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We are returning to 4 services - now!

Sent September 14, 2020

You helped Make it Awesome yesterday at West Side!

A new series… great music… free t-shirts that carry a much-needed message… the news that kids ministry is re-opening October 18… and MORE PEOPLE in the house… all these things and more added joy to our campus yesterday. Because of it, we’re calling an audible at the line of scrimmage (hey, the NFL is back, so I had to go there).

Immediate Sunday Worship Schedule Change

We’ve hosted three Sunday gatherings for a number of weeks now, but since we’ve doubled the number of folks on campus, it’s time to return to FOUR.

Yesterday’s buzz was great, but we used five overflow spaces at 9:30 (and one at 11:00). If we spread the same number of people over four service times, the need for overflow areas will be diminished (though not eliminated). So beginning THIS COMING SUNDAY (September 20) our worship schedule will be…

  • 8:00 – Traditional Worship in the Multi-Purpose Room
  • 8:30, 10:00, 11:30 – Contemporary Worship in the Worship Center (and at TryChurchOnline.com)

NOTICE we are NOT using the old schedule in the Worship Center. Why? We need to build-in surface cleaning time, transition time for family spaces and the parking lot – and we want our service start times to be more memorable (so you can share them from memory).

If you want to be on campus, but prefer the best possible distancing scenario (and the least chance of needing to use an overflow space), you’ll want to come at 8:30 or 11:30.

Have you been a volunteer – or want to be? If you want to make this transition less difficult for us, contact us to say you’re ready to come back or start as a volunteer.

The Good Fight

Yesterday at West Side was fun and meaningful. Your response to the energetic opener, the worship songs, the communion intro and the message – and even to the kids ministry announcement – all of these told us you’re ready for as much activity as we can safely host on our campus.

These days, we all feel like we’re fighting to make sense of the world and to live well. And we aren’t pretending that all our concerns are in the past. Some of them will linger for a while and require more attention from us. The Good Fight series will help us ensure that we’re engaged in the most important battles and in the best possible ways.

I love you guys,

Eddie
Lead guy

PS – We are glad to be ramping up even further, but we want our environment to be consistently safe and comfortable for everyone. Keep wearing a mask in our building, please. Keep your distance while chatting and refrain from handshakes and hugs. Sanitize and wash your hands frequently. Let’s move the ball downfield with activity and engagement – but let’s do it well and with the highest degree of humility and consideration for one another.


MAJOR UPDATE and SUNDAY WORSHIP SCHEDULE CHANGE

Sent July 23, 2020

Hello, friend. Below, I ask and answer the TOP 5 QUESTIONS that I would have right now, if I were you. Following the Q&A, I’ll provide details about an August 2 worship schedule change. Please read the entire email.

How is the return to on-campus worship going?

About 600 people have joined us on West Side’s campus on each of the last 4 Sundays. Perspective: while that’s roughly 20% of our usual on-campus attendance, it is more folks than 95% of the churches in the USA welcome under normal circumstances.

Regarding COVID precautions, masks and sanitizer are readily available and our surface cleaning team swarms the building between services. Nearly every attendee has worn a mask and we’ve had more than enough room to distance in every environment. Our staff and volunteers have done an outstanding job of making our environment as safe and welcoming as possible.

While we miss the energy of having everyone in the house, worshipping with a portion of our community again has been meaningful. Knowing thousands more are with us virtually is encouraging, also.

Our family worship venue has surprised many parents and kids in all the right ways! The activities and amenities provided by our team have been a big hit.

Since it’s impossible for us to guarantee that everyone who attends is virus-free, we fully support all who are opting to play it safe, especially those in high-risk categories.

With the number of COVID cases rising, could West Side return to online-only worship?

It’s possible. However, as of today, we intend to worship both online and on-campus until vaccines and therapeutic drugs reduce the threat. As the trends move one way or the other, we realize that on-campus numbers will fluctuate. If the current surge becomes a significant spike, we will likely return to online-only worship.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to ask attendees to make transmission of the virus unlikely by using masks, distancing and practicing hand-hygiene. Those with COVID-like symptoms should worship online from home, along with those who learn they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive. To all who are voluntarily following these precautions, thank you for helping everyone else remain safer and more at-ease.

How will church leaders respond if a recent attendee tests positive for COVID?

If an attendee at a smaller West Side event (students, kids, groups) tests positive and we learn of it, we will notify all participants (whom we can identify and contact) as soon as possible.

If a Sunday worship, wedding or funeral attendee tests positive and we learn of it, we will contact those known to have been in close proximity with the person. However, if masks, distancing and hygiene are maintained, the number of people who require such a contact will be minimal.

Is construction currently underway?

Yes. When you have an opportunity, ride through our west parking lot (near the new main entrance) and get a look at “the connector” (additional concourse space), which is currently being framed. The connector is the final portion of the new square footage to be added to our facility. Once this section is dried-in, the remainder of the construction project will be comprised of interior work.

How has West Side’s generosity been impacted by COVID and the shutdown?

Our collective giving to West Side has remained strong over the last number of months. As you would expect, some Westsiders have seen their incomes significantly reduced by the economic shutdown (and the disruption has necessarily altered their giving in some cases).

However, other Westsiders have actually begun giving regularly during the last few months, while yet another group of Westsiders have increased or accelerated their giving. Even when not on campus, Westsiders remain on mission!

As inspiring as our collective generosity has been, our ability to forecast future giving is diminished by an increased number of economic unknowns. Therefore, West Side’s leaders will likely pause construction again later this year, until we know we can afford to proceed to completion on our project. This means it’s important for us to be as generous as possible, as soon as possible.

We also know that, aside from our Fearless initiatives at West Side, there are many who are struggling with job and income losses. So, let’s be generous, not only with our church’s mission, but with those in need. Look for ongoing opportunities to #ServeSpringfield individually and through West Side.

When we selected Fearless as our battle cry for this season, we didn’t know how much we would need to grow our fearlessness. But our hope is in God, who knew what was coming and knows what is to come. We trust in the Name of the Lord our God.

So, friend, hear this: wonderful things are ahead. They will be mixed with ongoing challenges because we live in a broken world – but good things are ahead because we have a Good, Good Father.

Want to join with us in practicing fearless generosity? Here’s a LINK to register for e-giving.

IMPORTANT: SUNDAY WORSHIP SCHEDULE CHANGE (starts Aug 2)

After seeing how many Westsiders are currently ready to worship on campus, we are reducing the number of Sunday worship gatherings by one to a total of three gatherings each Sunday. Don’t worry, we will still have plenty of room to distance properly.

The adjusted worship schedule below will serve us well over the coming months (which is as far into the future as we’ll attempt to see at the moment). Our NEW WORSHIP SCHEDULE beginning Sunday, August 2 is immediately below:

8:00 traditional worship (in the Multi-Purpose Room just off the newest concourse)

I am grateful to our traditional worship attendees for being so flexible during 2020. To ensure we had enough parking for guests during At the Movies, these folks gathered at 1:00pm for 6 weeks during February and March. Then, since we returned to on-campus worship a month ago, they have continued to worship at 1:00pm to allow for better distancing practices.

