Concerning COVID + In-person worship
Hello Church, this is Pastor Pete
The present news regarding COVID-19 and the increase of positive cases in Pima County is something I don’t want to take lightly. This is a year we have all had to become more adaptive and better at using the “eraser end of our pencil”, so to speak. Yesterday, in my personal devotion and journaling time, I jotted down a list of positive qualities I’ve noticed emerge in many people close to me and in our church, as a result of this chronic pandemic. I wrote down: compassion, meekness, patience, surrender, sympathy, courage. Then, in the margin I simply wrote the name, Jesus. In God’s wisdom, he is using this painful season to bring about his good plans for his people—to draw us in and transform us into the likeness of Christ. No doubt he’s revealing qualities of our sinful nature, too, like: bitterness, anxiety, apathy, irritability, and worry. None of these characteristics are from the Lord and will one day be wiped out in the new creation. I long for that day. I’m sure you do, too.
For the present—let’s remember that sickness, and the threat of sickness, is often an instrument to remind us that God is our only true refuge and hope. I encourage you to not miss this important moment before us as a church and citizens of this world—God is highlighting the real brokenness of creation, the real triumph of Christ over all that is broken, and his real invitation to find rest in him.
Another real thing I’ve come to experience in the midst of this pandemic is the essential nature and function of our gathered worship. Our regular worship is essential, not simply a luxury or even another obligation to juggle in our lives. When we gather, we are not aiming to simply transfer doctrinal information or sing a few songs--but we are participating in a truly supernatural and transformational experience as God's brought-together people. Our worship is as essential as food—as water. There may be times of fasting but chronic withdrawal will leave us malnourished, weak, and depleted of spiritual vibrancy.
SO HOW ARE YOU DOING?
This week, I encourage you to take personal inventory of how you are doing. If you are in a season of discouragement, worry, doubt, or crisis will you reach out to me personally? I will continue to encourage your elders to do their best to periodically check in with each of you but we also desire to hear how to best pray and care for you. Be authentic, be vulnerable, be honest about how you are doing. Worry, discouragement, and fatigue are common to us all. It is okay to not be okay. Remember, these bad things will not last and we need one another.
REGARDING IN-PERSON GATHERINGS
Because of the essential nature of our gathered worship we will continue to provide the options of both in-person and online worship. We desire to enjoy our personal liberty to gather for worship yet strongly encourage each person to evaluate their own health risk during this time. We can minimize health-related risks on Sunday and at Life Groups but we cannot eliminate them completely. Stay home if you are not feeling well, assess your personal health risks and the risks of those close to you, and honor guidelines we’ve put in place when we gather—as many of you are already doing. If you are among the more vulnerable population, or plan to come in contact with someone who is, we strongly encourage you to stay home and enjoy our online worship option. This is a great option for many and there is no shame in utilizing it. We support you in your decision. Let your Life Group leader know if you are going to take a break from regular gatherings. The group desires to support you and pray for you.
For the time-being we will provide both 9:00am and 10:45am services. We will re-evaluate the need for this as we get into a rhythm in the new year and adapt as circumstances warrant. Also, for now we will suspend the need to register each week for a service. Just show up.
Finally, in all of this, consider Jesus—who willingly suffered and died, diseased by our sin—was afflicted, killed, was buried, and is risen. The essence of faith is not the absence of painful seasons, but our trust in God’s ability to hold us up. Let this be a time to cry out to God in prayer, moving towards him and seeking his will and favor for our health, family, and neighbor.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:5-8
In Christ, Pastor Pete