In light of the Governor’s recent proclamation that gave permission for churches to consider reopening, we sent you all a survey. With 105 responses submitted so far, we were not surprised to see a wide range of responses. Some of you are ready to resume services, others of you may not be ready for a long time, and many in between. We’ll compile the final results and send them to you.
At the heart of the Governor’s declaration is a desire to not restrict religious freedom but still encourage healthy practices. We do not believe religious freedom has been restricted to date, but appreciate the complexity of the issue as well as agree with the healthy practices aspect. In other words, the new declaration makes it allowable to legally meet, but it does not comment on whether it is safe to do so, nor that we ought to meet in large groups as the local church.
In light of your responses as well as the Governor’s and health officials’ recommendations to continue sound health practices, the elders have decided to stay on our current course and NOT meet physically as a large congregation on Sundays. We will continue online services for the immediate future.
While it’s impossible to predict the future, we expect we won’t be back to the old “normal” for some time. But as overall societal health improves and medical recommendations loosen, there are phased approaches we can take to allow some physical gatherings and still maintain the health recommendations at that time. We expect to give you two weeks notice of any changes in our meeting style.
In the past two months and for the future, we have been and will be counseling with other evangelical churches in Ames and surrounding area, and other national Christian ministries who keep a pulse on this issue.
As to what you do as individuals and families and even as Community Groups, we encourage you to follow the recommendations of the Iowa Department of Public Health. But most of all we encourage you to be faith-filled, not fearful…..wise, not foolish… and loving, not self-centered. This is simple and sound biblical advice that applies to the entire Christian life.
And another thing: both in our congregation and in society as a whole, we have widely diverging opinions on COVID-19 and our responses to it. This will take a solid understanding of God’s grace and love for us so that we can in turn extend that grace to others. It may be tempting for many of us to judge others harshly, so let us seek to love as God has loved us. At the same time, this doesn’t mean we can’t have honest, loving conversations with others whom we disagree with, but even that should be done in a patient and gracious manner.
Finally, on a pastoral note, our current societal situation is wearing on me, as I assume it is on you. This time of hardship is real, and we should ensure we have healthy outlets to discuss and pray over the condition of our souls. And it gives us all an opportunity to rise up and care for each other.
Through prayer, sharing God’s Word, expressing love, and sacrificing for those in need, we can minister to one another. Our situation is not out of God’s control, so we can ask, “What lessons does God have for me? And how is he calling me to serve the Body of Christ and point lost souls to Jesus?”
In Genesis, Joseph endured horrific suffering that lasted for more than a decade, but in the end his conclusion to his brothers who harmed him was, “You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good, for the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Let us have our eyes wide open looking for the glorious good that the Lord is bringing out of our difficult situation.
May God empower us with Joseph’s spirit of faith and grace as we continue– COVID-19 or not— on our mission together of making disciples of the nations.
Grace and peace to you,
Brad, for the elders