Our Church Has Left the Building and Gone Online

The Chinook Alliance Church Governing Board made the decision last night (March 18, 2020) to suspend all activities (Sunday school, Sunday Worship, Small groups) at the Worship Center and Annex through the end of March.

You can read Pastor Ritch's letter to the church concerning the Board's decision below.

We have set up a YouTube channel, Chinook Alliance Church, where we will post video sermons and other messages. I have just uploaded a welcome video. Please take the time to visit. Please subscribe to the channel so that you will receive notifications informing you of when new videos are uploaded and available. There will be a sermon posted for viewing on Sunday morning.

We will do our best to keep you updated with concern to any and all opportunities for connecting with our church body and to keep you apprised of any new developments regarding our public gatherings.

Thanks for your prayers and understanding! May God's peace rest upon you!

How to Give

You can continue to support the ministries of Chinook Alliance Church while our public gatherings are suspended by sending your offerings to our PO Box. You can still designate how those funds are distributed by making a note in the memo of your check or including a brief note along with your check. The current funds are: General, GCF (missions), Benevolent, and Building. Please make your checks payable to Chinook Alliance Church.

Our mailing address is, Chinook Alliance Church, PO Box 1474, Chinook, MT 59523.

Thanks in advance for your generous and consistent giving!

Open Letter to Chinook Alliance Church

March 19, 2020

Dear Church Family,

We are living in extraordinary and puzzling times. I, for one, wish that this was March 2019 and I was still talking about how cold February was. February’s weather was pretty mild this year, but things have sure gotten wild! I don’t know what to expect from one minute to the next. Everything seems to be out of control and there seems to be no end in sight. It is within the midst of this context that I write these heavy yet hope-laden words.

The Governing Board met last night to discuss how our church should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we wanted to come to a mutual understanding of God’s mind in this matter and how we could best reflect and represent his thoughts for us as a church body – to one another and to our community. After a lengthy discussion, we came to the very difficult but confident decision that God is leading us to suspend all of our activities (Sunday school, worship services and small group meetings) at the Worship Center and Annex through the end of March. I can assure you that the decision was not made out of fear, but out of faith in God and love for each of you. During this interim period, we will continue to seek God’s face in prayer, and we will reassess the situation. We greatly appreciate your prayers on our behalf as we seek to faithfully navigate through these uncharted waters.

This means that there will be no Sunday school or worship service at the church this Sunday, March 22, 2020.

I’m sure that there is a mixture of emotions concerning the Governing Board’s decision: shock, anger, bewilderment, confusion, sadness, fear, relief, etc. My emotions are all over the place too. And so are the emotions of the other members of the Governing Board. We truly wish that we could have been able to come to a different (more palatable, less painful) decision, but after prayerfully considering all the variables, we concluded that this is the best course of action for our church and community at this time.

Some (if not all) of you are probably thinking, “These words are definitely heavy, but I don’t see how they are ‘hope-laden’!” I agree with you, I’m getting to that part now.

The first reason for hope is that it is in times like these that we are (re)awakened to the truth that is before us at all times, yet we fail (or refuse) to see it. I talking about the fact that when things get as out of control as they are right now, we get stripped of the illusion (or delusion) that we are in control and we are forced to recognize and place our hope in the only One who is truly in control at all times, including right now. God is still on the throne. He is still in complete control. His grand eternal plan is still moving forward. He is the head of the church and he is currently building his church. Let these words of Jesus to his despondent disciples sink down deep into the recesses of your soul, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

Our hope also comes from the fact that I believe we are being presented with an opportunity to shine for Jesus as never before. This could well be our finest hour. I really believe that. When we are unable to meet together physically in a building, we discover that the church really isn’t a building that we meet in on a certain day and time – it’s people bound together by faith in Jesus and under his headship. And since Jesus is present everywhere all the time by his Spirit, the church is still the church no matter where the individual members may be physically present. This is the time to be the church like never before. Let’s take our cues from the early church when they faced difficult situations and follow their example: Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went (Acts 8:4).

