Bro. John's Statement on our Response to COVID-19

Today, we met for worship in the midst of a universal pandemic. After a great deal of thought and prayer we decided to meet today but we took some important steps and made some necessary changes to keep people safe. This is a fluid situation and I’m sure we will have to change our plans many times before we get through this. Let’s agree that we are going to work together, take care of each other, and make decisions based on love and compassion. Even if holding hands during the benediction is important to you, I’m asking you to stop doing so at least until we get through this pandemic. By the way, the medical experts in this field are all telling us that we are just at the beginning of the outbreak in the US. It will spread quickly and people in our community will most likely be affected.
As we move forward, don’t make the mistake of thinking that taking action is somehow a sign of fear or that taking no action demonstrates faith in God. Simply assuming that we can do what we want, and God will protect us puts us in a dangerous position. Our Lord reminded the enemy that scripture says, “Do not test the Lord your God.” Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it.” Remember God does not promise to protect the proud, the Bible actually says He opposes the proud. In the Old Testament Bro. Job was a righteous man who knew God better than anyone, and even he got terribly ill. In the New Testament, Pastor Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, was not protected from the thorn in the flesh. The scripture says it rains on the just and the unjust. We can all get sick, even those of us who are people of faith. This Covid-19 is what health professionals call a “novel virus,” meaning it’s never been introduced into our population before, so none of us has built up an immunity against it, and none of us knows what to expect over the next 6 months or so. We need to make sure that we are adequately prepared and are ready to respond to the needs of those around us with courage and compassion. We must wear our badge of love by making adjustments when required, making sacrifices when necessary, and putting the needs of others before our own.
We need to make sure that we are seeing the big picture and thinking long-term. Perhaps you are strong and young and healthy, so you know the chances of getting really sick are pretty low. Your concern might not be for yourself, but you have to realize that you can carry the virus and hand it off to someone else who may be more susceptible to it. It’s not really about you as much as it about making choices that will be best for those around you. I see a lot of people on social media talking about how many people of have died from the flu, and how few have died from coronavirus. Remember that you are not comparing apples and oranges. When you look back at other epidemics, you are looking at the figures after the illness has run its course. This current threat is only getting started, so the numbers are really not comparable at all. We have to see the big picture. I’ve also seen people comment on the fact that there aren’t many cases yet, so we shouldn’t change anything yet. Understand, our concerns right now are not reacting to current problems, but proactively reducing the risk to our community over the next six months to a year. We have to think long-term.
With all of that in mind, here is our current plan. We will continue to have worship on Sundays, but we will NOT have Sunday morning Bible study (“Sunday School”) until further notice. When we meet for worship, we are going to make some adjustments to our usual procedures. We are going to encourage each other to adopt the recommended practice of social distancing. What that means, is we are going to encourage each other to stay a few feet away from one another. We are not going to hug or shake hands, even during the greeting time. Later, when its time for the offering, we are not going to pass the plate from person to person, but we will have the plates available at all of the exits and up here by the pulpit so you can give your tithes and offerings as you leave.
Our response to this pandemic has to be fluid and we are going to have to be flexible. Things are changing rapidly, and we are going to have keep adjusting our plan as we go. This morning I met with our Conference and Resource Committee to get their input on the most recent changes to our plan. Until further notice, we will not have dinner or any other meetings on Wednesday nights. In other words, Sunday morning worship is the only meeting that will be held at church for the next few weeks.
As we begin this journey together, let’s agree that we are going to wear the believers’ badge and intentionally find ways to love one another. Stay in touch with those who are most susceptible to the virus. Run errands and get food for our older brothers and sisters so they don’t have to risk getting out. Wash and sanitize your hands often – not just to protect yourself, but also to reduce the risk of passing the virus along to others. Encourage and support leaders who have to make difficult decisions and face criticism from all sides. Volunteer to help the school district as they find ways to distribute food to the school kids who won’t be able to get breakfast and lunch in the normal way. Stay connected with us on social media and watch for emails or texts so you will know what’s happening and we can inform you of ways you can be of help. Relax, keep a sense of humor and keep praying. Let’s all be careful and prayerful.
I promise to keep the lines of communication open and do the best we can to keep everyone informed. I promise to stay flexible and adjust our plan whenever we need to. As you pastor, I promise to accept my responsibility to be proactive and take whatever steps I can to better ensure the health and well-being of everyone in our church family, even if some of those decisions are met with resistance.
Let’s promise each other that we are going to take care of one another and love each other all the way through this. We have been through tough times before, and by God’s grace, we can help each other get through tough times again.