Since we are temporarily pausing one of our contemporary services, we are able to return our traditional worship folks to the familiar 8:00am time slot.

9:30 and 11:00 contemporary worship (in the Main Worship Center)

Read those times carefully! Notice that both are different from our previous worship schedule. Instead of three contemporary services at 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30, we are consolidating to two contemporary services and shifting the start times to 9:30 and 11:00.

This step will enhance our worship environment, will allow traditional worshippers to return to a familiar start time, and will make for better use of the time/effort contributed by our diminished corps of volunteers (fewer folks coming to our campus results in fewer volunteers).

That’s all, friend – you’ve been updated! Thank you for remaining flexible as we discern what is needed and adjust to it. There is much to celebrate – and much for which to pray. Let’s do both!

With love and hope,

Eddie Lowen
West Side’s lead guy


Watch West Side's regathering video

Sent June 26, 2020.

If you’re a Westsider, I trust you’ve heard the news: we are resuming ON-CAMPUS worship this Sunday! And, if you plan to be with us, be sure to remember our revised start times: 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30am with traditional worship at 1:00pm.

If you haven’t seen my original campus reopening email from several weeks ago, explaining how we’ll organize on-campus worship during the next season, here’s a link to it. Obviously, things are not “back to normal” when it comes to how we do church. However, we should celebrate the opportunity to begin the journey toward a complete reunion, even though none of us knows how long this in-between will last.

TODAY’S VIDEO ANNOUNCEMENT

Please watch this VERY IMPORTANT VIDEO ANNOUNCEMENT from me and our team about what to expect/do when you come to our campus to worship. To reduce confusion when you arrive, I’m asking you to watch the entire video now, even if you suspect you know what info it contains (the video is less than 5 minutes long).

Some highlights:

  • If any of your children is younger than 8 years old, you’ll be directed to one of our family venues. If we’re unsure how old your child is, someone will ask. If you happen to make it into a main worship venue with a child who appears he/she may be younger than 8, we’ll likely ask.
  • Trust me, we know all about the opinions and controversy surrounding MASKS. Still, we strongly recommend that masks be worn while in our facility. Our staff and volunteers will wear masks when possible. Why? To be as considerate of others as possible.
  • Personally, if I’m in a public space and wearing a mask becomes problematic, rather than removing it entirely, I lower it slightly to keep it over my mouth while allowing my nose to escape for a moment. This allows me to breathe easier. Doing so is not the safest or recommended way to wear a mask, I realize. However, logically, I know that keeping a mask over my mouth only is better than opting to not wear one. By the way, no, we won’t wear masks while leading from the platform. But we will do our best to “distance” on the platform and place the front row of seats a good distance from the platform.
  • If you want to sing (or even lip sync, lol) in any of our on-campus venues, you’re expected to voluntarily wear a mask over your mouth. Is singing with a mask uncomfortable and undesirable? Yes and yes. Is it important to wear a mask while singing to minimize droplets being projected into the room? Yes.
  • We’ll be making a huge effort to seat households at least 6 feet apart. We want you here, but we want you safe.

Friend, if we all use hand sanitizer upon entering and after touching railings and doors… if we “distance” while enjoying conversation with others… if we avoid handshaking and hugging (sorry!)… if we wear masks, especially when talking and singing… we’ll enhance each other’s safety.

Let’s be realistic: it is possible someone will visit our campus who doesn’t realize he/she has COVID-19. A pastor friend of mine learned that an attendee at a wedding he recently officiated tested positive for COVID immediately after the event. However, because of the precautions my friend and others took while at the wedding, no additional attendees contracted the virus at the event. That’s how it should be.

A MOMENT OF BLUNTNESS FROM THE LEAD GUY

Frankly, this is difficult. The precautions and adjustments require much additional effort from our staff and volunteers. So, if you dislike all this stuff, we get it. It would be easier for us to continue to worship online until more of the precautions are unnecessary. However, we are on mission, no matter what it takes. And we want to give returning to campus our best effort.

I know that if we adopt the right spirit and refuse to grumble, we’ll be able to say (Psalm 122:1), I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” So, if you can come into a cautious environment and “go with the flow,” I hope you will join us. If not, please continue to worship online. I love you, either way, friend.

SEE YOU SUNDAY – MAYBE

Once again, if you’re in a vulnerable category of people, be wise and stay safe. We love you a lot and want you to stay healthy!

Please take a moment to watch the regathering video now!

Looking forward to Sunday,

Eddie Lowen
Lead guy


On-campus worship resumes June 28

Sent June 10, 2020.

I have good news and lots of information for you today. Please read carefully!

Phase 4 of Restore Illinois is expected to begin on Friday, June 26. Because a date for the start of Phase 5 appears to be months away, our leaders have determined to resume an adapted version of on-campus worship beginning Sunday, June 28. However, we are making significant adjustments to our programming and worship formats. Please read on to ensure you know what to expect and how you can help us worship together safely.

Our return to on-campus worship will likely unfold in two major steps:

STEP 1

Begins Sunday, June 28, 2020 | 8:30 | 10:00 | 11:30 | 1:00 (traditional)

  • Contemporary Services will occur both LIVE in the Worship Center and LIVE online at TryChurchOnline.com DURING ALL SERVICE TIMES (8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 CDT).
  • Our Traditional Service will temporarily meet LIVE in the Multi-Purpose Room at 1:00pm. Those who cannot (or should not) worship in person at 1:00pm are invited to join one of the available online services.
  • Because of the size and nature of the gatherings, ABFs will resume at a later date.

ENTRANCES & EXITS

  • We will ask everyone to PARK NEAR & USE THE MAIN ENTRANCE ONLY.
  • The Hub (east) entrance will be used by staff and volunteers only.

PRECAUTIONS

  • Hand sanitizer and masks will be made available (but please bring your own, if possible).
  • Large signs will display instructions, reminders and wellness procedures.
  • MASKS are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED while on campus and REQUIRED when singing.
  • We ask that everyone use hand sanitizer upon entering the building.

FAMILIES WITH KIDS

  • Family Venues: Families with children ages 7 and under will worship in the NEW preschool and K2M rooms. Please understand: children under age 8 (including infants) will not be permitted in the Main Worship Center.
  • In family worship areas, each family will be assigned a “booth” with quiet activity resources for kids. For parents, the worship service will be streamed live from the Worship Center. Distancing guidelines will be followed to the best of our ability.
  • Checkpoint: Near the new indoor playground, members of our staff will greet and guide families with young children to a Family Venue.
  • Parents: We know there are similarities between our Family Venues and watching online from home. But it’s meaningful for us to come together for worship, even when it looks different than usual. Give it a try!

FOUR ADULT WORSHIP VENUES (as needed):

  • Main Worship Center
    • Because the Worship Center will be the broadcasting venue for online services, it will not be an appropriate venue for young children (under 8 years of age).
    • To promote distancing, we will fill only 30-40% of the seats. Every other row will be used; 2-3 empty seats will be maintained between households.
    • Due to distancing guidelines, ushers will seat each family or group systematically. Sorry, but during this phase, we can’t permit open seating (where you select your own seat).
       
