Dear Village Bible Church Family,
As we watch the breaking news and crashing markets we are continually reminded that we live in turbulent times. The outbreak of COVID-19 seems to have thrown a wrench in our daily schedules, work environments, spring break plans and visits to the grandparents. Rarely, has such an event impacted so many elements of our life. So what about church? How does Village Bible Church interpret all the conflicting news and thoughts surrounding our present global situation? What are we doing to make everyone safe as we worship and fellowship together? At a recent elder gathering, we talked about our need to respond to COVID-19 in a way that is keeping with scripture and two passages come to mind when it seems like the world is coming apart:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)
Let’s be honest, the global spread of COVID-19, the Coronavirus, has become a focus of attention and concern for many.
Drawing on scripture and godly wisdom, we offer these points, which speak to both the physical and spiritual concerns that occur at a time like this. Before speaking to our specific plans as a church let's be reminded of a biblical response in times like these:
Trust God...He is in control.
In the midst of uncertainty, we trust God. He is sovereign over human history and over our lives. He is the Lord, "our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). And he is loving and merciful. Psalm 100:5 assures us, "For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations."
Our faith in God and his providential care helps us to resist panic, knowing that our times are in the Lord's hand (Psalm 31:15). No one can snatch us out of the Father's hand (John 10:28-29). And so, "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Be informed...God has given us the blessing of science and medicine.
There is much on the internet from unhelpful extreme perspectives that encourage either total panic or utter disregard and complacency. Pay attention to health advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our government officials as well as using sound judgment and sober-mindedness. The CDC, as well as many other government and ministerial groups, are providing a wealth of information about the disease and appropriate steps for individuals, churches, schools, and businesses to take. Our own Cisco Cotto has recorded three different podcasts for WBBM concerning the Coronavirus and the impact it is having locally and globally. You can listen to them here: Podcast #1 Podcast #2 Podcast #3
What else can we do? Wash your hands! Wash them frequently and thoroughly, for a minimum of 20 seconds using soap and warm water. There is no substitute for this. While alcohol-based hand sanitizers can kill bacteria, they have not been shown to be as effective against COVID-19 or other viruses. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
If you have symptoms of a cough, or fever within the last 24 hours, please limit your contact with others. Infectious disease specialists have emphasized how vitally important this is. If you are returning from known areas of higher prevalence of COVID-19, once again use prudence in your engagement with others. Depending on your exposure, your response might be no change in activity to the need for self-quarantine over a period of time. Only you know what is necessary.
Act in love...Think of others as more important than ourselves.
Reach out to your neighbors, particularly the elderly and those who are vulnerable or alone. This time of instability serves as a great reason for all of us to give a reason for the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Let us use these moments to share that hope with gentleness and respect no matter how others are responding to this situation. We need to lift up those who have been affected by this, especially those who have lost loved ones because of it. We also need to pray for those who find themselves quarantined or economically impacted by the preventive measures that are being taken. Pray that the church might shine like stars during this time of confusion and instability. Let us also lift up those in positions of authority including both government and church leaders to make wise decisions in the days to come.
What about our Church?
As you know, churches are all about human contact. It is not uncommon for our church members to engage in handshakes, fist-bumps, hugs. So how is our church to respond to such a situation where many news outlets are calling for little to no contact with one another and to abstain from public gatherings that place you in contact with hundreds of others? While things are ever changing your elders believe that at this time prudence and wisdom should be followed, not hysteria. To this end let us share with you how we will go about our church experiences together in the days to come.
First, we want all to be at ease. There will be a myriad of responses by our church members in the days to come. Some will choose not to attend, others may be more cautious when it comes to close contact, while others will go on as usual. Our recommendation and exhortation to everyone is not to pass judgment on each other or use our different responses to this situation to divide us. This means being patient with each other as we see our days from many different perspectives. This will create some awkward meet and greet times but as we show love and deference to each other it will create a new opportunity to serve one another.
Second, we will be all the more vigilant in the cleaning of all our campuses to make sure that everyone can have confidence that surfaces are safe for contact. Special focus and attention will be given to doors and bathrooms as well as in our nurseries. Please lift up our campus cleaning and janitorial volunteers and staff as they serve our church community in this way.
Third, our staff and leaders will be reminding all children and students attending to wash hands when they are coming and going from church activities. This small measure will go a long way in not spreading any germs during our time together. This recommendation is also for all those who attend small groups. While sharing is a key attribute for a healthy group, sharing germs is an exception to that rule!
Fourth, what about communion? How do we go about sharing a common plate in our times around the Lord’s table? At this time we will continue our practice as normal but if things change we will seek to find ways that allow us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper without fear or anxiety for our members.
Finally, although our giving boxes are a safe way to give, we recommend that you give your tithe and offering online if possible as cash and checks will have to be handled by our counting team. In case you have not tried it, our online giving platform is safe, easy and accessible. It also enables you to give even if you are unable to make it to church in person. This might be a great time to give it a try: www.villagebible.church/give.
All of these things are in place not because we live in fear but instead are ways that we seek to love one another and live in harmony with one another. We are confident that God can and will use all circumstances, and yes even something like COVID-19, for our good and His glory. So let’s use common sense in the days to come. Remember, if you’re sick please stay home. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you this Sunday at Village.
God bless you and your family as you do your best to stay healthy this season!
On behalf of The Guiding Elders