Brothers and Sisters,
I write to you in the midst of what feels like very unusual times. Indeed, for some people, these are fearful times. I want to encourage you as your pastor to not give in to the fear and panic. Psalm 46 is a wonderful reminder that even if all the world should collapse, it is precisely because God is our refuge and strength that we will not fear. Your church elders and I are praying for you during this time that your refuge and strength would be in the Lord.
As our state and nation’s government and medical officials continue to give guidance for what a safe gathering of people looks like in this time of the COVID-19 outbreak, the elders and I have continued to prayerfully discuss what the implications of all this are for Christ Church. We have made the decision that it is best to cancel the remainder of our public worship gatherings in the month of March. We will continue to reevaluate and update you as things change.
In times of emergency such as this, we understand that it is not a sin not to meet. Not gathering at this time as a congregation is not a violation of Hebrews 10:24-25. While it is quite rare to have this kind of cancelation, there are a few historical examples that are perhaps instructive. The Spanish Flu of 1918 saw churches in urban areas cancel their public meetings for the sake of public health. Similarly, during the bubonic plague, Martin Luther courageously sought to serve those who were sick while at the same time providing instruction to churches and leaders to do all that they could to maintain good public health.
Given the cancelation of our meetings and the uncertainty of what may or may not be possible in the month of April, one of the questions that people are rightly asking is: how might we best use this time? While it would be foolish of me to say that I know exactly what the Lord is doing in this situation, I wonder if this might be a time in which the Lord is calling us to a season of reflection, repentance, and rest. As such, let us take this unusual season that the Lord has given us to reflect on our lives, our mortality, our church, our community, our families. As we reflect, let this then be a season of renewed repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus, as we seek to turn away from any sin and apathy that has perhaps taken hold of our lives and communities. Let us then, in the midst of all that, rest – rest physically, emotionally, and spiritually in the Lord Jesus.
In short, brothers and sisters, let us receive this season – as unique as it is – from the hand of the Lord, and in lieu of some of the things we might normally be doing and in lieu of some of the gatherings we might normally have as a church, let us use it as a season of reflection, repentance, and rest.
A few practical matters:
Please continually check our website for updates and resources. The staff team is working to put together a page on our website to provide you with specific information related to these current happenings.
2. Worship Resources for Home
As I mentioned in a previous email, we will not be streaming services online during this time that our public worship gatherings are canceled. It seems to me that it is impossible to virtually replicate the people of God truly gathered for the worship of God in which God uses that gathering as a means of grace in our lives. It is perhaps prudent, therefore, that we not try to do so but rather (again) simply heed safety guidelines and receive this unique season as ordained of God. However, we do want to encourage you to make good use of Sunday mornings by gathering for worship in your homes. To assist you in that, we will continue to provide you with a weekly worship bulletin and audio of some Bible teaching/reflection with follow-up study questions. We have made the decision to suspend our current series in 2 Samuel in order to point you to other Bible resources at this time. You can find all these resources on our website. Please use those as you find helpful. As a word of encouragement, worship in the home need not be complicated – sing, pray, and read and reflect on God’s Word.
Let us be praying for those who are sick and for our medical professionals and for all those in need. As a reminder, I invite you to join in every night at 8:30 PM for a time of prayer. Cindy and I have been doing this with our kids. We set the alarm on our phone to go off at that time and then we gather around to pray for you, our city, and our world. If you have any prayer requests, please do send them to me.
4. Be the Church
Let us be reaching out to one another, caring for one another, and loving one another. This is what God intends for His people. Make some phone calls, send a text, offer an encouraging word and a helping hand where you can.
5. Love Our Neighbors
Hope for New York has transitioned into ‘disaster relief’ mode and has put together a resource page to provide guidance on ways we can help those in need at this time. At the end of this email, I have included some more information for ways you can connect. We will also send additional emails and work to keep our website updated with opportunities to serve.
6. Moving Forward
As the situation develops, we will continue to pray and reassess ways to connect and resources to recommend that might be helpful to all of us.
Finally, as a reminder, if I or the elders can be of any help to you at this time, please do not hesitate to reach out. We love you and are praying for you.
For information on how we can serve Hope for New York. Please refer to our COVID-19 Updates & Resources page.