COVID-19 Response: In-person worship suspended for two weeks

March 13, 2020 / Re: COVID-19 Church Response

Dear Friends,

I am sure that all of us are still trying to digest and understand the rapidly changing ways our state, nation and world are responding to COVID-19. While to many it may seem like an overreaction to cancel so many sporting events, tournaments, local festivals, university classes, and other large gatherings, public health officials continue to urge us to practice these forms of social distancing now so that we can flatten the curve of potential community spread and thus protect the most vulnerable in our communities. This effort will also be critical in helping to prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. This kind of response is not panic, it is just wise and loving.

Yesterday, Governor Roy Cooper also further amended earlier recommendations, urging communities to avoid gatherings of 100 or more people. The landscape changes daily, so it is important to remain informed and willing to adapt to new and changing circumstances. In addition to these changes, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward has also urged churches to cease in-person worship for the next two weeks so that we might further protect and serve the communities in which we live. With that in mind, we are not going to have in-person worship for the next two weeks, March 15th and March 22nd. We will be inviting all to join us for online worship at 10 a.m. on both of these Sundays and we also hope to have some form of online worship at noon on Wednesday, March 18th and March 25th.

Childcare Center
Our Childcare Center will follow the Onslow County School System’s lead and the staff is closely monitoring all information and recommendations from the County Health Department. Earlier this week our center and entire church staff implemented enhanced sanitation protocols and we have been in regular communication with all parents and families about the importance of regular hand washing, remaining home when sick, etc.

Program Ministry
All other program ministry gatherings for the next two weeks are also canceled. I want to encourage us to consider other ways we might reach out to one another by phone, text, or email. Even in the midst of this situation, I am convinced that we can strive to love God and love each other well.

Other Community Groups and our Disaster Response Center
Many organizations use our facilities on a regular basis (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Venture, Sea Scouts, AA, and AL-Anon, etc.) We are inviting these organizations to use their own discretion to decide whether or not they continue with in-person meetings on our property. Our Disaster Response Center housed in building #2 has also suspended operations. Earlier this week a letter was sent to all the NC Conference Disaster Recovery Centers stating that “we have made the decision to suspend operations in all of our Disaster Ministries centers and satellite offices from Sunday, March 15, 2020 through Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The health and safety of our volunteers, staff, and clients is of great importance to us. While operations are suspended, we will be using the time to thoroughly clean and disinfect all of our facilities.”

Even though we are not gathering in-person for the next two weeks, you still have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others by giving your tithes and offerings to support the ongoing mission of our church. In many ways, our commitments both locally and globally are even greater during this time. You can give online here. We will also have easy online links for you to give when you join us for online worship. Thank you ahead of time for your continued support and generosity.

Final Thoughts and Prayer
It is at times like this that followers of Jesus can truly make a difference.

We are a people of faith, not fear. The measures we and others are taking in response to this virus are not fear-based decisions but are rooted in faith-filled wisdom and love. Living as believers at this moment, my prayer is that God may empower us to live as a non-anxious witness – a people who place our ultimate trust in God through every and all circumstance.

We are a people of prayer. We worship a God who is the Great Physician and the source of all health, hope and life. Let us pray for all who have been affected by this virus and that God might bless all efforts to mitigate its spread. Let us also pray for the many other ongoing needs, health concerns, and ongoing struggles that we face in our church, community, and world. Let us pray for all health care workers, emergency personnel, and local and national leaders who are on the front lines of this crisis, making daily decisions for the good of our communities.

We are a people of community and love. The writer of Hebrews exhorted first-century Christians to “not neglect to meet, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another all the more” (Hebrews 10:25). I am aware that social distancing is painful and difficult, especially for Christians. Let us take this season to find new and creative ways to love each other well, reaching out via phone, text or online. Make sure to check on those you may know who are especially vulnerable to loneliness and isolation. Consider writing notes or cards or find new ways to communicate with others. In the words of Bishop Ward: “May the Church of Jesus Christ rise anew with courage and creativity in this time of challenge, shining as light in a wounded, fearful world.”

Lord, we lift up our eyes to the hills knowing our help comes from you. We pray for your healing, your protection, and your loving presence as our communities and world face this pandemic. Give us wisdom, patience, and courage that we might better love you, serve our neighbors, protect and assist the most vulnerable and better follow your will and your way. This we pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin