Dear Christ the Word Family,
As the coronavirus strikes our nation we face a whirlwind of changing circumstances. Significant events take place daily, even hourly, leaving many of us confused by the rush of decisions these changes force upon us.
God, the unchanging, speaks of events such as these through the prophet Isaiah,
…there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.
And by the prophet Amos He says,
If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?
Knowing no calamity comes except by God’s hand, as Christians we rejoice that our lives—and the lives of our children—are dear to Him, a precious truth in troubled times. And we are reminded of the need to fear God. Calamity is given that we may turn in fear to God, not cravenly, but as an all-sovereign Father who loves His children even as He hates unrighteousness. We should not fear calamity, but fear instead the Maker of our souls, the architect of the calamity. Living in fear of God, we make our way humbly among men, doing the one thing we alone can do to stop the calamity’s spread—praying to God for mercy as His beloved children.
I thank God for your embrace of these truths. Though we understand these things, two duties remain for us to fulfill to our fellow men at such times. First, we must pray. Second we must love our neighbors—both inside and outside our church. We are not to be the priest or the scribe walking by the ill man. We hold ourselves responsible for our neighbors, and this duty must be weighed as we consider our response as a church to Governor DeWine’s closure of all schools and public gatherings of over 100 people—except for religious meetings.
In light of Governor DeWine’s actions yesterday, the elder board met last night to plot our course in coming days. It was a challenging meeting. We faced a number of unique and difficult questions, yet all who participated (two elders were unable) agreed that out of concern for the health of our church family, out of our desire to give due consideration to the respectful requests of our civil authorities to avoid the rapid spread of the virus and our need to maintain a positive witness before our neighbors, we should take the following steps.
- In accord with the governor’s request, for at least the next three weeks GCD, AWANA and Living Word Youth will not meet.
- The 2020 re:Garding Him conference, scheduled for next Saturday, is canceled.
- Small Groups will continue to meet as health and the availability of host homes allows.
- Worship will be held this Sunday. We believe the crisis in this area of Ohio is not yet upon us and that meeting Sunday will be safe. That said, there will be no adult or children’s Sunday School, nor will nursery or children’s church be provided during worship. Children will stay with their families.
- We will decide about Sunday morning worship on a week-by-week basis going forward and will attempt to have an effective streaming option by next Sunday.
We ask further that if you plan to attend worship or your small group this Sunday, you observe the following precautions.
- Do not attend worship or any other group activity if you do not feel well. In particular, if you have an active cough do not go out among people, and if you have a cough and a fever, DO NOT leave home except to see your doctor.
- Please wash your hands frequently.
- Please avoid the normal physical contact we enjoy as a family.
- Please do not linger after church. We know this will be hard but it’s a temporary request for the good of all.
- Offering plates will not be passed. Plates will be placed near the exit doors for you to deposit your tithe following the service—and you can always give online.
This past week a deep clean of the church building took place under the guidance of the deacons. We know that some of you will choose not to attend worship this Sunday despite these precautions. We respect your concerns. In making these decisions as a session we have sought to balance caution, respect for our governmental authorities and the priority of public worship. By next week we hope to be able to unite in streaming worship should we decide to forego in-person worship in future weeks.
A word to those with chronic illness and those who are older in our midst. This virus strikes the elderly and those with compromised immune systems with particular severity. Please feel free to avoid worship and other activities in our midst in the coming weeks. We love you and will miss you, but your health is more important to us than your physical presence over the next few weeks. Stay separate. If you need food from the store, let us know and we’ll find someone to shop for you.
Finally, a personal story. Nine years ago I became ill—some of you remember my illness. I was weak. It was not contagious. But I was stubborn. I was not going to stop preaching and I was adamant about going the next month on a planned four-week trip to Europe with Cheryl, Tessa and Isaiah. But after several weeks of illness and stubbornness on my part the elders met without me and delivered a decision to me: I was not to go to Europe and I was to rest at home until I was recovered. I praise God for their intervention. I don’t know if they saved my life—I think I would probably have survived even if I had done things my way. But their decision was made for my good and it carried authority. They decided for me out of love for me. And they blessed my family by making a decision that everyone in the family thought best, but no one had the authority to force on me.
Please regard the elders in the decisions they make in coming days as I did the elders nine years ago. We may not know exactly what to do in every situation and the calls we make can be questioned. But I tell you unhesitatingly that these are good men who love God and are who are seeking at the very height of their powers to do what is right in the eyes of God and before men. They love you. And I love them and am honored to serve with them.
Love in Christ,
Pastor David on behalf of the CTW session