(October 18, 2021 UPDATE) -BIBLICAL GUIDANCE ON THE COVID-19 VACCINE
As those called to shepherd Christ’s flock at Lakeside, one of our tasks as Elders is to watch out for possible threats, and to call Christ’s sheep to listen for His instructions (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2). With the widespread availability of the vaccines for COVID-19, one of the real threats to Christ’s flock is the division that can happen between those whose convictions lead them to take the vaccine and those whose convictions won’t allow them to do so. Because several of the Elders have been asked for our thinking on these matters, we would like to offer what we believe to be Christ’s instructions for how we must operate as those who are His sheep. In considering this matter, we came across a letter from the elders of a church in Oregon dealing with this issue.1 Because we felt that letter clearly, accurately, and succinctly summarized the biblical perspective on this matter, we received permission from that church to use its letter as the basis for our statement on this issue. Therefore, much of this letter has been drawn from that document, with revisions and additions appropriate for our church.
While this statement directly addresses the COVID-19 vaccine, the principles outlined here could be applied to a number of other issues, so please consider these thoughts carefully.
- Follow your biblically-informed conscience.
In Romans 14:5, Paul encourages believers that, when they make decisions of conscience “each person must be fully convinced in his own mind” (v. 5). The reason for this is because it is a sin to go against one’s conscience (v. 23). Pastor Mark Dever summarizes this truth this way: “Conscience cannot make a wrong thing right, but it can make a right thing wrong.” 2
Each person will be held accountable by God for whether or not he or she listened to his or her God-given conscience. For that reason, it is important to train your conscience to be aligned with the Scriptures, and not allow it to be seared by sin (1 Timothy 4:2). Your conscience may change over time as you grow in your knowledge of the Word of God and what God teaches in it. For example, in Acts 10, Peter had to recalibrate his conscience to match God’s instruction regarding clean and unclean foods and the Gospel going to the Gentiles. And someday, when we see Christ face to face, we may all learn that there were areas where our consciences were either too permissive or too restrictive.
With these considerations in mind, humbly follow your biblically-informed conscience, humbly seek to continually calibrate it more closely to the Word of God, and be humbly patient with others as they do the same.
- Do not let this divide us.
In John 17:23, Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one, united as brothers and sisters with Christ as their shared Savior and God as their shared Father. That oneness did not mean that they would always have the same opinion on everything, but that they would present a picture in their shared faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that, as Jesus prayed, “the world may know that You sent me.”
On the issue of whether or not to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Christ-following, Gospel-believing, and heaven-bound Christians have a variety of opinions. And since the Scriptures do not directly address vaccines, the decision to take the vaccine or not is an issue of one’s conscience before God. One day each person will give an account for his or her choices (Romans 14:12). Consequently, one of the primary ways you can love your brother or sister in Christ, and be an answer to Christ’s prayer, is to not let this issue bring division or hostility between you.
In Romans 14, the Apostle Paul addressed the issue of conscience, and how believers were to respond to one another in areas of Christian freedom. And while vaccines were not the topic at hand, he laid out some principles for how we are to treat one another, as members of the body of Christ, when we disagree over matters of conscience. He exhorted the Church to accept those who disagree with you, but “not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions” (v. 1), to “not judge one another” or “put an obstacle or stumbling block in a brother’s way” (v. 13), but rather to “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (v. 19).
Out of love for Christ, a desire to love and protect others, and for the glory of Christ’s Name, some will take the vaccine, and others will not. And so, as you engage in conversation with your brothers and sisters in Christ, do not let this issue divide or bring hostility between you, and do not pass judgment on one another’s conscience. Rather, in your discussions, pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (v. 19; 12:8).
- Do your homework
There is a lot of information being disseminated through the news and online regarding the different COVID-19 vaccines, their sources, their effectiveness, and their potential side-effects. Some of it is true and helpful, some of it is not. As you consider what you choose to believe, and what you choose to share, do your homework to make sure you are basing your decisions on the facts. Seek out reputable sources with supporting data and abstain from spreading false information or speculative conspiracies (Proverbs 19:9; 1 Timothy 4:7).
- Whether you get the vaccine or not, trust God.
Whether you choose to take the vaccine or not, make your decision an expression of faith in God. God is the giver and taker of life, and only God is sovereign over viruses, diseases, and all other kinds of illnesses (Deut. 32:39). Consequently, no vaccine is 100% effective against any virus, no vaccine is at all effective if God’s healing hand is not involved, and no vaccine can bring about harmful side-effects outside of God’s permission.
Therefore, if you choose to take the vaccine, do it as an expression of faith and in gratitude for the gracious gift of medicine which He often uses to bring healing and protection. If you choose not to take the vaccine, do it as an expression of faith and gratitude for the gracious gift of His ability to provide healing and protection without medicine.