  • The Waterside Room, The Waterwall and The Hub
    • These spaces will be available for those who arrive after the Worship Center fills (or who prefer a smaller environment).
    • Distancing will be practiced between households in these venues, also.

COMMUNION/OFFERING/CONNECTION CARDS

  • Gloved greeters will distribute individual communion packs in every venue.
  • Standing, secure offering boxes will be used; there will be no offering buckets passed.
  • Online connection cards will be used; no programs or printed info will be distributed.

FIRESIDE CAFÉ

  • The café will be open with limited (and well-spaced) seating.
  • Don’t panic! Free coffee will be served (by gloved volunteers).

JR. HIGH (JHM) & HIGH SCHOOL (HSM)

  • Junior High will not offer Sunday worship until Re-Entry Step 2 (August).
  • JHM and HSM students will worship with parents.
  • A STUDENT MINISTRY MEET-UP will be hosted between services (in the concourse), along with 9-square in the gym.

STEP 2

Tentatively Scheduled for Sunday, August 30, 2020

  • Age-specific kids programs reopen
  • Sunday morning JHM services resume
  • “Promotion Sunday” will occur, so kids/students will move up to programs for their new grades
  • 8:00am Traditional Worship resumes
  • ABFs resume

Questions or Concerns?

After reading a great deal of information from a wide variety of perspectives, West Side’s leaders believe the plan outlined above is both appropriately determined and cautious.

However, if you have a question or concern you believe we haven’t considered, you can email us at this address: info@wschurch.org. We’ll reply as soon as possible.

The Right Time For You

Friend, if you have reason to believe you are more susceptible to complications from coronavirus, or if you simply prefer to be as cautious as possible, feel free to continue to opt for online worship. Since we will continue to offer several online worship services each Sunday, you can easily continue to do so. Kids worship content will continue to be available online, also.

FINAL COMMENTS

  • If another wave of virus cases makes it prudent for us to pause or slow our return to on-campus worship, we will return to online-only worship for a season.
  • Look for additional info over the coming week. If you have kids or students, look for instructions and information from the leaders of those ministries.
  • If you are on a volunteer team or participate in a group that is resuming its in-person activity, you’ll hear from its leaders, if you haven’t already.
  • Be as gracious and humble as possible as we navigate circumstances we’ve never before encountered.
  • Pray God will grant West Side’s leaders wisdom and strength.

See you soon,

Eddie Lowen
West Side’s lead guy


Kingdom come!

Sent June 2, 2020

Last Sunday’s teaching was based on Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Sadly, the indefensible killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, followed by some violent and destructive responses, makes it appear that God’s kingdom is losing ground.

I’m writing today to ask you to reflect and pray for the kingdom of God to come to our world and, specifically, to our nation. As you pray, focus first on asking God to bring the kingdom through your attitudes, words and actions. This is not a time to mimic the talking points of activists, commentators and celebrities; rather, it is a time to build our attitudes, words and actions on the kingdom values Jesus modeled and taught.

Just before he instructed us to pray for the kingdom to come, Jesus taught us how to facilitate the kingdom’s coming (see Matthew 5:3-16, New Living Translation). We help the kingdom come when we demonstrate…

  • Humility and dependence on God. Even Jesus admitted that he could do nothing apart from his Father in heaven. When we conclude that our outrage, arguments and ideas can “fix” the world, rather than pleading with everyone to look to God for the guidance and healing we all need, we deceive ourselves and others.
     
  • Repentance and mourning. It’s easy to identify what’s wrong with someone else’s behavior, whether it’s abusive treatment by someone in authority, or riotous conduct in the streets. But it’s more uncomfortable and difficult to look within and invite God to (Psalm 139:24, NLT), Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
     
  • A desire for justice. Kingdom people don’t just want fairness and opportunity for ourselves and people who remind us of ourselves. As one of our patriotic pledges puts it, we want “liberty and justice for all.” Jesus said, “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice” (Matthew 5:6, NLT).
     
  • Mercy and peace. Accountability is important. We can’t have a society without it. But it’s also important to resist becoming a bitter person who is all about payback or vengeance.
     
  • Perseverance under pressure. Even when we are treated wrongly, God does not release us to respond any way we choose. This principle is not an excuse for ignoring injustice done to others, but a call to entrust ourselves to God, whatever our circumstances.

In Romans 12:9, we find two commands side-by-side: Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. When I read that verse, I remember Moses, who was right to be outraged when he witnessed a fellow Hebrew being abused by an Egyptian taskmaster. But in his anger, Moses didn’t “overcome evil with good,” as Romans 12:21 teaches. Rather, he repaid evil with evil and failed to “hold tightly to what is good.” Moses killed the Egyptian and wasted the influential role in which God had providentially placed him (from which he could have helped the Hebrews). Though Moses eventually made a comeback, 40 additional years of injustice unfolded because he failed to “hold on to what is good” in the face of wrongdoing.

Praying the Kingdom Will Come

While you should certainly pray today and tomorrow, you’re invited to set aside the noon hour this Thursday to pray with the West Side staff. If you can safely refrain from eating that morning, I’m calling you to “fast and pray” with us. Let’s pray for justice, not just for the moment, but in all our ways as a nation. Let’s also pray for peace. And, let’s pray for wisdom and clarity for everyone who is trying to figure out what to think and where to stand. Above all else, let’s pray, “May your kingdom come, God.”

With love,

Eddie Lowen
West Side’s lead guy


Eddie's 2nd major update email

Sent May 27, 2020

First, a Follow-up to Yesterday’s Email

Friend, I hope you’ve carefully read the email I sent yesterday. It explained why West Side is not yet reopening our campus for Sunday worship gatherings.

While I appreciate the many who replied to affirm our approach and to commend us, I also genuinely appreciate several who respectfully conveyed that they had hoped for a more aggressive reopening schedule. I value being able to say that I/we feel “supported,” even by those who would have preferred a different approach.

While I can’t promise a timeline, I expect us to begin laying out a reopening plan sooner, not later. Meanwhile, let’s practice the instruction to “be anxious for nothing – and pray about everything.”

Now for the 2nd update and some very good news…

Phase 2 construction news!

If you’ve lost track of where we are in Phase 2 of our campus construction (new worship & concourse space), here’s a review and a look ahead:

  • When the shutdown began, West Side’s leaders took the precautionary step of pausing construction. We simply did not know how the economic downturn and the inability to meet on our campus would impact our collective generosity.
  • Since the roof for the new worship center was already being delivered to our campus, it made sense to install it (rather than paying to transport it again and store it), so it was installed.
  • When the new worship center roof was completed, construction activity was dramatically scaled back, though not completely stopped.

Because of your continuing generosity, our leaders have now authorized the construction of the exterior portion of the final segment of the new space. We nicknamed this final section “the connector” because it will tie the new worship structure to our new main entrance and existing space.

