Our public meetings are all suspended for the time being as our community faces the current health crisis. A more detailed explanation of our thoughts and plans is below, but here are some quick links to online resources you can use while we aren't able to gather as a church:
- Sermon audio
- Resources for worshipping at home
- Daily devotions from our elders
- Requests for prayer
- Requests for help
- Our mailing list
- Online giving
Here is a letter that was recently sent to our congregation by the Grace Church elders explaining our thoughts about this situation:
A number of local pastors met at Grace Church yesterday morning to pray and discuss how our churches should respond to the new government regulations regarding meetings and social interaction, and then our session met yesterday evening to make plans specifically pertaining to our congregation. I want to explain our plans to you, and also give you a little of the rationale behind our decisions.
First, let me say that our chief goal here is not to lean on our own wisdom, but to be guided by the scriptures. With that in mind, here are a few biblical principles we’ve taken into consideration:
- All christians are commanded not to neglect meeting together; Hebrews 10:25
- The elders are tasked with watching over and caring for the flock, and ministering the word to the church; Acts 20:28, John 21:15-17
- Christians are to submit to the human authority God has placed over us; Romans 13:1-7
- We are to uphold human life in every circumstance and do everything possible to prevent the loss of life; Exodus 20:13 (compare Westminster Larger Catechism Q134-136)
In light of the statewide ban on meetings in groups of more than ten, there is a certain tension between some of these biblical principles. How do we not neglect meeting together and submit to our governing authority at the same time when our governor has ordered that we not meet? However, we are convinced that certain biblical commands take priority over others, and of those listed above, the 6th commandment and the obligation to preserve and protect life in every case takes the place of ultimate priority.
Therefore we have decided to comply with the state’s request that we not meet in groups of 10 or more. These regulations have been put in place in order to protect and preserve life which is in keeping with God’s revealed will for us, and so we will cooperate as much as possible. For the time being we will not have any meetings of any kind at the church. All gatherings, including Sunday services, prayer meetings, small groups and committee meetings are now cancelled.
Now, the fact that we do not have the ability to gather at the church together right now does not mean that our need to care for one another and pray and sit under the ministry of the word has ceased. The elders have a plan to carry on with body life together for this season, and it involves four components:
1. Online communication - beginning next week and continuing indefinitely, the elders will be working together to provide you with some spiritual guidance everyday. We’ll be taking turns writing a few devotional thoughts and suggestions for prayer, and making that available to you through email, social media and the church website.
2. Family worship - beginning this Sunday we will provide resources and instructions for us all to spend time in worship in our own homes in place of our regular service. This will include readings, guidance for prayer, songs, and recorded biblical instruction. I’m planning to continue our series on the gospel of Mark, but instead of a normal sermon I’ll be sending you a 5 or 10 minute devotional video that is family friendly, and links to sermon audio and other resources if you want to go deeper in study. We will also include a suggested time to begin on Sunday so that we can still worship together as a church, even though we are separated.
3. Prayer meetings - we will continue having prayer meetings three times a week, but we will conduct these meetings remotely through video and audio conferencing technology. We’re still working on the details, but the plan is for you to be able to log into a prayer meeting via video on a personal computer or smart phone, or by calling a number on the telephone. Again, details are still being worked out, but we hope to have this in place for the 5:30 prayer meeting on Sunday evening.
4. Personal contact - the elders and deacons are going to be working together to make personal contact via telephone with each of you regularly; hopefully at least once a week. This will enable us all to have some spiritual conversation regardless of our circumstances, and it will give you an opportunity to communicate with us about your needs and prayer requests (there is also a place to let us know about your needs and prayer requests online).
This is a strange time for the world, and it’s a strange time for us as a church. We’re confident in God’s wisdom however, and we can already see how a trial like this might be good for us in the long term. Maybe when this season has passed and we can gather again, we will all be better at keeping in touch with one another, worshipping in our homes during the week, and studying the scriptures on our own. Maybe we’ll be a healthier and more mature church. Please ask God to be working in our congregation to that end.
There will be more information about all of these things coming soon. Thank you for your prayers and your trust in us as your elders.
Charlie (on behalf of Russell, Don, John, George, Gordon and Aaron)