These considerations also impact the issue of compliance with any vaccine mandate. Once again, this is a matter of conscience. If you work for an employer who mandates that you must be vaccinated, you will have to decide whether or not that requirement violates your conscience to such a degree that you cannot comply with that directive, and then accept whatever outcome there may be for your decision, trusting God for His guidance and provision. Whatever you decide in your circumstances, or whatever others decide in theirs, do not let this be a divisive matter between brothers and sisters in Christ. Continue to show Christ’s love, compassion, and concern for one another.
In conclusion, whatever you decide about the vaccine, like anything else in life, make your decision and speak of it as one whose ultimate faith and trust are in God.
5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:5-6
- The Elders of Lakeside Community Chapel
1Biblical Guidance on the Covid-19 Vaccine, Damascus Community Church, Damascus, Oregon
2 Mark Dever quoted in Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley, Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 65.
(May 5, 2021 UPDATE) - MASK AND DISTANCING UPDATE
As you may be aware, Governor DeSantis issued an executive order yesterday (5/3/21) which overturned and eliminated all local government COVID-19 restrictions, including face mask and social distancing requirements. But the governor allowed individual businesses and organizations to continue those requirements if they choose to do so.
After reviewing the order and the impact of the restrictions on our church community and relationships, the elders have unanimously decided that we will not require the use of masks or social distancing in any of the ministries or worship services at Lakeside. We believe this is an important step in regaining the interpersonal relationships that should characterize our faith.
However, if anyone wishes to continue wearing a mask, he or she should feel free to do so. We recognize that there are those who have legitimate concerns because of their personal health situation. Therefore, we want to remind both those who choose not to wear masks and those who continue to do so, that each, as a follower of Jesus Christ, is to respect the other and to “show tolerance for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
We thank you for your understanding and willing cooperation with us over the past year as we have dealt with all the issues and impacts on our church surrounding COVID. We appreciate and care for you.
The Elders of Lakeside Community Chapel
(OCTOBER 2, 2020 UPDATE) - CHANGES TO WORSHIP SERVICES
Dear Lakeside Family:
Since Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order No. 20-244 authorizing the state of Florida to move into Phase 3 of the state’s Covid-19 reopening plan, the elders have been prayerfully considering its implications for our Sunday worship services. After much discussion and consideration, the elders have determined that we will make some changes to our Sunday morning and evening worship services, beginning this coming Sunday, October 4, 2020. This notice is to advise you of those changes, as well as some of the issues we considered in arriving at our conclusions. We realize that our plan may not please everyone in our church, but we have consistently sought to balance the various perspectives of our fellow elders and church members into a plan that can work for our church family.
Throughout this pandemic there have been differences of opinion in our nation and, at times, amongst believers about the best response to this pandemic. We know those differences of opinion exist among us at Lakeside, as they exist among the members of your elder board. However, differences of opinion need not be sinfully divisive, as Pastor Steve has counseled us more than once. God’s Word has guided us as elders as we have sought to model (however imperfectly) the principle that faithful believers can, in good faith, have differences of opinion on the details of the pandemic and the best course of action, and yet still find common ground.
This is what we have sought to do with our analysis and conclusions following Governor DeSantis’ order. Whether we agree or disagree with the wisdom of a particular government edict, we believe we should strive to submit to the authorities over us as set forth in God’s Word (Rom. 13:1-3; 1 Peter 2:13-14) unless those authorities ask us to disobey God (Acts 5:29). In our situation, that involves not only health and safety decisions of our federal and state government, but also the decisions of our county government (i.e., the Pinellas County face covering ordinance). However, we also recognize that the worship of our Lord together on Sundays is of critical importance, and the spiritual health of our church family is no less important (and in fact more so) than our physical health. With all of these matters considered, the following sets forth our plan for the immediate future, beginning with this Sunday’s morning and evening services.
- For the foreseeable future, we will continue to have two services on Sunday morning. These services will continue to be identical, and will occur at 9:00 a.m. and 10:40 a.m. Our Sunday evening worship service will continue at 6:00 p.m. as we are currently doing.
- We are no longer going to have online registration for our Sunday morning and evening services, and we will no longer have assigned seating. You are free to attend the services of your choice. Because we are removing the registration requirement, we are discontinuing our overflow seating in the gymnasium in the 10:40 a.m. service.
- If you made a reservation for one of our worship services for this Sunday, October 4, 2020, you can ignore the reservation and simply show up for whatever services you choose.