  • By late summer or early fall, the shell of the connector (the foundation, exterior walls and roof) will be complete.
  • What will remain at that point is the interior work on all of Phase 2 (the new worship center and connector). This interior work represents a very significant portion of Phase 2 and will require 8-9 months to complete.
  • Our leaders will not authorize the Phase 2 interior work to begin until it is clear that our collective generosity will allow for its completion.

We hope Phase 2 interior work will begin in early 2021 – and that we will occupy the new worship center by December 2021. The more generous we are in the remaining months of 2020, the more likely this timeline will become. We are thankful to God for your generosity, which is allowing us to proceed with the next part of the new construction – and we are grateful to be able to foresee a timeline for the final portion!

New online worship schedule

Beginning Sunday, June 7, we will revise our online worship schedule. With this adjustment, we will…

  1. add a weekly traditional online worship service
  2. modify start times for 2 of our 3 contemporary services.
     
    • 8:30am – Contemporary Worship at TryChurchOnline.com (TCO)
    • 10:00am – Contemporary at TCO
    • 11:30am – Contemporary at TCO
    • 1:00pm – Traditional Worship at TCO

Since start times will be 90 minutes apart, it will be easier to share them with others! Again, the new schedule is effective June 7, one week from this coming Sunday! When it’s time to resume worship on our campus, we’ll clarify start times. The new online schedule is likely to be our schedule when we return to campus.

Friend, remember what we’ve sung several times recently: “Don’t lose heart, oh my soul.” Wonderful things are ahead.

With love and hope,
Eddie & West Side's Leaders

PS – Need something? Email us at care@wschurch.org.


Update from Eddie: resuming on campus worship gatherings

Sent May 26, 2020

As our world takes “baby steps” toward normal, allow me to share some info and perspective for Westsiders.

There is much discussion and some conflict (much of it politicized) around the question of WHEN and HOW churches should resume public worship services. Some federal, state and local officials have issued dueling statements about it. Many people are choosing sides and joining the war of words.

Although you wouldn’t know it by the way some people frame the discussion, decisions related to church gatherings are very complicated. To reduce the discussion to any single factor (public health, religious freedom, etc.) is to oversimplify it. Yes, churches have important reasons for wanting to resume in-person gatherings as soon as possible. We also have important reasons for moving forward with great care.

What Are the Factors?

If it were left solely to West Side’s leaders to determine when we would gather again for public worship, the simple answer to the “when” question would be: we don’t yet know. We anticipate gaining clarity on a timeline over the next month, but we are not yet ready to announce a plan/schedule. Why? Because, as of today…

  1. It wouldn’t be the kind of “West Side experience” we want to offer. With social distancing still needed, we do not see a way to offer a high quality, on campus experience at this time. Trust me, no one wants us to worship together on campus more than West Side’s leaders. But until we can welcome at least 50-75% of our room capacity, we can’t “do church” in a way that is compelling. We can minimize the number of surfaces we all touch and sanitize between gatherings, no problem. But we can’t host enough worship services to welcome thousands of people who are 6-feet apart.
     
  2. Most people are unwilling to attend church at this point. We’ve learned of churches across the country, who resumed public worship gatherings in recent weeks, only to host very small crowds. One church that seats 2600 people had one service with fewer than 100 in attendance. (However, WE DO ANTICIPATE RESUMING SMALLER GROUPS AND GATHERINGS SOON. Stay tuned.)
     
  3. Many of our neighbors would question our judgment. While we don’t intend to wait until the most cautious person in Springfield agrees that we should gather again, neither do we want to sacrifice the rapport we’ve established with our city by deciding prematurely that we will gather again. Titus 2:8 teaches us to consider what outsiders think of us and to strive to give them "nothing bad to say about us." By the way, we expect government officials to engage more actively with church leaders in the weeks ahead to maximize alignment and minimize conflict.
     
  4. West Side has never been in “shutdown” mode. Although we closed our building to normal activity, WE HAVE NEVER CLOSED OUR CHURCH. On the contrary…
     
    • MORE people have accessed our Sunday worship and teaching via TryChurchOnline.com
    • On average, we reached 1000 MORE people per week over the last 10 weeks
    • We have fed MORE hungry people… blessed MORE lonely people… loved MORE people on the margins
    • We have gained MORE experience and GREATER insight on how to use digital tools for ministry
    • Some are giving MORE of their financial resources to God’s work and to people in need
    • And we are MORE convinced that we will reach 10,000 people a week over the decade to come!

When We Do Gather Again

Because we are one of the larger churches in our area, we anticipate some scrutiny and commentary when we begin to worship together again. In anticipation of the questions and (perhaps) criticism that may come, I want to make it clear that our motives for resuming our gatherings WILL NOT include the following:

It won’t be for FINANCIAL reasons. While we have seen some decline in total giving during the last few months (due to reduced income for some of us), most Westsiders continue to give at similar levels. We are not panicked and financial motives will not be a factor in future decisions about on campus worship.

It won’t be a POLITICAL statement. Seasoned Westsiders know that we stay on mission regardless of what party occupies any given position. The reason we aren’t meeting on campus now has nothing to do with political ties or perspectives. When we move to gather again, the same will be true.

It won’t be a play for PUBLICITY. Over the years, we’ve been given many opportunities to comment on what’s in the news, which we’ve rarely done. When we serve our city or its people in some way, I ask our staff to never seek media coverage (although we sometimes receive it). That’s how we roll – and nothing we do from this point forward will be driven by a desire to become part of the media coverage.

The Test We Must Pass Together

While we wait for clarity on when to gather, my primary concern is how we discuss it. We should not be among those who hurl allegations at those who disagree with us. I know some sincere, godly people who are ready to worship with a crowd now. I know others, who are just as sincere and godly, who prefer to wait. We all must avoid attempting to invalidate those who disagree with us on these things.

That’s why I’m calling Westsiders to be patient, respectful of others’ views and fiercely committed to unity. Let’s embrace this guidance given by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:2-6, NIV): Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

During the unique season we're in, I’d summarize that verse this way: It is even more important that we stay together than meet together. Without unity, we are nothing. Let’s hang together, friend. And, when it comes to government officials, remember what Peter wrote (1 Peter 2:17), Show proper respect to everyone: love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Thankfully, we don’t have a king. But we do have government officials with heavy responsibilities and God-given authority. I’m not pledging to always agree with how they use it, but I want to always communicate with/about them in a way that honors God.

Stay tuned tomorrow for another email about some important and encouraging developments at West Side.

Looking forward to good things,

Eddie Lowen & West Side’s Leadership Team


Do you know how NOT to pray?

Sent May 15, 2020

We’re all doing a lot of sanitizing right now, but one thing I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t sanitize people’s behavior – even godly people. Take the disciples of Jesus, for example. Their courage to originally follow Jesus and their sacrificial devotion to spreading his gospel make them key players in God’s kingdom. But the Bible doesn’t hide the fact that they were sometimes self-absorbed… sometimes afraid… and sometimes slow to trust what Jesus taught them.

