Covid-19 Update – September 11

Weekly Update (9-11-2020)
 
“9-11” always takes us back (those of us who were alive and alert back then). This week, as we continue to move daily through 2020, we are reminded that the Lord’s eschatological program is accelerating and has been for a while.
 
There are just a few things I need to write about this week (and yes I know my brief weekly updates are rarely “brief” or “weekly 🙂 ).
 
I need to say just a little bit more about the thermometer scans that we began this past Sunday. I pray that you can value that we make every reasonable effort to protect guests and God’s people who are gathered for worship. There are many in our church family that are still not confident that it is safe to come into the sanctuary on Sundays. It is our hope that those who do feel confident won’t mind this step for the sake of others. We just want to encourage people and open the doors to everyone with as few stumbling blocks as possible.
 
Sunday night we will be baptizing 7 (7!) people at an outdoor worship service in Chickahominy (I am sure I spelled that wrong but I’m in a hurry so I’m going to have to ask you to endure it. I could have said “Jickahominy.” Just sayin’). We will begin at 6:00 and I hope that many of you will come out to enjoy the evening together. Bring your own chairs please. If it is raining, we will move the service to the sanctuary.
 
Do you miss doing ministry? Would you like to re-engage? We actually need volunteers badly right now for AWANAS and the WiFi study hall. Call the office if you would be willing to serve.
 
This Sunday, we will begin a short sermon series on Habakkuk and I encourage you to go ahead and read it with the world’s current events in mind. Talk about relevant! God’s Word always is.
 
Someone pointed out to me that we had 98 computers viewing the contemporary service this past week and 78 viewing the traditional. Most of those views included more than one person. When we add that to the almost 150 total in-person worshipers, that’s not a bad Labor Day weekend Sunday! Great job everybody. Let’s continue to cling to the bond that connects us and get through these days together.
 
Most of us feel stressed. Please know that I am going to spend the next hour after I sign off here, praying for you.
 
With much love,

Pastor

John Jicka


Covid-19 Update – August 20

SMBC Covid-19 Update

August 20, 2020

Let’s talk about small children and church. A couple of weeks ago, I took a week off and was “away” for a Sunday. We weren’t really away on that Sunday though. To be quite honest, there’s nowhere we would rather be than with you guys. We love our church! Sherry, Mili, and I snuck in and sat in the back row for the 11:00 service. I’m so glad we did. The worship was wonderful. Dr. Fort did a beautiful job preaching the Word and you did a great job of participating in both. 

While we sat there on the back row, we got a better understanding of what it’s like for you to be in the pews during the corona days. We sat triangulated between three families with very small children. We saw their struggle. My heart went out to all of them. I wanted them to know that we all understand. I prayed that perhaps a sliver of the sermon might reach them while they wrestled with their babies. 

I’ve been eager to say this ever since that day. Please don’t think anyone minds if your small children are fidgety or fussy during church! We’re just so very glad you are making the effort. It’s ok if you have to slip out the side door for a little walk-around time. The children will learn how to do church and the church will learn how to do church with children. WE WILL ADJUST AND SO WILL THE BABIES. PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP!

God is adjusting us and temporarily removing from us some of the conveniences on which we have become too dependent. Nurseries and children’s churches are two of these things. Don’t be the person who says, “I won’t come if there isn’t a nursery.” In past days there were no nurseries. Would you not have been a faithful worshiper in the church if you lived in those days? What other requirements will we put on God before we obey His command to not forsake the gathering together of believers? 

So, let’s adjust. Let’s get accustomed to babies in church. Let’s not be afraid that our own little wigglers will make too much fuss. Jesus digs babies in church. We have a responsibility to have them here.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Love, 

Pastor John

p.s. I know that this note will make some of you feel guilty because you still feel like you shouldn’t come back to in-person worship yet. That was not my intention. I know you are staying faithful and participating online. You are gathering as you are able. Please be at peace. 



Covid-19 Update – August

SMBC Covid-19 Update

August 6, 2020

OK. So, I said you can skim this one. I will be brief so that your skimming might catch the high points. ☺ 

Making any kind of progress toward becoming a fully functioning, healthy church body and ministry again is reason for excitement. Praise the Lord, we are making this kind of progress and we do have reason to celebrate. 