- Even though we will no long require registration for our worship services, registration for our nursery through 5-year-old children’s ministry during the 10:40 service is still required. If you made a reservation for your child this Sunday, please do not disregard it as it is still in place.We would like to expand our children's ministry offerings, including to the 9:00 a.m. service, as soon as possible. Our children are important to us and we want the full complement of children’s ministry classes available for our children and their families. However, we are currently experiencing a severe shortage of willing volunteers. Unfortunately, unless and until we can get additional volunteers willing to serve, our offerings for children will continue to be very limited.
- We will continue to encourage social distancing in our morning and evening services. To encourage social distancing, we will continue to have certain rows of seating blocked off. In addition, we would ask that as you find your seat for a service, you leave 3 seats between your party and the next nearest party. You are still free to sit with whoever you choose (e.g., two families can choose to sit together) in the same manner as we have allowed through the registration process to this point. We simply ask that you leave 3 seats between your group, however comprised, and the next group.
- We realize going to this honor system for our social distancing efforts could pose issues, though we are praying that is not the case. For example, we know from experience that our 10:40 service is our most popular service. If everyone who is attending church shows up at this one service, our efforts at social distancing may be impossible. To help avoid overcrowding and to allow for proper distancing, we would ask that you consider attending the 9:00 a.m. service if you are able to do so. This may be especially appropriate if you are concerned about being able to avoid close contact with others.
- Our current face covering policy will continue in force, as the Pinellas County face covering ordinance is still in effect. Face coverings for those 18 and older must be worn at all times while in our church facility. However, once seated, and during singing, face coverings may be removed.
We all look forward to the day when Covid-19 and the effects of this pandemic are behind us. We long for the day when we can worship without limitations of any type. But we cannot say with certainty that this day has arrived. As such the foregoing is our best effort to return some decisions to the realm of personal choice, while still attempting to comply with the requirements of the authorities God has placed over us.
Please pray with us that this transition will go smoothly. If things do not work as we envision or if we discover problems with the implementation of this plan, we will revisit the issue and may make further changes. Until then, we pray that the steps we are taking will allow us to have greater freedom in our worship choices, while still providing an environment that is safe for our church family.
Again, we know not everyone will agree with each of our choices. We encourage everyone to reflect, as we do ourselves, on the principles of Philippians 2:3-4 as we gather on Sundays:
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (NASB)
May God continue to bless each one of you as you strive to serve Him. May God receive the Glory for all that we do as a church family.
With love in Christ,
The Elders of Lakeside Community Chapel.
(AUGUST 18, 2020 UPDATE) - CHANGES TO WORSHIP SERVICES
For anyone who may have missed our recent announcements, beginning this Sunday (8/23/2020), we are adding a second morning service. From this Sunday and going forward, we will have identical morning services at 8:30 AM and 10:40 AM. Because of this addition, our 6:00 PM evening service will transition back to being a separate service, with a different message and music. Please take note of this when you register. Also, please take note of which morning service you sign up for as we will most likely not be able to switch services. The Gym overflow will be available during the 10:40 AM service for the time being. Both Spanish and ASL translations with only be available at the 10:40 AM service, and we will only be live streaming during the 10:40 AM and 6:00 PM services.
We know that it can be hard for some to attend with small children and we are working with our ministry leaders to put together plans to restart our ministry to our children. Once we have more information, it will be announced and sent out to you. However, starting this coming Sunday, the cry room will be reopened with limited socially distance seating. Due to the limited seating capacity, we would ask that special consideration be given for parents with nursery age children.
We would also like to highlight the new bottle filling station located in the church lobby. While the water fountains themselves will remain disabled, we've added a bottle filling station to the main lobby fountain. If you have a water bottle, you can fill it with this new touchless system.
With these changes, and to make this process as easy as possible, we ask that you:
- Please wait for the registration link to go live on our website (www.lakesidechapel.com) before registering. Please do not “jump ahead of the line” as we want as many people as possible to attend.
- Do not move the “Do not use” signs placed on our chairs for the services. They are necessary for us to maintain to the extent possible social distancing for everyone who attends.
- Make a registration for your party if you are going to attend one of our serves. We are trying to make this the easiest it can be for as many people as possible to attend. To do that, we have to know, as best we can, who is attending. We also want to leave some seats open for first-time visitors. Please do not come without a reservation, as we most likely will not be able to seat you.
- Sign up for everyone who plans to attend with you. It becomes difficult for our staff and volunteers to make arrangements if we do not have an accurate number of who is in your party. The church seats are now set in their number and seats cannot be added to rows. We may also not be able to add last-minute seating. Please note larger groups can be subject to being split into smaller groups in order to best fit everyone.
- If you make a reservation and realize you cannot attend, we ask you to communicate this to the church office (firstname.lastname@example.org), Pastor Trofemuk (email@example.com), or Mike Arbia (firstname.lastname@example.org), as soon as. This way we can make accommodations to reassign those seats. Please do not use social media to give away a registration you made or make verbal arrangements to give your seats to someone else. These things make planning difficult and can result in unnecessary frustration for people who may think they have a spot, but in reality, would not because we have planned otherwise.
We are so excited to be able to bring more people back to worship. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions or concerns; we are happy to help. Thank you for your understanding and patience as we continue to work together to make this the best and least disruptive process as possible. We have confidence that our great God will see us through this challenging time, and we give Him all the glory through this.
(JULY 4, 2020 UPDATE) - MODIIFIED FACE-COVERING POLICY
Dear Lakeside Family:
We are looking forward to the opportunity we have to worship the Lord together tomorrow. In anticipation of our gathering together, the elders wanted to advise you of a slight modification to the face-covering policy that has been implemented at Lakeside pursuant to the requirements in place for Pinellas County. We believe these changes will enhance the general comfort of those in attendance without compromising the health and safety of our attendees.
This week we reached out to the Pinellas County hotline set up to deal with questions regarding the face-covering ordinance. Our goal was to ensure that our actions taken regarding face coverings were in compliance with the County ordinance. After a lengthy discussion with the authorized County representative, it was clear that our actions were in compliance with the County ordinance. However, we also received information that indicated we could relax our interpretation of the ordinance slightly. Based on this information, the elder board unanimously agreed to make a modification.
Specifically, since our seating is set up according to social distancing guidelines, once all attendees are seated in the sanctuary it is permissible for attendees, while seated, to remove their face covering. However, while entering or exiting the building and sanctuary, and at any time (other than singing) when you are not seated (i.e., before and after the service while socializing, during our greeting time, if you need to get up and leave during the service), a face covering will still be required according to our previously announced procedure.
This policy modification will be reiterated during the services tomorrow, but we wanted to announce the change ahead of time so that everyone would be aware of what will transpire. As was the case last week, we encourage everyone to wear their own mask to the service. However, if you do not have a mask (or if you inadvertently forget your mask), Lakeside will provide you with a mask upon entering the building.
We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we continue to respond to the changing nature of this pandemic. May God receive the glory!
With Christ’s love,
The Elders of Lakeside
(JUNE 25, 2020 UPDATE) - FACE-COVERINGS
As most of you are probably aware, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners adopted Ordinance No. 20-14, which contains a new mandate for wearing face coverings in Pinellas County. This new ordinance applies to most organizations and businesses in Pinellas County, including Lakeside Community Chapel.
Scripture clearly teaches all believers that we are to submit to the governing authorities God has placed over us (e.g., Rom. 13:1-7, 1 Pet. 2:13-15), which includes the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners. As such, effective this Sunday, June 28, 2020, and continuing until the ordinance is no longer in effect, Lakeside will require that all individuals in attendance at our public services, who are 18 years of age or older, wear a face covering. For all individuals younger than 18, the ordinance leaves the wearing of a face covering to the discretion of the individual’s parent or guardian. The only exception to this requirement will be for those individuals who have a legitimate medical reason that prohibits them from wearing a face covering.
In light of the foregoing, if you plan to attend one of our worship services we will require that you wear a mask while you are inside our church facilities. If you do not have a mask with you, one will be provided to you. The face-covering must be worn during the entire time you are in the building. Pursuant to the terms of the ordinance, those individuals who are conducting parts of our service (e.g., Pastor Steve while preaching, Pastor Joe during announcements, Pastor Joel, and those singing) will be able to remove their individual face coverings while speaking/singing. However, everyone else will be required to keep their face coverings on at all times. The only exception applicable to the entire congregation during the service is our time of congregational singing. Pursuant to the terms of the ordinance, it will be acceptable to remove your face covering while you are singing.
As your elders, we are aware that the wearing of face coverings worn for extended periods of time can be uncomfortable. We also know that the wearing of face coverings during the pandemic has become a very politicized issue in our society. There are differing opinions on the matter and we are not taking a position on whether this is the best method of dealing with the pandemic. However, the wearing of a face covering to church will not require us in any way to violate Scripture, so there is no basis for us to refuse to comply with this lawful ordinance.
We pray that God will be glorified in all we do during these challenging times. We look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.
(May 25, 2020 UPDATE)
Below you will find information on the reopening of the church for in-person worship.
Guidance to our Church Family for Reopening on May 31, 2020 (and beyond)
This coming Sunday, May 31, for the first time in over two months, Lakeside Community Chapel will be holding worship services with in-person attendance. We are excited to resume our public worship services and to have the opportunity to worship together as a church family.