But one moment when the original followers of Jesus got it really, really right was when they asked for his help with something that is essential to a personal faith. They had been impacted by seeing how important prayer was in the life and ministry of Jesus, but they felt inadequate in their own prayers. So they said to Jesus, “Teach us to pray.

As we launch our new teaching series, Well Prayed, tomorrow at TryChurchOnline.com, I’m asking God to teach you and me to pray. This series will be more than a teacher saying, “We should all pray more.” It will highlight the reasons we all have to WANT to pray. Every good parent realizes there are good habits his/her child will embrace, if the child will simply trust the parent’s guidance to try it and learn to do it well. That’s what our Good, Good Father knows about us and prayer.

"See" you tomorrow,
Eddie


4 words for this Sunday at West Side

Sent May 8, 2020

Friend, you may not need to be convinced that joining me at TryChurchOnline.com this Sunday is a great idea – but if you were wavering and I had to convince you, I’d use these FOUR WORDS to help you get there:

  1. MEANING. One thing I love most about worship at West Side is that we don’t just check the box. Worship is a “we get to” and not a “we ought to.” After each week’s online gathering, we hear from Westsiders and guests that what happened really meant something to them.
  2. JOY. While it’s easier to smile and laugh while sitting in a room with hundreds of our friends, we’re continuing to learn how to convey the joyful spirit we all love about West Side in our online environment.
  3. IDENTITY. There is something good about bringing everyone in your home together for worship. It says, “This is who we are. We do this, even if we can’t do it exactly how/where we normally do it.” There’s a famous statement by Joshua in the Old Testament that begins, “As for me and my house…” Let online worship be your way to declare that the people of your house are God’s people. And if you have someone in your house who isn’t normally a worshipper, invite him/her to be part of it.
  4. GROWTH. It happens gradually over a lifetime, so we aren’t conscious of every gain – but God’s Spirit and word shape us from the inside out. By simply choosing to engage, we say YES to spiritual progress and NO to a stagnant faith.

Obviously, this Sunday is Mother’s Day, so we will definitely serve up some gratitude and encouragement for moms! However, Sunday’s message is for EVERYONE. Plus, I’ll ask you to join me in closing Sunday’s teaching in a unique way that I hope will be freeing for many.

See you at TryChurchOnline.com at 8:45, 10:10 or 11:30am this Sunday.

Eddie
West Side's lead guy


Wow - well done - keep it going

Sent April 12, 2020

If you invited someone to join us at TryChurchOnline.com for Easter worship (or if you shared our social media posts), way to go and thank you. I’m proud of your boldness and grateful that even when you’re not on-campus, you’re still on-mission!

Because of your efforts, we welcomed 11,023 DEVICES to our online worship gatherings this weekend. That’s the largest number of people we’ve ever reached with a weekend worship gathering. If your device was among them, I’m so glad. If you invited someone who joined us, I’m doubly glad and grateful to you!

Would you like to keep it going?

Normally, our entire Sunday worship experience is not available “on-demand” following our weekend services. However, we are making the full Easter worship service available online for at least the next few weeks. Here’s the LINK. Copy and paste it into a text/message/email/social media post to share it with someone.

May you be filled with Resurrection Joy today. Much love, West Side.

Eddie Lowen


Let's celebrate hope today & tomorrow!

Sent April 11, 2020

Friend,

Easter worship at TryChurchOnline.com begins TODAY at 4pm and continues TOMORROW morning. If you want to make the most of it, below are my top 3 suggestions…

1) Determine a worship schedule. Sure, you could keep your options open and catch an online service after you wake up. But I think it’s wise to continue planning our days, even if our schedules aren’t as demanding as usual. So, choose a worship time and build your meal schedule around it. Ask everyone in your house to gather a few minutes before online worship begins – do it together, even though you all have individual devices. If you live alone, consider scheduling a FaceTime or Zoom call to connect with some West Side friends before/after worship. Or text lyrics and teaching threads that strike you in real-time. Look for a way to make online worship communal.

2) Invite someone. Many great spiritual stories begin with a friend or coworker simply inviting a person to experience worship and to hear God’s word. COME AND SEE works, even online. So, forward an invitation from West Side’s Facebook or Instagram account, grab one of our Easter schedule graphics and text/message it to someone, or simply offer an invitation in your own words. Be bold and be the difference-maker someone needs you to be.

3) Use social media well. Thanks to an abundance of free time, people are on social media more than ever. While much of what they see is trivial or unhelpful, you and I can offer them a great opportunity by sharing West Side’s Easter worship info. Here’s a Facebook link. Here’s an Instagram link.

See you at Easter online,

Eddie Lowen
lead guy


5 ways to invite to Easter at West Side

Sent April 8, 2020

Hello!

Have you considered whom you’ll invite to Easter at West Side? Even from the comfort of your home, you can bring hope to others this week!

Here are 5 ways to get involved in this hope-bringing mission:

1. Register for “Donut Day.”
If you haven’t heard, we’re orchestrating a massive donut delivery tomorrow (Thursday, April 9). Visit wschurch.org/donutday, and a member of our staff team will deliver (ding dong ditch-style) a dozen donuts to the doorstep of your friend, along with an invite to Easter at West Side. Our donut supply is limited, so order now.

2. Participate in the “Egged” Experience.
Got kids? Make plans to participate in "Egged," a fun way to invite friends to Easter at West Side. The West Side Kids Team has created multiple versions that will allow you to encourage neighbors to join us at TryChurchOnline.com this weekend, while still practicing social distancing. Learn more and download instructions at wschurch.org/egged.

3. Text or Call a Friend.
There’s no substitute for simply and boldly saying, “I’d love for you to join me online this weekend for Easter at West Side!” If you need the help of a humorous meme, visit wschurch.org/easter to add some wit to the invitation. If you don’t know what a meme is, just Google it.

4. Share West Side’s Easter Social Media Posts
Let’s make sure there isn’t a person within our reach that doesn't know that Jesus is for EVERYONE and that there’s a place for them at West Side. One easy way to do this is to like, comment and share posts related to Easter at West Side.

5. Check out wschurch.org/easter for more Easter ideas.
Our team has created several creative tools appropriate for different people and personalities. Explore them all at wschurch.org/easter.

We’d love to pray for you!
Our team would love to pray for the people you intend to invite. If you’d like for us to pray for your friends by name, simply email us at prayer@wschurch.org. We are asking God to embolden every Westsider to extend loving and winsome invitations… to help each of us connect with him in a deeper way… and to draw thousands to Jesus this Easter weekend.

Praying for you, Westsiders!

The West Side Leadership Team


Sign up for Donut Day... and more!

Sent April 6, 2020

Westsiders,

It's Holy Week, and Easter is just around the corner! Our team has created several ways in which to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus together this weekend.

SIGN UP FOR DONUT DAY- Thursday, April 9
We're releasing GOOD NEWS to our community this week through a massive donut delivery. Do you know someone who is disconnected from church, lonely, or searching for hope in this season? Visit wschurch.org/donutdayto request donuts, and we'll deliver a dozen (ding dong ditch-style) to the doorstep of your friend, along with an invite to Easter at West Side from YOU. Orders are due Wednesday, April 8, at 12:00 PM, and deliveries will take place Thursday, April 9. Sign up now! Want to invite multiple people to Easter? No problem! You may submit multiple requests, and we'll gladly deliver.

