This was the email sent out to our congregation late yesterday afternoon. It does a good job giving the short version of the reasons our session (board of elders and pastors) cancelled corporate worship and formal education and fellowship programs of our church.
We are in the middle of planning family and household worship to compensate for the absence of full assemblies. We’ll post those plans here, also. Some of those plans will likely be posted later today.
For those in other churches questioning the wisdom of our decision, note particularly the fourth through sixth paragraphs. We have more than a hundred little children, so the danger our children pose to the community at large as vectors for this contagion was a major consideration. We also were concerned that our church not give in to the panic and phobias of those who see public health measures and the broadcasting of coronavirus information as a liberal conspiracy and feel some combination of a Christian conscience and American patriotism requires them to fulminate and belligerate against their governors’ public health warnings and measures.
It is the duty of our civil magistrates to protect our bodies, at least. God has ordained them to this work and we are under their authority. Had they forbade us from assembling because we proclaim the Fatherhood of God writ large across all creation; because we proclaim God’s Moral Law condemning adultery, divorce, child murder, greed, and lies; because we call men to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ Alone; because we warn it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the Judgment; of course we would defy their order and continue to meet and worship and pray and preach and sing praises.
This is none of those things. What we have here are civil authorities appointed by God giving us orders aimed at suppressing the spread of a deadly disease. This is not just their right, but their duty, and we thank God for them.
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Update | Friday, 03.13.20
Dear Church Family,
The elders and pastors made the difficult decision last night to cancel all church meetings, gatherings, and programs for the next three weeks, effective now through Friday, April 3. This cancellation applies to all church-related meetings, including public worship, AWANA and youth group programs, men’s and women’s ministries, Citadel, and home fellowship groups. As April 3 approaches, we will evaluate whether it would be wise to continue the cancellation. Please pray that we can rejoin one another in person for public worship beginning on Palm Sunday (April 5).
We made this decision based on the recommendation of our fellow elder Adam Spaetti, M.D. who has been in consultation with an expert in infectious disease control and public health, and in accordance with Governor Holcomb’s public health order stating:
Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people. This includes any event or gathering of people who are in one room or a single space at the same time, such as cafeterias, churches, stadiums, meeting and conference rooms, auditoriums and the like.
Why take such a serious step? Our motive is love for the vulnerable in our congregation, including the elderly and our beloved brothers and sisters whose immune systems are already compromised by other illnesses. We are also concerned for our neighbors. We want to avoid becoming unknowing transmitters of a potentially dangerous illness, especially to the same vulnerable populations in our community. This concerns us particularly, because our congregation has a large concentration of children, making our congregation especially susceptible to transmitting the disease at a high rate.
Did we consider alternatives? Yes, we had thought of continuing to meet for public Lord’s Day worship, allowing each individual and family to decide whether to attend. In the end, we became convinced we should remove the weight of that decision from the congregation and bear that weight ourselves.
We also considered whether we were caving to panic stoked by political agitators. In the end, we decided there isn’t just one form of panic—the kind, for example, that stirs people into a frenzy over toilet paper. Another form of panic sees the civil magistrate’s orders to avoid congregating in large crowds as an attack on the rule of law.
Having considered all these things, and having examined our own motivations, we have taken what we have deemed the best and wisest course of action for the good of this congregation and our community. We have submitted ourselves to the judgments of Dr. Spaetti, in consultation with public health experts and officials, and to our governor. Like all law, public health laws often have political motivations, but we sumbit to our civil magistrates “as unto the Lord” knowing they are as fallible as our fathers, deacons, elders, and pastors.
There is one more thing to address. This is not the plague in the time of Martin Luther when faithfulness called for Luther and his fellow pastors to stay in the city ministering to their poor sheep sick, suffering, and dying. We are not calling for the abandonment of our city. Rather, this step is taken in large measure for our city’s protection.
This step doesn’t mean, however, our pastors, elders, or deacons are taking a three-week hiatus from shepherding and caring for us sheep. We are still on duty, and we want to serve and help you, whatever your needs. The same goes for your friends and neighbors, especially those in distress.
We have been working diligently to put together a plan for how this will look over the coming weeks, and are considering all available resources at our disposal. You can look forward to another communication from us tomorrow with more specifics.
From time to time Pastor Tim quotes an old godly friend of his who used to say, “It’s an ill wind that blows no one some good.” We take comfort that as adverse dispensations come to us through God’s hands, God still delights in providing good gifts to all His children. Not just some of His children. Not just His children who are now stocked with refried beans for the next three years. And not just SOME of our needs. He will supply ALL our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
What are some of those riches? Church history and our own American history are replete with examples of public calamities that lead God’s people to humility and spiritual renewal. Fruits of these trials are many. Self-examination, prayer, repentance from sin, a deeper impression of Eternity, gratitude for God’s gifts we take for granted, and a renewed child-like faith in God’s fatherly provision. We have an opportunity to grow in these areas as we care for our families, our Trinity brothers and sisters, and neighbors, showing forth the love of Christ and bearing one another’s burdens.
So each one of us has good work to do in the days and weeks ahead. In that work, you are not alone. We are blessed with faithful pastors and elders who will continue to serve us, and we are blessed with a church-house to maintain and return to, Lord willing, shortly. It is vitally important we continue to give financially for the needs of the church. We are so grateful for the generosity that God has shown through your faithful giving over these many years. We trust our Heavenly Father, through His and your faithfulness, to continue providing.
Brian Bailey (elder), Jake Mentzel (pastor)
on behalf of the session of Trinity Reformed Church