Update on Friday March 13: This situation is developing rapidly, even since the letter below was published. We will no longer be gathering this Sunday. Please check back in the coming days for more information.
As you are aware, there are increasing concerns about the spreading coronavirus, especially as there now are confirmed cases in the Chicago area.
Recently, our elders discussed this issue as it relates to our church family. We want to avoid two unhealthy kinds of responses to the reports:
- On the one hand, a response of panic
- On the other hand, a cold-hearted or dismissive indifference about a virus that poses a real threat, especially to older or health-vulnerable people around us
Rather than panic or cold-heartedness, we want to respond in “faith, hope, and love.” And, as Scripture reminds us, “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
Out of love of our neighbors, here are four steps we can take as a church community right now:
- Out of neighbor-love, if you are experiencing cold- or flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, please do not attend church gatherings. (However, please do let your small group and/or pastors know so we can pray with you and support you.)
- Out of neighbor-love, in the near-term future, our greeters will default to fist bumps instead of handshakes. And, for all in attendance, please be aware that some people may prefer to avoid any physical contact with others on Sundays. Let’s be sensitive and err on the side of caution here.
- Out of neighbor-love, over the next few weeks, we will increase our weekly strategy for cleaning and disinfecting things we use on Sundays—especially toys and other shared supplies in our Redeemer Kids classes—to make every reasonable effort to keep this a safe environment.
- Out of neighbor-love, we can pray with compassion not only for one another, but also for our community and our world, that the Good Shepherd’s love would shine in a time of real fears and concerns. “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36, CSB).
In making these recommendations, we have looked at guidelines from the CDC, and consulted with Sarah Muzik (a registered nurse in our congregation). As you are probably aware, the CDC makes several other recommendations for personal and public safety, including washing your hands well (for a full 20 seconds) and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
We do not foresee circumstances in which we would cancel Sunday gatherings or stop serving the Lord’s Supper on Sunday mornings. However, if you make the decision to stay home or simply to abstain from the Lord’s Supper for a brief time, we will respect your judgment.
As the story unfolds, let’s continue to look to the Lord, confident that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
On behalf of the elders,