However, as we have previously indicated, our resumption of church services will not be in the same manner to which we are normally accustomed. The pandemic we are experiencing has resulted in changes to seemingly every aspect of our society, and we are not immune to those effects simply because we are a church. As an elder board we realize that there are countless opinions, from experts and laypeople alike, on the best course of action for almost every aspect of this pandemic. The health recommendations and guidance on the Covid-19 virus have evolved and changed over time, and even this week the government at various levels issued new guidelines that seem to change earlier assumptions regarding aspects of this health crisis.
Amid this cacophony of differing opinions on a variety of issues, we as an elder board have been seeking the Lord’s wisdom on the best way to move forward. We take the responsibility to care for our church family seriously, and we have prayerfully and diligently planned and discussed how to reopen in a safe and responsible manner. The culmination of our planning and discussion are the changes outlined in this letter. We realize that these plans may be tweaked or changed over time based on our experiences and changed circumstances, but as we resume our services on May 31, the following outlines the general parameters for the resumption of our public worship.
Perhaps the most notable change involving our upcoming worship is the new requirement that individuals register to attend one of our church services. This change is not something we prefer nor is it something we want to have to do any longer than necessary. We never want there to be barriers to church attendance for anyone, especially our church family, and we realize that requiring a reservation to attend church goes against this commitment. Yet we feel this requirement is necessary to comply with the social distancing guidelines recommended by our government.
Prior to this pandemic, we regularly had over 500 individuals seated in our sanctuary during a typical Sunday morning service. This simply is not possible with social distancing. One of the foundational social distancing requirements recommended at present is that individuals not already residing in the same household maintain a distance of at least 6 feet away from one another. Our church staff has spent considerable time analyzing and measuring our current sanctuary, and that leads us to the conclusion that we have no choice but to dramatically reduce our seating capacity when we resume our public worship. To allow us maximum flexibility and to give us the ability to maximize our seating within social distancing parameters, we have removed all of our church pews and will be using our cushioned chairs from the overflow room to seat those in attendance.
While time and experience may allow us to modify our figures, we feel it is safest to start back with a single service capacity of 160 people. Since we want to leave at least some seats for visitors who may seek to attend, we are going to be opening up 150 of the 160 seats to our church family for the morning service at 10:40 a.m. and for our evening service at 6:00 p.m. The seats for either the morning or evening service will be reserved each week. After everyone has signed up, our church staff will map out the sanctuary based on the number of people attending form each household and will set up reserved seats for each attendee in a manner consistent with social distancing requirements.
The reservation process will involve going to a link on our church website at lakesidechapel.com. The link will direct you to a reservation portal for selecting either the morning or evening service, where you will be asked to input your name, as well as the number of people from your household who will be attending. You will also be asked for your email address so that you can receive a confirmation email. We would request that you do not register for both morning and evening services, as the services are going to be identical, and we want as many people as possible to be able to attend. While it is preferable that you register through the online portal, if that is not possible or if you need assistance, you can call the church office and someone will assist you with registration.
Since we are forced to limit registration to 150 people in the morning and 150 people in the evening, that means only 300 people total will be able to register to attend a worship service in-person on May 31. We do not know if that will be enough seats for everyone who wants to attend. We anticipate that many who have pre-existing health issues or compromised immune systems will not likely be joining us when we resume on May 31. In addition, others may have other reasons for not attending immediately when we gather. Yet the fact remains, it may be that we have more people who desire to attend than we are able to accommodate. This will become evident quickly, as the online reservation portal will stop taking new reservations when the seating capacity is reached for a service. If that happens, we ask that you be patient with us and with each other. We will still be live streaming our service on May 31 and we would ask you to join with us in spirit through our online format, even if you cannot be present in-person.
To facilitate a greater number of people being on campus for future Sundays, we are currently working to prepare our gym to serve as an overflow seating location. We anticipate that this will be ready for use in early June. There will be seats set up in the gym to allow for some to gather together and watch the service on a live video feed. While this will not be the same as being in the sanctuary, it will allow even more people to corporately sing and worship together on a Sunday morning. When this overflow seating is ready, a separate registration link will be added to our website to allow those who do not get a seat in the main sanctuary to choose this option.
While the registration requirement may be the most significant change when we resume services, it will not be the only change. As was mentioned in an earlier notification about the resumption of services, when we resume our services next Sunday, we will not be having any adult or children’s Sunday school classes on-site, and our nursery and cry room will not be open (though there will be a nursing room for mother’s with infants). Some Sunday School classes that have been meeting remotely via Zoom will continue to operate in this manner, but no classes will be occurring in-person for the time being. Since there will be no Sunday school classes on-site initially, for either children or adults, we will not be running our shuttle bus between our church and school on Sunday morning or evening, so you may want to consider this when deciding where to park.
