Restoration Road Family,
We are living through an exceptionally trying moment in history. The genuine threat of the COVID19 virus is infiltrating our local community and the resulting panic is crippling our national economy. In terms of risk, the Puget Sound Area is considered a “red light” zone, existing as somewhat of an epicenter for the virus in the United States. In our county and city, there are a growing number of infections and deaths related to this virus. The spread of this mysterious virus is testing the limits of our medical providers and resources as they are flooded with COVID19 patients on top of the “everyday” care for the community. In an effort to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of this virus, schools are closing, sports events are suspending, vacations are ending, weddings and funerals are changing, businesses are failing, and our government is banning large gatherings of over 250 including church services.
Not since the outbreak of the Spanish Flu in 1918 has the government restricted public gatherings of the church. At that time, concerned about the government’s infringement on their constitutional rights, in some areas of the country many pastors met to discuss whether they would comply with these drastic measures. They believed the gathering of the church was not a non-essential “luxury”, but “a necessity to the life and perpetuity of any nation.” In the end, the churches complied with the government’s recommendations and many chose to gather in homes at the accustomed time to worship and pray.
Over 100 years later, we are facing the same decision. Decisions like this are not easy to make because choosing one important value over another equally important value costs us something. In this case it “feels” like having to choose between what is most God-honoring and what is most compassionate; between fearing God and trusting God; between loving our faith and loving our neighbor. We know that the gathering of the church is more than just a “religious” meeting. We gather because we need to worship; we need to be encouraged by song, engaged in prayer, and built up by the Word. More than anything, we need to be reminded, and to remind others, that there are worse things than death, and that Jesus is still on his throne—especially during these kinds of trials. That said, we also know that larger gatherings continue to put more people at risk in so far as they require people to be close to one another. Even though this virus may not be an imminent threat for the majority of people, there are many in our community, and our church, for whom the virus is deadly. Even if we encourage people to “make wise decisions” we fear that some will make an unwise decision out of a desire to be “faithful” and unintentionally harm or be harmed.
In view of this growing concern, the elders of Restoration Road Church met last night to decide how to best lead our church and love our community. Even though there is a growing amount of information about this virus being made available, there remains much that is not fully understood yet. Some of the reports are informative, others are confusing even contradictory. The social media machine is probably making dissemination of accurate information difficult, and the internet is filling up with unhelpful opinions and theories from every source imaginable. Announcements and anecdotes are helpful, but the elders are working to find consistent objective standards to help us make decisions now and in the future. At this moment, the elders have come to their decision based on the best available information we could find, in addition to the eyewitness testimony of several members of our church working on the front lines in the medical field at local clinics and hospitals.
Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, and out of a desire to protect the most vulnerable from this virus, the elders have made the following decisions regarding the next several weeks:
Beginning March 15th, we are cancelling our regularly scheduled public worship services on Sundays at 9:00am and 10:45am. We are not “cancelling church”, rather, we are shifting our public gatherings to private gatherings. Though we will all not be gathering together publicly, we encourage families to gather at the accustomed time on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) for worship with your “first church” in your own home. You can imagine you are gathering secretly as many of our brothers and sisters do across the world under threat of persecution or death.
To aid you in this home church experience, we will make materials available for Restoration Kids online. Additionally, we will LIVE STREAM our scheduled sermon at 10:00AM with a short time of worship included. For now, this video will be found on FACEBOOK LIVE, but soon we will make it available on our website and/or YouTube Channel.
In accordance with the CDC recommendations, we are planning for this shift in our rhythms to last at least two weeks and up to 30 days. That means that, right now, we can expect our next gathering will take place on Easter Sunday, April 12th. The elders will continue to assess the situation week by week and report any updates as necessary.
We are cancelling all additional gatherings and/or events over the next 4-6 weeks. Many of these will be rescheduled for late April or May. This includes:
- Prayer Meeting | Sunday, March 15th @ 5:30pm
- Sacred Road Mission Trip Meeting | Sunday, March 15th @ 10:45am
- Daddy Daughter Dance | Saturday, March 21 @ 7:00pm
- Westbound Student Ministries | Wednesday(s), March 18, 25, April 1,8 @ 7pm
- Quarterly Member's Meeting | Sunday, March 29 @ 4:00pm
- Baptism Class | Sunday March 29th @ 10:45am*
- Coffee and Crayons | April 9th @ 10:00am
- Good Friday Service | Friday, April 10th @ 6:00pm
*It’s possible that a small baptism class can occur on a Sunday with a pastor if Easter services are occurring. We will update those who have signed up for baptism accordingly.
