To the Trinity Evangelical Free Church family,
Thursday afternoon Governor DeWine issued a statement placing a ban on gatherings of 100 or more people in order to help stem the spread of COVID-19. He also made clear that this did not apply to religious gatherings and churches. This ensures that our 1st amendment rights are not being violated. In light of this statement, as well as other information that is out there about the spread of this virus, the elders met last night to discuss our options moving forward.
One of the biggest concerns that we have for caring for our congregation during this time is that of the demographic of our body and how it relates to the categories of people considered at risk for this virus to be life threatening. We talked over several different options, consulted with the statements that have been issued by our District Superintendent as well as by the President of the EFCA. Nowhere was anyone telling us that we could not or should not hold our normal services on Sunday mornings. One of the correspondences with EFCA leadership put it this way. “We recommend that churches comply with government requests for social-distancing measures such as curtailing or canceling public gatherings.” As well as this statement, “give yourself permission to make a decision to support peoples’ health and safety even though some may think your decision was unnecessary. You won’t be able to please everyone – so don’t try. Make the best decision you can under the circumstances and stick to it. You don’t need to be 100% certain that it was “required.” Sometimes it’s wiser to be timely than proven correct later. We don’t believe God will be angry with pastors who make the safety of their flock more important than their programming schedule.” We also spent time in the Word and prayer leading up to this meeting. As we have been studying the book of 1 John, one of the main themes is the importance of loving our brothers. This was paramount in our discussions.
In light of what it looks like to love one another as 1 John says “Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18), we have decided that we are going to cancel our services for Sunday, March 15th. We believe that one of the ways that we can love one another is by not putting those around us at risk for exposure to COVID-19. We do not take this decision lightly, but since the warnings placed out by the CDC and WHO state that those who are of an age of 65+ and those who may be immunocompromised are at greater risk if they were to contract this virus, and we have a high percentage of people in that age range who attend regularly, we feel that it is in the best interest of loving one another that we will be closing the church building for all gatherings for the next week. This includes our mid-week AWANA ministry, the Monday night prayer meeting, as well as the one80 youth program. The Wild Game Dinner has been postponed indefinitely and we are working on finding a replacement date. We will reevaluate the situation next week and be in communication about what we are doing moving forward.
We also want people to understand that this does not mean that we will be stopping ministry during this time. During this uncertain time, we need to allow our light to shine in this dark world. In that mindset, we are currently exploring avenues to continually be ministering and loving our church family as well as the community. We will not be stopping our ministry in the Word. We will be continuing to record messages that will be posted on our website and we also are currently looking into the use of a live-streaming service that would allow us to meet virtually on Sunday mornings moving forward. We also want to be ministering specifically to those in our congregation to whom this virus might impact their way of life. Here are some suggestions for this from the EFCA that we will be working on implementing during the coming week/s.
Here are some ways that churches can show compassion toward those affected by this virus and the effort to slow its spread.
- The elderly and infirm are particularly high-risk populations. Especially if we encourage them to stay home, and if they do, someone reaching out to them to ensure their safety would be a blessing. Some may need assistance with groceries or the like if they feel they should stay indoors and away from activities such as shopping.
- If someone in your congregation contracts the virus, consult with family members and medical professionals about what, if anything, you should do to care for them. Cooperate with epidemiologists if contacted regarding quarantine or sanitation issues.
- Some in your congregation may suffer a short-term financial crisis as a result of loss of work or business-related income. Let people know who to contact should they require financial assistance.
These are some areas of practical guidance for church leaders to consider. But perhaps the most practical guidance of all is to bathe this entire situation, the virus, its spread throughout the country and world, its victims, the families of decedents, and the impact upon our churches, in prayer. We don’t know the future, but we know who holds it. May this virus be used by God to help spread the gospel among all people, and may we be His instruments in doing so.
Finally, we would encourage all of you to be in prayer for this situation and use some of the extra time you may have to be in the Word. We would like to remind you that you also have been given access to the libraries of teaching and studies available on the RightNowMedia streaming service as well. If you have any questions the office and staff will continue to maintain normal office hours as of now and will be available to answer questions you may have as well as pray with you as the need arises. We leave you with the words of the EFCA President Kevin Kompelien, “ In a time when fear and confusion have grown, be a voice of comfort and reason as you remind your churches to trust the Lord as His faithfulness is displayed in these unique times. God is on the throne and, as we know, challenging times provide great opportunities for us to pursue our mission and share the hope of the gospel.”
Pastor Chris and the Elders