Update 7-7-2020: Press release regarding false statements about COVID-19 party at First Youth Church
Over the past 24 hours First Assembly of God of Fort Myers has been accused of hosting “COVID-19 parties.“ Nothing could be farther from the truth. First Assembly of God of Fort Myers is following all of the health protections and protocols recommended by the state and local government with regard to holding its church services. Let us be clear - media reports and postings accusing the church of ignoring protocols or actively engaging in behavior intended to expose our congregation to the virus are absolutely false and defamatory.
It is heartbreaking that a young lady who frequently attended Youth Church over the past few years has recently passed away. The church, and many members of Youth Church particularly, had reached out to her family and her during her illness, praying for her and sending video messages and personal encouragement while she was going through her illness and in the hospital. Out of respect for her family, and at their request, the church did not comment to the media about her illness and her passing. The church intends to continue to honor that request. Our sympathies go out to her entire family during this tragic period of their lives.
Nonetheless, due to irresponsible reporting and reprehensible posting of speculation and innuendo about her care during her illness, the accuracy of which is suspect, media stories have perpetuated, including unfounded claims that she attended what has been described as a “COVID-19 party“ at the church. Those allegations are absolutely false and are based upon irresponsible speculation and inaccurate information. Because those false reports have been picked up, perpetuated and posted throughout national, local and social media, the church has been subject to a relentless attack and finds itself forced to make this statement in an effort to get the truth out.
First Assembly of God of Fort Myers has always tried to be a leader in promoting caring, compassion, reason and the love of Jesus Christ in this community and throughout the world. Despite these false accusations, the church will continue to follow the lead of Jesus and hope that the actions of our love for others, and the history of those efforts, speak for us.
Update 6-28-2020: Saturday services continue at 6 PM
For many reasons, Pastor Betzer has announced that First Assembly will OONTINUE having Saturday evening services at 6 PM every weekend, in addition to our Sunday morning services at 9 AM and 11 AM.
Update 6-25-2020: Youth Church Covid-19 Safety Strategy
In order to safely meet again, Youth Church will be observing the following guidelines. We will strictly observe these guidelines and attendance at Youth Church is an indication that each student will observe them. Of course, we encourage anyone who is not feeling well, or has a sick family member, to remain home:
• Chairs in gym will be set up 6 feet apart and sanitized
• All doors at main entrances will be sanitized prior to service and
• Lobby will not function as a lobby. We will set up partitions to direct
traffic directly into the gym where social distancing is more attainable
• A hand sanitizer station will be set up at the entrance of the gym
• Temperature checks will be a part of student check in. Anyone with a
fever over 99.9 degrees will be sent home
• Students will be asked if they have cold or flu like symptoms as a part of
check in. If they answer “yes” they will be sent home
• Designated people will handle the iPads to check students in
• Pre-service activities and games will actually function as “fun” ways to
keep students socially distanced
• Students will be required to remain by their seats during worship. They
will not come to the front
• We will not do any altar calls
• Worship team will be minimal and social distanced
• Microphones will be designated and sanitized
• Student will be dismissed promptly at 8:30 and will not be encouraged
to linger. If they choose to be relational, it will be outside
• We will have a designated tear down team who will wipe down each
chair as they are put away.
• Worship team leader will sanitize microphones
• There will be no Youth Church sponsored “post-service” activities
First Assembly has resumed weekend services, following social distance guidelines, Saturdays at 6 PM and Sundays at 9 AM and 11 AM. Registration to attend is no longer required. Services will continue to be streamed live on our website and on Facebook.
Beginning on Saturday and Sunday, June 6 & 7, we will be open for in-person services again! We are so excited about seeing everyone and worshipping together for the first time in many weeks! Here is some important information regarding our opening:
We will offer three services each weekend starting on June 6 & 7 and until further notice – Saturday at 6 PM, Sunday at 9 AM, and Sunday at 11 AM. All three services will be the same. Please note that the first Sunday morning service time has been adjusted slightly to make it easier for people to social distance when exiting and entering the building.
In order to attend one of our services, you will need to sign up at famfm.brushfire.com. Please read ALL instructions on the page before signing up, so that you will be aware of the protocols that we have put in place for everyone’s protection. Registration will open at 8 AM on Monday, June 1, for the weekend of June 6 & 7, and each Monday thereafter for the upcoming weekend.
