As you know, we are in an unprecedented challenge with COVID-19 impacting countries around the world, including our own community. There are people who are extreme on one side of how to respond and those on the other side. My prayer is that we walk in God's Spirit of power, love, and self-control vs fear. It's our opportunity to bring hope to our communities, even amid our own personal sacrifice.
In March, our state leaders made specific recommendations that impact our church directly. We are called to obey our governing authorities as that honors the Lord and allows us to live in harmony with and in our communities. Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. Rom 13:1
California Public Health Recommendations:
"The state's public health experts have determined that gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March. Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person. Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than ten people, while also following social distancing guidelines." Read more here: https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/03/11/california-public-health-experts-mass-gatherings-should-be-postponed-or-canceled-statewide-to-slow-the-spread-of-covid-19/
The church elder board met last night, and with much prayer and discussion, the board has decided to err on the side of caution to care for our church family, especially those in our church family who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. The elders have unanimously decided:
"Due to the Novel Covid-19 challenge and under the current state recommendations, all public gatherings except Community Groups will be suspended until further notice."
Specifically, this means:
- No public on campus Sunday church services.
- No music rehearsals, outreach events, training, huddles, Bible studies, youth, or children's activities. No group meetings of any kind on campus.
Just because our public gatherings are temporarily suspended doesn't mean our mission is suspended. In colder climates, churches occasionally suspend Sunday services due to inclement weather and then get right back at their ministry activities when the weather improves. No different here. We will continue to shepherd and teach you, and here's how:
- We will keep worshipping together online. We invite you to gather with your family and friends for a Christ First Covina online service every Sunday at 9am & 10:45am.
- Join us online at www.christ-first.org/media or christfirstcovina.online.church
- From any browser, smartphone, smart TV or other device go to YouTube.com/c/ChristFirstCovinaVideos If you click the subscribe button and the bell beside it, you will receive notifications on new content.
- Community Groups can continue to meet but only on Zoom. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to get started or for help with troubleshooting.
- We will keep praying for you. If you need prayer, reach out to us. Our Pastors and elders will pray for you. Email email@example.com.
- We will keep shepherding kids/families. We will be creating online content and activities weekly that will be available for students, children, and families to engage in and continue to grow in their walk with Jesus at home. Our youth ministry continues to meet weekly on Zoom, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for the meeting information or if you have any questions.
- We are serving our world. We continue to pray and support the work of our missionaries around the world. Operation Christmas Child will continue to organize items, and the team will be ready for your hands to help pack boxes as soon as we reschedule our packing parties. You are literally changing lives for Christ in other countries because of your prayer and support.
- We will care for those most vulnerable. As a church, we endeavor to sacrificially serve those who are most vulnerable. According to the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html), the most vulnerable include, children and older adults or people with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease.
- We will keep honoring God with generous giving (Pr 3:9). Your giving still makes a difference. Continue to be faithful to the Lord. There are still multiple ways to give:
- Online Giving: https://christ-first.org/give-online
- Try text to give (626) 784-4882.
- Mail-in your giving to Christ First Covina 200 N Second Ave Covina, CA 91723
I know many people will disagree with this decision. We don't make this decision lightly or with the thought that we are 100% correct – we are making what we believe is the wisest decision based upon our current information and out of our desire to love and care for all of you. As details are changing daily, we will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed. This is not a time to panic but remain prayerfully sober-minded. Remember what we learned recently?
…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that your brotherhood is experiencing the same kinds of suffering throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 7:5-11
Sober-minded (Gk: nepho): To be calm and collected in spirit. Temperate. Circumspect. Self-controlled, considerate of others, and of consequences.
We trust our sovereign God always knows what He is doing, even in the midst of the storm. There will be a day when this crisis passes, and my hope is that there will be stories told of how our church courageously and sacrificially responded in faith.
Keep this in mind: corporate church service on Sunday isn't the only expression of church. It's one expression. Keep praying, connect online, connect with your Community Group, give generously, and serve those in need around you. Our best response to all of this is how we serve and help others.
As a staff, we have unique opportunities before us that we are pursuing immediately:
- We will commit more time to learning and leading our church family to stay connected virtually online. In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and it shook up how people connected. No doubt, people were upset that this invention changed habits and caused less in-person social interaction with neighbors. Today the internet is also doing something new that once again comes with a sense of loss AND new benefits. We invite you into the benefits of staying connected online with your church family!
- We will help you connect with us online. If you know anyone in our church family who needs help to connect with our online church services, please let us know. We're here to help!
- We will care for those who need help. Please stay connected with your Community Groups and care deeply and tangibly for them. We will remain in close contact with all Community Group Leaders. If you have questions, reach out to them first. If extra help and support, like groceries, delivered to seniors, please let us know and our Calling Team will spring into action.
Walking with you in God's Spirit of power, love, and self-control,