A Message from Our Pastor on Coronavirus Quarantine
Beloved Berachah Family,
I want to take a moment to explain the process that took place yesterday and why there was a flurry of emails that eventually resulted in the cancellation of all services at Berachah Church for the next two weeks.
The first thing I wish to reiterate is that we are not being “forced” to cancel any of our services. The Governor’s office “recommended” religious leaders consider such action. In addition, I was in direct communication with the Montgomery County Emergency Management office and they too “recommended prudent measures.” No one ever said we must.
In the end, the decision to cancel was mine as the Senior Pastor. In fact, I made the executive decision even before I had the opportunity to hear back from all of the Elders. I felt it was the most prudent and compassionate thing to do. I take full responsibility.
We have a congregation that averages to about 170 people a week. Of that population about 30% of our congregation is considered elderly and therefore at risk. In addition, I know that we have folks that have compromised immune systems (people of all ages), we have people who are in service in hospitals, first responders and engaged with the general public who in reality can be carriers of the virus and they may not even know it.
Another fact is that the virus is here in the Cheltenham area. Jeanes Hospital is treating a health provider who is positive.
At one point we thought we could cancel the more intimate small groups and just have the service, but conversations with the Bever family revealed that they were concerned about coming to such an important event and run the risk of only having a small remnant of the congregation to make this decision. In the light of the fact that Mrs Bever is 8 months pregnant we all agreed it would be less stressful and appropriate to have an event at a later date when the majority of the church can be present.
This is not about cowering or hiding. It is not about being subservient to the government. Calling for quarantine as a preventative measure is not an act of fear or lack of trust in God, after all you don't jump off of tall buildings against the laws of gravity to prove God is in control. So lets not use this approach to defy a call to prudent pre-emptive measures. In the end, I see it as an act of compassion and a way to lead from the front to take care of others – especially those who are at high risk.
Taking this action will come at a cost to us. We will now have to delay our pastoral search process. It will mean that we can't serve the hungry for two weeks, it will disrupt our activities and in the end we will be hurt financially since our income will be impacted in not having services for two weeks.
In the Old Testament, in Exodus 12, what has come to be the holiest event for the people of Israel, we see the birth of the Passover. God gave very specific instructions to the Jews during the onset of the last plague. He called them to gather in their homes, prepare a sacrifice, eat unleavened bread and be faithful.
So in this spirit, I ask that you do the following.
Take self-quarantine seriously. For most of us the impact will be benign, but do it for the love of your neighbor. You don't know who has a compromised immune system, who may be undergoing chemo, who is struggling with a quiet disease and they are the weak among us and the most susceptible. Self quarantine, not as an act of fear or as a command from the government, but as an act of compassion and servant leadership.
Take this time to look after your neighbor, especially the elderly and sick who may not have family nearby. Call them; look after them to see if they need groceries or other supplies.
Take this time not to socialize and make it a mini vacation. Truly quarantine yourself to know that you are ok and use this time to be in prayer. Everyone is always complaining that they don't have enough time for devotions, prayer or bible reading. Well here it is – take to heart Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”
Call each other in the church. Grab that directory and even if you don't know each other well, call one another to pray and encourage each other. Use Skype and other media to stay in touch.
Use this time to pray for Berachah Church, for God’s calling on your life and our church.
We are not meeting in order to demonstrate that we are willing to self-sacrifice in order to meet the greater good of our community. However, this doesn't imply that God is not being worshipped. Instead of waiting until Sunday to worship God, do it every day for the next two weeks.
We ask that if you can, please save your tithes and offering and bring them in on March 29th or pay them online on our website.
Consider fasting during this time.
Not being able to come to the church does not mean the church of Christ is not alive – remember the church is not the building or the activities, it is the people of God being in relationship with Christ.
In the days ahead I will be sending a few more notes with updated information or pastoral counsel. I pray that even in the midst of this process we may rise to be a positive testimony to our neighbors and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lastly, as an administrative note, we will not be having our congregational meeting on March 29, 2020. Instead, we will wait to see when we can reschedule the Bever family to be with us and we will reschedule our meeting to coincide with the vote for new leadership.
Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.”