I hope this day finds you well. I hope that as we have settled into our new routine you are finding yourself more at peace. These are difficult days, but they are nothing we can’t handle when we trust in God. I shared yesterday that while this time is a burden, for many of us it is an opportunity to truly Sabbath. To rest and consider what is most important. I pray that you find that kind of peace in the days ahead.
Your church leadership has been in long conversations about how we should proceed. The CDC, The Ohio Department of Health, and Governor DeWine continue to inform us that social distancing is the best way to combat the spread of this current illness. Our denomination at the Association and Conference level have recommended churches not meet in person for the rest of March. We, as a council, were faced with the challenge of understanding what of this current crisis is fueled by fear, and what is fueled by wisdom.
2nd Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” That balance, between fear and a sound minded judgment has influenced all of our conversations this week. We don’t want to react out of fear. We don’t want to just cower in the corner. We believe that God is in control. But, we also want to be wise. As a council we listened to the reports from medical health experts. We heard from members of our congregation who are connected to the medical field. We asked ourselves “what is wise?” Council has decided that the wise thing to do would be to suspend services for March 22nd and 29th before re-evaluating our next steps. One of the chief tenants of Christianity is to love your neighbor. We’re being told by experts in this field that the best act of love we can show our community is to avoid large group gatherings where illness can be spread. Streaming worship services will be available on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am and Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm via Facebook. We believe this is not an act of fear, but rather an act of care. We love our brothers and sisters so much that we hesitate to put any one of them at risk.
However, we also want to make a clear distinction. Even though the church will not be meeting as a large body in these days, it’s important to remember that the CHURCH is not these four walls. The church is not closed. YOU are the church. During these weeks the church itself will be open. If you wish to come talk to Pastor Ryan, if you wish to use the sanctuary to pray or worship, the building is available to you. Sunday morning and Wednesday nights will still have digital church services. Perhaps you would like to gather a small group in your home and participate in these services. Maybe you would like to visit someone and share a streaming service with them. Just because we won’t be gathering as a large group, the work of the church continues. Our worship, our study, our prayer, and our service to others carries on. Missions team will be meeting soon and looking for ways the church can directly help people during this time. We have the unique opportunity to show people the love of Jesus through a difficult time. This is what it means to be the church. To care for people in the hard days. An online volunteer form will soon be available to coordinate volunteers to help in several ways.
Ways to Help:
PHONE TREE: Would you volunteer to be a part of a phone tree to check on our members? This one is really simple. We’ll send you a list of church members, all you have to do is call them up. Check on their mental health, their physical health. Ask them if they have needs like groceries or medicine.
SUPPLY RUNNER: If we do find several needs we’ll need people to do supply runs for us. This doesn’t even have to be face to face. You could simply be dropping groceries at someone’s door so that they have everything they need.
MEAL PREP: Maybe you love to cook and would like to meal prep freezer meals for some of our elderly or families. This is a simple way to help.
CHILD CARE: Babysitters are going to be at a premium. Schools are closed, day cares are closing or limiting students. We know that gathering large groups of kids together goes against the current recommendations, but do we have people who could potentially babysit 2 or 3? If so, you could make all the difference in someone’s life so that they can continue to work normal hours during these days.
SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES. Many of our local restaurants are losing massive income streams from dine-in food service. Place a takeout order and help them keep afloat! There are many small restaurants that we can support: Blackberry Corners, Porky’s, The Country Keg, Evolve Riverfront Café, Happy Hour, Cozy Corners, The Village Inn, The Portage Inn, Ernesto’s, Wine Flight, Christy’s Corner, Rayz, R-Café, Ignite Coffee & Tea. I’m sure there are more that you know of.
Please use the link below to fill out our survey if you are interested in helping.
More ways to help will be posted soon. We are living in a very unique period of history, church. How we respond will tell our community exactly who we are as people in Christ. Martin Luther was once asked what the Christian response to the plague should be. He said:
“Therefore, I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely."
This is the model we are using to respond to this current crisis. We will do everything in our power to avoid getting people sick, but when our neighbor is in need we will go freely. We are the church. Let us point people to a God of love and peace in an anxious time. Our eternal home is secured, even as our Earthly home experiences chaos. Find peace today in knowing that God is in control, and then, help others find that same peace. Keep looking for more updates. Now, go be the church in our new context.
In the name of Christ,