Thank you for your prayers for your elders and deacons as we met this morning to discuss our plan for the COVID-19 situation. We met for three hours and had much prayer and discussion to discern what we needed to do.
The bottom line:
We are cancelling on-site Heartland worship services and all other Heartland activities for the next two weeks. That includes worship services, Sunday school, Bible studies and Youth groups. This was not a decision entered into lightly, but we believe it a necessary step to help slow the spread of the virus in Wichita. Community groups are also being encouraged not to meet, but we will leave that up to the individual group.
We have also appointed a task force who will meet regularly to study this situation and make recommendations to the session as to when and how we will begin meeting again. This task force is made up of: Dr. John McConeghey, Dr. Phil Challans, Tom Paine, Chris Jackson, David Alexander and Richard Brueck. We will be giving you weekly updates of our decisions.
We now have confirmed cases in Wichita and because of this, we want to be prudent and cautious and yet not overly fearful. Now, more than ever, we need to be people of prayer and the Word.
First, this is not just about keeping us safe but also keeping our city safe. In a study cited by John McConeghey, it showed that the actual number of known cases is nothing compared to the number of people who are infected but haven’t shown symptoms yet. It shows what happened in China and Italy as proof. Infections grew exponentially until they put restrictions on gatherings. We don’t want to infect others by having groups meeting together. We don’t know who might be carrying the virus. While we believe that the assembling of the saints is of the utmost importance (Heb.10:24-25) we must also be concerned for others “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”(Phil. 2:4) We are to love our neighbor as ourselves and one way we can do that is to limit our exposure to one another.
Second, we have many who are currently ill or have compromised immune systems. We need to do everything we can to not expose those most vulnerable. This is an extremely aggressive virus and easily transmitted. We do not want to succumb to paranoia, but we do want to be cognizant of our role in protecting the vulnerable and immune-compromised individuals in our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, etc. Our willingness to do this is another way we can show love for our neighbors.
Third, this will give us an opportunity to completely disinfect the building and by sitting idle, all virus should die that might be in the building now. This would be difficult to do with streams of people continually using the building. CSW will remain out on spring break for two more weeks and then will be going to online classes for the remainder of the year.
Fourth, we are to be good citizens and obey the authorities. We have been told we cannot meet for church because we have more than 250 people. That may remain in effect for some time. So, we attempt to be a witness by submitting.
PRAY! We covet your prayers for Heartland, But again, this is not just about us. Be praying for God to have mercy on our city, nation and world. Be praying for those who have been infected, for families of those who have died and for those living in fear. Be praying for healthcare professionals who put their lives on the line to care for the sick. Be praying for the task force and leaders to have wisdom to know what to do and when. We are going to open the sanctuary tomorrow, Sunday, March 15 from 9am until 6pm if you would desire to come and pray. No agenda or program, just an opportunity for you to come and pray about these things. There will be an elder or deacon there to assist you if you need anything.
WITNESS! For years we have been praying for opportunities to share Christ with our neighbors here in Wichita. God has given us a pandemic! We have the privilege of taking the message of hope and peace to those who are fearful. We have the message of life for those who are afraid of death. We have the message of peace to those who are full of anxiety. May we take full advantage of this great gift from God to speak the truth.
SERVE! The economic impact on our city could be huge. We need to be aware of those around us who may be hurting. Many may lose their jobs. Many families with both parents or a single parent working now have no one to care for their children. Many children who depend on meals at school may now find themselves hungry. Many without insurance may need help with medical care. God has opened the door to us to be involved in the lives of people.
COMMUNITY! Even though we are limiting face-to-face and person-to-person contact does not mean you should live in isolation. We need each other. We are part of the same body. So find ways to keep in touch. The technologies we have are a gift so try to call, text, FaceTime or Skype. Groups could even do video conferencing. Don’t let yourself get separated from the body during this time.
When the Reformer, Martin Luther, was dealing with The Black Death plague, he wrote these wise words that can help us today:
"I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.
“If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.
“If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.
“See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash no foolhardy and does not tempt God."
Luther's Works Volume 43 pg 132 the letter "Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague" written to Rev. Dr. John Hess
So we can move ahead with great trust and confidence in our God. He is the Almighty, Sovereign, Lord of the universe and Head of His church. Not even hell itself can prevail against it. So let us not lose hope, and let us not lose sight of our great opportunity to be His church.
Be strong and courageous!