After you have arrived and parked, please be aware that we are only going to have three entry points for our church building: the main sanctuary entrance on the east side of the building and the two back doors facing our church parking lot (located by the old nursery area and the kitchen). The west entry doors will be locked and not in use when we initially reopen.
When you come to one of the three exterior entry doors, we will have a greeter present holding the door open to avoid everyone having to touch handles. You can enter through any of the three exterior doors, but we would encourage you to not overwhelm any one door. If you see a line at one door, feel free to choose one of the other doors.
Once you enter through one of the exterior doors, you will notice markings at 6-foot intervals on the floor. We would ask that you use these to keep 6 feet of distance between you and others that are entering the building. Based on which door you enter through, you will be directed through our building directly to an interior door leading into the sanctuary. You will be met there by one of our elders who will be opening the interior entry door and welcoming you to the service. Once in the sanctuary, there will be ushers who will direct you to your assigned seat(s), which will be marked with your name, or the name of the family member who made the seating reservation. Please be advised that we will be opening the sanctuary 40 minutes before the start of the service (10:00 a.m. for the 10:40 a.m. service, 5:20 p.m. for the 6:00 p.m. service) to allow for the additional time that may be needed due to these entry changes. When the service begins, you will notice some changes in our traditional order of service, particularly relating to when we worship through music. We are taking these steps in an effort to create the safest possible worship environment for all those who are able to attend our services.
Another significant step we are going to be taking for our reopening involves personal contact among our church members. Many of us regularly shake hands and give hugs when we see our church family. After having been apart for so long, the desire for many of us will be to reach out and embrace those we haven’t seen. However, this type of contact would defeat the purpose of us putting in place social distancing measures. We would ask that when you enter the church, you would not engage in physical contact with those outside of your household (e.g., no hugs or handshakes). Also, we would ask that when you do engage others in conversation, you attempt to do so in a manner consistent with social distancing.
At the conclusion of the service, we will be dismissing everyone from the sanctuary in what we hope will be an orderly fashion. We would ask that you observe social distancing when exiting the building as you will be doing upon entering.
While in the building, there are a few additional changes you will notice. First, there will be no paper bulletins or other similar materials in the foyer or sanctuary. Also, we have temporarily removed our hymnals from the sanctuary, as well as our registration/welcome cards and offering envelopes. You will also notice that we will not be passing offering plates for the time being. You will have the option of continuing to give online, or you can place your offering in one of two new wall boxes that will be located near the double doors on each side of the sanctuary. These steps will minimize each of us touching multiple surfaces, which will assist us in keeping our facility clean by reducing the number of items that need to be individually sanitized.
In addition, our church water fountains will not be in operation while we are in the midst of this pandemic. You are welcome to bring your own water bottles or containers with you if that is something you customarily need during a service. In terms of the restroom facilities within our building, we would simply ask people to enter the bathroom one person/family at a time to facilitate social distancing.
The foregoing changes to our worship experience, as noted above, may be modified based on our experiences and changed circumstances. All of us want things to go back to normal as soon as possible, but we have no idea when that will occur. We realize that the steps and changes outlined here will be foreign to us all, and may be uncomfortable distractions initially. Yet even though these steps may be difficult to observe (and may seem like overkill to some), please remember that we are trying to protect the most vulnerable among us from the devastating effects of this virus by instituting these measures. Our patience with one another and compliance with these recommendations, regardless of our differing personal views as to their wisdom or necessity, will go a long way to making our resumption of services a joy for us all. As Pastor Steve noted in his recent Pastor’s Pen, Satan would love to sow division among us in these difficult times. We pray that our differences of opinions will not become divisive and that any differences we may have will be overcome by our mutual love of Christ and our preference for others' interests above our own.
We love you all and look forward with excitement to the opportunity to worship with you again soon. To God be the Glory!
Summary of Reopening Changes:
- Registration required for all services: register at lakesidechapel.com
- Reduced seating capacity in the sanctuary for each service: additional overflow seating to be provided in the gym in the near future
- Enter the church building only at specified points; greeters and directional markings will help direct you to the right location
- Assigned seating in the sanctuary for each service based on current seating capacity
- Morning and evening services will be identical until further notice
- Social distancing throughout the church building at all times
(May 20, 2020 UPDATE)
As part of the ongoing process of resuming the regular operations of our church, we are pleased to announce that beginning on Thursday, May 21, 2020, the church office will resume normal office hours. However, we would ask that you respect a few new procedures that are specifically applicable to the church office as we continue to attempt to operate in as safe a manner as possible in these uncertain times.