We have 80 plus children doing Vacation Bible School with us next week. Beth has utilized her God-given creativity and ingenuity to put this opportunity together. Many of our people volunteered to help her too. Lots of excited parents and children came through our drive-through VBS materials pick-up. And, almost all of them expressed tremendous gratitude to our church for not giving up on their kids and families. 

We have baptisms (3) coming up. Two will be on August 23rd during the 11:00 service. If you haven’t met Dan and Suzi Courtney, you are in for a treat. I can’t wait until you hear their testimonies!

We have another Fun in the Son Day – August 30th. This time there will be ICE CREAM! (I know it will be 9:30 and 11:00 in the morning, but what a way to start a day/week—the Word, His worship, fellowship and fun, AND ice cream!!! You know you love it.) We are going to need those tents to come back (please). Bring a chair.

We have a special evening worship service planned by the river. September 13th at 6:00 we will have a special time together at Chickahominy Haven Area #2. There will be another baptism that evening. Stephen and Gigi Cox have been with us for a while now and he is ready to take the plunge. I can’t wait until you hear his testimony too! We will actually have worship and a message that night as well. It’s going to be great. Bring a chair.

If you feel like the Lord would have you also be a part of this baptism service, call the office and set up a time to talk with me. I would be thrilled to hear from you. I have a feeling there may be someone out there who the Lord is working on regarding their baptism. 

These encouraging events/outreach opportunities are reasons to rejoice. When we add them to our online and in-person Sunday School and Worship times, our Youth Discipleship Groups, and our Prayer Meeting, we see that the Lord has accomplished much in bringing us back. 

And, He’s not done. We continue to seek Him and plead with Him for direction and protection. With all our hearts we endeavor to protect you and the ones the Lord adds to us while also providing for you the necessary elements of the spiritual life we all need. 

Keep praying and faithfully enduring.

You are all dearly loved!

Pastor John



Covid-19 Update – July

SMBC Covid-19 Update

July 30, 2020

Please read this one.

Hey! I get information overload too. It’s hard to take the time to read everything we receive, especially when the writer (like me) is too verbose! But I need you to hear me this time. Next time you can just skim! ☺ 

Let’s talk about the Governor’s most recent Executive Order (#68). With this order, in effect June 30th, he gave additional restrictions to the eastern region of Virginia. This was done because of the increase in positive COVID-19 case counts here. There are two things we need to know, as a church, about this Executive Order: 

  1. This order does not change what we are doing. Page three of the written Order states, “Nothing in this Order is intended to place further restrictions on religious services,” as long as certain “requirements” are followed. We are following all of the requirements listed in the Order. 
  2. This Order should raise our awareness of the situation that is happening in our community. This highly infectious virus is still moving among us. People are still getting very sick. Some are dying. It is definitely not time to be “over it.” 

Let’s talk about our SMBC COVID-19 rules. Our guidelines and precautions remain the same and we need to resolutely keep them. 

  1. We REQUIRE social distancing while here. We are directing the access and egress to and from the building. We are seating worshipers socially distanced from one another and we are preventing gatherings from forming in common areas. 
  2. We are sanitizing for every new group entering the facility. 
  3. We SERIOUSLY REQUEST that everyone who comes to worship (or any other activity we might be holding now like Sunday School, Youth Discipleship Groups, or Prayer Meeting) wear a mask/face covering. I think we can do better following this precaution. The Lord’s place of worship should be known as a sanctuary (“a place of refuge or safety”) and we need to make everyone feel as safe and sheltered as possible. If putting on a mask removes a barrier to someone letting God move in their life, then as a mature brother or sister it should not be too much to ask from us. 
  4. However, we will not enforce mask wearing or condemn anyone who does not wear one. 

Apparently, this mask-wearing, socially distanced, unusual COVID-19 world we are experiencing is going to be with us for months and months to come. Our church leadership feels that the Lord would have us proceed in deliberately, and as safely as possible, opening up our in-person, growth, and ministry activities. We will not throw caution to the wind. We will be depending on one another to use safe practices and be extra thoughtful to one another. Our online opportunities will continue to be offered for those who should not yet get out. 

You may have questions about something I have said here. You may have questions about something I failed to say here. I am always open to talking with all of you and so are our Elders, Staff, Deacons, Ministry Team Leaders/Members, and Teachers. Do not hesitate to call any of us.

