As you may or may not have heard, in light of the Covid19 emergency, California is now recommending that large community gatherings that can not provide six feet of separation between individuals should not meet for the remainder of March. They are particularly insistent that large gatherings with a high population of individuals age 60 and above not meet as those individuals are at highest risk for the most serious effects of the virus. Cordova Neighborhood Church falls into this high-risk group.
This morning, the elders, Pastor Susan, and I met to consider our response to this unprecedented situation. At the root of our deliberation was the question “How do we best care for the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional wellbeing of our church and our community in the midst of this spreading virus?” We spent a significant amount of time considering this question. Below you will find a summary of the basis for our plan but first the plan itself.
Before I unpack the plan we are implementing it is important to note that each change is temporary. We look forward to returning to our traditional format of worship as soon as possible. Additionally, whatever changes we make they will be made week to week based on the best information that we have, always with a mind to worshipping as close to our traditional format as is feasible and wise.
Our initial thought was that we could simply hold our service out in the field, making sure that there was adequate spacing between each of us. Unfortunately, the forecast predicts a significant chance of rain. For that reason, we will not be meeting on the church property. I will still preach a message from Romans, but you will not be present with me for the listening. Instead, this week’s sermon will be live-streamed on Facebook. We know that there are some that are either without an internet connection or a Facebook account. For those individuals and families, we will be arranging viewings within people’s homes in groups of 10 or less. We also invite anyone that needs a personal touch to let us know and the elders or pastoral staff will make a point of scheduling visitation. Our hope is that this plan will meet the tension that exists in the midst of two significant truths.
First, we know that God has blessed us with the gathering of believers as a central means for us to care for and be cared for by one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). Each of us relishes our time together as the Body of Christ, experiencing the blessing that comes from gathering as one. We know that you share with us in these sentiments. Physical presence is central to God’s work in the world, this is most apparent in Jesus Christ, God made flesh. The church suffers when we do not consistently come together as the body of Christ.
We also know that God has equipped us to understand his creation and many of its inner workings. He has blessed us with individuals who understand diseases like Covid19 as well as ways to limit its spread and impact. These individuals recommend that, as an act of care for each other and our communities, we limit our physical interaction for a time.
We believe that this plan will allow us to balance both needs. We make every effort to gather physically as one body while also prioritizing the physical wellbeing of those most at risk from the virus.
Earlier I referenced Hebrews 10:24-25, affirming that the gathering of believers is intended for our good. It reads, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I am thankful that the benefits of gathering are expressed so clearly in this passage. But I am also encouraged to see that the need for these words was prompted by a problem that is not ours at Cordova Neighborhood Church. The author wrote these words as a protection against those “in the habit” of not meeting. We are not in that habit. We take seriously and joyfully our call to gather as believers. So too, we take seriously the call to care for one another. As such we will meet together as often as we are able, always in spirit, more and more in physical proximity to one another. For now, we limit our physical distance to care for our most vulnerable. This too shall pass.
I mentioned that our deliberation was not only about caring for the body of Christ at CNC but also our community. We are called to love our neighbors. Loving our neighbors means taking seriously those things that they are concerned about. Our decision to adjust how we worship speaks clearly to our neighbors. It says “We care for you and we care for the things that concern you.” More than that we are already finding, here on day 1, that change opens the door to new expressions of God’s love.
One of the logistical pieces of not having Sunday service is what to do about the donuts. Serious business, right? With no one coming to the church building we don’t have a need for our normal order of donuts. But our normal order of donuts blesses our local donut shop with a steady stream of income. Cancelling the order would negatively impact them. But in this dilemma, there is opportunity. Instead of cancelling the order we decided to let the donut shop know that as long as we are not meeting together physically we still want to continue paying as usual. When our bookkeeper called to let them know this is what we wanted to do they were blown away by our act of love. Perhaps that interaction is the one God will use, by His Spirit, to draw that person into relationship with Jesus Christ. I expect that we will have more interactions like this as we embrace this temporary period of change.
Speaking of logistics, here they are as they exist at the moment.
Service will begin at 11 At 10:45, the link to the Facebook Live stream will be available on our website, cnchurch.org If you do not have internet access or a Facebook account but would like to participate, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will contact you with a place to gather. If Sunday arrives and you are sick please do not attend one of the small group gatherings. We have a task force for dealing with this issue. If you have questions, please send them to email@example.com
We love this church and we love this community. Join us as we continue to pray for God’s leading and direction. He is on the throne. He is not surprised by any of this. He delights in His people caring for one another and the world He has created. With His leading we will continue to be a light in our world.
With you in Spirit,