Masks – What’s the big deal?

By Dr. Paul Schwartz, M.D. and elder, Estes Church of Christ

Our trash tells on us!

Did you ever notice that litter on the highway tells something about what’s going on?

A chunk of sheet rock wall board?  There is remodeling or construction somewhere.
Beer cans?  Usually more after a long weekend.
Take out wrappers and cups?  Majority are McDonald’s.
Black rubber tiedowns? Lots of truck traffic.
Styrofoam coolers?  Must be fishing weather.
Bible?  Someone left one on the roof while buckling up the kids.
IPad?  OOPS!  See previous line.
Surgical masks?  That’s a new one for me!  I found two on the Estes church building right of way this week.

What does it mean? We’re meeting together again!

And that brings me to the point of this article: Face masks.

Wearing them is uncomfortable!  It’s claustrophobic.  It’s hot.  My breath stinks.  I have trouble recognizing other people when they wear masks.  I have pretty bad hearing loss and it’s much harder to understand conversation when I can’t see your lips moving.  I forget to put mine on when I get out of the car to go to Lowe’s or Home Depot for some “essential” purchase. There are lots of understandable reasons not to bother to wear one.  I used to think it looked funny (I still do) to see pictures of Chinese people wearing masks during flu outbreaks.  That’s just not us!  We are tougher and not as fearful of a silly little virus we can’t even see?

So why bother?  Why discuss it?  Why do blowhards like me keep harping on it?  Harping on it. . . . . .

By the way, I have a cute, smart granddaughter, 7 years old, whose name is Harper.  To look at her you would think she is a healthy, normal, precocious 2nd grader.  And in many ways she is. . .  except for one little problem:  she was born lacking one silly little enzyme (chemical in her body) that is needed to handle sodium excretion in her sweat glands and mucous in her lungs and enzymes that digest food.  She takes a hand full of enzyme capsules with every meal or she would starve to death. She drinks her milk with salt added.  She undergoes over an hour of lung therapy twice a day to clear lung mucous.  She has already had two sinus surgeries and her appendix out.  Because her lungs can’t clear out trash and infection, she is at very high risk of dying if she gets lung infections like flu, pneumonia and Covid-19.

Diabetics, people over 60, heart disease, kidney failure . . .  the list is quite long . . . of friends and family who are at risk of a bad outcome– if they get a full-blown infection of this crummy virus that’s going around.   But you don’t have to be in the high-risk category to get really sick and end up on a respirator for a week or 6 or 10.

Our first case of Covid-19 in Chester county was a young healthy educator.

Like Yogi Berra said about the baseball pennant race, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

We are in a bubble in rural West Tennessee.  We have only had 12 cases identified in Chester County and that number has not changed in several weeks.  The rural counties with high numbers are either big city suburbs or have large prison populations.

What is the big deal?

Here is the problem.  This pandemic ain’t over yet. . . not by a long shot.  (I pray I’m wrong, but all my career and study and reading says I’m not.)  We do not have any great effective drugs to stop the infection from progressing if you are infected.  There are 12 people in Chester County that are likely (not for sure) at least partially and temporarily immune to this infection.  That means the rest of us are not immune and may be carriers or will get sick.  So, we just have to wait our turn. Que Sera, Sera. Whatever happens will happen.  Can’t change fate.  You are either doomed or not.

We are not helpless to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  We can slow and essentially stop the spread of this infection. Frequent hand washing and sanitizers do work.  Maintaining distances is no fun, but it works. We know that wearing face masks helps control the spread of the virus in our cough, sneeze, speak and sing droplets.

No one wants to make personal, uncomfortable things mandatory, but we do it all the time.  We all complain about seat belt and cell phone laws, but we know these laws save lives—they work better if we all comply with these laws.  I would never have been allowed to continue in medical school if I had refused to wear a mask and gloves and sterile gown in surgery.  I don’t think any of us would patronize a surgeon who refused to wash his hands or wear a surgical mask.  It becomes second nature when you use one regularly—just like wearing a seat belt.  (BTW seat belts protect other passengers, not just the wearer.)

