SUBJECT: Guidance on Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Greetings! With this memo I am urging churches throughout the ERC to suspend corporate gatherings over the next two weeks. This memo is not a mandate. It is my attempt to get every leadership team focused on crafting a deliberate response to a credible public threat. While none of us want to cancel fellowship, we equally would not like to risk the lives of those who attend our services and, by connection, their extended families, nor do we want to be the cause of undue stress on an already burdened healthcare system. Please keep in mind that this recommendation is only a temporary action based on current information. Additional/Alternative steps can be considered over the coming weeks.
As I write these remarks, schools throughout Pennsylvania are instituting two week closures, universities are doing the same, large employers are moving to a telecommute policy, and, as you know, the NCAA, NHL, NBA, PGA and other large venue attractions are suspending operations. These actions are not happening on a whim. Organizations like the NCAA will lose significant revenue by canceling one of the nationís most loved tournaments. I share this with you not to raise sympathy for the NCAA, but to suggest that some very powerful organizations, ones with access to trusted information, are taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. They believe they are acting in the best interest of the communities they serve. Unfortunately, there are places in Europe, specifically Italy, where the healthcare system is overtaxed and people are being quarantined without access to healthcare in their homes. As you consider what steps your church should take to protect your congregation and their extended families, I urge you to listen to the medical experts, the ones at the heart of this pandemic, and consider the threat to be credible and this guidance to be motivated from a posture of respect, not fear.
How should we, as a faith community, respond to the public threat of the Coronavirus? With honesty, integrity and love for our neighbors. For days, I have witnessed people criticizing the media and government officials as they attempt to report on the spread of the Coronavirus and the proper strategy for allaying the spread. Our role is to speak calm into situations, not to stir the pot. As witnesses to Jesus, we are to honor those in authority over us, not criticize those who are doing their very best to navigate an unknown threat. It is easy to be a critic. Itís much more difficult to be the one attempting to protect the public from a pandemic that is threatening and undefined.
Is it better to over-plan for an event that never materializes or under-plan for an event that does? When you are standing in the emergency operations center (EOC) at the local, state or federal levels, you strive to come up with the appropriate response based on the best available information. As leaders, we have a responsibility to our congregations to do the same.
When the authorities suggest that we should suspend meeting for the next few weeks, the only points we should consider are how we honor the authority given to us by God to best protect our congregations and how we share the love of Jesus by meet the needs of our community during the crisis. The leadership of every congregation should come together and, based on current information, make a decision that best protects their church family. First and foremost, Jesus calls us to love our God and to love our neighbor. What action does your leadership team need to take to ensure that the congregation is being loved and protected? The answer remains your call as you exercise prayer and your God-given wisdom.
As followers of Jesus we have a long history of walking into plagues and famine. This legacy is not one of rebellion, it is one of service. I urge you to listen to public officials as they make their recommendations. Consider the information that is available, then make good decisions, ones based on protecting and serving people. As a community of faith, we have a great opportunity to serve our neighbors in this time of crisis. I urge you to measure your heart, your words and your decisions against the words of Jesus. It is through Jesus that we gain our understanding of how to worship, love and serve.
Included with this e-mail are a list of churches that self-identified as offering live feeds as an alternative to their Sunday morning worship and a reprint of a statement offered by some of our churches that will be honoring a two-week gathering suspension. I pray that Godís discernment and wisdom rests on you, and that the love of Jesus shines through you.
Church Live Stream Options
Blue Mountain https://www.facebook.com/Blue-Mountain-Church-of-God-591064877593050/
Much like you, we as the leadership at Glenvale have been prayerfully monitoring all the information regarding the COVID-19 situation going on in the world. As we combined the available information with direction from the Churches of God General Conference and Eastern Regional Conference as well as biblical wisdom and guidance, we have decided to SUSPEND ALL CHURCH GATHERINGS AND FUNCTIONS BETWEEN SUNDAY 3/15 AND SATURDAY 3/28. This would include both Sunday services, and all other services and events.
The leadership will reassess the situation and make an informed decision for any additional cancellations following that date. Our decision to suspend in-person gatherings was not one made out of fear or lack of faith, but rather wisdom and respect for our elected authority (Romans 13:1-2). Along with many other organizations in our communities, we are hoping to help "slow the spread" and "flatten the curve" to improve the overall situation in our community, country and world. An important factor in this decision to suspend our face-to-face meetings this week is the desire to not just think about our own health, but also about the health of the more vulnerable in our society. Thinking of others more than ourselves is clearly something Jesus calls us to- both in command and by example.
While this all can seem like bad news, we would encourage you to take a different perspective- just because we are not "having" church, doesn't mean we stop "being" the church. We want to encourage you to seek ways to serve those around you. Check in on elderly or high risk neighbors in appropriate ways. Offer to run errands or get groceries for those who are at higher risk to be out. With schools canceled, offer to serve those around you with children in appropriate ways. The church has a long-standing legacy of not fleeing from seasons of crisis in our communities and this should be no different. Make phone calls to those in the church who will be missing connection in the coming weeks. Spend time with your family. Use this as a unique time to seek new and exciting ways to serve the Kingdom and others!
This will all pass eventually and we will get back to business as usual, in the meantime, God is still in control and is still on the throne!