GOOD FRIDAY PRAYER EXPERIENCE- Friday, April 10
Later this week, we'll provide you with tools needed for a Good Friday prayer experience. We'll focus our attention on Jesus' final moments on the cross and follow his example of crying out to God. Audio and written prayer guides (for your personal use at home) will be posted on our social media pages and at wschurch.org/goodfriday. Also, a prayer area will be set up in West Side's parking lot between 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM. Once on campus, follow the parking lot signs, which will direct you to a parking spot and give instructions on how to access the audio prayer guide via radio or mobile device. We will not be distributing materials on-site (to maximize safety) and ask that you remain in your vehicle and maintain social distancing guidelines during the experience.

EASTER AT WEST SIDE- Saturday, April 11 & Sunday, April 12
The Christian faith rests on one epic event: Christ's resurrection. Though this season has been tough on humanity, Jesus’ resurrection still has the power to bring hope to the most broken of places. Make plans to join us for Easter at West Side ONLINE on Saturday, April 11, at 4:00 PM OR Sunday, April 12, at 8:45, 10:10, or 11:30 AM. As always, we'll stream our services at TryChurchOnline.com.

INVITE, INVITE, INVITE—All Week!
Looking for other ways to invite those you know to Easter at West Side? Head to wschurch.org/easter to download a sign to hang on your window or door… use our Facebook profile frame… or download a funny meme to share with a friend. While we always attempt to equip you with creative tools to introduce your friends to Jesus, there's no substitute for actually texting or calling a friend and saying, "I hope you'll join me for Easter at West Side." Let's bring some hope this week, Westsiders!

If you need additional help as you prepare for Easter, you're always welcome to reach out to our team at care@wschurch.org.

We look forward to celebrating Easter with you all week long!

The West Side Leadership Team


8 tips for "going" to church Sunday

Sent April 5, 2020

Our team can’t wait to “see” you this morning for online worship: 8:45, 10:10 or 11:30am CT!

To make the most of today’s worship experience, take advantage of these 8 tips for “going” to church.

1. Attend “together” with family and friends.
Select a service, text or call some family or friends and then decide to tune-in together at the same time. This is the virtual way to go to church with those you love!

2. Share about TryChurchOnline.com on social media.
Take a moment right now to share our Facebook or Instagram posts, along with a personal invite to join us for today’s services. Spiritual receptivity and the search for God are exceptionally high. Let’s invite people into our community of hope.

3. Get your communion ready.
Each Sunday during our services, we’ll pause for a moment to celebrate communion. This is a chance to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Grab some crackers and juice before the service begins so you’re ready to fully participate in communion together.

4. Check out our kids and family worship tools.
West Side is a church for EVERYONE, including kids! To discover worship experiences for kids of all ages, visit wschurch.org/familyworship.

5. Snap a photo of your worship experience and post it on social media.
We are currently one church in thousands of locations. Post a photo of your view of worship today and be sure to tag West Side. Not only does this give our staff and other Westsiders a chance to “say hello” during worship, but it also serves as a reminder to others who might be wondering how to give church a try in this season.

6. Give online or by check.
Your giving during this season is especially important to our church. Simply visit wschurch.org/give or text any amount to 217-718-2043. For check-givers, this morning is a great time to stick a check in the mail addressed to West Side Christian Church, 2850 Cider Mill Lane, Springfield, IL, 62702. If desired, click here, and we'll send you a batch of self-addressed stamped envelopes to use in the coming weeks.

7. Complete the Connection Card.
Make sure to complete a Connection Card today. Prayer requests and any needs you may have can be listed on your card. And, for each first time Connection Card we receive today, we’ll make a donation to Inner City Mission, a homeless shelter for Springfield families.

8. Visit us in the “Zoom Room.”
When we meet on campus, we invite guests to stop by our Next Steps area. If Westsiders want to talk with someone from our team, we encourage them to visit the Waterside Room. Those who want to “hang out” with other Westsiders often do so in the Fireside Café. If you’re missing any of these spaces today, we hope you’ll “stop by” our Zoom Room. In this digital church season, the “Zoom Room” will serve as a virtual meet-up spot where you can hang out by video with members of our staff and Next Steps Team. After the service, visit wschurch.org/zoom to enter our online meeting room. We look forward to saying hello!

Hope to see you soon at TryChurchOnline.com!


an update from Eddie - April 3

Sent April 3, 2020

Hello, West Side. As a public service, I’ll start by reminding you today is Friday. (Since we are out of our usual rhythms, knowing the day of the week has become a luxury!)

Although God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), humor is a helpful coping mechanism. The funniest tweet I’ve seen recently was from someone who rewrote the little poem that helped many of us memorize how many days there are in each month:

Thirty days has September
April, June and November
All the rest have thirty-one
Except for March of 2020, which had 8000

Friend, keep the faith – but keep your sense of humor, too.

Let’s Celebrate

Yesterday I read a just-released study by a scholar from the University of Copenhagen. While the author isn’t a proponent of faith, the data presented shows that Google searches for “prayer” skyrocketed during the month of March. The graph representing this trend looks almost opposite of the recent stock market graphs we’ve all seen. As market confidence and value have dropped, spiritual hunger has peaked.

I don’t like it when believers callously overstate the “spiritual silver lining” when discussing the very real difficulties people are facing. But even though it can be expressed clumsily and unwisely, the spiritual bottom line is the bottom line. Loss and uncertainty are real. People need comfort and help and compassion when hurting. That’s why I’m ready to see things turn in a better direction as soon as possible – I’m praying for it and ask you to join me in praying for relief.

But I do trust the sovereignty of God and I celebrate the reality that when life is difficult, many look to God. That’s one reason why we’ve seen large numbers of online worshippers with us recently. That’s also the history of Israel in the Old Testament in a nutshell. During good times, Israel tended to ignore and dishonor God. But when things got tough, they rediscovered their need for God. Let’s pray the current season will end soon – but let’s pray the Holy Spirit will use this difficult time well. The word “revival” is overused in some Christian circles, but it simply means people are finding their way back to God. Lord, please rescue our health and economies. But please bring revival.

Sunday Worship Online

Our musicians have prepared another excellent worship set for Sunday’s online gatherings – and I will lead us in a look at one of God’s most reassuring names, a name that couldn’t be more relevant in our current circumstances. Please be intentional about setting aside time to worship online. Minimize distractions and ask everyone in your home to put down their phones to worship together. And don’t underestimate how much your social media posts can point others toward Jehovah-Jireh, the God who will provide, during a time when we all need what only God can provide (yes, that’s a sermon theme hint).

By the way, while many on our team are making me proud during this time, I want to give a huge shout-out to our KIDS and STUDENT ministry teams. Make sure the kids/students in your world tap into what they are doing. Family worship resources can be accessed at https://www.wschurch.org/familyworship. Students can visit: https://www.wschurch.org/studentworship.

