Like each of you, I’ve been keeping a careful eye on the developing situation with respect to COVID-19. On Thursday, the BC government took significant steps designed to help contain the spread of the virus, in addition to the guidance they issued on Wednesday. These steps have made it necessary for us to make some decisions with respect to our ministries that I’m going to tell you about.
Let’s start, though, by correctly positioning our hearts in this matter. As Christians, we hold to an eternal hope that casts out all fear. We serve a God who is sovereign over the universe and who has not been surprised by this outbreak. No matter what happens, our hope is in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the assurance of an eternity where there is no sickness and no death because our Saviour has conquered death forever.
We must be prudent, not fearful. We must make wise decisions based on the evidence that we have, not rash decisions based on our fears.
The COVID-19 outbreak is a stark reminder of our frailty and our need for a Saviour. We humans are not in control of our world, no matter how much we believe we are. That’s why the hope of the gospel matters. God is in control.
With our hearts properly aligned, we can proceed to talk about our response to the virus. What we know at this point is as follows:
All public gatherings of 250 people or more are banned.
All non-essential travel outside the country is discouraged, and those who choose to travel must self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return.
We’ve been advised to practice social distancing, which includes maintaining a 2-metre distance between people and avoiding shared meals.
Those who are sick or are feeling sick—whether they suspect COVID-19 or not—have been asked not to attend public gatherings of any kind.
Parkland is not a 250-person church; however, in light of the other requirements with respect to social distancing, we have made the decision to cancel our Sunday worship services for the next three Sundays. The Leadership Team and I will meet together in early April to assess the situation as it stands then, and we’ll make a decision at that point with respect to how we need to proceed.
While we are cancelling our services, we are still a church, and we can and will continue to do everything possible to maintain our unity and connection in this time. Here’s how we’ll do that.
First, pray. Pray for wisdom for our provincial and federal leaders who are making extremely difficult decisions. Pray for those who are sick with COVID-19. Pray for those who are self-isolating. Pray for those who are scared.
Pray, too, that God, in his mercy, would intervene in this situation and restrain the spread of COVID-19. Pray for those whose lives are directly affected by the various travel restrictions—for the many workers who will face employment uncertainty, for those whose retirement portfolios have been decimated by the stock market chaos, and for those who are on the front lines caring for the sick.
Second, while our Sunday worship services have been cancelled, we feel that it’s necessary to maintain our teaching ministry throughout, so I will be preparing and uploading a sermon to our website every Sunday. Additionally, Parkland’s office will be open during the week, and we will continue to make plans for the future ministries of our church.
Third, it’s important that we prioritize maintaining connection with one another. We can’t do that on Sunday mornings, but that’s not the only means of connection. Situations like this are exactly why the strength of our Community Groups matters so much. If you’re in a Community Group, your leader will decide whether to continue to meet weekly; whether you meet or not, please let your leader know how things are going.
If you’re not in a Community Group, please reach out to the Spiritual Care Team (email@example.com).
Our goal is to make sure that we’re loving and serving one another, especially those who are choosing to self-isolate. If you need food, someone in your Community Group will shop for groceries and deliver them to you. If you need prescriptions filled, someone in your Community Group will do that for you.
Church, we can’t be inside our walls right now, but we can be equally as active outside of them. Check in with your neighbours, especially if they’re elderly. Build bridges (from a respectful 2-metre distance).
That leads me to the fourth thing: I would ask each of you to be mindful of how your attitude with respect to COVID-19 can be a powerful testimony to the gospel. Don’t fall prey to the mass panic and stockpile items for yourself. Don’t cower in fear. When you go out in public, have a smile on your face. Say hello to people. Do everything you can to build connections with your fellow humans.
Show by your approach to this pandemic that you aren’t afraid of the world because you serve a better King who rules over a better kingdom. You could very well find yourself in a situation where you get to make a defense to someone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15), so make sure you’re ready to do so.
Friends, we’re living through an unprecedented time, one in which many people are realizing that our human self-sufficiency only goes so far. Let’s make sure that King Jesus rules and reigns in our hearts, and that, by our actions, we give him glory.
If you have any questions about anything in this letter, or any of the steps Parkland is taking, please email us (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’ll keep you updated as the situation develops.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Sincerely in Christ,