March 13, 2020
To the RCC Family:
Greetings! Well, it’s been some week, hasn’t? If you’re like me, it’s been hard to keep up with news related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The constant news coverage, daily presidential briefings, and the cancellation of sporting events and major public gatherings have been very disorienting, even unsettling at times. While there is encouraging news about this novel virus, there still is much we don’t know. It is the “unknowns” surrounding this virus that are encouraging government officials, such as Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, to temporarily discourage large gatherings of people over 250 to limit the spread of the illness. In light of these developments, I would like to share with you several practical steps the church is taking in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, along with some important spiritual truths to keep in mind during this time of unease.
First, here are several steps the RCC leadership is taking in response to the outbreak. Because of the dynamic nature of the current situation, all plans are subject to change. We will keep the church abreast of additional changes and developments:
All services and programs scheduled for Sunday, March 15th have been cancelled. We feel this is the most prudent short-term decision. We don’t want our seniors, or the many volunteers it takes to accomplish Sunday AM programming, to feel pressured to come to church. Over a year’s worth of sermons are available at the church’s website (a few good ones, too!). Online giving is also available.
242 will take place next Wednesday the 18th. We have decided to cancel the meal portion of the program for the time being. Classes and activities will begin at 6:30 PM.
Unless otherwise indicated, the church is remaining “open for business.” Normal office hours will continue. Church staff is available to you if you need anything.
I am meeting with a group of healthcare workers from within our church next week to discuss the formation of a “wellness” taskforce. This team will partner together to promote good health for the RCC family. We have ideas for this to become an ongoing ministry at the church.
Along similar lines, it is important to note that our church custodian, Sam Bowman, is actively disinfecting common surfaces, switches, and doorknobs throughout the building on a weekly basis. We appreciate her efforts.
Beginning next week, we are going to establish a temporary “community cupboard” program (Acts 2:44-45). If you have extra items that others may need (hand soap, canned food, toilet paper, etc.), you can donate to the cupboard to be shared with other members of the RCC family. Rather than hoarding, Christians are called to share and think about the well-being of others.
The church leadership is meeting this upcoming week to discuss auxiliary plans and temporary adjustments to church services and programming. We will communicate this information as soon as it is determined. Some of the actions we are considering include: offering multiple, simplified worship services on different days (to shrink attendance size and allow for community “distancing”); broadcasting services on Facebook Live (goal of next week); live streaming worship services (soon); and developing new small groups.
One other comment related to attending church. If you are sick or have a weakened immune system, please stay home. This is in everyone’s best interest. Please let us know if there is a way we can help you.
Let me wrap up this letter with a few thoughts from a different perspective:
Certainly, it is vital to be proactive and use common sense with the goal of keeping everyone healthy. The above-mentioned measures are designed to support this goal. It is also important not to panic and be overwhelmed with fear. As Christians, we are to live by faith and not fear. On many occasions in the Bible, Jesus commands us, “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus can command this because he knows that God is ultimately in control. There are no “unknowns” to God. Though God doesn’t shield us from life’s storms, he does promise to be present with us during them.
If you have worries, turn them into prayers (Philippians 4:5-7). I have found it helpful this past week to turn off the news and click on my Bible app. I have been listening to the Psalms. They express the real prayers of God’s people who feel powerless during times of uncertainty. They instruct us how to pray for peace.
I find comfort in the promise of Romans 8:28 that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” God can bring “good” even from a virus outbreak. One good is that we become more mindful of our need for God during anxious times. As the terrorist attacks on 911 taught us, during a crisis people become more open to God. While we pray for the pandemic to end, let’s also pray for a spiritual revival (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Another good is that hardship grows us spiritually. Our faith is stimulated, and our prayer and devotional life expanded. Use this season of less activity to pray more. Pray for our government officials. Pray for the families directly affected by the outbreak. Pray for healthcare professionals. Pray for people impacted by the economic downturn. Pray for the church’s ministry. Pray for your neighbor.
On that note, another good is that difficult times can make us more mindful of the needs of others. An effective way to halt anxiety is to focus on those around us. Is there a friend or senior citizen you could check on? Rather than rushing to the store to buy toilet paper, why not walk across the street to a neighbor and offer a “cup of cold water” (Matthew 25:37)? How can we turn this present crisis into a service opportunity? How can we balance common sense health practices with the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12)?
This past week has been filled with surprising developments and unexpected inconveniences. We’ve all had moments of confusion and concern. I imagine a “new normal” will soon set in. We’ll adjust and life will continue. Eventually, a vaccine will be discovered. God has endowed his creation with everything we need. Until life returns to normalcy, let’s seek God’s face, follow Christ daily wherever he leads, and care for each other. This is a unique opportunity for RCC to shine. I leave you with a favorite passage of scripture.
Lamentations 3:21-23 – “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”