Rolling Return to Normalcy

Shepherding the Church in a time of pandemic is a delicate balancing act. You want to move forward in faith, encouraging the congregation to trust in the Lord and be bold in worship and service. At the same time, you want to caution the flock from provoking the Lord through our own carelessness and lack of regard for others.

The elders of my congregation met last night to discuss how best to continue the ministry of our Church as the Coronavirus Pandemic progresses. We struggled with balancing our desire to be together as the body of Christ in worship, fellowship, and service with the need to protect the flock entrusted to us by the Lord. We do not want to operate from a spirit of fear and timidity; but trusting in the providence of God, we want to move forward responsibly and cautiously.

I  thought I would share the following recommendations from our elders here to show what we are doing to move forward in faith:

  • Members may choose to worship in person, but we ask that they be responsible and consider the needs of others by maintaining a safe distance and reducing contact  as much as possible.
  • High risk members (65/older or immune compromised), are asked stay home and join us for worship on Cable or YouTube.
  • Those who are in any way feeling unwell (fever, cough, body aches), are urged to stay home, letting the Elders and Deacons know how we can minister to them.
  • The Church will continue with a “Touchless” Worship Service. We have removed the pew Bibles and hymnals, as all lyrics will be on the screen, and members are encouraged to bring their own Bible. Pews will be marked off so that those in attendance will be encouraged to sit a safe distance apart.
  • The offering plate will not be passed during the service, but those attending are encouraged to place their offering in the plate before or after the service, and those at home to may give as best they can (bring to the church, mail, or online donation).
  • No nursery will be provided during worship, and parents of young children are asked to ensure that their children stay with them at all times.
  • Sunday School will continue to be offered online through Facebook each Sunday morning for the children, and via Zoom with Pastor Sayler for the adults at 11:00 am.
  • There will be no Fellowship Time or in-person Sunday School following worship until further notice. 

The elders want to assure the Church that we are working to keep the building clean by wiping down the pews, door handles and other furniture after every service. Masks are encouraged for those who attend in person, but not required. In all things, the elders ask our members to use their best judgment and to consider the needs of others when deciding to come in person.

We are mindful that the Church is never closed because the Church is not a building, it is the people of God. We shared in thanksgiving to God that even in these troubling times the Lord has supplied for the needs of the Church through the continued  financial and spiritual support of her members.  There have been moments of great blessing in the midst of this crisis, showing God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

We continue to pray for the day when we can encourage everyone to attend in-person, but realize that returning to a sense of normal in the Church is not like flipping a light switch, but more like turning a dimmer. We will slowly, cautiously, and prayerfully restart the ministries of the Church as the Spirit leads us in wisdom and discernment. 

I’d be interested in hearing how your church are responding to the Coronavirus, and what their plans are for moving forward. Leave your comments below.

Grace and peace,

Outbreaks & the Church

I know that the outbreak of Covid19 (Coronavirus) has been on everyone’s minds.  If you go to the stores, there’s been a run on some of the staples (and toilet paper for some reason), and many of the non-essential activities in the community have been canceled to encourage “social-distancing” to slow the speed of the virus.

How should the Church respond? This has been the pressing question your elders have been asking, but it’s not a new question. We face this question every time there is severe weather making travel to the church unsafe. We’ve faced this question when there has been an outbreak of the flu or other community crises.

This is an interesting and unique situation.  The virus spread quickly and easily, and it affects the elderly and immunity-compromised more than any other group. We are reminded to wash our hands well and often, to avoid touching our faces, and to limit interaction with others so as to not be exposed to the virus or pass it along.

Still, there are few standard responses that apply to every situation that we should remember. Like washing your hands, these are always applicable:

  1. Pray – If you are healthy, take the time to pray and give God thanks for keeping you healthy and strong.  But also remember to pray for those who are affected by the virus, those who are sick, full of anxiety, or facing financial difficulties because of loss of work.
  2. Love – Pandemics and social crises tend to bring out the worst in people. We’ve seen how this current issue has been politicized, only adding to deep divisions in our nation. We’ve also seen how there has been a run on essential needs in the stores, as people race to make themselves secure.  Let us not forget that, even in times of crisis, we are to love one another and care for each other.  Remember to put the needs of those around you before yourself, and as we’ll hear in the sermon on Sunday, to be willing to lay down your life for the sake of your brothers and sisters.
  3. Be-Sober Minded – This is one of my favorites instructions in Paul’s letter.  Basically, in today’s vernacular, Paul is saying, “Don’t lose your head.”  Don’t panic. Don’t freak out. Remember that death has no power over the Christian, and that no pandemic, no virus, no sickness, can ever separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Trust in the Gospel truths, and let them stand as your bedrock when the rest of the world is shifting sand.
  4. Remember Who Is In Control – When the government, the press, the scientific community, and even social media get’s everything wrong and can’t seem to get their act together, this is a reminder that those who put their faith in the strength of man will be ultimately disappointed. Put your hope and truth in God, for He is still on His throne, and even this is part of His good and glorious design.

Here are some links to a couple of things I’ve read/watched, that may be encouraging for you as well:

Should Christians Be Anxious About the Coronavirus? From Todd Wagner writing for The Gospel Coalition – With the increasing coronavirus cases outside of China, many believers across the United States wonder how to respond to the increasing alarm. What would God have us do in the face of a growing international health crisis? Should our churches close their doors for fear of spreading illness? Should I take my kids out of school? Cancel travel plans? How should we help a panicked world?

How did John Calvin and the early Reformers Respond to the Plague?  This is a video from a PCA Pastor Matthew Everhard on how Calvin and the company of pastors in Geneva cared, at great cost, for those affected by the plague.