First, we would ask you to only plan to visit the church office if you have business that cannot be conducted in any other manner. We are attempting to comply with the broader social distancing guidelines still in place in our community, and minimizing the number of people in the church office assists in this effort. We want to meet your needs and serve you in any way we can, while at the same time protecting our entire church family, including our church employees, to the greatest extent possible.
Second, if you do need to visit the church office, we would ask that you call ahead and schedule a time to stop by. Some of our staff are still working remotely during this time and calling ahead will insure you are able to know in advance whether the person you need to see is on site. Also, calling before you visit will help minimize the number of people who are present in the office at the same time. If you have to stop by without calling first, you will not be turned away. However, if others are already in the building, you may be asked to wait in a designated area of the lobby until the others have completed their tasks.
Third, we ask that you plan on keeping a six-foot distance from others while you are in the church building. We have markings at six-foot intervals on the floor in the church office to assist us in maintaining this distance. We love all of you and we want to interact with you and serve you as our church family. We look forward to the day when this pandemic is completely behind us and we can operate as we did before. However, we are not yet at that place. As a result, we have an obligation to operate in a manner that protects the health and safety of everyone, including our church staff. To this end, since we are asking everyone to keep a six-foot distance from one another in the church building, we would ask that you refrain from shaking hands, hugging, or any other physical contact with others while in the church building during our normal office hours. This is hard for all of us, as we want to interact with each other. However, we would ask that you respect this limitation for the time being if you have to visit the church office.
God is faithful and we know He will work His perfect will in this pandemic. Please join us in praying that our steps to gradually reopen will be safe and successful and that the dangers and limitations of this pandemic will soon be removed.
(May 8, 2020 UPDATE)
Dear Lakeside Church Family:
The Coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed much of the world has caused unprecedented disruptions to our daily lives. No sphere of life, from work, to school, to family gatherings, to the simple act of shopping for groceries has been spared these effects. From our perspective as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who worship and fellowship at Lakeside Community Chapel, perhaps the most unsettling disruption has occurred on Sundays, with our public worship largely made untenable due to the serious health risks posed by this pernicious disease.
As your elder board at Lakeside, from the moment we reluctantly had to make the difficult decision to cease public worship services, we have longed to return to public worship. Yet we have also wanted to protect the health and safety of our congregation, as well as respect the directives of our various levels of civil government. There is no simple roadmap to follow as an elder board in these challenging times, and we have strived to do our best to care for and shepherd the Lord’s flock at Lakeside as we have made difficult decisions that we know have a great impact on our church family.
While we still are seeking the Lord’s wisdom and guidance as we evaluate the constantly changing environment, we have reached a decision that we hope will bring joy and hope to our church family as we move forward. After much prayer and discussion, the elders are pleased to announce that we will resume public worship as a church family on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
This date was chosen after much consideration and discussion, balancing our desire to open as soon as possible with the practical challenges involved in doing so. These challenges include, among other things, the need to obtain sufficient quantities of cleaning and sanitation supplies, which are harder to locate during this time of unusually high demand for such products, as well as providing time for what will be some necessary modifications to our facilities to accommodate social distancing. These modifications will include replacing our pews with cushioned chairs (as used in the overflow room) to better facilitate a safe worship environment. This seating change from pews to chairs was a step the elders had already planned to pursue prior to this pandemic, as we believe it will provide a better worship experience for everyone. The need for social distancing makes it prudent to take this step now, rather than waiting until a future time. Also, we need some additional time to coordinate with our volunteers who serve on Sunday mornings to educate them on the changes that will be required as we enter this new phase of ministry.
Even as we are excited about the chance to resume worship together, it is important for all of us to understand that this does not mean that things have fully returned to “normal.” While we will be providing more details over the coming weeks as we work through the logistics of reopening, our initial services will be different than what we were accustomed to prior to the pandemic. For the first Sunday we meet, there will be two worship services at our normal times, 10:40 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. However, these will be identical services rather than our traditional morning/evening format. We will be observing social distancing when we initially resume, so the number of people who can attend a service will be much more limited than what we normally experience. Since we want all those who are able to join us when we reopen to be able to have the same worship experience, the music, and the message will be the same at both services.
Unfortunately, due to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, when we initially reopen, there will be many changes that are not what we would prefer, but which we feel are necessary for the health and safety of our congregation. Initially, there will be no Sunday school classes for children or adults and we will not be immediately reopening our nursery. However, children, including babies, are welcome in all of our services when we resume.
