Update – Nov. 19, 2020
Nothing from last week’s information has changed. Just some reminders:
- If you are joining the livestream this week, best to arrive a bit early.
- You may still use the pink sheets to reserve a chair, if you find that useful.
- The various options (separate room, outdoor seating, livestream, etc.) are all still available.
The elders are thankful for the candor, wisdom and unity that God brought in our meeting on Sunday night.
You probably heard that Sacramento County moved us to the “purple tier” of COVID restrictions this week. The elders have continued to have a number of conversations, and have considered every possible approach that has occurred to us, for how to respond. Here is our plan for the coming weeks. And while at first this document may seem no different than in prior weeks, we encourage you to read to the end:
Our policy remains unchanged. That is,
- Our overall policy is that of the county.
- We are not enforcing this order on behalf of the county.
- We ask that everyone relate to one another in wise love.
While this is simple, you may have questions. Here are a few that we’ve heard or anticipate hearing, as we talk with folks:
1. Can I come join you in our building on Sunday, while you livestream? Can I have my small group in the church building? I’ve heard that that would actually be safer than in a home.
The building and staff are available to our congregation. We are not enforcing this order on behalf of the county. The elders have never seen enforcement as our responsibility.
2. If I use the building, will I be engaging in civil disobedience?
3. Is that a sin? Didn’t you teach against civil disobedience from Romans 13? Are you doing this because you think the church is being persecuted?
If the police wanted to search your house without a warrant, I think you would agree that it would not be a sin to disobey. Therefore we know that there are boundaries to Paul’s command in Romans 13, to submit to governing authorities. With our approach, we seek to
a. Provide as many opportunities as possible to connect in worship. As we have said several times before, it is not the government’s place to say to the church, “Just zoom online”.
b. Humbly honor the public health intent of the lockdown order, recognizing that God gives the civil magistrates as “ministers of God” for our good (Rom. 13:6).
c. Wisely, carefully love the individual people of our church, following our prior procedures, recognizing that COVID does pose a threat to some.
d. Resist the destructive elements of the extent of the government’s lockdown orders. We know from history and the Bible that God’s governing ministers are fallen and therefore imperfect. Therefore it matters little whether we think the government is persecuting the church or not. They’re probably not. But regardless: the lockdowns have cost us and the people of our city greatly, in our spiritual, physical and economic well-being.
e. Trust in God to ensure the survival of His Church. We don’t choose this path to save our church, but to pursue your good, and that of the people of this city. We do it trusting God, loving others, hoping in His promises.
In short, we are taking this approach with the expectation that each one will be convinced in his own mind as to what is right. And we want to give each person the pathway to act on that course of action.
4. Could our church get fined?
Yes. We believe it is $1,000 per incident. We will be prepared to pay this, and evaluate the cost/benefit, if the fines continue.
5. Could we receive bad publicity? Should we care about that?
Yes. We should and do care about how outsiders think of us. But there is also the reality of uncharitable reporting. In the end we do not wish to base our decision about what to do on fickle public opinion or what will allow us to avoid criticism from media. We hope that if an outsider observed our conduct, they would acknowledge – now or later (1 Peter 2:12) – the care and intentionality of our approach to public health. But even if not, we will prioritize the shepherding of those we elders are called to guard and feed – both inside and outside our church.
6. Why have you considered this approach, instead of home churches?
We did consider home churches, at length. Our understanding, from the perspective of public health, is that it is harder to maintain distancing and other procedures in a private home, even a large one. But groups will be a crucial piece of our ministry going forward. The elders will share more about this question on Sunday night (see #10 below).
7. Will there be children’s activities on Sunday?
No. But our GraceKids rooms are available, and our trained, Christ-centered volunteers will be available to watch any children that are present (nursery – 4th grade).
8. What will your COVID procedures be during Sunday live-streaming?
Nothing about in-person mask-wearing, distancing, etc. has changed from prior weeks (see the “Tips for Sunday Worship” sheet from last week). That is:
- We will continue to have all doors open.
- Seating outside on the church patio, with heaters, will be available. There will be a monitor from which to sing and observe the service.
- On-stage people continue to have an allowance from the county to not wear masks.
- The multipurpose room will continue to be reserved only for those wearing masks and not singing.
For more information, we invite you to look at previous posts.
9. I have a question about a specific COVID-prevention procedure for a specific ministry or my small group.
We invite you to consult with Dan Russell, who is an elder and our COVID liaison. To be clear: Dan’s role is for consultation, not enforcement.
10. What about our gathering this Sunday night?
The government’s new order goes into effect tomorrow (Friday). However, this does not give our congregation sufficient time to discuss our response. And discuss it we must – we are congregational in our governance (though led by elders). Therefore it is good and right for us to do so, despite the order. So then we will still gather this Sunday, from 5-7 pm. The elders will explain their thinking, hear your thoughts and questions, and we all will pray. Childcare will be available. This meeting will not be live-streamed or recorded. If you cannot attend, an elder would be happy to call and give you a rendition afterwards.
There is certainly a spectrum of opinion on these matters. We are a diverse bunch. But that diversity can turn into division when we think of that spectrum of opinion like a tug-of-war rope, with everyone pulling in the direction of their opinion, on one end of the rope or the other.
But the church’s “unity in diversity” doesn’t look like that rope. Instead our unity is shaped like a solar system. Like the planets, we have lots of variation and diversity between us. And yet we are all part of the same “system” – the same family. And we are held together in that system by one gravitational power – Christ’s grace to us. We’re all equal in that light, because we’re all infinite recipients of that grace.
As Paul said in Ephesians 4 (and we’ll let him have the last word):
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
May God lead us, provide for us and protect us, as we eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The elders will continue to evaluate our procedures weekly. Again, if you have any questions at all, or would like to talk about this further, please contact me or another elder at any time.
Pastor Jed, on behalf of the elders