Brothers and sisters,
There is a popular expression, attributed to an unidentified and apocryphal Chinese curse, which malignantly wishes: “May you live in interesting times.” We find ourselves living in such times. Your elders have continued to monitor the public health crisis and recommendations from government agencies concerning COVID-19. We are living in the midst of a public health scare on a scale unseen since the 1918 Spanish Flu. No doubt many of the popular responses to this crisis are hysterical, ill-informed, and unhelpful. Some of the recommendations from our civil authorities may prove in time to have been overly cautious and unnecessary. But as those to whom Christ has committed spiritual authority and the care of souls entrusted to us in this congregation, we cannot afford to disregard these recommendations and risk the safety and welfare of our members and the church’s public witness.
We have prayed for wisdom, conferred with others, and tried to wait patiently for sufficient information to become available. We cannot make decisions based on Internet rumors and opinions shared on social media. We know our choices will affect many, for good or ill, and that there are spiritual, emotional, and physical consequences for any of the options we may exercise. We pray our leadership during this situation will prove, in time, to be wise and conducive to the good of the brethren and of our congregation.
Effective immediately, the Session of ROPC has suspended all corporate, in-person gatherings of the church until the end of March. This includes our Lord’s Day assemblies for worship, Sunday School, and midweek Bible classes, fellowship meetings, and small groups. We will be providing resources for private worship and encourage all households to set aside dedicated time on the next two Lord’s Day to worship our God through song, prayer, and the reading and contemplation of Scripture. I will be in contact with member households by phone to answer any questions you may have and to offer encouragement and prayer. Each of you will also be receiving a suggested order for family/private worship, including songs and readings and recorded teaching that you may access online. This will enable us to “worship together” by praying, singing, and meditating upon the same texts and themes, albeit asynchronously and distributively.
We understand this announcement will be disappointing to many of you, even frustrating. We did not make this decision lightly, and our hearts are grieved by the need for it. But we are confident it is the appropriate course of action at this time. Please pray for us, and be assured we are praying for all of you.
Finally, let me reiterate the encouragement we gave several days ago. The Lord calls us to walk by faith, not in fear. The COVID-19 virus is not the first, and is far from the worst, pandemic to sweep across the face of the globe. Remember the promise of our Lord: “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18b). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom. 8:35). Not even COVID-19, widespread quarantines, and global efforts to contain the virus shall be able to separate us from the love of God. Sing the psalms, read the Scriptures prayerfully, pray with humble boldness. This crisis shall pass, and when it does, the Church will still be standing righteous in Christ and will do so forever in glory.
Stay tuned for more information as we prepare for the Lord’s Day. Be strong and courageous.
In His service,
Pastor Joel Ellis, on behalf of the ROPC Session