For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Greetings, Washington Presbyterian Church Family! As you all know, our world has been gripped by the threat of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the threat is no longer “over there”, but has now showed up in our own neck of the woods.
However, as the passage above proclaims, the spirit God has given us as Christians is not one of fear. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and in Christ, we’re loved perfectly.
For the foreseeable future, we plan to continue to gather for Worship services. However, other plans will change, at least in the short run. (Below, you’ll see specific actions that our congregation is both recommending and taking.)
With respect to how our church responds, we the Session ask you, along with us, to be gracious in how we think and act during this time. Some feel as though the issues surrounding the pandemic are being somewhat hyped. Others believe not enough is being done. Philippians 2:4 reminds us “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” In other words, we’re not to only consider our own perspectives, but also to be considerate for the views and concerns of others—even when they differ from our own.
And of course, we’re not only to be mindful of the concerns of others, but at this time, their actual health and well-being. People are getting sick, and some are dying. Yes, thankfully the numbers are relatively low for now, but none of us knows the eventual outcome and potential spread of the disease. Christians have historically been the people to step forward and show kindness and concern during times of plague and pestilence. This time should not be different.
Though a person may not be greatly concerned about contracting the disease him or herself, that is not the only consideration. We can be carriers of the virus and not know it. If not careful, we could unknowingly pass it on to one of our seniors, resulting in a very serious cases of the virus, or worse. Additionally, we should want to do everything we can to slow down the advance of this virus so populations at large can be spared from widespread outbreaks. Proverbs 22:3 reminds us “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffers for it.”
As of Friday (3/13) an adult in Washington County was diagnosed as the first presumed positive case of the virus in western Pennsylvania. Unless that person was living as a monk somewhere in isolation, we all know that others have very likely been exposed as well.
COVID-19 is here in our home county.
Yes, the Bible teaches God is in control, and praise His Name that He is! However, the same Bible teaches us that we are responsible, and must act responsibly, loving our neighbors by our actions and decisions.
In light of all this, our church invites everyone to consider the following steps, as we seek to be led by wisdom and love, rather than driven by fear.
- Seek medical attention if you have any symptoms that are associated with COVID-19, per the CDC. These symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Click here for more information.
- If you or your child have any type of illness with a fever, please refrain from coming to church until the fever has resolved and you’ve contacted medical professionals.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water and/or use hand sanitizer when hand washing is not an option.
- Be especially careful around those particularly susceptible to this virus, specifically the elderly and immune-compromised individuals (people with chronic illnesses, people undergoing cancer treatment, etc.).
The following are the steps and action the Session is taking and recommending:
- We will be holding our 10:30 a.m. worship service on Sunday, March 15th.
- We will not have nursery available for at least this coming Sunday.
- We will not be holding Sunday School on Sunday, March 15th.
- We are cancelling all other weekly ministries for at least the upcoming week, including Transitions Healthcare Bible Study, Pioneer Clubs, Youth Bible Study, Men’s Bible Study, and Worship Team practice. Regarding Home Fellowship Groups, we will leave that decision to each individual group.
- We ask that each person refrain from handshaking, hugs, etc.
- Offering: In order to minimize touching common surfaces, we will not pass the plate to receive the offering. Instead, we will have offering plates positioned by the sanctuary exits, so that you may give at the conclusion of the service.
- Small bottles of hand sanitizer have been placed in the pews throughout the sanctuary. We strongly encourage making use of them.
- If you for any reason feel uncomfortable with attending worship, you of course can stay home. If you would like to livestream a worship service, Pastor Don recommends Providence Presbyterian Church in York PA. Go to yorkpca.org, scroll down and click where it says “Worship online with us on Sunday mornings at 8:30 or 10:30 by clicking here.” That will take you to a page listing the order of service. On that page you will click “Please visit our YouTube channel to access our live stream.” (Another recommended option is Willow Creek PCA church in Winter Springs, FL. Their service begins at 10:45 am. Just go to willowcreekchurch.org and you’ll see on their first page a place that says “Watch on Facebook”. Click that tab. Willow Creek’s pastor is Kevin Labby, who is a former pastor of our sister congregation in Murrysville.)
- After this Sunday, and sometime during the upcoming week, we will reevaluate our plans going forward, and communicate those plans with you, the congregation.
Finally, some spiritual counsel
Trust and don’t be anxious. When everything and everyone around us attempt to steal our confidence in God, keep trusting his goodness and power to make all things work together for our good and his glory.
Pray for healing physically and spiritually. God can use this illness to make his power known in amazing ways, and prayer is vital to that. So let’s pray that people will be healed from both COVID-19 and spiritual blindness.
Stay in the word. The Enemy would love for Christ’s followers to check news feeds more than their Bibles. In particular, read the Psalms for wisdom, guidance, and adoration in times of distress.
Love your neighbor. People around you might be incredibly anxious and fearful, and people around you might even get sick with COVID-19. A Christian’s unshakable joy that overflows into love for neighbors is a powerful witness. It is also a way that God can bring healing. Make specific efforts to love your neighbor well during this time.
Thank you for taking the time to prayerfully consider these things. As you know, these types of illnesses (and their accompanying fears) are part of this fallen, groaning creation, and God is using them to make his name great among the nations. To God alone be the Glory!