Are the interventions perfect?  Of course not, but they definitely help.

I will be wearing a mask when we meet for worship—to protect Harper, you, and myself. I will remove it only when we observe the Lord’s Supper.  I may have to take my glasses off when they fog up, but the mask stays on.  If you see me in public without it, please remind me.  Harper and I would appreciate it if you wore one, too.

If you lost your mask in the parking lot, there are more available when you enter the building.
(And no, we are not making it mandatory.)

P.S.  Don’t throw used masks out the window.
And wash your hands.
And use the sanitizer that’s provided.

What’s A Christian to do?

By Greg Massey

The tragic events currently engaging our attention and driving our public discourse serve as a reminder, if we needed one, that the United States is a broken nation in need of a Savior. Our country is facing a pandemic that has taken over 100,000 lives, a crisis in our cities born of endemic racism, and the divisiveness of our politics in a presidential election year. It’s a perfect storm for outrage upon outrage. Perhaps you’ve wondered, as I have, “What’s a Christian to do in these times?” I present here a draft of an answer to that question, offered as a starting point, to stimulate a discussion we should have as a community, as disciples of Christ who assemble together at Estes:

1. As Christians, we do a careful, thorough self-inventory. What identity do we wear in our hearts? What identity do we project to others? Is our identity (or idol) American nationalism? Is our identity conservative? Is our identity liberal? Does our identity reside in the Republican Party? Does our identity reside in the Democratic Party? While citizens of the United States of America are blessed to reside in a nation of political liberty and economic affluence, Christians who regularly examine their hearts, immerse themselves in Scripture, and pray through the intercession of the Holy Spirit, realize that they are sojourners living in the USA. Our citizenship resides first in the Kingdom of God. Our liberty was purchased, not by the American War of Independence, but by the sinless Son of Man who hung on the Cross. Jesus’s sacrifice freed us from sin and death so we can love and serve (Galatians 5:1, 13).

2. As Christians living in the twenty-first century, we recognize that we have a ripple-effect influence unavailable to previous generations. Social media is a powerful instrument for evil, fostering simplistic narratives that heighten our cultural and political divisions. Social media can also be a powerful instrument for healing. We can have a healing effect on Facebook or Twitter, but only if we publish posts that clearly identify us as disciples promoting reconciliation through Christ. If we’re in the process of writing a post on social media and take time to read it, then realize that the post identifies us first as a Democrat or Republican or as a liberal or conservative, the next step is simple: Press the “Delete” button.

3. As Christians, we recognize that our God, who is ultimately beyond our comprehension, whose holiness eludes us, whose power is far greater than we can imagine, created men and women in His image, and He created image-bearers who are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:4)  and complicated, driven by multiple motivating factors, sometimes unware of why they do the things they do. The divisions in our country are as complicated as its people, deeply embedded in our history and our collective psyche. There’s a natural human desire for simplicity—to see our cultural and political battles as Good versus Evil, Us against Them. Christians recognize that the reality is different. There is pure evil in the world, to be sure, but bad people sometimes do good, and good people sometimes do bad. Christians also recognize that many of our neighbors are simply afraid. Amid division there is also hope for resolution. Despite differences of race, ethnicity, social class, and gender, Americans share common aspirations and fears as they navigate today’s uncertainties. God created complicated humans, but He also gifted them with common needs. Conversations of graceful listening and speaking can reveal that our current problems are complicated and do not admit easy solutions, that we often share common concerns, and, above all, that we share a common humanity. Those conversations can lead toward conflict resolution. Let us pray for opportunities to foster these conversations and help our neighbors see that already in their midst is the answer to our nation’s sickness.

Our Savior is the answer. Jesus is Spirit. His disciples are spirit but also flesh and blood, incarnate. Our neighbors won’t see or hear Jesus unless they see and hear Him through us.

