The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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     I don’t know about you, but I enjoy going to the dentist. I recognize that some folks might raise an eyebrow or question my sanity for admitting that I like to visit the dentist, but I really do enjoy my dental appointments. Granted, I don’t get terribly enthused about the seemingly malicious manner in which the hygienist uses barbed wire to floss my teeth or the pick-axe that is used to rid my teeth of plaque build-up. Furthermore, I’m not a huge fan of the rotary sander spread with flavored toothpaste that is used to brush my teeth or the firehose that is utilized to rinse my mouth. Other than a few minor details such as those, I really enjoy having my teeth cleaned and hearing “Well done, thou good and faithful brusher” from the dentist. (Ok, my dentist doesn’t really say anything like that.)
     The day before a recent dental visit, a lady from the dentist’s office called to confirm my appointment. After indicating that I planned to keep the appointment as scheduled, she asked me several questions including: (1) Do you have a fever or above normal temperature? (2) Have you experienced shortness of breath or had trouble breathing? (3) Do you have a dry cough? (4) Do you have a runny nose? (5) Have you recently lost or had a reduction in your sense of smell? (6) Do you have a sore throat? (7) Have you been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19? (8) Have you tested positive for COVID-19? (9) Have you been tested for COVID-19 and are waiting for the results? (10) Have you traveled outside the United States by air or cruise ship in the past 14 days? (11) Have you traveled within the United States by air, bus or train within the past 14 days?
     I answered “NO” to each question during the phone questionnaire. Upon arriving at my dentist’s office the next morning, I noted strips of tape six feet apart on the sidewalk outside the door. I read a sign on the door which instructed folks to remain in their cars until they were summoned to enter (Oops! I missed that memo earlier). The sign also noted that, masks were required to be worn in the lobby area. After checking in, I sat down in a chair while wearing my mask. I quickly noticed the lamp tables were not covered with the usual stacks of months-old magazines. While I was pleased to hear Christian music playing through the speakers, I knew that the procedures and protocol would be different for this dental visit.              
     When called back for my cleaning, I was stopped at the desk where I had to sign the survey taken the previous day by phone. Then, my temperature was checked with a touchless thermometer. Next, I was instructed to hold out my hands whereupon I was sprayed with insecticide or herbicide or germicide or coronavirus-cide or something deemed helpful for controlling the spread of COVID-19. My hygienist put on something roughly equivalent to a HazMat suit complete with gloves and a face shield that resembled a welder’s hood. Christian praise and worship music also was playing in her exam room which I learned was offered through satellite radio.
     From my observation and experience over the past several months, businesses and other places where people shop and visit are taking precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. Most stores have plexi-glass separating check-out clerks and customers. Many also have signs taped to the floor indicating six feet of separation between customers lined up for check-out. Some stores require shoppers to use a shopping cart/buggy when entering as a means to help ensure separation from other customers. Still other stores are counting the number of people inside so that a customer-per-square-foot ratio is maintained. All of these measures and more have been established with the goal of keeping folks safe.               
     As churches have moved toward a return to in-person/in-house worship, several procedures and guidelines have been developed and approved by the church leadership. If you have not done so already, please express your Appreciation to the leadership of your church (pastor, staff, deacons, etc.) for their diligence in striving to offer a facility that has been cleaned and sanitized with the goal of mitigating some of the risks associated with assembling for worship and other gatherings. Other safety measures such as the availability of hand sanitizer dispensers, the removal of hymnals and pew Bibles, a seating arrangement that promotes spacing between worshipers, administering temperature checks prior to entry, departure through doors specific to each section, and offering collection in designated containers have been planned and presented prayerfully and carefully. In addition, folks are encouraged to refrain from hugs and handshakes, masks are encouraged, those who are in a high-risk category due to either age or underlying health conditions should consider their situation carefully when making a decision regarding participation in-person, and singing may be limited to those on the platform at least for a while. While all of these guidelines and others are intended to mitigate risk and the spread of the virus, a certain amount of risk is inherent when people are gathered.  
     I had had the privilege of serving as interim pastor at Heucks Retreat Baptist Church in Brookhaven during the past few months.  I would like to express my Appreciation to the entire HRBC family for the patience and understanding displayed over the past few weeks and the continued patience and understanding that I know will be exhibited due to the Adaptation to a “new normal.” While “normal” going forward is still being defined, I think most folks would agree that many experiences of life – including our church experience – are being reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. This reshaping will necessitate adaptation on the part of all of us as we continue to “press toward the mark that God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
     Lastly, I enjoy going to church to worship! I look forward with great Anticipation of a fresh opportunity to worship with God’s people! COVID-19 did not sneak up on God. He is in control of the novel coronavirus. He promises to never leave or forsake us so I anticipate a great day of worship this Sunday and every Sunday!

     Despite all of the new procedures and policies put in place at my dentist’s office, I still enjoyed the experience and the outcome. I enjoyed the Christian music even though I didn’t sing along (kind of hard to do with a pick-axe in your mouth). The purpose for which I went to the dentist was accomplished and I received a good report. My prayer is that all of us will have a genuine and meaningful experience of worship each and every week whether you worship in-person in the church sanctuary or through live-streaming. After all, our primary purpose each week is to worship the one true and living Lord.                                                                                                                    Daniel