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A Letter to the Congregation – In Person Worship

Dear Friends in Christ,

Thank you to so many of you who were able to complete our church reopening survey. Based on your feedback and continued decreasing case counts of COVID-19 in our community, the session has authorized a limited return to in-person worship beginning this Sunday, March 14.

Our Sunday morning experience will be different for some time. Although we are working towards “normal,” in order to allow people to worship safely on Sunday morning and beyond, the following practices and procedures will be necessary at this point:

  • Masks will be mandatory for all who are in the church building;
  • You may access the church through the front doors of the sanctuary only on Sunday morning. Those needing to access the church via handicapped- accessible entrances may use the staff parking lots and ramps to either the nursery entrance or the front of the Martin House;
  • Upon entering the church building, an usher will direct you and your family to an assigned seat; the church building will open for worship at 10:10 Sunday morning;
  • There will be no nursery care available initially; it will be phased in after a trial period;
  • Access to the building will be limited to the sanctuary and the commons restrooms. We ask that you remain on the first floor only, and restrict socializing to outdoor spaces;
  • We ask that you maintain social distancing at all times (remain six feet apart) with people outside your own household;
  • There will be no congregational singing until a later reentry phase;
  • In-person Sunday school and choir will be suspended until a later reentry phase.

If you would like to attend worship, please call or write the church office ( or 706.278.8161) by Thursday at 12:00 noon each week and leave your name and the names of the family members who will be attending with you. On Friday morning, worship participants will be selected through a random drawing, assigned seating pods in the sanctuary, and then contacted. Those whose names were not drawn will be contacted too, and given priority for worship attendance on subsequent Sundays. Know that we are making every effort to balance safety and fairness as we return to in-person worship.

Between 25-40 names will be drawn for attendance depending on the size of family units who are seated in the sanctuary. As this is the beginning of reentry, we hope to steadily grow the number of people who can worship in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. Continued progress in this area will depend on continued positive trends in our community and the effectiveness of the safety protocols we have enacted.

The session understands, too, that not everyone will be comfortable returning to worship at this time. We will continue to offer our live stream service via Facebook live uninterrupted, and do our best to accommodate the particular needs of those who wish to remain connected to the church in other ways. For instance, in order to include the entire church for worship, we will offer our Easter Sunday service on Sunday, April 4, on the front lawn of the church. We hope that opportunities like these will become more and more regular as we return to in-person worship together.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at the church, or through email ( If you would like more information on church safety protocols and benchmarks for reentry, you may check our newsletter this week, our Facebook page, or our website:

I look forward to seeing many of you Sunday. Click HERE for reopening guidelines.

“Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves (Psalm 126:6).”

Let us worship God!






A Letter to the Congregation – In Person Worship2021-03-08T10:44:12-05:00

Reopening the Church Survey

Dear Friends in Christ,

For almost a year now we have been waiting for things to feel “normal.” When can we do things together again? When are we going to return to worship? When will this all end?

I shared with you some months ago that our session would begin to reconsider opening our church when cases of COVID-19 had decreased in our community for two consecutive weeks. Following a high spike in cases in January, we have now met that criterion. Our session has begun planning for a phased reopening of the church building, including plans for in-person worship.

Right now we are still considering the details of what that plan will look like. And to do that, we need your help. This week we are offering an online congregational survey that will gauge different issues in the church: how comfortable do people feel returning? What further steps do we need to take to make people feel comfortable returning to church? How many people can we expect to come on a Sunday morning? Answers to these questions will help determine how we can open safely, and how we can develop a clear, accessible, and inclusive system for signing up for worship so that we can maintain a safe worship environment.

Please respond to the survey by Monday, March 1. Results will be shared with the session, who will then communicate a plan for reopening, including timeline.

Thank you for all the ways you have remained a caring, giving, and patient church in the past year. I hope you will continue to pray for our leadership as we discern how God is calling us to respond in this wilderness season.

Take the survey HERE.






Reopening the Church Survey2021-02-23T12:00:15-05:00

Imposition of Ashes & Ash Wednesday Service

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


Ash Wednesday worship marks the beginning of Lent: a season of spiritual preparation as we journey toward the promised land of Easter.

Join us today in front of the Martin house  for the imposition of ashes

between noon and 1:00 p.m. Please remember to wear your mask and social distance.

Then join us as this evening as we Live Stream on Facebook our annual Ash Wednesday Service beginning at 6:00 p.m.

There will not be communion this year. Click HERE for the service bulletin.

You are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
Genesis 3:19

Imposition of Ashes & Ash Wednesday Service2021-02-17T10:46:44-05:00

In the Desert with Thomas Merton – Lenten Series

One of the dominant images we have for Lent is wilderness. Lent is the forty-day season when we prepare for Easter. It corresponds to Jesus’ forty-day sojourn in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry. Some of the Biblical symbolism is obvious. Just as Israel learned to follow God in the wilderness (in their case over the course of forty years), so too did Jesus learn the reliance on God that would guide him in his work. Lent confronts us with the question: how are we preparing for the way of the cross and resurrected life?

This Lent, you are invited to prepare for the season through a reading of Thomas Merton’s The Wisdom of the Desert. Merton is one of the most well-known spiritual writers of the Twentieth-Century. He lived much of his life as a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani outside of Louisville, Kentucky, making the Church’s monastic spiritual traditions accessible to a popular audience through his writing. The Wisdom of the Desert compiles a short collection of sayings from the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Third-Century Christians who fled to the isolated wilderness in order to practice a more authentic faith. Merton presents their example as guides who sought to find “their own true self in Christ.”

Conversations on Merton, Monasticism, and Lent will take place on the following days:

  1. Wednesday, February 24 @ 7:30 PM – Introduction to Thomas Merton
    • Reading pp. 1-24
  2. Wednesday, March 3 @ 7:30 PM – The Desert Fathers and the Seven Deadly Sins
    • Reading pp. 25-43
  3. Wednesday, March 10 @ 7:30 PM – Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers I
    • Reading pp. 43-61
  4. Wednesday, March 17 @ 7:30 PM – Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers II
    • Reading pp. 62-81

Join us as we journey through the Lenten wilderness together! Click HERE to purchase the book.

In the Desert with Thomas Merton – Lenten Series2021-02-15T14:39:24-05:00

A Letter to the Congregation – January 19, 2021

January 19, 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

The question continues to be asked: when will we be together in church again? We’re at the point that some optimism is warranted. Many church members have been vaccinated. And so the session has begun to discuss when and how we can return safely to in-person worship and church activities. While we cannot give any immediate timeline for a return to worship—or how we will continue to ensure a safe worship environment for everyone—know that this question is under consideration.

Currently there is an unsettled question as to whether people who are vaccinated can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus. This uncertainty, combined with case counts of COVID-19 being at an all-time high in Dalton, are the main obstacles in our church resuming normal activity. The session will continue to evaluate the best information it can in reaching a decision as to when and how we will return to in-person worship in light of the COVID spread in our community.

Having said that, both FDA-approved vaccines promise to be safe and effective; and widespread vaccination will be the single greatest factor in determining the speed at which a resumption of in-person worship will be possible. Currently, Georgia residents over sixty five years of age are eligible for vaccination. For more information or to schedule a vaccination appointment, please contact the Whitfield County Health Department vaccination line: 1-(888) 881-1474.

In the meantime, you are welcome to contact me or any member of the session if you have questions.

Please keep the church in your prayers. And know that the same Spirit who keeps us together when we’re apart will gather us together again—soon.


A Letter to the Congregation – January 19, 20212021-01-26T12:01:57-05:00
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