God continues to bless us and we have much to be excited about. We have three baptisms, VBS, and another Fun in the Son Day all coming up soon! 

I really love you church family!

Sincerely,

Pastor John



Week 17 Update – July 2

Covid-19 precautions have slightly relaxed in the past few weeks. We have completed a full month of in-person, public worship on the church property (socially distanced and masks requested). We have learned much about how to minimize the risk of infection to our church family and guests. The state of Virginia still shows a decline in Covid-19 cases. These things being the case, after much prayer and deliberation, your church leadership team would now like to take another step in restarting our ministries.
 
Your Sunday School teachers will be contacting you soon to discuss the possibilities of meeting, as classes, in-person again. This will not be wise for every Sunday School class. Some of our classes are made up of members who remain vulnerable to the virus. These should not consider meeting together in-person yet.
 
Resuming in-person Sunday School groups and Bible study does not mean going back to the old normal. If a class is to meet, it must have precautions in place to protect its members. This will require creativity, flexibility, and strict compliance to our church’s Covid-19 guidelines.
 
We now have the prayer meeting going. The Student Discipleship Groups will begin on July 15th . Parents and children are being contacted now for VBS registration. On July 19th , we will have “Fun in the Son Day” worship services on the church lawn. If we add in-person Sunday School to this new beginning, this will be a great start!
 
I am so thankful to the Lord and to all of you for how we are making it through this time of trial. We have remained connected with our hearts intertwined with each other and our God. I know that many of you are still limited to our worship and study online options. Please don’t despair. The end of these difficult days is coming.
I love you all!
Pastor John


Week 16 Update – June 25

She’s beginning to stir. The old girl is waking up. Those who are able are changing their sweatpants for khakis or jeans or whatever people wear to church these days. The church is coming back!

Corporate worship has resumed. We are getting together safely, praising the Lord together, and hearing His Word in-person. We have guests regularly joining us and we are reaching out to them. This part of the body life, we share together, is going now. It’s a good start and a great debt of gratitude is owed to the many volunteer lay leaders who have worked hard to make it happen.

Let me tell you about another sign of life that has fully emerged from the soil. Some in our family have begun a prayer meeting (socially distanced with masks required) in the sanctuary on Mondays at 6:30. It’s a powerful time and you might want to be a part of it. Thank you, Steve and Nancy, for hearing the Lord’s voice and making this happen (I don’t know if Nancy will see this but I KNOW Steve won’t! Somebody tell him I said “thanks,” please.) The prayer meeting of a church is the engine that makes it go.

Other shoots are also sprouting. Visions for Student Ministry, Sunday School, and VBS are stirring. Please pray that the Lord will give His fresh direction and that we will do what is most pleasing to Him as these ministries begin to develop.

We praise God for His goodness to us. Covid-19 numbers have continued to decline in the Peninsula and throughout Virginia. Here is a graph from last week that I was able to capture from the Virginia Department of Health website. Although I could not reproduce a copy of this week’s graph, it shows a continuing trend downward. You can go see for yourself at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/ .
 

We need to be thankful and yet careful. The Washington Post reports this week that Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have all seen Covid-19 spike in their states and that Nevada and Missouri have seen recent single day high numbers. Coronavirus is still present and active.

Vigilance is still called for. We are still going to control our social distancing when we get together. We are still going to request (but not require) that masks are worn. We are not going to be reckless with your lives. This is the heart conviction that is driving our decisions. I hope you can appreciate it, even if you don’t agree with it. At worst, just endure our over-protecting mother-hen-edness. It won’t last forever.

As always, I want to speak to those of you who are still stuck at home because your health is just too fragile to risk getting out for in-person worship. We love you. We know you love us. You can call if you need us and we will come. We will not forget you. You are now, as you have always been, a vital part of this church family and we cannot wait until we can all be together giving loving hugs and mushy kisses again!

Love you!

Pastor John



Week 14 Update – June 12

It has been a great joy to worship publicly and in-person again. Week one, we had a total of 101 worshipers who were served by deacons, First Impression Team members, Audio-visual Team members, and the Worship Team. These lay leaders and staff were not counted in the 101. Week two, we had a total of 103 worshipers also served by those teams. We’re trending upward (2% increase)! We have had guests, who LOVED our church, and seekers asking questions. We had one person added to our membership last week and others are inquiring. The worship has been wonderful and the Lord has been present.
 
