Update May 7th, 2020
Beloved in Christ:
“Hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.” Psalm 130:7
It seems like ages ago, but it was just 7 weeks ago that I wrote to you saying, “What remarkable days we’re living in! Who would have every thought! And yet, in God’s providence, here we are. The great question before us is not “Why?” or “How long?” but rather, “How should we best make use of this time for Christ’s Kingdom and His glory?” During the coronavirus quarantine, our regularly scheduled meetings, studies, baby showers, bake-offs, and fellowship groups have been necessarily postponed, but ministry has not been cancelled. Not by a long shot.”
I never dreamed we’d have to make so many adjustments to our lives and our worship. Nobody signed up for this: not for the sickness, not for the social distancing, not for the economic disruption, not for the politicization of everything, not for the sudden end of our lives together, not for mastering new technologies, not for livestreaming services. But at the same time, nobody thought we could reach folks with our Sunday worship in the refugee camps of Iraq or the villages of Egypt or the high-rises of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Through it all, our Lord remains unchanged in His grace and power; the world remains unchanged in its need for redemption and renewal; the church of Jesus remains unchanged in its commission to offer good news to a bad news culture: our mission remains changed and our vision remains changed. May we therefore respond to this extraordinary opportunity with the confidence of the psalmist, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the Lord” (Psalm 46:7-8).
As you know, we will conduct 3 gathering times for worship starting this Sunday: 8:30, 10, and 11:30 to accommodate spacing and sanitizing. But, we will also continue to livestream our 10 AM service for those who are in vulnerable circumstances or at-risk categories. We will only be able to seat 103 of us in the chapel in an effort to maintain a level of social distancing. There will only be room for 20 overflow spaces in the foyer. So, please be patient with us as we do our best to spread out across all 3 services.
Masks will be made available any others who might choose to use them, but if you have your own, please do bring them. Folks are going to make different choices and we want to patiently accommodate everyone we possibly can.
You’ll notice that we will have 4 Lord’s Supper tables so that we can provide a bit of distancing. This will also hopefully shorten the Communion time—we’re trying to cut about 15 minutes from the average service time in order to maintain 30 minutes between each gathering. Sanitizing steps on frequently-touched surfaces and chairs will be implemented between the gatherings, necessitating a quick turn-around—so, most fellowship will need to take place outdoors. Based on 3 or 4 weeks of this protocol, we can evaluate whether or not we are able move to a second phase, lessening restrictions and adding chairs.
Out of necessity, we will not have Sunday School classes or Nursery care in this first phase (have I ever mentioned we need to have a new building?) Our home fellowship groups and our youth Bible Study will be added as quickly as wisdom allows—some are planning to meet as early as this next week.
I trust you are as excited as I am to begin to quickly return to a level of normalcy. Please pray for your deacons and elders, your pastors and musicians, as we attempt to implement this very welcome, albeit arduous plan. I’m sure there will be hiccups and inconveniences along the way, so please bear with us. We love you all and pray for you on a daily basis. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
Standfast. Pastor George
“Let us be neither over-sanguine nor over-melancholy of immediate results. Our perspective of time is only slowly synchronized to the clock of providence.” Thomas Chalmers
March 21st, 2020 Update
Though there can be no doubt about the fact that we are living in extraordinary times, these are not unprecedented times. Throughout history the church of the Lord Jesus has often faced far greater calamities and difficulties.
The coronavirus epidemic is disrupting our plans and schedules, our work and play, our economy and culture. It is even disrupting our worship—but it can never disrupt our faith. It is hard to know at this moment what the coming weeks and months will hold. But we know that our Lord remains unchanged in His grace and power. The world remains unchanged in its need for redemption and renewal. And, the church of Jesus remains unchanged in its commission to offer good news to a bad news culture. May we therefore respond to every fear and distress with the confidence of the psalmist, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the Lord” (Psalm 46:7-8)
While it does not seem that the spread of the coronavirus can be stopped, if its spread can be stretched out over a longer period of time then our medical resources may limit the number of severe cases and deaths. Often a person carrying the virus does not know he or she has been infected until after already spreading it. So, all of the social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantining measures that have been widely implemented around the world are aimed at slowing the contagion.
Last Sunday we gathered for worship as per usual—and we added an online livestream of the 11 AM service. But, much has changed in the few days since. Public health officials, our governor, and even the president have asked that we limit all public gatherings to no more than ten individuals. Our elders have wrestled mightily with the question of what we should do about worship this coming Lord’s Day. After much prayer, study, and discussion we have determined that Parish should livestream only this week. Here is our plan going forward:
- We’ll plan an 11 AM livestream service that will only be slightly abbreviated, without the Lord’s Supper. You can find the service at Facebook.com/ParishPresbyterianChurch.
- You can find the Sunday bulletin on the church website at ParishPres.org/bulletins. And as always, audio recordings of the sermons can be found at ParishPres.org/sermons or you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Also on iTunes you can subscribe to George and Karen’s Standfast podcast.
- We’re calling for a day of prayer and fasting for each Wednesday from now until Easter.
- We’ll begin to create livestream devotions each evening at 7 PM, with a Psalm reading, prayer, and recommendations on how to make the most of these days of isolation. These too can be found at Facebook.com/ParishPresbyterianChurch. And remember, if you miss the live feed, you can watch the recording at a later time.
- We will reevaluate this plan every week until the need for isolation is lifted.
- Our elders will be contacting every member that we can during what we pray will only be a brief hiatus.
May the Lord give us grace as we proceed to proclaim the good news of the Gospel.
Rest in His provision. Trust in His providence. Walk in His mercy. Remain in His love. Rely on His strength.
In the meantime, please take this health situation very seriously, if for no other reason so that you will not be a carrier of this virus to others. The spread of the coronavirus is extremely rapid, so the less movement we have in our society and the less contact we have with others, the more we are loving our neighbors. At the same time, this is a perfect opportunity to love and serve others, remembering that each of us should “Look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
As we worship together therefore, however peculiar the circumstances, we do so knowing that His promises are sure. Let us gather, wherever we are, in the spirit of unity and hope. This coming Lord’s Day we’ll sing of the Rock of Ages, of the Lover of Our Souls, of the Fount of Every Blessing. We’ll sing of His Wondrous Love and we will reaffirm before a watching world that, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).
Standfast in His Grace. Pastor George