March 18, 2020
Dear Members and Friends of Covenant Reformed Church:
Last night, our Consistory met for about two hours to consider our response to the current coronavirus pandemic and the “stay in place” directive. During that time, we spent much time in prayer and reviewed every aspect of our ministry. Here are our decisions.
Let me assure you that none of us wants to suspend the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25). The Lord’s Day is for all of us the “Day of all the week the best, Emblem of eternal rest” (Hymn 620). And what could be more precious to our souls than those few minutes each Sunday when we unite our hearts and voices in praise to the Lamb and hear him speak to us in his Word? Public worship is without a doubt the closest we can get to heaven on earth in this life. However, out of love for our congregation and concern for the health of our members, their families and the broader community in which we live, we resolved to suspend all in-person church activities, including public worship, for the next two weeks. We will re-evaluate where things stand at that time.
As I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon, we should embrace the challenge before us not in fear, but with a stout-hearted confidence in God’s love and mercy through Jesus Christ. The Word of God says, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10). And therefore, your Consistory is resolved to maintain the ministry of the Word for your comfort and growth in grace as much as possible. Here’s what to expect:
1. A modified “order of service” will be posted on Facebook each Saturday. Fathers should lead their families in worship before our scheduled Sunday service times (11 AM and 6 PM), thus preparing them for the preaching of the gospel via Facebook. The modified service will include links to hymns and other materials.
2. The Sunday morning sermon will be live-streamed via our church’s public Facebook page at 11 AM. Please note that a Facebook account will not be necessary to view this. I will also provide my sermon in written form for fathers to use to instruct their families, especially their younger children. Let’s make the most of our time. The evening sermon will also be live-streamed at 6 PM.
3. Starting next Wednesday, I will provide a brief, live-streamed devotional on Facebook at 6:30 PM. We believe that it’s important to maintain a sense of personal contact and community for however long this epidemic may last. These devotions will focus on prayer, something we should all devote more time to.
4. To maintain our Sunday school program, Elder Snow will distribute each week’s lesson to our parents before Sunday. Again, we are asking fathers to be their children’s teachers.
5. Even after we resume services, it’s likely that we’ll have to make a lot of temporary changes, e.g., suspending snack time and choir practice, modifying how we collect the offering and distribute the elements of the Lord’s Supper, etc.
6. We have asked our deacons to take on numerous projects, including checking with our senior and high-risk members to make sure that all their needs are being met. They will also be looking into enhanced cleaning and disinfecting for the church building, and much more. Please remember that we have only three deacons at the moment. If they ask you to assist them, please do whatever you can.
7. We have also asked our tech committee to ramp up our live-streaming capabilities as soon as possible. Whether we resume services after two weeks or not, we hope to offer a more “normal” broadcast of our services by the first of April.
8. Elder Lagomarsino is planning to contact the Union Gospel Mission to see what its specific needs may be. UGM is on the frontline of ministering to the needy of our community.
9. And let’s not forget to support the church with your prayers and finances. At least one of our members has informed us that his salary will be cut due to the pandemic. Others may follow. The Venmo and EasyTithe phone apps are probably the best way to give.
As far as the pastoral ministry is concerned, let me assure you that I will always be available for your needs. To limit the possibility of spreading infection among our members, I will do what I can via phone and/or Skype, but some situations may require in-person visits (as long as you are comfortable with this). My goal is to maintain as normal a ministry as possible.
Our catechism rightly emphasizes the importance of obeying God’s commandments as an expression of our gratitude for his grace. But challenging times like these remind us that we must also submit willingly and joyfully to his providential appointments. May he give us grace and patience to do so.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
In the love of the Savior,