There will be other changes and differences when we gather again, and we will do our best to communicate those changes to you in plenty of time for you to plan and be prepared. In addition to the change from pews to cushioned chairs, we will be developing a registration system for the services so that we can better arrange seating accommodations for our families, as well as controlling the number of people who are present in the building at any one time. In addition, we intend to implement enhanced cleaning of our facility between all services to make the worship environment safer for all of us. These details (and many others) are still in the planning process and we will notify you of the specifics as soon as we have the final plans in place.
Our long term goal, of course, is to resume all of our church ministries and activities. We pray that we will get to that point sooner rather than later. However, given the challenges of this pandemic, we are forced to do things incrementally to ensure we can provide as safe an environment as possible for all of us as we resume our public gatherings.
Despite the changes made necessary by our current crisis, we are excited about the opportunity we have to begin to resume public worship on May 31. We ask that you pray for our pastors, staff, and volunteers as we continue the challenging task of planning for this relaunch of our services. As a church family, we no doubt have different views and opinions on the various steps being taken to address the pandemic across our state and country during these trying times. There is a likelihood that we may also have different views on the various aspects of the plans we ultimately put in place for our reopening at Lakeside. Our hope and prayer are that in all the things we do as a church family, including our attitudes and reaction to any such differences, we will move forward with mutual love and deference for one another, for the ultimate glory of our Savior and Lord. We love you all and we look forward to worshiping with you again soon.
With Christ’s love,
The Elders of Lakeside Community Chapel
(March 26, 2020 Update)
Dear Lakeside Family,
We thank you for your continued prayers and support during this challenging time. In light of the Pinellas County Commission directive voted on yesterday, as of 12:00 noon today, our church office hours will end for the immediate future. However, please know that we are still here to serve your needs.
Our church employees will be working remotely from home, and will still be available during normal business hours to address your needs. Our church phone system will switch to voicemail, and your voicemails will be forwarded via email to our church secretarial staff. They will work to ensure that your requests go to the right party to address your needs. Likewise, since the staff will be working remotely, you can continue to send emails with your requests, and those can be addressed as always.
These are challenging times for us all. We are trying to balance the safety of our employees and congregation with the desire for our church to continue to operate. We ask that you pray with us during this time, that we can accomplish the Lord’s purposes, even with these changes.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. When we resume normal business operations at our church's location, we will notify our church family.
(March 17, 2020 Update)
We wanted to share with you the most recent decision made by the elders of Lakeside regarding our upcoming ministries. As many of you are no doubt aware, the U.S. Government has issued new guidelines for the next 15 days with the hope of limiting the spread of the coronavirus (CLICK HERE TO READ). These guidelines include the request that all gatherings of more than 10 people be canceled for at least the next 15 days.
In light of these new guidelines, the elders have determined that all in-person ministries at Lakeside (Insight for Women, Awana, Source of Light, Youth Group, Young Adults, Friday Morning Men’s Bible Study, etc.) will be canceled through at least Tuesday, March 31, 2020. We anticipate that we will receive additional guidance from the government during these 15 days, and we will make decisions on future ministry activities at that time. We will attempt to communicate all such decisions as soon as they are made. Our Sunday morning and Sunday evening services will continue to be online only, through our YouTube channel, until further notice.
At this time, we still intend for our church office to be open for regular business hours, as we have less than 10 people on staff. We are available to continue to serve you as the Lord allows, so please do not hesitate to let us know of your need for assistance during this challenging time. If circumstances change such that we need to close the church office, we will immediately notify you, our church family.
Please join us in praying for the Lord’s intervention to halt the spread of this disease. God is good, and we continue to pray that He will be glorified through this time of trial.
In God’s love,
The Elders of Lakeside Community Chapel
(March 12, 2020)
In light of the Governor of the State of Florida’s recommendation to suspend mass gatherings of people for the next 30 days, the board of elders have decided to comply with this recommendation. Accordingly, beginning this Sunday, Lakeside Community Chapel will hold the Sunday morning and evening worship services exclusively online. Pastor Steve will still be preaching the Word, and we will still have worship music to the Lord. However, we will do this online rather than in person.
We do not take this step lightly. However, we want to ensure that we are working in the best interests of the health and safety of all of our members and attenders in the face of the current health crisis. We will not hold Sunday school during this time, however, the 10:40 AM and 6 PM worship services will be streamed live on our YouTube page (link to follow below). We will keep you notified when services will resume in person. Thank you all for your understanding. We believe in the sovereignty of our Great God and in His infinite wisdom, He has allowed this current situation to unfold. Please continue to pray for a quick resolution to the current health situation and for the safety of our church family and fellow citizens. Please also pray that God will continue to be glorified, and the Gospel continued to be proclaimed in this difficult situation.
YouTube for the Services: Click here
Weekly Bulletin: Click here
Weekly Online Giving: Click Here
The Elders of Lakeside Community Chapel