The elders convey our appreciation to Greg for expressing so eloquently what has been on the hearts of so many these past couple of weeks.  May we all continue to grow in the grace, knowledge, and likeness of our Lord Jesus.

COVID-19 Update

Update 6/5/2020

Worship at the building resumes on Sunday, June 7. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Update 5/28/2020

Dear Estes Family,

As we stated last week, the elders have determined that June 7 will be the day for us to come back together at the Estes building for worship. We are so much looking forward to that day when we can start meeting again in person!  Until then, please join us at 10:00 a.m. every day, or what works best for you in your schedule, as we go to our Father in prayer and ask Him to give us wisdom as decisions are made and continued protection as we come together as His church.

We also want all the congregation to feel safe as we come together.  Please know that we are in constant review of the effects of the Coronavirus, not only nationally but also locally in Chester County and its surrounding counties. The Tennessee Department of Health is providing updates on a county by county basis, and we review those updates on a daily basis.  From our analysis, as it stands today, we believe we can now come together in a limited way and know it is safe to do so. With that in mind we have outlined, using the guidelines from the state health department and the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), what we believe are good practices to help keep us safe.  Please know these are not mandates.  These are temporary recommendations that, if we choose to follow them, should help each of us know we have a safe environment in which to meet.

Here is our plan for June 7:

  • We ask that you assemble in the auditorium by 10:30 a.m. The doors will be opened no earlier than 10:00 a.m. The service will be live streamed on the Estes website for those not yet comfortable assembling.
  • If we reach our capacity, the overflow will be directed to meet in the basement.
  • Hand sanitizer and masks will be available in the foyer, and we encourage usage. Remember, the wearing of a mask is not necessarily for the benefit of the wearer but instead to help protect those of our congregation that may be more vulnerable.  We want everyone to feel safe as we come together as a family.  This is just one way to help make that a reality and demonstrate our love for one another.
  • Individual communion packets will be available on tables in the foyer to collect as you enter.
  • Contribution boxes will also be stationed in the foyer for you to contribute upon entering or exiting the building.
  • To ensure we stay within social distancing guidelines, every other pew will be roped off for non-use. Except for those of the same household sitting together, everyone is to sit at least six feet apart.
  • We ask that you refrain from shaking hands, hugging, or congregating for the time being. We know how difficult this will be but please do so for everyone’s safety.
  • The exterior doors will be propped open to avoid contact as you enter and exit.
  • If restroom use is necessary, avoid congregating and wash your hands.
  • When the service is concluded, please exit the building immediately.

We ask that you consider worshiping at home if you are (or someone in your home is) in one or more of the following categories:

  • Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Immunocompromised
  • Diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or liver disease

Please do not attend if you have been …

  • Infected by COVID or suspect you may have been.
  • In contact within 14 days with someone who has tested positive for COVID.
  • Sick or had a fever in the last 48 hours.

We understand that some may delay returning to the assembly for a while for various reasons.  We want you to consider your own health and make a determination that you feel is wise and appropriate.  We do not feel you are neglecting services when your health is compromised or jeopardized.  We pray as the Coronavirus threat subsides and your health improves, we can all be together.

Please call us if you have questions or concerns and we will address those with love and compassion.  Above all, know God is with us and for us, even during a pandemic!  May He be glorified in all we say and do.

The elders

Update 5/23/2020

After many hours of discussion and research and with focused prayer, the elders feel the time is nearing in which we may once again assemble at the building for joint worship. Although things are still uncertain with many facets of the pandemic, the best information at hand suggests that, with caution, June 7 is a reasonable time to plan to have the Sunday morning worship service at the building. Sunday evening, Wednesday evening worship services, and Bible classes will remain online for another two weeks or so as we carefully watch this transition back to normalcy. This initial approach may need some tweaking as we continue learning about Covid-19, but with everyone’s patience and support, we feel things should go well. One special thing we need your help with is prayer. We ask that for the next two weeks, you take a moment every day at 10:00 a.m., or a time that works best for you, and join the elders in praying (Phil. 4:6) about the June 7 return to Estes. Ask our God for wisdom and understanding (James 1:5) in discerning His will and for the safety and good health of us all during this return home.