We will allow 600 people to attend each service. If you attempt to sign up for a particular service but that service is full, you may need to switch to a different service.
Once you have registered on Brushfire, you will have the choice of printing your tickets or using your phone to check in. In order to use your phone, you will need to go to the email confirmation on your phone and open the link to your ticket. When you arrive at the church, open that link, and the ushers will be able to scan the link to let you in. If you are not comfortable using your phone and cannot print your own tickets, please call the church and we will print your tickets for you. You may pick them up anytime Monday – Friday from 8:30 AM – 5 PM or immediately before the service in our main office. You WILL need a ticket to enter the sanctuary.
There will be no Coffee Bar, no Information Center, and no tables in the lobby. Everyone will enter the sanctuary building through one of the two main entrances on each side of the coffee bar. As you enter, an usher will check your ticket, and then you will be asked to walk straight into the sanctuary to be seated. There will be no assigned seating; however, the rows will be marked in colors so that only every other row will be used. (After the Saturday night service, the rows that were used will be sanitized. Since we don’t have time to do this between services on Sunday, we will use opposite rows. For the 9 AM service, for instance, all blue rows will be used. Then, for the 11 AM service, all red rows will be used.) An usher will help you find a seat in a correct row. Please cooperate with the ushers in order to make sure everything goes smoothly.
There will be no nursery, child care, Sunday school or children’s church on the first few Sundays. (We will let you know when they are about to begin in a few weeks.) This means that your children will need to sit with you in the main service. When reserving seats, please be sure to reserve enough to accommodate your entire family. Also, we recommend that you bring something quiet for your children to do during the sermon, since it may seem very long to them.
All ushers, greeters and volunteers will wear masks and gloves. Attendees are encouraged to wear masks if they wish and are comfortable doing so but will not be required to wear them. We will have masks and gloves available at the door for those who need them.
Bathrooms will be cleaned frequently. In addition, there are hand sanitizer dispensers on the walls in the lobby and in the halls. Please feel free to use these as needed.
Please DO NOT come to the services if you have been sick or have had a fever in the past several days, if you are currently sick or have a fever, or if you have recently been exposed to someone who is sick. We want to protect our most vulnerable members, and we ask that you help us with this by staying home if you are not well.
If you are uncomfortable with joining us for in-person services at this time, we totally understand. We encourage you to continue watching our online services until you feel that you are ready to gather with us here at First Assembly. We want each of our congregation members to do what is right for you and to feel safe.
Announcement regarding opening of First Assembly Fort Myers:
I would like to give you some very important information concerning the relaunch of services at First Assembly. First of all, we are allowing weekly departmental meetings to begin soon, as long as social distancing and sanitation guidelines are kept as a priority. Please check our Facebook page and our website for information on when various departmental meetings will be held. You may always call the office if you have specific questions concerning the schedule.
We consider ourselves extremely blessed here at First Assembly. We are a unique congregation and happen to be one of the largest church congregations in Florida. However, the size of the congregation of First Assembly does present challenges in reopening. As you can imagine, it would not be wise for us to crowd our usual attendance into one service. This is why we did not open today. Allow me to explain.
Your Church Council met electronically two weeks ago and discussed the need for a plan to reopen for services. After that meeting, the pastors met to discuss how we can safely reopen weekend services at First Assembly. Now, after a lot of prayer, a plan has been developed that we feel will work. Pastor Betzer wisely asked that the Church Council approve the plan, which they did unanimously this past week.
I am happy to announce that we plan to resume weekend services on Saturday evening, June 6, and Sunday morning, June 7. Our service schedule will be slightly amended on that Sunday morning so that we can safely prepare the sanctuary for two back-to-back services. The services will be at 6 PM on Saturday evening, 9 AM on Sunday morning, and 11 AM on Sunday morning. Due to our need to social distance, 600 people will be allowed to attend each of the services that weekend. We will be giving you information on our website and on Facebook in the days ahead on how and when to register to attend. This will help us to avoid overcrowding the sanctuary. Registration to attend will begin at 8 AM on June 1. Because of our limited seating, we will need some of you who normally attend on Sundays to switch to Saturday evening. It will be easy to register, but should you have any difficulty, you may always call the church for assistance. Social distancing in the sanctuary will be accomplished by using every other row and distancing within the rows. We ask that families be seated together, as we will not open the nursery or have children’s activities that weekend. To help you with this process, we will be releasing a video in the next few days that will explain exactly what you will need to be aware of in attending services.
