Coronavirus: A Letter from the elders
The elders sent this letter to the church on 13th March 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
We are all very aware, we're sure, of the difficult times ahead because of the Coronavirus. We wanted to write to you as the elders of the church to encourage us all not to be afraid, but to trust God and serve him faithfully through what is coming. We also want to tell you what steps we will be taking as a church in response.
How should we think about the coronavirus?
First, we should not be afraid. Sickness and death are a terror to a world which has no hope beyond this life; but Jesus has defeated the grave, and we have nothing to be afraid of, even if God should bring our lives here to an end. This is an opportunity for us all to learn to trust God in perhaps a deeper way than we have before.
Second, we should be driven by love. Though something like this has not happened in our lifetimes, which contributes to how afraid people are, the Church has a much longer memory. Christians before us have lived through many plagues; and each time they have shown a unique sacrificial love not only to one another but to friends and neighbours whom others were too afraid to help. We must aim do the same this time, by God's grace.
Third, we should be confident that God our Father is in control and always does what is good. He uses even bad things to bring about good things; indeed, in the long run, he always does.
Fourth, we should be thankful! That might sound strange, but it is true. This disease is far less dangerous than countless others in the past; God has showered countless blessings on everyone, and Christians most of all, in this life; he promises far greater blessings to come; and his Fatherly goodness is unchanging and everlasting. When he takes away a tiny bit of the security we normally have, it should make us realise how generous God is to us all the time.
Fifth, this is an opportunity for us to remember some really important things: how to love one another sacrificially; the importance of worshipping God; the significance of households and families, where we are all going to have to spend a lot of time in the weeks ahead.
What will we be changing?
There is nothing in life more important than the worship of God. Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us that we must not give up meeting together; we need to be called back to him weekly, and we need fellowship with each other! We are not made to live alone, without God or one another. That means that, whatever happens, we will not be stopping our Sunday worship, at 10:30am and 5pm each week. We will be organising everything else to make that possible. That means minimising other activities where the risk of infection is hard to manage, and putting things in place to reduce the risk when we do meet together.
The reason for keeping the risk to a minimum is the same as the reason for continuing to worship God: our first priority is to love God, and the second, for his sake, is to love one another. This is a great opportunity for us to show love to one another, especially those most at risk in our church, by doing all we can to protect each other.
- We are going to stop Trinity Sunday School, Trinity Tots and Trinity Teens immediately. So TSS will not be happening this Sunday, 15th March. We will of course restart these when the epidemic has sufficiently retreated.
- The Holiday Club planned for 7-9 April, and the Spring Getaway for 24-25th April, are cancelled.
- Our services will be livestreamed for anyone who can't or shouldn't come to watch at home. If we are instructed by the government to stop holding services, then we can all still join in by watching online. Instructions for logging are below.
- At our services, we ask everyone to observe these important measures:
- Don't come if you have a fever or a persistent cough, but self-isolate at home according to government guidelines. Watch the livestream instead!
- If one person in a household has symptoms, the whole household should not come. This applies from now, even though the government has not yet asked people to do this. We suggest gathering the household together to watch the livestream of the service.
- If the above don't apply, please come!
- We ask everyone to wash or sanitise hands on arrival. Because of the layout of our building, could those who can use the toilets immediately on coming in do so, and we will have sanitiser available for everyone else. We will only use the garden door for now, and keep the main door shut. If anyone has supplies of commercially-sold sanitiser, please bring them as we have a limited amount and it is hard to obtain more. Please note that we are not able to use home-made sanitiser.
- Please wash or sanitise your hands again when you leave, or as soon as you get home.
- Please refrain from handshaking and kissing, and stand more than 1 metre apart when chatting.
- Please cough or sneeze into elbows, and use tissues if necessary. We will have tissues and bins available.
- Small groups will continue, as the risk of infection can be managed as long as we observe the same measures as for services.
- In the same way, please do not stop meeting people socially unless the government asks us to do that. But please do observe the same measures as above, even in each others' homes.
What else will we be doing?
Following Joel 2:12 we will have a Day of Prayer and Fasting, with a Special Church Prayer Meeting in the evening, this coming Tuesday, 17th March. We need to come before God together to pray particularly for God's mercy. We will of course apply all the same measures against infection.
We will particularly need to provide practical care for each other in various ways as the epidemic takes its course. Our Deacons will be coordinating how this will happen, and will be in touch soon with details.
The Heidelberg Catechism begins with these wonderful words:
Q1. What is your only comfort in life and death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death (Rom 14:7-8), am not my own (1 Cor 6:19), but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:23), who with His Precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19) has fully satisfied for all my sins (1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:2), and redeemed me from all the power of the devil (1 John 3:8); and so preserves me (John 6:39) that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head (Matt 10:29-30; Luke 21:18); indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation (Rom 8:28). Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life (2 Cor 1:21-22; Eph 1:13-14; Rom 8:16), and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him (Rom 8:1).
Though disease is always a tragedy, yet in God's goodness it is also a wonderful opportunity to appreciate in a new way the comfort that Christ brings - a comfort which is real, solid, dependable, and lasts forever. We will be using these words often in our services in the weeks ahead. May God - Father, Son and Spirit - indeed be our only comfort in life and death.
Yours in Christ
Matthew, Simon, Roland & Adam