Dear Church Family,
We greet you in the Name of our Lord, confident of His love for His people and His rule over all the earth.
The elders are writing concerning the recent developments; namely, the COVID-19 pandemic (Coronavirus) and its effect on some of the church’s activities.
Some Church Activities Temporarily Suspended:
The government has prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people, while also strongly recommending that smaller gatherings be avoided/cancelled. The purpose thereof to both slow down the rate of infection (to assist the health services), and prevent it altogether. Doctors within Goodwood Baptist Church have counselled us towards similar action.
Accordingly, in keeping with our responsibility to be good Christian citizens, and out of loving concern for our neighbours, we have had to make some hard decisions. This even as we desire to keep the fellowship & life & witness of the church alive, regardless of all our regular ‘programmes’.
- Sunday Morning Services: Historically, and presently, the morning service usually occupies a prominent role in any church. Thus our intention, beginning this Sunday, is to live-stream our 10am service via the internet (audio & visual) and share it through our facebook page. This temporary measure will enable many members/adherents to stay home – and indeed this is what we ask & encourage under the circumstances. As strange as it may sound, we need to reduce the number of people physically in attendance, so as to be compliant with the new restrictions. The alternative would be to cancel the service altogether, which is even less desirable. We did consider two services, but the practicalities at short notice made it untenable; and in any case, the intention is to reduce the size & number of public gatherings. Thus we suggest that HFG’s, or other small groups, come together on Sunday morning in private homes, to ‘stream’ the service; to participate together in the prayers, readings, listening, and even singing. (We will post song details online before Sunday). If numbers at the church building reach 100 on Sunday morning, we will have to close the doors – so please consider using the live-stream option if it is available to you. Some side notes:
- The technical details of those serving at the church still need to be arranged with the relevant teams.
- There will be no tea/coffee served after the service until further notice
- We will reluctantly hold off on the morning communion service on April 5th, and review for May.
- Sunday Evening Service: The evening service will be suspended for at least two weeks, to give us time to weigh options, and assess the overall situation. It is also in keeping with the counsel to reduce the number of larger gatherings.
- Other Ministries: Many of the church’s other activities are going into recess owing to the school holiday period, and so mercifully the impact here is somewhat lessoned. After the school holidays, we will review the wisdom & timing around resuming the regular programmes.
- The AGM set for March 29th has had to be postponed until further notice. We shall send out the annual reports electronically, and reschedule as soon as possible.
- Kenya Mission: In view of Kenya’s border shut-down, the alternative ‘planned-for’ proposals around the Missions trip are no longer viable. The whole trip is regrettably therefore cancelled. We are seeing how best to recuperate the flight-ticket costs.
- HFG’s are of course free to use their own discretion as to when/whether they meet.
We realise that there will invariably be differing opinions around any approach to the Coronavirus. The above steps may be seen as too conservative/radical by some, and not conservative/radical enough by others. With that in mind:
- Please know that we will be regularly reviewing & assessing, with a view to adapting to the situation as it develops. This is just a first step/response.
- Please know that we are seeking to act according to the medical counsel received, and with such light & wisdom as has been afforded to us as under-shepherds of the flock.
- Please know that there are many other churches and Christian institutions taking similar steps – including those known to us and in the Sola 5 family.
- Please know that this is not a decision that we take lightly, and we assure you it will be only be for as long as necessary.
- Please monitor the website/facebook-page for updates. We will also periodically update via email or other social media.
We would also remind the church of the Lord’s command that we love one another (John 15:12-17). This means that we continue in fellowship & contact, as far as we are able, through other means; and especially remembering to be supportive of those who are in need, and assist the elderly who are more vulnerable to the virus. The elders are most certainly not calling for total isolation and withdrawal. We encourage all members be in regular prayer & contact with one another; and to let others see our love, that they might know we are Christ’s disciples (even as we take necessary precautions). As a general principle, for any time, we ask that church members not attend services when they, or their children, are obviously sick with some contagious illness, like influenza or a stomach bug. While the sick individual may “feel up to it”, it would be unloving to expose others to such ailments; especially when it impacts the health & finances of those now affected by that decision (not everyone in the church can afford time off work, expensive medication, doctor visits etc). Lastly, in the spirit of love, we would also ask that members respect the liberty that other members may exercise around the COVID-19 situation; and not be swift to pass judgement on any decisions they may believe wise (e.g. wearing masks, gloves etc). Let us hold fast together in the bonds of love.
Answering a possible concern: The decision to suspend many activities is born out of Christian obedience & love. By doing so, we are not in violation of the command in Hebrews 10:25 to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing”. Hebrews speaks to a wilful/careless neglect of fellowship, and not a temporary response to some pressing situation, such as this. To hold large gatherings now, against medical counsel from trusted Christians, would be unwise; and it would also be in defiance of a lawful instruction by a government seeking to act in the best interests of its citizens (hence, Romans 13:1-7). True, there are some situations where Christians must exercise civil disobedience, but the present circumstances do not fall into that category.
Most especially, we would encourage each member/adherent to remember the sovereignty of our Triune God. It is not some fictional ‘mother nature’, nor random chance, that sends such things into our lives. It is our Father, in Heaven. And as one who is adopted by Him through His Son, you may confidently assert that He loves you with all His compassion, wisdom, goodness, and perfection. He will do what is right, and this liberates us to live without fear or anxiety. Yes – we do take action, and such reasonable precautions as may be listed above. But we remember that the events unfolding now are not entirely without precedent, as some would have us believe. Plagues, disruptions, wars – all have happened before in history; and have befallen true believers who found by those experiences that God is great & unchanging in His faithfulness. Whatever may befall a Christian, the Lord is upon His throne, and we may cast our burdens upon Him.
We commend to you the two quotes below, and ask that you read them carefully. They will serve us very well.
With love & prayer,
Martin, Winton, Shane & Andrew.
Two worthwhile quotes:
C.S. Lewis, on living with the threat of nuclear war in his time –
In one way, we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
Martin Luther, when his town was struck by a more terrible plague than COVID-19, wrote
“You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree, the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore, 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 infect 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 neighbour needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely.”