What we do ask is this: Please respect the protocols that have been prayerfully put together for regathering here at First Assembly. They are for the safety of everyone. Whether or not you agree with them, we ask you to please respect the protocols that are being put in place. Our volunteers, greeters, and ushers will be wearing masks and gloves.
(Incidentally, we will need many volunteers to assist us; if you are willing to help, please call and let us know.) Masks are recommended for the congregation, but will not be required. I assure you that all these protocols will be reduced as soon as possible.
We are fully aware that some of you may not be ready to attend by June 6 and 7. That is completely fine, and you may continue to watch online. We have new respect and appreciation for our online worshippers. We do realize that some are ready to attend now and aren’t concerned about COVID-19, but some have expressed concern about the potential problems of everyone in the First Assembly Family gathering together, and we fully respect that.
I ask you to pray for us today and in the days ahead. Pastor Betzer needs it, I need it, and all the pastors need it.
First Assembly, we need you now more than ever. Thank you for being the amazing congregation that you are. With God’s help we will go farther than ever before.
Pastor David Thomas
Announcement regarding opening of First Assembly Fort Myers:
At the 11 AM online service this Sunday, we will be announcing when we plan to reopen First Assembly Fort Myers. In order to do so there are many items to prepare for and take in consideration. The Church Council is involved in this decision and we covet your prayers as we prepare First Assembly for this relaunch. We will need volunteer assistance to make everything happen, so we will need all our First Assembly family’s involvement. Beginning on Monday we will post guidelines and instructions that will ensure everyone’s safety. For this reason of safety and protection we choose not to rush, but to carefully prepare.
Pastor David Thomas
The Church Council has voted electronically to approve the postponement of the Annual Church Business Meeting to Wednesday, August 19, 2020. I am sure that you are aware this is due to the present situation that we are all dealing with together. According to the laws of the State of Florida, the present Council members will remain in office until new ones are selected at the meeting. We are extending the deadline for submitting applications for Church Council and Internal Audit Committee to July 24, 2020. You may check with a resolution committee member for an application. You may also contact my office for an application.
Pastor David Thomas
Update Concerning Pastoral Search at First Assembly of God, Fort Myers, Florida
Due to the present circumstances, the Pulpit Committee has not met. However, Rev. Larry Griswold, our consultant, will be meeting with the Committee soon, electronically if necessary.
Resumes are being received and names have been brought to our attention. We covet your prayers as this process continues. We ask that you make this a priority over the next months as we seek God for His choice to lead the ministry of First Assembly of God, Fort Myers.
We'd like to share with you the poem that Pastor Betzer read during our online Easter service:
How the Virus Stole Easter
by Kristi Bothur (with a nod to Dr. Seuss)
'Twas late in '19 when the virus began
Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.
People were sick, hospitals full,
Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.
As winter gave way to the promise of spring,
The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.
People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen,
They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced and cleaned.
April approached and churches were closed.
"There won't be an Easter," the whole world supposed.
"There won't be church services, and egg hunts are out.
No reason for new dresses when we can't go about."
Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.
The world was focused on masks and on tests.
"Easter can't happen this year," it proclaimed.
"Online and at home, it just won't be the same."
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.
The virus proceeded on - just would not relent.
The world woke on Sunday, and nothing had changed.
The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.
"Pooh, pooh to the saints," the world was grumbling.
"They're finding out now that no Easter is coming."
"They're just waking up! We know just what they'll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo!
"That noise," said the world, "will be something to hear."
So it paused, and the world put a hand to its ear.
And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.
It started down low, then it started to rise.
But the sound wasn't depressed! Why, this sound was triumphant!
It couldn't be so! But it grew with abundance!
The world stared around, popping its eyes.
Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!
Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!
It hadn't stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine
Stood puzzling and puzzling, "Just how can it be?"
"It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money."
Then the world thought of something it hadn't before.
