What do you need to know about something in order to believe in it?
This week we are reading about many things being cancelled out of an “abundance of caution.” But Highrock has decided to cancel our Sunday services and all in-person gatherings at least until Holy Week for a different reason: an abundance of love.
During the pandemics that swept the Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, while civic leaders and even medical professionals fled for the countryside to protect themselves, Christians remained in the cities to care for the sick and dying. The resurrection of Jesus made these Christians unafraid to die, which freed them to love their neighbors sacrificially. This compassion inspired many people to become Christians and the Church grew exponentially!
When Bubonic Plague devastated Europe in the mid-1300s Christians demonstrated this same sacrificial love by choosing to remain and care for the sick rather than run to safety.
Such wonderful examples might encourage Christians today to continue meeting fearlessly despite threats from COVID-19. But I believe that today that same sacrificial love for our neighbors must take a different form.
Our congregations tend to skew toward younger demographics less likely to be affected as severely by this Coronavirus. So the primary reason not to meet is not to protect ourselves, but to protect our most vulnerable neighbors. We also have many precious members who are at higher risk, and we want to care for them as well.
Community containment efforts have failed. Now the best way to serve our neighbors is to slow the spread of this virus so that medical facilities and professionals are not overwhelmed by more patients than they can care for. We can do this by avoiding in-person gatherings of more than 25 people, and even in smaller gatherings practicing “micro social distancing”, which includes remaining at least 3 feet apart and frequent hand washing.
If you are interested in the science of why distancing matters, here are a few helpful resources:
While I am saddened by the prospect of sacrificing many of our beloved and meaningful regular gatherings, I wonder what new invitations God may be giving you personally and us collectively in this season. Our staff team is exploring ways to connect virtually, including online Sunday services and many more new opportunities throughout the week. We will send out more information about this in the days ahead. Churches in Japan were forced into virtual gatherings during their quarantine, but some found that this allowed many of their neighbors to join them who might have been reluctant to show up at a service in person. Many new people are finding Jesus that way. Imagine if God opened new doors for the Gospel even while we are all stuck behind closed doors!
In addition, we are looking into ways that we can serve those who are impacted by either the disruptions caused by COVID-19, or by the disease itself. We are currently in talks with community leaders and medical professionals to figure out if there are ways we can bless others in this difficult and frightening time. If you have ideas about this, jump in, and share those ideas with the rest of us by contacting email@example.com.
Finally, I want to say THANK YOU to the many medical professionals, researchers, and community leaders at Highrock who are on the front lines against this pandemic. If some of the rest of us have extra time at home over the next few weeks, let’s use some of it to pray for those who are working even harder to protect everyone else, and in many cases, facing much greater risks.
As always, check in on each other; and if you have needs, share them with others in your Small Group, your circle of friends, or the Community Board so that we can be a body together. We will not be dominated by fear, but by love.