As I am sure you are aware, this is the anniversary week of the world shutting down a year ago because of Covid-19. The Lord has been gracious to us through a difficult year, and for this we are thankful. Many of us have contracted the virus, and we have all been affected in one way or another.
It’s interesting to look back at how we saw things, at the time, with what we knew then. We were all playing it by ear, trying to figure out who to believe and how to respond. In that light, I thought I would share my ePistle “blog” from one year ago this week, right when things were starting to get crazy. Here’s what I wrote then:
I am not an epidemiologist, and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But it doesn’t take a smart guy to figure out that when the NBA, NHL, NCAA and Major League Baseball shut down because of the coronavirus, we must have the makings of a fairly serious viral outbreak on our hands. With that in mind, we at Shelby Crossings want to make sure we take every precaution we can to keep our church family safe.
I will admit, I have been pretty skeptical during the past month over the irrational reaction of so many to COVID-19, or coronavirus, particularly in the media. We live in a world where we don’t know who to believe, perhaps because of so-called experts who have “cried wolf” a few too many times on a myriad of issues. It is the nature of our social media driven world to always believe the worst, to promote fear and panic, and to over-exaggerate everything, so you can’t blame anyone for being a little cynical.
Add to that the fact that like everything in the world these days this issue has polarized our nation, so that one side goes into panic mode while the other blows it off–and often people end up reacting to the reaction of others who were reacting to someone else’s reaction, instead of making informed, level-headed decisions. And, to hear and read some people almost excited about the looming outbreak so they can blame the “other side” politically is nothing short of shameful.
If you have been paying attention, you know that the hysteria about the virus really began to escalate the past couple of days and it has spiraled out of control like few things I remember in my lifetime. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be an international pandemic, more and more cases started popping up around the United States, colleges and universities cancelled all but online classes, the stock market continued to tumble, and every major sporting event was cancelled or postponed, even turning March Madness into March Sadness.
There have been some interesting–and dare I say even funny–events along the way, like the completely insane buying out of all the toilet paper, and a particular church in California that is known for its healing ministry deciding to shut down its special healing services because of fears of the coronavirus.
Somehow I think they may be missing the point. Because this very well may be the church’s moment to shine, to live out the gospel even in difficult times, serving people with compassion in the name of Jesus, sharing hope with the hopeless. Like Jesus who hung out with lepers, we too are still called to be salt and light to a dark world. And we can’t do that if we run into our bunkers and hide.
This whole episode has magnified the emphasis from our current message series from the book of Acts, on the 20/20 Vision for the Church. Acts 20:20 tells us that the early church ministered in the temple courts and house to house, and they understood that they were the church wherever they went–not just when they were gathered in public worship services. So, even if things were to develop so that we had to stop our congregational worship gatherings each week, we would not cease to be the church. We would still be able to meet together, and serve one another, house to house.
In fact, that has happened across the world on many occasions, when government pressure or persecution supposedly shut down the churches. They went “underground,” meeting in homes, and the church flourished like never before. Thus the 20/20 Vision of the church is that we will still be the church, and be His witnesses, wherever we are. Jesus will continue to build His church, and the gates of hell–nor any virus–will prevail against it.
In the mean time, we will not fear and we will not panic. God is still on the throne, we are safe in His hands, and His love still endures forever. As a church body, at this time we are planning to continue our current schedule of services and activities. We will be wise and prudent and extra careful in making sure that we take necessary precautions and are prepared and sanitized to prevent any spread of the virus.
Those who are particularly vulnerable and in the “at risk” categories because of advanced age or compromised immunity, we certainly understand if you want to err on the side of caution and stay home for a while. For those who do attend our services, we ask that you practice basic hygiene (hand-washing, covered coughs and sneezes) and refrain from handshakes as you greet one another. We will also forgo sharing communion in our worship services for a while. Also, if you feel that you may be showing symptoms of sickness, please “love your neighbor” enough to stay home and not share it with the rest of us (even if it’s just a common cold).
And I would ask that you join us in praying, for the Lord’s protection from the spread of this virus, but more than that, for the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this time, and point people to Him.
As a point of context, the next week we shut down our in-person gatherings for two months, and you know all that transpired from there. As we look back, I am grateful for the Lord’s protection, for which we prayed and He answered. I do hope that we have been wise and prudent and careful over the last twelve months, even as we have tried to walk by faith, and be faithful. And as we look forward, I pray that we will continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the “new normal” world that is to come on the other side of this pandemic.
May the Lord be honored in His church. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.