We need to keep our eyes and ears open for opportunities to serve others (in our church and in our community). I heard someone say this week that “we need to move from focusing on just washing our hands to washing others’ feet” (but then wash our hands afterward). And we need to consider not only how to keep ourselves from getting sick, and ask ourselves, “How can we minister to those who are sick?” To act in such ways will be risky. It will require us to step out in faith, on the one hand, and use proper caution and wisdom, on the other.

With this crisis comes the rise of new and unforeseen problems. Some will have trouble getting out to necessary appointments. Some will run into financial difficulties. Some will need help obtaining groceries, prescriptions, or other essentials. Some will become lonely. If you are (become) in need or you know of someone in need, please don’t hesitate to contact me or another person from our congregation. My cell phone number is 405-880-1266. Don’t try to go it alone and do it on your own. We need each other (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are here for each other.

We are in a huge learning curve right now. We don’t have answers to all of the questions. We don’t even pretend to know all of the questions; they keep changing before we’ve had time to process the last round. We are working hard on finding solutions for staying connected during this temporary break from gathering together. Let me emphasize that this is temporary!

In the meantime, we are investigating and testing out ways of doing small group meetings (Bible studies, prayer, etc.) via video conferencing. We would like to see our faith community become more connected through the tools on our website, so you will be receiving invitations and instructions on how to do that. We know that not everyone in our church body uses a computer or uses the Internet, so we are looking at ways to connect those of us who don’t. We are experimenting with recording and getting video messages up on our website or Facebook or YouTube. We will do our best to keep you updated regularly with progress reports. Please continue to pray!

A final word…

Just as this a time that we need to seize for God’s glory and kingdom, it is also a time when the enemy will seek to infiltrate our body and cause division. Please resist the temptation to become suspicious, judgmental, gossipy, fearful, self-preserving, self-serving, hoarding, isolationist, and the like. That type of thinking and acting is not a part of who we are as God’s people. I would encourage you all to read and meditate on Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:17-5:2.

I realize this is lot to take in at one time. It would be good for all of us to follow Paul’s advice to Timothy, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship (2 Timothy 4:5) and his words to the church in Ephesus, And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:18).

I’m here to serve alongside you, so don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your questions and concerns. Thanks in advance for being the church in such a time as this!

IPOG,

Ritch

Pastor and Chairman of the Governing Board

inpursuitofgod@outlook.com

405-880-1266

A Response to the Governor's Reopening Plan

April 24, 2020

Dear Church Family,

As you are no doubt aware, Governor Bullock issued an executive order on April 22, 2020 for the phased reopening of Montana. That order contains the following provision that is specific to places of worship:

Effective Sunday, April 26:

  • Places of worship can become operational with reduced capacity and where strict physical distancing protocols can be maintained between non-household members.
  • Places of worship should avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.

If one simply reads this portion of the plan, it would appear that reopening a church building and resuming public worship gatherings will be different and a little cumbersome, but relatively simple and straightforward. However, you have to read the rest of the executive order to fully understand what needs to take place in order for a church to be truly prepared to reopen its doors for public worship gatherings. Here are just a few of the issues that need to be addressed before we can reopen our doors:

  • We should have the entire church building thoroughly cleaned and sanitized
  • We need to have a plan to clean and sanitize the building between meetings, especially doorknobs, bathrooms, chairs, nursery (furniture, toys), etc.
  • We need to obtain adequate cleaning and sanitizing items
  • We need to have a plan for the safe entrance and exit of congregants that complies with “strict physical distancing protocols”
  • We need to establish a plan for worship seating arrangement and reasonable capacity that complies with “strict physical distancing protocols”

Those are just the property specific issues. We also have to thoughtfully consider the people issues: health risks for “vulnerable individuals,” kids and social distancing, anxiety levels, divergence of attitudes about gathering, community perception, etc. Reopening the church is not going to be simple or straightforward. We have never been this way before and we don’t have all the answers. We don’t even know all of the questions.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I still believe that God’s got this! I’m not operating from a place of fear. I’m simply trying to be as transparent and honest and thorough about the process of reopening our doors for public worship gatherings as I can be. The last thing that we want to do is hastily reopen our doors and then look back and wish that we could hit a “redo” button. And I understand that, in reality, we cannot plan for every conceivable issue, but we should be able to look back and say that by God’s grace and empowering we did our absolute best.