Our worship assemblies will look very different than what we’re accustomed to, so we ask for your patience and cooperation. It seems nearly everyone has a different opinion about how we ought to proceed, so use this as an opportunity to be loving and kind and promote a spirit of unity. In these less-than-ideal circumstances, if we err in any direction, we prefer to err on the side of the health and safety of each member of the congregation and our community. More information will be shared in the days ahead explaining in detail what June 7 will look like.

May our God be honored and glorified as we return home!

The elders

Update 3/17/2020

Dear Estes family,

As we continue to learn more from medical professionals about the risks of the coronavirus and the best ways to protect those who are most vulnerable, we must constantly re-evaluate our plans.  The most recent guidelines from the federal government suggest that group meetings should be limited to ten people.   Because of these changing realities, we believe we must temporarily change the way we meet for worship on Sundays.

Beginning this Sunday we will move to streaming an online Bible class and worship service until further notice.  This week, we will be working with our ministers and song leaders to plan for these classes and for worship.  A link will be made available no later than Sunday morning for you to join.  We will have class as usual at 9:30, followed by worship at 10:30. One of our preachers will bring a lesson.  An option for online giving will also be made available, and we ask that you would continue to give generously, which enables Estes to support a number of missions and ministries locally and around the world.

Plans are being developed to make communion supplies available.  More information about this will be shared later in week.  Or you may choose to purchase your own communion supplies.  Some of you may want to meet in small groups with other members of the Estes family in homes.  However, we strongly encourage all of our members over the age of 60, and those with pre-existing health conditions, to stay in.

We realize that this is an unsettling time for many.  We do not want to be alarmists, and we certainly put our confidence in our God, who is mighty to save and the greatest of physicians.  But we believe these measures are reasonable and are in keeping with our Lord’s desire for us to care for each other and for our community.  We trust you will find peace in Him, and we look forward to the time when we can all be together again in our building.  These changes are temporary, and the elders will continue to assess the situation in order to bring us back together as soon as the imminent threat is over.

Until then, please know that we are concerned not only for your physical well-being, but especially for your spiritual well-being.  If you need anything, please do not hesitate to call one of us.

Romans 8.38-39 – For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Update 3/15/2020

In addition to our spiritual well-being, the elders are also mindful of our physical and social well-being, and we want to be good stewards in our community.

In consideration of health concerns for our community and church family, there will be no services at the building tonight or Wednesday night, March 18.

We will be streaming a message tonight at 5:00 p.m., and you can view it on Facebook Live (even if you do not have a Facebook account). You can join us online or use this time for Bible reading, study, prayer and reflection.

Our Hispanic ministry will meet tonight at 5:00 p.m. at the building.

All other services and events are postponed for the time being.

Check your email for announcements and information on upcoming worship assemblies and church activities.

An update from the Estes Elders 3/14/2020

The Estes Elders have been following the developments of COVID-19, or novel coronavirus 2019, closely. While the risk to the general population appears to be low, the situation is changing day by day and exercising caution is prudent. We are carefully evaluating options and responses that will protect the health and well-being of our entire Estes family.

With that in mind, please consider the following.

Join us in prayer regarding this developing situation. Pray for our Estes family. Pray for our community. Pray for our nation and our world.  We serve the Great Physician, and during times of uncertainty there is nothing better we can do than bring our cares and concerns to Him.

As of now, we will hold our regular class and worship assemblies on Sunday, March 15. However, all fellowship activities, including visitation team meetings, youth events, Incite, and other events taking place at the Estes building, are postponed until further notice.

