Midtown Community Church Family,
At this point, I think everyone is aware of the impact that Covid-19 is having upon our society. The combination of this being largely unchartered territory for Americans (unlike Asian countries who have experienced this before), the inevitable politicization that comes in an election year, and the prevalence of social media has created a perfect storm of chaos. The leadership of Midtown Community Church has been wrestling through this issue internally as well as engaging in thoughtful conversation with other leaders in the community. In light of the direction we are getting from governmental agencies, medical professionals, the CDC, and ultimately our own Governor in an address yesterday, we believe it is in the best interest of our own church and our neighbors we serve to suspend our worship service at Midtown Community Church this Sunday (However, read further as we will provide a virtual option for everyone). I know there are a wide range of opinions on Covid-19, but at this point the local Christian community has come to a virtually unified position that cancelling public gatherings is the best way to honor the Governor’s wishes (Romans 13:1-5) and our neighbors who are especially at-risk (Luke 10:37). The leadership will meet next week to discuss what happens beyond this Sunday, but I’m confident that the way we do community will change significantly over the next 2-4 weeks.
I want to take the remainder of this email to answer the question, “What do we do now?”
We Wash Our Hands
We urge everyone to take the guidelines put out by the CDC seriously: https://www.cdc.gov. Wash your hands regularly. Social distancing is imperative. There is a lot of info out there (including a lot of misinformation). A fellow pastor passed onto me the importance of what we do in the next 2 weeks, and it changed my perception of the situation: https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca. Bottom line. Be informed.
You don’t need a building to worship. We can continue being the church, and we are exploring ways to leverage technology for worship in the short-term. Our immediate plan for this Sunday is to provide a pre-recorded video of me preaching the regularly scheduled sermon for this Sunday, which will be on John 13:1-20. It will be a YouTube video that we will link via social media and email by 9AM on Sunday morning. We just created a Midtown channel, so please go here and subscribe: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO6A733-aji98B8hMxqFGUw. Additionally, If you have expertise that could help us in considering other virtual worship options (like livestreaming), feel free to reach out to our Deacon, Seth Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Obviously, our expenses as a church don’t change, so we do need folks to continue giving to Midtown Community Church. If you haven’t done so already, take advantage of our online giving platform: http://midtown-church.org/giving/
We Wash Feet
Pastor Scott Sauls said it well, “In a time like now, Christian neighboring looks less like fearful self-preservation and more like servanthood toward the elderly, those with HIV, autoimmune disease, or no healthcare, fatigued and under-resources healthcare workers, etc. Wash hands, for sure. Then, wash feet”. I’ll speak to this in my sermon this Sunday, but Covid-19 represents an opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ. I’ve already had some people tell me that this has opened up some great spiritual conversations with co-workers and neighbors. Oswald Chambers said, “Crises reveal character. When we are put to the test the hidden resources of our character are revealed exactly”. Let us show the Triangle area the hidden resources of the gospel. Obviously, we can pray. And we can pray into action. The need to socially distance ourselves means we need to get creative, but here are some thoughts for consideration:
- Your Neighbors: Consider knocking on the door of your elderly neighbors to let them know you are available and see if there is anything you can get for them from the grocery store. Obviously keep your distance and leave groceries on the porch or something, but this is an opportunity to love your more vulnerable neighbors.
- Ridge Road Baptist Church: Obviously our friends at RRBC are particularly vulnerable. In speaking with their interim pastor, the impact of not having worship is really concerning. For some in the congregation, worship is the ONLY social engagement they have in the week. So they are wrestling with whether it is even feasible for their church members to go more than 2 weeks without worship just from an emotional standpoint. I have told their pastor that we would love to be able to provide groceries or visit with anyone who needs company (while honoring social distance guidelines). I need someone who can be a point person for our church in reaching out to the pastor for ways we can serve RRBC. If you are interested in being a point person, please reach out to me directly: Lindsey@midtown-church.org.
- Food Pantries: This ministry is crucial in this season, especially if school cancellations happen. I’d love for there to be a designated Midtowner who can connect directly with one of the ministries below to see how we can help further. Let me know if you would like to take point on one of the following below. Our recommendation is that you consider partnering with the following:
We Wait Faithfully
People are panicking, some over their own health, the health of their loved ones, or simply over the economic impact of this virus. Let me remind you to draw from the resources of the gospel that reminds us that God is in control today, yesterday, and tomorrow. There was a time when the Israelites were panicking over a threat that was much bigger than they could handle. The Scripture says, “And the heart of the people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” (Isaiah 7:2). And God responded to them, “Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And HE WILL BECOME A SANCTUARY” (Isaiah 8:12-14). God has got us. God loves us, and that should give us peace. Don’t get so caught up in this that we end up reading the news more than communicating with God. For you parents, talk to your kids about the Coronavirus, and let them express their feelings. But direct them to Jesus. And make sure that you don’t unknowingly subject them to constant media coverage (like I’ve been doing this week). They need to do normal kid stuff as an expression of your family’s collective faith.
Here is further material worthy of your consideration for how we can lead as Christians in this moment: https://journal.praxislabs.org/love-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-26aaeb0396e3
We Work Towards Creative Social Engagement
We are in a period where social distancing is imperative. However, lets make use of technology for the benefit of each other. This is not a time to isolate from one another, but to engage creatively. Call people on the phone. Consider making use of FaceTime, even if it’s awkward. Text with one another. Additionally, through the help of Nick Gibson we have a new platform for engagement. We have started an online community to make it easier for our members and community groups to keep in touch with one another. Go to https://slack.com/downloads to install the app, then keep an eye out for an email invitation to the Midtown Community. Also, anyone with a Midtown email can sign up here: https://join.slack.com/t/midtown-community/signup
This may be something that we take advantage of going long-term, but lets see if this might be useful for us in the short-term to start.
For His Kingdom,
On Behalf of the Elders, Deacons, & Women’s Shepherding Team