"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
What a crazy week it has been! COVID-19, also known as the ‘coronavirus’ is quickly starting to upend our lives in ways we never expected. And unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that the same will be true for our church life together.
Yesterday I met with pastors throughout the Highrock Network where we ultimately made the decision to cancel public worship across all 10 Highrock churches. We are currently planning to return to worship on March 29, however, but because the situation is so fluid, it is likely that we may not be able to meet for public worship until Easter or beyond.
Some of you may be asking the question “Why?” “Pastor Stephen, aren’t we just giving into fear if we do that?” “Aren’t you just giving into the hype?!?!”
I can see why any of us might think that. But in truth, MY biggest fear isn’t getting sick, MY biggest fear is actually cancelling Sunday service... not being there with all of you. In my own insecurities, I sometimes feel like we have to meet on Sunday mornings, and we need to wow you with a worship team or a great sermon for us to keep momentum as a church community... Well, all those are lies that I have to wrestle with, but they did give me pause as we were considering all this. On top of those lies is the reality that not meeting on Sunday morning will likely have quite a negative affect on our church budget. So in truth, we’re actually doing the thing that I’m most afraid of, but I believe it’s the right thing, and here’s why...
You’ve probably heard on the news about many things being cancelled out of an “abundance of caution.” We want to take a different approach... we won’t be meeting in large public spaces for a different reason: an abundance of love.
Yesterday I spoke with the wife of one of our church members who was so sad to share with me that her husband wouldn’t be able to attend church for quite some time... this due to the nature of his uniquely compromised respiratory system. My heart really went out to the two of them, and it reminded me that we have a responsibility in this moment to care for the most vulnerable.
On Sunday I shared about the amazing history the Christian church has in caring for the sick during the 4th century roman plague, and the 14th century bubonic plague. When all others ran the other direction, governors, community leaders, doctors--they all fled--but Christians risked their lives to help the sick, as a result the church exploded. Jesus, of course, was an amazing model for this. He reached out to touch and heal the lepers without any fear, when no one else would or could.
Today we have a very different situation. The hard reality is that some of you may soon become carriers of this new virus, but because it’s not that severe for most people, you may not even know it. So it’s not that we’re afraid of touching the sick, or even becoming sick ourselves, it’s that we ourselves may represent the threat of sickness to others.
Some of you have seen the graph below that shows the potential outcomes in our near future. What we want to avoid, and what we want to help our communities avoid is a spike on this graph. The more we can flatten out this bell curve the more we will relieve stress on our medical community and the less we will risk.
Here’s the beautiful thing--the church is not defined by our Sunday morning meetings. We’re defined by Christ who lives in us and binds us all together as a family in his name, and we want to continue to be that family. Small groups will continue to meet, though we recommend good hand washing and encourage people to avoid any type of holy touch for a couple months.
On Sundays, we will be preparing virtual worship services. For now we will be suspending our “Flourishing” series about sex, singleness and marriage, but look for a brief message from me this Sunday morning and the following Sunday, March 22, we will have a virtual service with everyone else in the Highrock network. We encourage everyone with a smart phone or smart TV to attend from wherever you are. More details on all of this will come in the next week. We are also working with our Network pastors to produce some daily devotionals that will also be available via social media.
In addition, our local Pastors here in Quincy are looking to stay connected with all of you. One thing I would love to do is hear your stories. Each of you has a story about what God has done or is doing in your life. Let’s seize this moment to share these stories with each other. Look for some invitations to this kind of story sharing in the week to come. And for those who may experience hardship or disruptions caused by this pandemic, or by the disease itself, we want to know. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our care team. We will be checking in with all of you as well.
Lastly, as we step away from public worship for a couple weeks or more, we also step away from a great opportunity for you to partner with us in mission, your tithes and offerings. The good news is, you can help us stay on mission even if we don't meet on Sundays. Online giving is easy, just click the button below.
This is going to be a strange moment in life. Let’s persist in prayer for the sick and meet with one another in small groups as we are able. God is so good, and we look forward with great anticipation to his coming Kingdom when there will be no more sickness and pain. In the meantime, we lean into that countercultural idea that Jesus himself spoke to Paul, “my power is made perfect in weakness.” Stay tuned to our facebook page and watch for more communications regarding how we can continue staying connected in the days ahead.