The virus appears to pose a greater risk to our senior saints and those with compromised immune systems.  Because of this, the elders encourage these members of our Estes family to avoid gatherings – including worship assemblies – until more information is known or the situation changes. You can stream our worship services and classes online. Please let us know if you need assistance setting this up.

If you do not feel well, stay home. Before attending any event, including our worship assembly, we ask that you pay close attention to symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you believe you are developing symptoms, please consider the health and wellbeing of your Estes family and remain home.

Be mindful of good hygiene. Whether at Estes or at any public place, be aware of the recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control, including avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, avoiding contact with your eyes, nose or mouth, and washing your hands often with soap and water. You may wish to bring personal hand sanitizer for use before and after communion service to minimize the spread of germs. You can find more tips at

Look for opportunities to serve. We are a family. Be on the lookout for unique opportunities to love your brothers and sisters. The next time you go to the grocery store, consider asking one of our senior saints if you can pick up anything for them so they don’t have to get out.

This is a fluid situation, and the elders are prepared to take reasonable and responsible actions to protect the well-being of the Estes family. There will likely be more decisions and changes made in the coming weeks, so check your email often. We will keep you updated and informed.

We love our Estes family, and we are praying for your health – both physical and spiritual.

The Estes Elders

Understanding the Coronavirus

It’s Just a Virus, What’s the Big Deal?

How many times have you heard your doctor try to reassure an anxious parent with these words (and avoid giving an unnecessary antibiotic)?

Over the last 100 to 200 years we have conquered the dreaded viruses and bacteria that routinely devastated the human population time and time again throughout history.  The plague, smallpox, measles, cholera, typhoid fever, yellow fever, polio, tuberculosis – most of the practicing physicians in the U.S. have never even seen active cases of these illnesses.

Yellow fever nearly wiped out Memphis in the late 1800s.  Tuberculosis was a regular occurrence well into the 1950-60s and is still active but rare in this country.  Typhoid fever made regular deadly outbreaks until the early 1900s.  It’s still quite common in other parts of the world.  There are still outbreaks of plaque in the middle east and the southwestern US.  In the middle ages ½ of all the people of London died from the plague!  Cholera still is seen (Haiti 10-15 years ago.) The mid-1800s saw worldwide outbreaks of cholera, especially in Nashville and middle Tennessee.  President Polk likely died of the Cholera.  Polio was only brought under control in the 1950s—most of the 60+ year olds remember going to school on Sunday to get a pink sugar cube of new vaccine which almost eliminated the disease worldwide.  My grandfather trembled as he told me about being forced – by the doctor – to use scab from his older children to vaccinate the smaller kids. One of my aunts became very ill due to the vaccine.  The alternative was to risk death because of the local outbreak of smallpox and shortage of vaccine in the 1920s.

And then, along comes totally new viruses, like Ebola, HIV/AIDS, SARS.  We have to start all over and learn new tricks to protect ourselves.  It makes us think we’re not as smart as we thought.

A new version of an old disease showed up in the middle of the first World War.  It became known as the Spanish Flu of 1918-19.  It happened to be very easily and rapidly spread from human to human. And it happened to be deadly.  Spain was neutral in the war; they admitted to the world that they were dying in large numbers.  The French and British and Americans denied any problem.  Germany said, “Flu? What Flu?”  The soldiers were dying in the trenches.  Many days there were not enough healthy soldiers to “go over the top” and launch an attack.  But you don’t admit that to your enemy! New recruits at Ft. Dix died carrying their bedding from barracks to the infirmary.  More people died from influenza than died from the bullets and bombs and gas of WWI and WWII — and Korea and Vietnam!

We have not seen a flu like that in 100 years.  That is why we try to keep as many people as possible vaccinated against “the next big one.”

Seasonal flu is what we call the usual, every year, fall, winter, and spring outbreak.  For most of us, it can be an annoying bad cold or a couple of days in bed feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck.  For the elderly and people with other health problems (diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease) the seasonal flu can be deadly. Some varieties can have the same bad outcome for young healthy men and women and for pregnant women.  The CDC notes the death rate for seasonal flu is about 0.1%.  That is one death for every one thousand people who get the flu.  That’s still a lot of people and a lot of people get the flu every year (moderate to heavy this year).

So, what is this “novel coronavirus”?  It is a new strain, not seen before in humans and not previously identified from animals.  Being a new strain, no one has resistance to it (unless they have had exposure to a very similar virus—which does not appear to be the case).

No one has resistance to it.

For many people, it will produce symptoms of a mild cold (coronavirus is one of the families of virus that are recognized as “cold viruses” along with rhinoviruses and enteroviruses).

So far, most children under 10 seem to be spared the severe cases (like other “childhood diseases”). This probably accounts for many of the “random” cases we are seeing in non-travelers – infected by people with very mild symptoms.  The CDC estimates the death rate in infected persons to be about 1%.  This is one out of every 100 cases. That is 10 times the rate of death from seasonal flu.

In less than four months since the discovery, this COVID-19 has now spread to all continents (except Antarctica) and to a large majority of countries around the world.  That is why it’s called a “pandemic” (pan meaning everybody or everywhere).

Because it’s new and has never affected humans or livestock, there is no vaccine available to give us immunity before infection. (Today’s news just reported the start of human trials for a vaccine!)  It will likely take 12-18 months to produce a good vaccine in enough quantity to stop the spread.

There are no known antiviral drugs or treatments for the infection.  We do have some good antiviral drugs for influenza and herpes viruses and for hepatitis and HIV, but none is known to work on COVID-19.

The South Koreans are trying a combination of an HIV drug and a malaria drug.  There are no reports of response to this combination.

At the present rate of spread, we can expect millions of cases of illness by June or July with hundreds of thousands of seriously ill patients and deaths.  This will overwhelm the hospitals, ICU’s and respirators—in the U.S. and around the world.

Hand washing, self-isolation of anyone ill, closing non-essential public places and canceling gatherings of more than 10 people (president’s current recommendation) are projected to slow the spread of the virus, to lower the peak of infections and to decrease the overburden on the healthcare system.  This worldwide level of caution may also lower the total deaths by some amount.

This is real.
This is here.
This will not go away soon.
A shot of Penicillin won’t help.
You are likely to be infected with this virus – eventually.
You are not likely to become seriously ill, but some will be.
Masks won’t protect you but may help keep you from spreading the virus if you are ill.
Social distancing and hand washing are our best methods of slowing the spread and protecting ourselves and those around us.

Wash your hands.
Give a fist bump or elbow bump (not a high five).
Avoid crowds.
Wash your hands.
Stay in if you have any cold symptoms or fever.
Keep your hands away from your face (if you get the virus on your hands, you don’t want to rub it in your eyes nose or mouth).
Keep in touch with family and friends.
Let someone know if you need any help.
Wash your hands.

Let the elders, staff, deacons, or any Estes family member know if you need anything.

If you have any questions or concerns that I can answer, let me know.

Dr. Paul Schwartz, MD is a community physician and elder for the Estes Church of Christ

Wednesday service information

Our Wednesday, Feb. 5, service will be at 6:00 p.m.  All adult classes will meet in the auditorium.
Our speaker will be Hiram Kemp. Hiram preaches for the South Florida Avenue Church of Christ in Lakeland, Florida. Hiram is a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University (B.S. in Criminal Justice), Nova Southeastern University (M.S. in Reading Education), the Florida School of Preaching, and Freed-Hardeman University (M.A. in Old Testament). He and his wife, Brittani, have two children, Nadia and Andre’. He teaches at the Florida School of Preaching.
The Hispanic ministry will also meet at 6:00 p.m. in the fellowship hall. Barton Kizer will be teaching from Luke 6 about reaching the community around us.

Estes Echo


Estes Echo


Estes Echo


Estes Echo


Estes Echo