"Maybe Easter," it thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more."
And what happened then? Well, the story's not done.
What will you do? Will you share with that one
Or two or more people needing hope in this night?
Will you share the source of your life in this fight?
The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,
And Jesus is Victor over death, doom and gloom.
So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,
As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.
May the world see hope when it looks at God's people.
May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.
May the world find faith in Jesus' death and resurrection.
May the world find joy in a time of dejection.
May 2020 be know as the year of survival,
But not only that - LET IT START A REVIVAL!
The Lee Memorial Health System has informed us that they are in need of blood donors. We encourage you to go to either the Cape Coral location (636 Del Prado Blvd. S.) or the Lee Memorial Hospital location (2776 S. Cleveland Ave.) to give blood, if you are able to do so. Your donation could save a life!
The Church Council has voted electronically to approve the postponement of the Annual Church Business Meeting to Wednesday, June 17, 2020. I am sure that you are aware this is due to the present situation that we are all dealing with together. According to the laws of the State of Florida, the present Council members will remain in office until new ones are selected at the meeting. We are extending the deadline for submitting applications for Church Council and Internal Audit Committee to May 10, 2020. You may check with a resolution committee member for an application. You may also contact my office for an application.
We will continue to provide online services and devotional encouragement throughout the remainder of April. Thank you for your continued prayers for the pandemic and for First Assembly of God.
Pastor David Thomas
President Trump has just announced the extension of restrictions through April 30. This means we will be providing Easter services online for our congregation. Pastor Betzer is planning to lead a Good Friday service with communion and we are making plans for a positive online Easter experience.
As soon as we are able to meet as a congregation, we are planning a giant Easter celebration. We feel that the excitement generated by this could make it one of the greatest celebrations ever.
Please keep in touch with us at the church through emails and text messages. We miss each of you!
Pastor David Thomas
In order to comply with federal directives, we have cancelled our normal in-person events at the church. If you have questions about an event, please call the church at 239-936-6277 during business hours, and we will be happy to help you.
Cancelled events include weekend services and the remaining Winter Concerts.
The coronavirus has been making headlines for weeks as it spreads around the world and now we're seeing impacts right here in SW Florida. As a large church where many people gather several times a week, it would be irresponsible of us not to address ways that we can help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Your safety is a priority, therefore we are doing all we can to protect our church family and many visitors to our campus. We are following CDC preventive action steps and encourage you to do the same.
(www.cdc.gov/coronavirus) . We are monitoring the situation closely and will follow all directives handed down by our local health department and the Governor.
The Word reminds us that we are not to live in or give in to fear. The only way to do that is to put our trust in God and walk this out with Him. But the Word also tells us we are to listen to and accept wise counsel so that we may be wise the rest of our days. Therefore, we want to share some things we are doing to make our campus and all facilities safe, and we ask all of you to help us in our efforts to reduce the risk of spreading this virus and to protect the most vulnerable:
- As much as we love fellowship with each other, one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of any virus is staying home when you are ill. If you are not well, we ask that you please stay home. This includes any events or activities taking place on campus during the week. And, you don't have to miss out on services as we provide two ways you can be part of our Weekend services if you are ill, Facebook Live or live stream here. If you miss the live broadcasts, all of our services are archived and available online. Also, if you are away from our campus, donations can be made here .
- If you are not feeling well and experiencing any of the symptoms of COVID-19 (see CDC website if you are not aware of those symptoms), please seek medical care immediately.
- We're all conditioned to greet people with handshakes, and for some, even hugs. But until this virus has stopped spreading, we ask that you refrain from personal contact when greeting and just give a wave, a smile, a 'how are you'. When things quiet down and this virus is under control you can go back to hugging on each other!
- We take cleaning our facilities seriously and over the next few weeks we will be amping up disinfection procedures in all facilities, and cleaning of the Sanctuary between services. Surfaces will be cleaned, high traffic areas will be disinfected, bathrooms cleaned, etc. We have always provided hand sanitizers at Information desks, and will continue to do so as long as it is available.
Please be praying for those impacted by this outbreak and all those involved with setting policy and providing care.
Senior Pastor Dan Betzer
Senior Assistant Pastor David Thomas
Pastors and Staff of First Assembly of God