We have been contacted by other churches, who wish to open, and have heard good things about our approach. I give praise to the Lord. We dedicated ourselves to prayer and put many eyes, minds, and hearts into what needed to be done. I know the Holy Spirit has been guiding us.
 
The next two weeks are going to be extra special. This week we will honor our graduates and the following week is Father’s Day! It’s going to be great celebrating God’s goodness to our church family.
 
Most of our congregation is still connecting with us through the on-line broadcast. I’m so thankful for your perseverance and the Tech Team’s expertise that makes it happen. When we see the number of views, we are always so encouraged. If you are in the high-risk group, please continue to join us remotely. You are all so important to the church and to the Lord. We can do this a little longer.
 
I want to end with a special “thank you” to the Sunday School teachers and deacons who are keeping close tabs on our membership. If you aren’t in a Sunday School group, we will have a hard time making sure you are being cared for. There is a class for everyone. Contact us please and we will help you connect.
 
I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God (at SMBC).
 
Pastor John


Week 13 Update – June 4

SMBC Covid-19 Update
June 4, 2020
 
Two Sundays ago, we had a dry-run worship service with our First Impressions, Technology, and Worship Teams. They were further supported by a great number of our Deacons and our Church Staff. They underwent training that day and quickly grasped the precautions and policies under which we would open up for in-person worship services again. You can see those precautions and policies in the “SMBC Phase-1 Reopening: Policy Statement” which is located on our church website.
 
Last Sunday, May 31st, SMBC became one of the first churches of our size, in this area, to be ready and able to hold in-person worship services. This was made possible because of the tremendous job and the hard work of our team leaders, members, and staff. I CANNOT express adequately how thankful I am for all of these brothers and sisters and what they have done to get us back to the public worship of our Lord and King. Thank you for making it possible for us to gather around His throne!
 
We had 101 individuals attend the 4 worship services on this first Sunday back. This number does not include the 16 First Impressions/Deacon servers or the Tech and Worship Team members. Our teams were careful to guard their social distancing as they arrived, as they worshiped, and as they departed. It was weird because we couldn’t throw our arms around one another in fellowship or hold hands as we prayed. It was wonderful because the Lord received our corporate praise and we were able to break the Bread of Life together. It wasn’t a complete return to normal. It was a beginning.
 
As long as we can maintain safe precautions, even though the Covid-19 is still present, we can continue to worship in this way. We know that the Lord would not have us be reckless with the lives of His people and we are going to continue to take our responsibilities very seriously. Please understand and expect this level of care.
 
The healthy and whole Christian life consists of: regular gathering for Biblical teaching & preaching, true spiritual fellowship, prayer, worship, giving, and evangelism/missions (Acts 2:42-47). We know you need these things and we are doing our best to make them available. Even though we are now able to worship and hear the Word together, we still hunger for deep fellowship opportunities. Our evangelism and missions efforts have had to be re-envisioned as well for a time. And, these needs are especially felt by our children and youth.
 
I say all of that to say this, we have taken a major step but we aren’t there yet. Please continue to pray to the Lord for the world’s deliverance from this virus. Come back to in-person worship if it is prudent for you to do so. If you are compromised in your health at all, I beg you please to wait. We can almost see the end of this. Stay strong. Be patient. You are too important to lose.
 
We will continue to have the 4 worship services at this time. We will also continue our high-quality online broadcast of the services (8:00 and 11:00) and Sunday School (9:30). Some Sunday School classes continue to meet on Zoom. If you would like to join one of those groups, please contact the church and we will help you get connected.
 
Our church is a very special family of faith and the love we share in Christ is real and readily available to others. I am so thankful for who you all are in Him. God bless you this week!
 
Sincerely,
Pastor John


Week 12 Update – May 28

Hopefully by now, you have read my May 13th letter and the “SMBC Phase-1 Reopening: Policy Statement” that was sent by mail, email, and posted on our SMBC Connections Facebook page in the last two weeks. Please pray about whether it is time for you and your family to venture out and participate in in-person worship or not.
 
