Dear InTown Family,
What a week this has been! Our lives have been altered by this Coronavirus in ways that would have seemed unimaginable to us even a week ago. Together with the session and leaders within the church, and in consultation with medical professionals, we have decided that the best course of action for now is for us to cancel our worship services for the next two Sundays (3/15 and 3/22). This has been a difficult decision to make, but we are confident that it is the right one based on the information that we have and in light of our calling to love our neighbors and to seek the welfare of our city.
For myself, one of the guiding principles as I have sought to lead our congregation over the past several days is what our Westminster Larger Catechism teaches about the Sixth Commandment: “You shall not murder” – Exodus 20:13. The Larger Catechism states that the Sixth Commandment, among other things, requires: “all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others” and that this commandment also forbids: “the neglecting…of necessary means of preservation of life.” Our decision to suspend all in-person church activities including worship services for these next two weeks is a decision that is meant to honor the Sixth Commandment, and to hopefully play a role in our community’s ability to protect human life, especially the lives of those who are most at risk from this virus – the elderly, and those with underlying health concerns.
One of the most encouraging things that I have seen in this crisis is the way that people are banding together to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens. Neighbors are caring for neighbors. Businesses are laying aside the financial bottom-line in order to protect life. Families are working to care for and support one another. This strikes me as a profoundly Christian impulse. Of course, in the fear and anxiety of the moment, there are also less distinctively Christian impulses at play. Just visit the toilet paper aisle of your neighborhood grocery store if you don’t believe me!
This crisis is an opportunity for the church to be the church. So while we are not meeting for these next two Sundays, we should not say “church is cancelled.” The church is a people and we are not cancelled! We are called to be the living body of Christ more than ever in times of crisis and suffering. We need one another, and our community needs us. To that end, here’s what you can expect for the next two weeks:
First, your shepherding elder will be reaching out to you soon to make sure that you and your family are well. This elder will be your primary contact person if you are in need of assistance from the church. They can connect you with help from our deacons should financial or physical need arise. We have wonderful elders who love you, who pray for you regularly and who want to be of service to you.
Secondly, you can download a liturgy for home worship from our website here. This is a simple service of prayer and readings that you can use as a family, or perhaps with a small group of friends and neighbors. I will be leading through this service and preaching a brief homily at 10 AM from my home that you can view on our church’s Facebook videos page. I hope you will join us. We plan to offer the same service next Sunday at 10 AM.
Also, tomorrow has been designated as a national day of prayer, and we would like to love our neighbors by praying for them. We are therefore asking our members to pray throughout the day tomorrow, in 30 minute intervals. You can sign up here to take a thirty minute prayer slot. We are designating prayer assignments from 11:00 AM (immediately following our live service), up until 8:00 PM. Obviously, if you would rather pray earlier or later you are welcome to do so.
Finally, this Coronavirus outbreak has widespread financial implications for many businesses. A church that has to cancel worship services is one such “business.” It is important for the health of our church and for the support of our staff that each of us continue to give financially to the church. Please continue to give as you have planned to do for however long we are unable to worship in person. You can learn more about online giving here.
Remember friends, you are God’s beloved. Your life belongs to Christ, and nothing in this world can separate you from the love of God in Christ. We are here for you, and as a church every one of us are here for our city, our neighbors, our schools, our families and our friends. This is a time of opportunity for us to see and display the truth, beauty and goodness of Jesus in our city.
Grace and Peace,