings, and even professional sports leagues are suspending their seasons. I will readily admit that the church is not an organization; we are the body of Christ. As such, our decisions are not simply based on what others are doing. Instead, we make our decisions based on our love for the Lord, our love for our neighbors, and our faithfulness to the Word.

I am so thankful for each of our members at Harrisburg. I am grateful for the love that we share here in our church, and for the selflessness and sacrificial spirit that characterizes who we are. I know that each one of us looks forward to our weekly opportunities to worship, grow, and serve the Lord. Because of our deep love and commitment to the Lord and each other, it is hard to consider making a plan to adjust our schedules or cancel our services for any reason. But, with the continued spread of the Coronavirus, I want to share with you our rationale and our plans.

As Christians we are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. In the same passage of Matthew 22, we are told to love our neighbor the same way that we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). It is our love for our neighbors that drives some of our hardest decisions in this emergency preparedness plan. In the event that the Coronavirus reaches certain levels in our city and county, we want to love our neighbors well by striving to contain the virus rather than spread it.

As stated in the previous letter to the church (click here to read the first letter), we have been thinking ahead and desire to be proactive in our decisions and responses.

This plan is not a quick reaction, but because things are developing and changing rapidly it has been put together quickly. There are confirmed cases in Memphis, TN, and now with a confirmed case in MS (Click here for the MS Dept Health Report), we want to communicate the potential plan for our worship services, Sunday school classes, and programming. It is my hope that we do not have to implement this plan, but in the case that we do, I hope this letter serves to avoid confusion and bring clarity.

By His Grace,

Rob Armstrong,
Sr. Pastor
Harrisburg Baptist Church Tupelo, MS

The Harrisburg Plan to Love Our Neighbors

The World Health Organization has labeled COVID-19 a global pandemic. Our response to this sickness is more than what you will read here, but it is also not less. There will be many ways each of us can pray, serve, and care for those who are impacted by the virus. But, there is also a need for each church to have a plan for how they will operate and gather in the event that the virus spreads throughout their communities. We all want to be a help to those in need, and none of us want to help spread this sickness that can harm our neighbors.

The Centers for Disease Control have recommended strategies for communities and the organizations within them. You can read the recommended steps to try and contain the virus here: CDC Strategies. Our hope is that by following the recommendations we will be good neighbors to Tupelo and Lee County, MS.

If you read the article, you saw that there are three categories (or levels) used to describe the impact or transmission of the virus. The categories are “None,” “Minimal to Moderate,” and “Substantial”. The designations are based on the amount of people in a city or community who have been diagnosed with the virus. Moving forward we will refer to these as Level 1 (None), Level 2 (Minimal to Moderate), and Level 3 (Substantial).

Level 1 (No confirmed cases in our city or county)
As of March 11, 2020, Tupelo and Lee County are in Level 1. This means we should be preparing and communicating as best we can for the potential that we will be in Level 2 or Level 3. As long as we are in Level 1 we will not make changes to our weekly schedule.

As a member of Harrisburg, you are encouraged to do the following:

1.  Familiarize yourself with information concerning the signs and the spread of COVID-19.
     (Click here for info)
2.  Identify family members, church members, and friends who might be susceptible to the virus, and
     make plans to help them as needed.

3.  Take every measure you can to protect yourself and others from the spread of the virus.
     If you are at risk due to age or health, we want to encourage you to prioritize your health.
     If you need to miss, our services are available live on Facebook at 8:30am on Sunday,
     online all the time, and on tv each Sunday at 12:00pm. 

As a church we are doing the following:

1.  Identifying those who are at risk and who depend on our church and its members for help.
     We will be developing a ministry plan for checking in on them and for helping them avoid
     unnecessary exposure.

 2. We are taking extra care to make sure our facility is clean and that our gathering spots
     are disinfected.

3.  We are making every effort to point our members and community to the information available
     through the CDC and other organizations.

4.  We are making every effort to have hygiene supplies ready throughout the building.

5.  We are canceling any travel for the church to areas where there are confirmed cases
     of COVID-19

Level 2 (Minimal to Moderate transmission of COVID-19 in our city and county)

If we reach this level we will make the following adjustments to our weekly schedule of worship services, meetings, and programming:

1.  We will move to one worship service on Sunday at 11:00am, and continue to provide a live feed
     on FB and all of our other media services.

2.  We will have a modified version of our Sunday school classes. The recommendation of the CDC
     is that all gatherings of 10 or more people in the high risk categories be cancelled. Out of a
     great love for our members at risk we will be canceling their SS classes. For more information
     on what qualifies as “at risk” click here.

3.  We will cancel all Sunday night activities, Wednesday night activities, rehearsals, weekly outings,
     studies, and meetings.

4.  We will provide a live online Wednesday night Bible study that will also be posted on the web.

5.  We will cancel all mission trips leaving during this time period to avoid unknowingly spreading
     the virus.

6.  We will continue to minister to one another and serve one another in every way possible.

7.  Our pastor and ministry team will continue to work and serve as long as they are able,
     but it is possible we will modify the work schedules of our support team members.

8.  Provide regular prayer updates for our church members and give guidance on how to pray
     during this time. Reminder: There is no joy in the cancellation of these services and activities.
     We are holding on to our weekly gathering at this point out of our love for God. But,
     as stated at the beginning of this letter, our love for one another requires us to make some
     sacrifices for the good of our city and the containment of the virus.

Level 3 (Substantial transmission and diagnosis of COVID-19 in our city and county)

1.  We will cancel the gathering of our Sunday morning service, and continue to provide a live
     broadcast of worship and preaching at 11:00am and continue all of our other media services.

2.  We will cancel all Sunday school classes.

3.  We will continue with the previous cancelations of Sunday night, Wednesday night activities,
     mission trips (that happen during this phase), weekly meetings, studies, rehearsals, and outings.

4.  We will continue to offer a live Wednesday night Bible study, and continue posting it online
     on our website.

Reminder: If the virus spreads to this degree, we will have a neighborly responsibility to make
every effort to help the pandemic come to an end. If we reach this point, we will not cancel
our gatherings for any longer than is medically necessary. As soon as possible we will return
to at least Level 2, and prayerfully to Level 1.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Who do I call if I have a need?

You can continue to contact the church office. We have recently updated our phone system and as a result, we are able to access our office phone lines through our cell phones. (This includes voicemail)

2. What do I do about giving?

You can mail your tithes and offerings to the church office, or you can give through our online system.
Click here to tithe or give to a special offering through PushPay.

3. What if I need counseling about a situation I am going through?

Contact the church office, we will make every effort to be face-to-face to listen, pray, and give counsel.

4. How can I make sure that myself and someone I care about is prayed for?

Contact the church office, or you can click here to do it online.

5. Will we visit those in the hospital?

Yes, we will continue to make hospital visits as long as we are able to do so. But, when it becomes unsafe to those in the hospital or unsafe for visitors, we will follow health guidelines and rules.

6. What about the Day School?

The Day School will follow the guidelines and recommendations of the local government and the CDC as it applies to them.