Be the Hope

Although my wife and I have everything we need and more, some friends dropped-off some goodies at our house a couple days ago. It really lifted our spirits. Let’s all look for people to love and encourage, while staying as safe as possible. Pray for our first responders and health care workers – they are doing heroic work. Remain aware of the things West Side is doing weekly to bless others.

Easter Is Coming

Easter Sunday is just over a week away – and I am asking you to saturate your circles of people (which include some of those spiritually hungry people who are asking Google how to pray) with digital and verbal invitations to join us at West Side for worship. Yes, we’ll be online-only for Easter (and for at least the remainder of April). But we are adding a Saturday at 4pm service to our usual Sunday schedule for Easter weekend. Remember the web address? TryChurchOnline.com.

I love you all,

Eddie Lowen
Lead guy


Update from Eddie 3/19

Sent March 19, 2020

Sunday’s Online Gatherings and New Teaching Series
Our lives have changed dramatically in recent days. In football, a quarterback calls an audible at the line of scrimmage when he reads the defense and realizes a more effective play is needed. I’m doing something similar with our Sunday teaching in the weeks ahead. The opening week of Let It Go was just right for last Sunday, but we’ll save the remaining teachings of that series for later and launch a new series this Sunday called OMG – Reclaiming the Name Above All Names.

We’ve all heard the initials OMG used flippantly, but I want us to reclaim those letters and the phrase they represent over the coming weeks. More than anything, we need to know this God we worship and serve, because knowing him more will help us trust him more. A group of my pastor friends from across the country have decided to teach this series together over the coming weeks. My prayer is that these teachings will inspire us to worship and trust God more than ever, even in the uncertainty of current events.

Wondering how we can move forward from all that’s happening? Join us Sunday at TryChurchOnline.com (8:45, 10:10, 11:30am) as we worship and reintroduce our Waymaker God. Please invite others to join us online. There is greater receptivity among normally unchurched people right now. Point them toward our Great God by inviting them to our online worship gatherings.

Construction Pause
As many likely expect, we are going to pause on our construction project starting in 2-3 weeks (after the roof that is about to be installed on our new worship space is complete). This step just makes sense. Since the length of time we’ll be unable to gather is not yet known (and since economic uncertainty is high), our elders believe it is wise to pause after the important step of roofing the new worship room. We are still Fearless, but we don’t want to be Clueless! We’ll resume construction as soon as we can.

The very best thing you can do to help is to either 1) join those who give electronically (here’s the link to sign-up) or 2) mail your gift by check on the same schedule you would normally give in person. Some of you are already doing this. Again, thank you, so much. Email BrendaL@wschurch.org if you have a question about e-giving.

When we speak of West Side’s financial needs, we are not failing to realize that many individuals are already being impacted financially by what is taking place in our economy. Incomes are being reduced, while investments are shrinking. We are hopeful and prayerful that the next few weeks will hold relief and recovery, but we know this is a tough season for many. So, we encourage you to not only sustain West Side faithfully and fearlessly during this time, but to do all you can to help sustain others. Many can do both of those things – and both are very important.

Celebrate
It’s important that we not obsess over markets and tightening personal finances. It’s also important to intentionally focus on things that remind us that our lives have meaning and our ongoing ministry is more important than ever.

  1. I have loved hearing about kids and students and adults meeting in groups virtually in recent days (our elder team met last night for an hour via Zoom, a virtual meeting tool).
  2. I loved seeing how quickly and strongly Westsiders responded to the call to feed under-resourced kids and families while kids are away from school (where many receive meals).
  3. I loved seeing more than 6600 devices join us for online worship last Sunday.

Check on people… keep your sense of humor… limit the time you watch/read the news… remember that bad times have come and gone before… prioritize your spiritual and emotional health… pray for those infected by the virus… pray that “the curve” we’ve all heard referenced in the news will, indeed, be bent by our precautionary steps.

Tuesday and Thursday Live Devotion at 9:30am
Join us on Facebook Live next Tuesday for our first live social media devotion. I want to pour extra encouragement and perspective into you from God’s word during this time.

Carefully read all emails and posts from West Side during this season. Email us at care@wschurch.org if you need something, including prayer.

Much love,

Eddie Lowen
West Side’s lead guy


Important info from Eddie to Westsiders

Sent March 17, 2020.

Friend, I pray you are well. I want to make sure we remain connected as much as possible during this unique and stressful season. Please, read on…

RECORD SUNDAY WORSHIP ATTENDANCE?
Last Sunday we could not gather in-person, yet more than 6600 devices connected with us through TryChurchOnline.com. For a non-holiday Sunday, that’s a record number of worshippers for us. The huge participation level was a result of Westsiders sharing our social media posts and inviting online guests via message, text and email. What a great response to an unfortunate limitation – let’s do the same every week that we can’t meet in-person!

For obvious reasons, we will worship together online-only until further notice. We will broadcast on TryChurchOnline.com during three of our familiar worship times: 8:45, 10:10 and 11:30am each Sunday. Is this the way we prefer it? No. But we trust God to use these circumstances as we pray and remain faithful.

CHURCH CAMPUS & BUILDING CLOSED
It’s a bit strange to type these words, but until further notice, the church campus and office is closed and all on-campus ministry meetings and events are cancelled. While there will be staff in the building much of the day and night, the doors will normally be locked.

MINISTRY CONTINUES, SO DETERMINE YOUR GENEROSIITY WILL TOO
If anything, the level of activity among our staff has picked up this week. Many innovations and adjustments are underway. I’m proud of our team. Look for email communication from staff leaders of ministries to which you are connected.

E-GIVING IS CRUCIAL
If you are already signed-up for E-GIVING, thank you for leading the way and for remaining faithful while we cannot meet on-campus.

However, if you normally contribute by check or cash while on-campus, it’s crucial that you now switch to e-giving. If you discontinue e-giving once the virus concerns pass, that’s fine. But for now, e-giving is essential to ensure West Side remains strong. Thank you!

USE THIS LINK for a secure page where you can opt for either 1) a scheduled withdrawal from your bank account, or 2) set up text-to-give (which allows you to fund your gift with either a bank account or credit card).

If you aren’t comfortable using these methods, mail your check (no cash) to WSCC, 2850 Cider Mill Lane, Springfield IL 62702.

TUESDAY & THURSDAY ONLINE DEVOTIONS @ 9:30am
During the time we can’t meet together, I want to meet with you twice a week for a 15-minute devotion – online. The current plan is to use the Facebook Live feature on West Side’s Facebook page/account. Meet me there at 9:30am starting next Tuesday, March 24. If we determine that we can add Instagram and use both formats, we’ll let you know. Look for social media posts to remind you of this opportunity.

RESOURCES
If you need some type of prayer or care from our team during this season, reach us through this email address: care@wschurch.org.

If you want to use your increased time at home to grow spiritually, check out RIGHT NOW MEDIA or West Side’s LET IT GO resource page. Watch our Facebook page for additional spiritual growth tools. Our small groups are not meeting in person at this time, so if you’d like help meeting virtually with your group, contact MichaelS@wschurch.org.

