Taking as much into consideration as we can over the last two weeks regarding the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (CoViD 19), our leadership team, including elders and staff, has decided to cancel our Sunday services for the next two weeks, March 15th and March 22nd. We’ve been discussing our plans to cancel for the last 48 hours and working on a plan for communication moving forward. Our plans were confirmed by the Sandler Center administration late Friday, March 13th: the building is not permitted to host large gatherings over 150 people for at least two weeks. For now, we will not be canceling our community groups, so each group leader and host home will have the freedom to cancel or continue their smaller gatherings. If you are not involved in a community group, we encourage you to contact us to find one nearest to you! We will make any decisions about future gatherings and events next week as we hear more information. We will also be sharing various resources for groups and individuals to study and worship on their own.
We’ve seen the perspectives on this issue range from panic to dismissive, so as a church, we want to embrace a middle-ground, both-and approach to having faith and exercising wisdom and showing love to our neighbors: “We will not be motivated by fear, we will stand together in faith for our community, AND we will be considerate toward our community by canceling larger gatherings and looking out for those who are vulnerable to the disease or to the economic impact of the disease.” I don’t consider this to be the only way to respond, by any means, but at least we can demonstrate that the social ethic and rhetoric of our day can be changed if the church takes the lead in empathy and nuance to uphold tension (instead of trending toward either of the extremes in any debate) and serve as peacemakers.
Because we have several families in our church with children who are immunocompromised, even though they may opt-out of attending on Sunday, they’re concerned that they might show up at community group along with someone who DID show up on Sunday. Also, because we want to show solidarity with our community, and because our government officials are asking organizations to limit their large gatherings, we want to do our small part in protecting you and our community from the possible spread of illness.
Public Gatherings and Large Events
“In accordance with advice from state public health experts, the Commonwealth of Virginia will cancel all specially-scheduled state conferences and large events for a minimum of 30 days.
Governor Northam is directing state agencies, through the Department of Human Resource Management, to limit in-person meetings and non-essential, work-related gatherings.
Governor Northam is also urging localities and non-profits to limit large public events, effective immediately. Localities should make these decisions in coordination with their local health departments and the Virginia Department of Health. Highly populated localities and those with close proximity to positive cases are strongly encouraged to announce updated event guidance by Friday, March 13, at 5:00 PM, in advance of the weekend.”
As new COVID-19 information continues to be released, we are prayerfully seeking the next steps for our services and will continue to provide updates on upcoming gatherings. Again, at this time, we are not canceling any other events or gatherings, but we will keep you informed on our website, on The Realm (our in-house communication platform), on Facebook, on Instagram, and on our App.
In the meantime, the people of God have work to do! During the Black Plague (not to be an alarmist here! but to give an example…), while others with financial means were fleeing their cities, many Christians opted to stay and serve the sick and the poor. As a result, the message of Jesus spread. During that time, Martin Luther wrote these wise words:
“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 inflict 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. I shall go freely as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Luther’s Works; Vol. 43, pg. 132
In a time like this, our faith needs to be demonstrated by love for others. Here are a few ways we can do that:
- Refuse to participate in Asian-American profiling or racism (either in rhetoric or in refusing Asian-American business);
- Check on neighbors who may have lost hours at work or those who are immobile to see if you can share some of the goods you’ve saved up;
- Check on families whose children will now be home for at least 2 weeks because schools have closed to see if they need meals during the day or other assistance;
- Check with organizations like AidNow, Union Mission, PIN Ministries, and local Food Banks to see what assistance they might need serving populations in need;
- Contact your friends who are first responders or medical personnel to see what assistance you can provide through a meal or care package or prayer;
- Wash your hands, wear your seatbelts, take your medications and supplements, go to bed at a decent hour, limit all media interaction, read your bibles (had to throw that one in there!);
- Continue to meet with people, because although you may not feel as alarmed as others, the single greatest antidote to loneliness and anxiety is community. We might be engaging in what some have referred to as social distancing by canceling our larger events, but that can’t be at the expense of actually meeting with people, praying with people, and affirming our love and service.
I imagine that there’s more we could say, and perhaps more we will be able to say in the coming days. Dr. Francis Grimke, the pastor of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in D.C. said over 100 years ago during the Spanish Flu:
“The fact that churches were places of religious gathering, and others not, would not affect in the least the health question involved. If avoiding crowds lessens the danger of being infected, it was wise to take the precaution and not needlessly run in danger, and expect God to protect us.”
As mentioned, we are prayerfully seeking how to proceed in the coming days and weeks. We will be providing updates and keep you informed on our website, on The Realm, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on our Anchor Church App.
Let’s join together in prayer for our community, our nation, and for the world at large. Pray for those who are ill, and encourage those who are anxious or fearful about the current events. Let’s continue to place our hope in Jesus, who is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19), and let’s press in to stay connected to your neighbors and community groups.
We’ll miss being together this Sunday! We love you all, and we hope to see you soon!
If you have any specific prayer requests, would you reach out to us by contacting Melanie Rivera so that she can pass it along to our leadership team? Her email address is email@example.com.