March 17, 2020
Dear Seventh Day Baptists,
Yesterday, President Trump issued new guidelines for the public in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. You may be seeing the implementation of many of those guidelines in your community such as the closure of gyms/ movie theaters/schools, shutting down dining-in at restaurants, and restrictions on visitation at nursing homes and hospitals. We don’t need to tell you that many of these changes have been sudden and have caused a sense of fear and/or panic in your communities. This situation and our government’s response to it is rapidly changing. It is possible this letter may be obsolete later today.
It is in times like these that we have the comfort of a never-changing God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is sovereign and present to you and for you. However, with restrictions on the size of public gatherings recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of no more than 50 people for the next eight weeks and the Presidential Guidelines of no more than 10 people for the next 15 days, there is some question on our minds as to how to be present for each other in our faith communities for this time. We recommend that our churches adhere to these guidelines.
How do we creatively be the church while not gathering publicly as the church? Some ideas for you as you consider the best ways to be the church:
- Leverage technology to live stream a message from the pastor or set up a conference call for prayer.
- Don’t forget to call on each other. Isolation and loneliness are detrimental to humans, even introverts. People like to know that someone else is thinking about them.
- Think about those in your faith family and your neighbors as you shop and serve.
- Gather your families for worship in your homes on Sabbath. Use a simple liturgy of songs, prayers, and recorded messages. Use this time to help your family understand that faith doesn’t just belong at church.
- Don’t forget to worship God through your giving. This is a huge part of our recognition of God’s sovereignty and provision for us. Give online or mail your check into your church.
- Consider that the actions (or inactions) of your church (whether it is gathered or scattered) speak to others about your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- Gather your information from official sources. Contact your Directors if you need someone to speak with about an idea.
- Use social media wisely; both in your consumption and your contribution.
In the Christian calendar, we are in the season of Lent. This is a time when many Christian faith traditions encourage us to recognize our vulnerability and mortality as well as to make sacrifices to our own comfort. In doing so, we recognize how little control we actually have over our lives. However, our lack of control and our vulnerability is not bad news as it opens us to the good news that we worship a God is in control, who entered our mess in order to restore us and eventually restore all of creation – and we are dependent on Him.
That doesn’t mean that we are glib or ignore what is happening; rather it means that we are honest with what is happening and we lean into the truth that there is a hope that is deeper than our circumstances – a hope that circumstances can’t steal.
This current crisis will, one day, pass. But the reality that this crisis reveals – that we are fallen people in a fallen world who are vulnerable, not in control, and subject to death – will remain (even when we work to insulate ourselves from that truth). But what we have an opportunity to reveal in these days is the even deeper reality of the life and hope we have in Jesus; to each other in our faith communities but also to the world.
In the middle of 1527 and a plague that was sweeping through Europe, Martin Luther gave this response as he stayed behind with his pregnant wife in a city where more than 60% of the people were afflicted in his pamphlet, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague”:
“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 neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely.”‘
Serve your families. Serve your churches. Serve your neighbors. Serve your communities. Serve Jesus. And serve Him well.
“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
Please find resources at coronavirusandthechurch.com to help you and your church serve others during this time.
In Great Appreciation for the Faith Family in Which He Has Placed Us,
The SDB Director Team