These last few days have been a whirlwind. I feel like my head is going to explode from the rapid changes in the situation regarding COVID-19 or the coronavirus and from the multiplicity of opinions concerning what we should do about it.
The current recommendations from both the Center for Disease Control and the President is that groups of 10 or more should not gather. The hope is that by avoiding contact with each other, we can slow down the spread of the virus keeping medical personal from being overloaded, as has happened in various places. While you may not be able to keep yourself from getting COVID-19, you can certainly keep from spreading it, especially to those who are at greater risk of death from sicknesses like the coronavirus. That group includes the elderly, those with compromised immune systems (autoimmune disorders, cancer patients, etc.), and those with respiratory problems, to name a few.
That’s why we’re going to do our part to help the least of these in our community by avoiding unnecessary gatherings. I absolutely hate canceling our worship services, but I’m afraid that’s where we find ourselves. After much prayer, and in consultation with the Board, District Superintendent Rev. Mike Palmer, and other pastors in the area, we have decided to cancel all activities and services, both on Sundays and Wednesday, from now until April 4, 2020. We will constantly reevaluate the situation and inform you if our decision to cancel services change from week to week. Please know that this decision has not been made lightly.
Each Sunday we do not meet in person, I will provide a time for us to gather virtually, likely on Facebook live. The live stream will take place at our normal meeting time of 10:30 am. We will then post the audio on our website. When I have the exact information about how the live stream will work, I will pass it on to you via email, Facebook, and our website. Of course, if you have questions, please feel free to call the church (642-3252) or to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One concern we always have when canceling services is the tithes and offering. Our church depends on your generosity to keep the lights on, among other things. While we won’t necessarily be using the lights much in the coming weeks, we still have bills to pay and obligations to meet. If you would continue to support the church during this time, we would be grateful. There are several ways you can give: at heartlandnaz.org/giving, you can mail a check, have your bank mail a check, or drop your offering off at the church. You might want to give us a heads up if that’s your plan. Regardless of if you give or not, we’re trusting that God will provide what we need today. But participating in a live stream or giving an offering isn’t all you can do while we navigate the coronavirus.
Recently, we’ve been asking the question, what does it mean to live with neighborly compassionate justice? Seeking to keep the vulnerable safe from this virus sure sounds like a good answer to that question. But this will require a little sacrifice on our part. In fact, I’ve come to believe that loving our neighbor as ourselves almost always requires some sort of sacrifice. Yet, in the great scheme of things, this isn’t a terribly difficult one.
We recognize that with almost the whole country shutting down, some will experience great difficulty. Students who rely on food they receive from the public school system will potentially go hungry. Those in the hospital or nursing homes will go unvisited. There will be a financial impact as well, as some will most certainly be unable to do the work they must do in order to make ends meet.
So, as we navigate this tough time together, even though we will not meet as the church for worship, let us still be the church in our neighborhood, the hands and feet of Christ in our world. Check in on your neighbors. Make sure they have enough food. Call an elderly person who you know will not be able to get out in the coming weeks. Chat with them. Hug your kids (if you or they aren’t sick!) and play a game. If everyone is healthy, share a meal with another family. Be a good neighbor. Be a good friend.
As always, I’m here for you. Please know that you are loved and prayed for regularly!