Pastoral Letter (5/29/20) – Prayer; Masks; On Shibbloths; Schedules and Links

Upcoming Events 

Sunday (5/31/2020)

  • 8:30 am – First Service (No Livestream)
  • Sunday school class will be uploaded for viewing online (Link Here for YouTube Channel )
  • 9:45-10:15 Cleaning
  • 10:30 Second Service (Livestream:
  • 4 pm – Youth Discipleship Group (look for Zoom Link from Jay Storms) 
  • Evening Word & Fellowship: Pastor Sam Capitano Speaking (at 6:00 pm via Zoom); Also available by Live Stream
  • RSVP Requested for the morning services requested (RSVP here)

Prayer Items

Thank you for your prayers last week. I had an allergic reaction to something and needed to be monitored overnight. Things seem to have cleared up. I am thankful for Pastor Sam filling in for me at the last second. And he preached powerfully to our souls!

Pray for the Shaffer family. Dean has a confirmed case of COVID19 and was hospitalized on Thursday. Justin has a presumptive case from last week and is recovering, and Mary is beginning to feel badly. While they did not attend any of our worship services, this brings the situation very close to home for us. Heather O’Hara has put together a meal list. Pray for healing, comfort, and strength. Pray for peace for their children.

Pray for peace and justice in our nation. Pray that the dignity of the image of God in every person would prevail against all forms of racism. Pray for law and order to our land. Pray that, as people struggle with the experience of sin and iniquity, that hope of God’s eternal kingdom would cause them to repent of their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ.


Meeting Together: Worship Plan for May 31, 2020

Wow! The last two weeks have been incredible for in-person attendance. We agree with the psalmist in Psalm 122:1 – “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”” Online attendance has been good. God’s people have been very generous.

Our second service was just about full. We had 90 people worshiping the first week and 120 people the second week. If you were there, you noticed there were very few seats available.

What should you expect this week, especially if you come to the second service?

  • If you can make the first service, please make this change. It would be a great help.
  • We plan to give more guidance for seating in the second service. An usher or a deacon may direct you to your seat. Please be patient and understanding and be willing to move so we can make more spaces available for our visitors.
  • We have overflow rooms available through the church. If we are too full we will direct you to one of the overflow rooms.
  • Please RSVP by Friday at noon. If you are unable to use the form to RSVP, please call or email the church office (540-786-4848 or

If you haven’t seen it yet, or have questions, here is our Sunday Worship Plan


Do I Need to Wear a Mask?

The short answer is no. The New Life in Christ Church mask policy is: “You are welcome to wear a mask but they are not required for those worshipping at the services. We are requiring our volunteers, who are working with or around others, to wear masks. While masks are optional, the CDC recommends, “Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public.” Please read this website for clarification and safety practices:

This remains unchanged even with the governor’s mandate this week. We believe the mandate includes an exception that applies to our worship services, as well as to people with medical reasons. You can read the governor’s order online to find out more. We will make a mask available to those who need one.


Let me be frank, I would love that everyone would wear a mask. I know this may not be possible, sometimes it is impractical, and health concerns of masks or traumatic experiences may be too much for some, but I can’t help the desire for every person at New Life in Christ to be healthy. I want our witness to remain strong and to keep our ability to continue to meet. I also believe that masks are an important part of helping stop the pandemic, of protecting those around us, and of guarding the public witness of our church.


Like I have said in the past, we can provide a safer environment for worship, but not a risk-free environment. The way the disease is spread makes gathered worship a concern, which is why we have tried to provide adequate social distancing and health measures. We believe that we have the responsibility to make worship services available for the glory of God, love to the church, and outreach to our neighbors. Again, if you are not ready for the risk of public worship, we encourage you to continue watching the livestream until conditions change.


I don’t personally mind wearing a mask for the service, which I’ve done over the last couple weeks. It’s an inconvenience for sure, but to me not a big deal. That’s just me. Other people, for their own reasons, have to choose differently. That’s okay too. (See my article below On Shibboleths). At a time like this, we must committed to giving others the benefit of the doubt and a charitable opinion, treating others as adults, and keeping our eyes on Christ.


We are one church, belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us are at a different spot in his or her own health, in responsibilities, in relationships, and in readiness to get out, even to worship services. Some of the fears people have, especially at this point, are God-given natural concerns. The Bible upholds a high value for preserving our life and health. It is true that we are not to value life to the point of committing a sin or hurting others, but we are free to make prudent decisions and follow our conscience in preserving these things. Jesus understands our fears, and he cares. He is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). Take your time. Be safe. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ.


On Shibboleths

In Judges 12 we read about the nation of Israel being wracked by civil war. Tribe was fighting tribe and the body count was high. It’s an ugly story. I don’t have time to explain it here other than the tribe of Ephraim was on the wrong side of the other Israelite tribes. Ephraim picked a fight, which they lost, and now were treated as enemy combatants needing to be defeated.


The nation needed a way to discern which soldiers were from Ephraim and which were not, as the soldiers easily blended in with each other. They solved this by setting up a checkpoint within a “speech test”. They would find Ephraim’s soldiers by their accent. In this test, soldiers were required to say, “Shibboleth”.


You see, a man from Ephraim could only say, “sibboleth”. Their inability to say the “Sh” sound would reveal their identity and mark them for capture and killing. Some 42,000 Ephraimites were killed. What a devastating time for all Israel as the nation was destroying itself.


Do we have our own Shibboleths? Do we have ways that we separate the people of God into “us” and “them”, breaking the unity God has provided through Christ?


I have been so happy to begin re-opening our church, including the gathered worship services in the live stream together. It’s an incredible first step for us, as we minister to souls affected by this terrible pandemic and its fall out.

It’s also a time of great need. It’s a time of prayer to keep our eyes on Jesus.


We create our own shibboleths when we judge another person’s devotion to Jesus by a secondary matter. When they don’t speak/do/act in the way we think they should, shibboleth thinking concludes they don’t have the love of God. We might be tempted to think there’s something wrong with them and we need to fix it.


These can come up anytime, but especially at times of national stress, like we are in. It comes up as we make personal decisions about precautions we do or don’t take. As we make prudent decisions, we need to remember that not all of our opinions are moral imperatives, and we don’t need to treat them that way.


Jesus shows us our priority and witness in John 13:34-35 when he says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:34–35)


The church is the body of Christ. And as such we focus on one thing, our head, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our essential conviction. As we are united to him, we are bound together. As we look to him, we enjoy the joy and fellowship of being his body.


Ministry Plan and Building Use (Phase 1)

Our session has put together a plan for Ministry and Building Use. It touches on worship services, children’s ministry, food at church, small group meetings, choirs, and funerals. As Virginia moves to Phase 2, we will adjust the plan to help more ministries open. Please let a pastor know if you have any concerns or questions.

Here is a link to our Phase 1 Ministry and Building Use Plan

Previous Posts


  1. […] MASKS: The governor of Virginia has mandated the use of masks except for religious rituals and health reasons. If someone comes in without a mask we will assume that you are not wearing a mask so you can practice a religious ritual or for a health concern. I wrote more on masks earlier. […]

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