I have been in consultation with the Governing Board concerning the matter of reopening our doors for public worship gatherings in light of the Governor’s plan. Our decision is that we will not reopen this Sunday, April 26, 2020. We will continue to post messages on our YouTube channel while we wrestle with how best to address the issues mentioned above and implement solutions. We will keep you informed of any changes in status when new decisions are made.

Thank you for your patience and prayers during these turbulent days. Please continue to pray for God’s clarity and wisdom in these matters.

If you have any questions, concerns or needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Thanks again!


Blessings to you,

Ritch

Pastor and Chairman of the Governing Board

inpursuitofgod@outlook.com

405-880-1266

Public Worship Gatherings to Resume on May 24th

May 8, 2020

Dear Church Family,

The Governing Board met last night (May 7, 2020) for their regular monthly meeting. The priority item on the agenda was to discuss the date and plan for reopening our church for public worship gatherings in accordance with the Governor’s phased reopening of Montana. After a lengthy discussion, the Governing Board arrived at the decision to resume public worship gatherings on May 24, 2020 at 10:30 am.

Because we want to honor and abide by the stipulations set out in the Governor’s phased plan, our return to public worship gatherings will be shaped by those guidelines. Here’s what you can expect to experience when we open our doors on May 24th:

  • Safe social distancing means that our worship center seating will be spaced and reduced.
  • We will need to enter and exit the building in accordance with safe social distancing practice.
  • We will expect everyone to be vigilant about personal hygiene issues to reduce the possibility of spreading germs.
  • We will be giving extra care and attention to “high touch” areas (doorknobs, door push bars, light switches, etc.) to keep them clean and sanitized.
  • We will need to refrain from hugs and handshakes.
  • Regrettably, there will be no Sunday school, Nursery, or Kid’s church.
  • We will not be requiring masks or gloves, but you may feel free to wear them if you so desire.
  • We will not be providing hand sanitizer. You will need to bring your own.
  • We will not be serving food or beverages of any kind. Please feel free to bring your own with you.
  • We will not be printing bulletins. We will have e-bulletins available on our website and announcements on the screen in the worship center.
  • We will not be passing the offering plates during our worship gathering. There will be drop box at the worship center or you may send your offerings to our PO Box (1474).
  • You will need to remember to bring your own Bible because we have removed the Bibles from the worship center.

As far as other church programming is concerned,

  • Some small groups have already resumed meeting in the Annex (west end classroom). All groups using the Annex must observe safe social distancing and take care to ensure that tables and chairs are cleaned and sanitized after use.
  • We will continue to upload video messages to our YouTube channel in the foreseeable future. However, after we resume our public worship gatherings on May 24th, the videos will need to be processed and will not be available until Sunday evening.
  • We will resume uploading audio versions of the Sunday messages on our website after May 24th.

Additionally, here are some other things to keep in mind as we prepare to resume our public worship gatherings:

  • If you are sick, we ask that you stay at home.
  • If you are in the “vulnerable individual” category, we ask that you prayerfully consider whether it is wise for you to return to our public worship gatherings when we open our doors.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable gathering, please don’t feel any pressure to come back right away.

We know that all of this may be overwhelming. Our chief concern is your safety and the safety of our community. We love you and look forward to gathering with many of you on May 24th.

Until then…

  • Keep your eyes on Jesus!
  • Keep your hearts in tune with the Spirit!
  • Keep resting in the grace of our loving heavenly Father!

If you have any questions, concerns, or needs, please reach out to me. Thanks!

Blessings to you,

Ritch

Pastor and Chairman of the Governing Board

inpursuitofgod@outlook.com

405-880-1266