Some folks are already being impacted financially by the disruption of so many parts of our economy. So let’s be on the lookout for folks to help – and let’s pray God will bless everyone with what they need. And, of course, let’s pray for anyone who has contracted coronavirus – and for everyone involved in caring for these folks.

See you soon (I hope and pray),

Eddie Lowen
Lead guy


Important: ONLINE WORSHIP ONLY this Sunday at West Side

Sent March 12, 2020

Hello, friend. This message is from Eddie, lead guy at West Side. This Sunday, March 15, we will worship together ONLINE ONLY during three of our normal service times: 8:45, 10:10 and 11:30am.

Obviously, we are taking this step due to heightened concerns about the spread of coronavirus. Also, we desire to cooperate as much as possible with the guidance being given by local officials, who are working hard to guard the health of our community. While the orders and guidance we’ve received reflect an abundance of caution, we agree: it is wise to accept some limitations and inconveniences in the hope of stopping a virus that is dangerous for some.

Although there is much we don’t know, let me attempt to answer some questions below…

IS IT POSSIBLE WE WILL WORSHIP ONLINE-ONLY BEYOND THIS SUNDAY?
Yes, but we will make that decision week-by-week. Although some public health officials are citing a 30-day period during which large gatherings should not occur, there will likely be clarifications and adjustments to the guidance being given. Stay tuned.

ARE SMALLER WEST SIDE EVENTS ALSO CANCELLED?
All on-campus events for this Sunday are cancelled, but early next week, we will make decisions about smaller events and gatherings. Watch our social media accounts and check your email often for communication from West Side over the coming weeks.

SHOULDN’T WE TRUST GOD AND MEET TO WORSHIP ANYWAY?
While some are expressing this view, we believe decisions about our worship gatherings (during a public health crisis) are a test of our discernment, not our faith. Because thousands of people trust our guidance and gather with us each Sunday, the impact of our decisions is multiplied. Don’t misunderstand: we are not sending a frantic message intended to frighten you; rather, we are attempting to be responsible members of the Springfield community.

WITH OUR CONSTRUCTION PROJECT, COULD THIS CREATE FINANCIAL CONCERNS AT WEST SIDE?
If you and I do not utilize online giving tools and the postal service to give faithfully, of course, it could. But I have a lot of confidence that Westsiders are generous, not because we happen to be on-campus, but because we are on-mission. If you don’t currently give electronically on a schedule, can I urge you to begin now? Here’s a safe LINK by which you can do so.

SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT THIS VIRUS AND ITS CONSEQUENCES?
You should be wise. You should practice discretion. You should be patient. You should avoid amplifying politically skewed information and accusations. But… you should also be hopeful – and you should absolutely refuse to panic, even if you contract this virus. In all things, trust God.

AREN’T WE STARTING A NEW TEACHING SERIES?
Yes, and one reason you should join us online Sunday (and invite as many folks as you can) is that God was far ahead of us as we planned: our new series is called LET IT GO. Want to guess Sunday’s teaching theme? ANXIETY. If you have friends who need encouragement about resisting worry during this crisis – or if you have neighbors and friends who can’t make it to their churches in-person, welcome them to join us online. Again, it’s TryChurchOnline.com.

Friend, I wish we were meeting in-person Sunday, but I’m not discouraged. You shouldn’t be, either. I am confident God is at work right now – drawing people to himself. The power of his Word and his Spirit will be evident as we “meet” this Sunday. Our church may not meet in-person this Sunday – but THE Church is alive and well.

My best advice to you (for however long this concern drags on) is found in Philippians 4:6. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Start your praying with thanksgiving. Pray for those infected. Pray for those gripped with fear. Pray for the families of those who have lost someone to the virus, not just here, but overseas, and even in countries that view us as enemies. Pray for those stranded while traveling abroad. Pray for the citizens of countries that lack medical resources and leaders who care about their well-being. Pray for our leaders (national, state and local).

See you online this Sunday. I am genuinely, incurably excited about this Sunday’s worship at West Side and the hope we will share!

Eddie


calm, precautions and coronavirus

Sent March 11, 2020

As this message is being sent, there is not yet a confirmed case of coronavirus in Sangamon County. However, if and when there is, we’ll all rethink how we move about town. So I want to offer some information and perspective that I hope is valuable to you.

  1. Our facilities team has enhanced how we clean and disinfect surfaces. For the foreseeable future, our team will clean more often and employ the strongest disinfectants we can safely use on door handles, railings, countertops, etc. Also, our KIDS MINISTRY team has enhanced how we clean surfaces, toys and hands during and between our kids gatherings. Of course, you are wise to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer before/after you touch common surfaces.
     
  2. Although churches are known for handshakes and hugs, let’s agree to offer a “thumbs up,” a “fist bump” or just a warm “hello” to one another for a while. If you’re a Star Trek fan, Mr. Spock would say this adjustment is only logical while viruses are a concern.

     
  3. Your personal level of caution should match your personal health. Most of us have minimal reason to avoid public spaces (at this point). Public health officials are currently indicating that our likelihood of being infected remains “low.” But if contracting a virus would be more dangerous for you than for the average person, please make wise adjustments. The more vulnerable you are to health complications, the more cautious you should be.
     
  4. If you have cold or flu symptoms, recover at home. We always prefer to have you with us in-person, but if you become symptomatic, be kind to yourself and considerate of others by avoiding all public spaces. You can always worship with us at TryChurchOnline.com. When in a public space, please be courteous by trapping coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or hand. Now is not the time to prove you’re a trooper, if it means possibly infecting others.
    On the other hand, please don’t give the evil-eye to (or attempt to shame) those who may simply be suffering from allergies. If you can’t resist the urge to make a citizen’s arrest on behalf of the germ police, you may need to stay home, also. If Mother Teresa could have compassion on lepers in India, can’t we be gracious with people who sneeze or sniffle?
     
  5. Resist both indifference and panic. No one knows how great the spread of the coronavirus will be, but it’s almost certain to be less catastrophic than some suggest – and more serious than others predict. Whatever the case, stay informed, and be discerning about the source of the information you consume. If you’re a worrier, remember that God’s promises apply to every kind of challenge we face, individually or collectively. Jesus said, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The current virus-scare will not be the end of the world – but even if it were, Jesus remains on duty.
     

For public health info, follow THIS LINK to the Centers for Disease Control (the oft-mentioned CDC) online page about coronavirus prevention.

NOW BACK TO THE MAIN THING…

Wasn’t At the Movies great?! Your response to it certainly was. If you joined us for the first time or attended more often during ATM, here’s a reminder: God’s word is living and active with or without being illustrated by a movie clip.

Some of us have grooved a new and better worship habit recently. If you are one of those folks, well done! Consider carefully whether or not your previous pattern of church attendance served you well. If not, leave those days behind. Come back to the table every week, humble and hungry. Be engaged and transformed by God’s word.

See you Sunday for the start of Let It Go,

Eddie Lowen
Lead guy

Stay connected to our website and social media for additional communication


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