The services and Sunday School will continue to be broadcast, from the church, online. The worship services will be streamed at 8:00 (traditional) and 11:00 (contemporary) a.m. Sunday School will be streamed at 9:30. Please note this new time change for Sunday School.
 
We have prayed, studied, prepared, and trained for our return to in-person worship. A great deal of collaborative thought has gone into how we need to protect the congregation. Now we need to commit ourselves to understanding and cooperation. I ask that you try to understand why the precautions we will take are necessary. I also ask that you cooperate fully with our staff and ministry volunteers who will be doing their very best for you.
 
We will maintain social distancing. We have scheduled you for a particular hour of worship to keep the number of individuals in the sanctuary low. Additionally, we will seat you in the sanctuary for maximum spacing. You will likely not get to sit in your favorite pew. 🙂
 
Since we prepared the guidelines, Governor Northam has issued “Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.” We were already asking that those who come wear masks. We continue to ask this and hope you will comply. All of our staff and ministry team members will be wearing masks as well.
 
These are strange days and, as I have said here, they call for precautions, understanding, and cooperation. Our priorities are the Lord’s pleasure and the protection of His people. Living in a fellowship community requires us to, at times, surrender our personal rights for the concerns of others. Let’s gather in humility and joy this Sunday. I know that THAT would be very pleasing to the Lord.
 
Love you all!
Pastor John


Week 9 Update – May 7

Happy Mothers’ Day (week)!

Give mom a call. Order her a gift to be delivered. Postpone that time together, but make sure you make it happen when we are loosed.

This will be the 9th week of not having worship services, Bible studies, or ministry programs at the church facility. The church will not physically meet on the property May 10th (Mothers’ Day!) or May 17th. Only those essential ministry team members involved in the online broadcasts should come to the church building. The links for both Sunday School and our worship service are available on the church website. DVD’s of the Sunday School lesson and the worship service are available in the office during the week.

This Sunday, Duane Hayes will be teaching the general session Sunday School lesson at 9:45.

At 11:00, we will begin our worship service.

Please pay attention to our Facebook pages and church website for announcements.

Many of our Sunday School classes and ministry groups have begun to meet online. If you desire to be a part of one of these groups, please contact us and we will connect you with the group leaders.

You can contact us in these ways:

  • Call the office – We are keeping the church office open at regular hours during this crisis (757 565 0476)
  • Contact your deacon – If you are a part of a Sunday School class, you should be hearing from your deacon regularly and you should have your teacher or deacon’s contact information. If you are a part of the church family but have not yet become involved in a Sunday School class, you can email me at jicka@smithmemorial.org
  • If you are a part of one of our ministries (Sr. Adult, Women’s, Men’s, Children’s, AWANA, Student, etc.) you can contact your ministry leader. If you don’t know who that is, contact me at the above email address.

Schedule – At this time, our regular schedule of ministry is all online.

  • Sunday School – (Youtube and Livestream) 9:45 a.m. from the Sanctuary every week utilizing our SS teachers in rotation. Several classes are meeting online in smaller groups.
  • Worship – (Youtube and Livestream) 11:00 a.m.
  • New Members Orientation (Zoom) – 3:00 Sunday afternoon
  • Sacred Marriage Bible Study (Zoom) – 6:00-8:00 Sunday evenings
  • Women’s Bible Study (Zoom) – 7:00 Monday evenings
  • Mid-week Bible study and staff chat – (Facebook Live) 6:00 Wednesday nights. You can access this event by going to the Smith Memorial Baptist Church Facebook page.
  • Moment of Prayer – 5:00 every Saturday night. Just stop where you are and pray as a family.
  • Other – Some of our Bible study groups and SS classes are getting together for additional times of fellowship (Zoom). Contact the church or your SS teacher for the schedule for those meetings.

Offerings – If you are a part of the SMBC family, here are our ways of receiving tithes and offerings at this time:

  • You can give online through the website – smithmemorial.org and click “Give” in the top right corner of the screen
  • You can mail it to Smith Memorial Baptist Church, 6515 Richmond Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23188
  • You can bring it by the office during office hours – we will keep our distance although it will be wonderful to see your faces!
  • You can contact us (see above for how to contact us) and someone will come and receive it from you

The Governor has begun talking about the curve being flattened and a Phase One beginning soon. Let’s just keep praying.

                      Love you all deeply and miss you all terribly!

                                Pastor John