Update – Feb. 6, 2021
Recently the United States Supreme Court ruled against the State of California, that churches in California can now meet at 25% capacity. On the one hand, we are grateful that God has seen fit for the Court to see through the arbitrary and vacuous nature of the state’s current stance toward churches – even if they did not give relief to other equally-deserving entities. On the other hand, our approach to church tomorrow will not change from previous weeks. All of our prior procedures and opportunities for worship remain available to you. If this ruling encourages you to come tomorrow – especially on Communion Sunday! – then we invite you to worship in any of the following ways described below, in the previous updates. That is:
- In the main auditorium/sanctuary
- On the outdoor patio, with a heater, with the service streamed to a monitor
- From the parking lot, via FM radio transmitter
- In the “strict room” (the multi-purpose room) with masks required and no singing
- Watching at home
This ruling feels like an overdue turning point in this difficult season. But God’s timing is always right – His ways are not our ways. So we give Him thanks. If you decide to return tomorrow, after a long absence, please know that you will be welcomed warmly and carefully. We are one Body, in one Savior, united by one Spirit, under one Father – one Lord, one faith, one baptism (see Eph. 4). Therefore I’m confident that each of you will welcome one another, as God in Christ has welcomed you (Romans 15). And if you choose to remain home tomorrow, know that we understand that each person must make their own decision, given their own personal matrix of risks. God’s timing for each person is also always right. Regardless, may the Lord continue to bless each of us, and keep us, and cause His face to continue to shine upon us!
Update – Dec. 10, 2020
For a video version of this update, click the button below:COVID Update from Pastor Jed
Despite the lockdowns intensifying tonight, our approach to COVID as a church has not changed. Everything we discussed in our prior Sunday night meeting remains as-is.
- We want to treat people like adults.
- Therefore we want to honor each person’s decision, for how they are handling COVID, because each person has their own “risk matrix”, including the needs of those that they see on a regular basis.
- We will continue to livestream Sunday worship, and we will not turn anyone away, if anyone would like to join in during the livestream.
- And we will provide every other way that we can think of for you to join in. That includes:
- Sitting on the outdoor patio, with a heater, with the service streamed to a monitor
- From the parking lot, via FM radio transmitter
- Sitting in the “strict room”, with masks and no singing [the multi-purpose room]
- Watching at home
- Joining in during the livestream [in the main sanctuary/auditorium]
Again, we want you to make the best decision for you and your neighbor, and we believe our assortment of measures provides the best means for this.
Now, I want to answer a question that came up in our prior meeting. And that is, essentially, am I sinning by going against the lockdown order?
Well first, let me reiterate that the command in Romans 13 was never meant to be all-encompassing. An easy example: if the police show up at your door and want to search your house without a warrant, you are not sinning by “disobeying” them. In fact, you are obeying the law, by “disobeying” them.
And this is what was happening, when Jesus turned over the tables of the money- changers in the temple. Remember, all those money-changers were there BY LAW. And what Jesus was doing was AGAINST the LAWS that the governing authorities of that time had set up.
But those laws went against God’s law. So when Jesus turned over the tables in the temple, he was doing his priestly duty, of removing the filth. But in order to do God’s law, he disobeyed man’s law.
There is a similar thing happening, when our lesser magistrates decide that they are NOT going to enforce the state or the county’s orders.
- This allows us to disobey the tyrannical* law, while still being under a governing authority
- This allows resistance to a governing authority, without becoming riotous or destructive
Now, to be clear: Jesus was not resisting tyranny, just for the sake of resisting tyranny. He had redemptive goals in mind – the holiness and flourishing of God’s people. So should we.
So I’m not saying, resist tyranny for the sake of resisting tyranny. Be led instead by faith, hope and love, with an attitude of humility. But as you walk in faith in Christ, hope in his resurrection and love to God, your church and your fellow man, if that leads to step over the line of the lockdown orders, you are not sinning in doing so.
For instance, if you need to break the lockdown order, in order to provide for your family, you are not sinning. If you need to break the lockdown orders for your own health, you are not sinning. If you break the lockdown orders to care for someone else in this church, you are not sinning.
In closing, I want to commend two courses of action:
- Continue reaching out to each other, and loving each other, especially those that are taking a different approach than you are right now. We are united together by one thing: our union with Christ. Let’s continue in that reality.
- I commend writing a note to our governing officials, letting them know how you feel. Especially, if you agree with me, to send a note to the County and EGPD encouraging them to continue in non-enforcement. And the same with the County Health office.
One more thing: one of our elders mentioned the importance of maintaining a spirit of humility. And that’s exactly right. But I will say that humility does not always mean silence. Yes, it does, sometimes. But sometimes silence actually means we’re proud, because we’re only thinking about ourselves. And sometimes SPEAKING UP is the clearest form of humility – when that speaking up is not for ME, but out of love for others. When speaking up comes out of self-forgetfulness, in love for one’s city, then humility is operating there, too.
Thus I say all this out of love for this city, and for you. I don’t say this for the church. God will build His church. She has survived much worse situations than this one over the centuries. She WILL endure. We can be confident of that.
- But God commands me to love and shepherd YOU well.
- And God commands us to love the city that He has placed us in, and seek its welfare – Jeremiah 29:7.
It’s out of that love that I share these things.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or an elder directly.
Pastor Jed, for elders
*I am using this word “tyrannical” and “tyranny” intentionally, given the New Oxford definition of the word: “cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control”. At the recent meeting of the county Board of Supervisors, one health official admitted that their orders have been “arbitrary”. And there was much testimony about the cruel effects that the lockdowns have had on people. That same official said, about their efforts to control people and businesses: “We didn’t mean to bring harm on anyone.” But that has happened all the same.
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