I know many of you are closely following the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world, including a growing number of presumptive cases in Virginia. I want to bring you up to speed on how we are responding as a church staff, including precautions in the present and plans for the future. First and foremost, however, let me speak to what the Lord cares about the most in a situation like this, namely, the posture of our hearts.
I think it’s easy to swing between two extremes. On the one hand, we can opt for mocking dismissal, “Why are all these crazy people freaking out?” On the other hand, we can slide into a fearful panic, “What if I get sick? What if my kids get sick? What if I can’t work? What if…?” Fear thrives in the realm of the unknown and there are a lot of unknowns about how coronavirus will affect our local community.
We need to remember our Heavenly Father calls us to reject both of those responses in exchange for a completely different attitude of sobriety, trust, and love. A global pandemic reminds us we live in a fallen world that languishes under the curse of sin. So we’re not surprised or shocked when a novel virus gains steam. We’re sobered. We’re saddened. We groan with all creation, longing for Jesus to make all things new.
At the same time, we really can trust the Lord. Why? Because we know the God who loves us, died for us, and is always with us is in complete control of the whole situation. Plagues come and go at his command. Storms cease at the sound of his voice. The sick are healed. Dead men walk out of tombs. Jesus proved over and over again during his ministry on earth that the entire created world, even in all its fallenness, remains under his perfect authority.
And because of the gospel, we know Jesus will work every hard thing, every sad thing, and every scary thing for our good and his glory. Praise God for the hope we have in Christ! Apart from him, the thought of contracting a deadly illness is absolutely terrifying. With him, it will still be painful, but we don’t have to be afraid. God is in control. He is for you. He is with you. He will never stop being our Good Shepherd. We don’t have to know what will happen over the next few weeks. Our Father does, and in that we rest.
Quiet confidence in the goodness and authority of King Jesus frees us to keep looking for ways to love fearful or suffering people around us instead of circling the wagons and focusing on ourselves. We take precautions. We exercise wisdom. And we seize every opportunity the Lord gives us to practically love our neighbors and give a reason for the hope within us. Nearly everyone around us is thinking about coronavirus on some level. Let’s use those conversations to share the comfort we have in Jesus.
With hearts marked by sobriety, trust, and love, we’re in a good position to take some practical steps to protect our church and serve our local community. Most of the following are common-sense measures. We’re also dealing with a fluid situation where what seems wise now may change next week. In that regard, I’m especially grateful for the ongoing counsel of our brother, Alex Samuel, who is the Chesterfield Health Director. We’re leaning into his experience and instincts in taking a scaled approach to the situation. Please pray specifically for Alex and his team over the next few weeks as he is under tremendous pressure from all corners of local and state government.
- The Virginia Department of Health has issued interim guidance for community and faith-based organizations. We’re following their lead in doing whatever is necessary to protect our members and serve our local community before, during, and after a COVID-19 event. At this point, they do not recommend cancelling worship services. We are still in the lowest possible risk category. If their recommendation changes and we need to cancel an event, we will keep you informed using the same communication channels we deploy for inclement weather.
- We contract with a local company to clean our facility and are working with them to ensure our meeting spaces remain safe. All our King’sKids classrooms received an additional cleaning last week thanks to volunteer help from the American Heritage Girls. It’s also worth mentioning that the risk to children is very low. The population we are most concerned about are adults over 60, especially those with pre-existing health conditions.
- If you’re not feeling well, even if you think you just have a cold, please do not come to church, meet with your community group, etc. This is a wise practice even if we were only dealing with a more severe bout of influenza. We’ve talked a lot recently about the importance of meeting together and our Sunday worship gatherings in particular. If you’re sick, you’re not abandoning a biblical priority by staying home. You’re practically loving your brothers and sisters in Christ by protecting them from illness.
- Be diligent in washing your hands and try to avoid unnecessary physical contact on Sunday morning, particularly with our older members. We’re prepared to employ alternate approaches to sharing communion or receiving the offering if that becomes necessary.
- Given the palpable fear in the news right now, I’m really thankful we already had a prayer meeting scheduled for this Sunday evening focused, of all things, on praying for the sick. It probably goes without saying, but just to be clear, if you have a communicable disease, please do not attend, though we will definitely pray for you! If you have a chronic illness or an incommunicable disease, we would love to intercede for you in person.
Join me in asking the Lord to eradicate this virus and to grant abundant wisdom to our governing authorities in helping us know how to respond. And as we do, let’s cling to the precious promises in Psalm 91:1-4, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”
Trusting him with you,