We encourage our ROAD GROUPS, and their leaders, to make the best decision about their weekly gatherings. We continue to instruct those who are ill, elderly, immunocompromised, or suffering with chronic illness to refrain from all such gatherings.
We have made the difficult decision of cancelling our Women’s Retreat scheduled for April 3rd-5th. Gina Oakes and her team have worked hard to make this retreat one of the best ever! We know that this decision is disappointing, but we also know that it is wise for such a time as this. We came to this decision based on several factors:
First, the retreat center would house other groups in addition to our own during the retreat. Even though we would only have 60-70 women from Restoration Road, it’s possible that the addition of other groups would take us beyond the CDC’s recommended gathering size.
Second, our scheduled speaker, Mary Nuckolls, has expressed personal concerns as she is considered one of those most vulnerable to the virus. We are cautious about exposing her to unnecessary danger.
Third, we recognize that some women have expressed their own concerns over attendance for themselves, and others. We simply do not want to put our members or their families in unnecessary and potentially harmful circumstances. The Cedar Springs retreat center has been more than accommodating in this unique moment in history. We have no concerns with their ability to adhere to CDC guidelines. We are simply taking the best precautions in some of the worst of circumstances.
*NOTE: The 3Strand Youth Retreat scheduled for April 17-19 is outside the current recommended window for restriction. We have not cancelled the Youth Retreat at this time. We are in dialogue with the camp and the other 3Strand pastors and will provide updates as they become available.
These are trying times, unlike any of us have seen in our lifetime. There are many whose lifestyles are being affected and some whose livelihoods are being completely upended. Many are losing their jobs, losing their childcare, and losing their means to support themselves. Our church does maintain a benevolence fund to help those in our church, and our community, in times of physical or material need. As your elders we ask:
- First, please pray for those suffering and in need at this time.
- Second, please be aware of the needs around you and make them known to us as appropriate.
- Third, please continue to give as you regularly do so that we might be ready to help those in need.
- Fourth, for those who are not affected by this virus this way, please consider giving additional contributions directly to our benevolence fund to help meet needs in the future related to this crisis.
CHURCH PASTORS (AVAILABILITY)
Even though our large group rhythms change, this is not yet considered a full community quarantine. At this time our staff-pastors are healthy and available to meet as needed. Any previously scheduled counseling or smaller meetings can continue as long as everyone is healthy and available. Our pastors will confirm with these individuals, couples, or teams. If there are other needs, please know that the pastors are not on vacation during this time. Should you need a pastor to answer a question, for visitation, or counseling, email either Pastor Sam at email@example.com or Pastor Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your faithfulness during this unique moment in our region’s history. Many will be tempted to ask: “What is the church doing to help the community?". As a reminder, the church is not a building or a program, it is a people that gathers AND scatters. In other words, the church is YOU! As the people of God, we have a confidence that Jesus is King over Satan, Sin, deadly viruses, and death itself. But that confidence is not given so that we can hide away, rather, we are called to be salt and light. That begins by loving one another and overflows into loving our neighbors.
As your pastors and leaders, we care for your welfare and witness. The next 4-6 weeks provides us a unique opportunity to show the love of Christ to the world. For those who are healthy and free of responsibility, we encourage you to make yourself available to those who are not, whether that be to run errands, drop off meals, watch kids, or simply check in. Be in prayer for our community and look for unexpected opportunities to help. Lastly, consider how to support those in the medical field who are on the front lines—many whom are in our own church! Pray for them and seek to find ways to show them love.
Above all, be fearless, courageous, and wise as an ambassador for the King.
Onward in Him,
Pastor Sam on behalf of the Elders
CDC Website and Updated Report
Ligonier Minsitries TableTalk publication free this month focuses on Fear.
How to Make Sense of the Corona-virus by Desiring God
Should Christians Be Anxious about the Corona-virus by Gospel Coalition