We are living in extraordinary times. These last few days have brought unprecedented actions and changes around the world in response to COVID-19, and no doubt there will continue to be more changes that will have a far-reaching impact. We are hopeful that though they are difficult and uncomfortable (to say the least), these swift and drastic measures will have the desired effect to contain the virus and to save life.
There are a wide range of emotions and reactions that people are feeling in response to the virus and to the shutdown: fear, worry and anxiety, uncertainty, grief, and anger to name a few. For some of us, our greatest fear is contracting the virus, or that loved ones who are more vulnerable will contract the virus. For others, our greatest fear is the financial hardship this could create and we worry about our ability to pay bills and buy food. Others have at the forefront of their mind the emotional impact that social isolation and anxiety of this scale may have. And still others are grieving the loss of important events, celebrations, and experiences that they now will not be able to enjoy. Though we all may be impacted in different ways, the shutdown has far-reaching ramifications for us all.
This crisis clearly exposes the uncertainties in this life; this world is fragile and easily fractured. But as the people of God, we have the greatest certainties of all:
Psalm 11:4 – The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven
1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Zephaniah 3:17 – The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Isaiah 43:1-3 – But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Romans 8:35-39 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These and so many other passages filled with great truth and reassurance come to mind, pointing us back to this: Because the Lord is with us, we do not need to be afraid. This will be a hard, but important exercise of faith for us, to learn more and more to rest in our God. Since the Lord overrules all things for the good of his church, let’s live not in fear, but with eager anticipation to see what the Lord will do and how he will glorify his Name through this.
As we had previously informed you, the elders met last night (March 17) to discuss plans for the future. We had a good meeting, and made several decisions that we want to share with you. We can confidently say that we are not acting out of fear or with a spirit of anxiety, but we are wanting to act in prudence and wisdom, seeking the good of the church and the glory of Christ. We take very seriously the recommendations from our governing authorities, which are encouraging us to cancel all gatherings of more than ten people. We seek to honor the Lord by honoring them.
In response to COVID-19 and the recommendations of our government officials and the CDC, we made the following decisions:
We will not be gathering for our morning worship service for the next six weeks. We will live-stream one morning worship service each Lord’s Day with the pastors alternating preaching through the end of April. The service will be identical to a normal morning worship service with prayer, singing, scripture reading, preaching, etc. and we encourage you to worship with us from home. While this in no way is an equal substitute for worshiping as one body together in the Lord’s house, we are thankful for technology and the way we are able to use it for the encouragement of the saints during this unique season.
The evening worship service will be canceled through the end of April. In place of the evening service, we are encouraging households to have “family worship” together. We also encourage members to be aware of those who may be particularly isolated and lonely during this time and consider how you might reach out to them and include them in your times of family worship.
All church sponsored events (Bible studies, showers, retreats, shepherding group gatherings, etc) are cancelled through the end of April. Your elders will be in touch with you to check in, to encourage, and to monitor any needs in the congregation.
Church offices will be closed through the month of April. However, the pastors and secretaries will continue to work from home, and will be available through phone or email. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions/needs/concerns that arise. We sincerely desire to hear from you and stay in touch so that we are able to continue to minister and shepherd in the midst of this season.
The deacons will be meeting to discuss a strategy for responding to anticipated needs that arise within the congregation and community.
Each Friday you will receive an email from the pastors with updates and the order of service to help guide your worship for the following Lord’s Day.
We make these decisions within the context of very extraordinary times and circumstances. We want to particularly emphasize that virtual worship and social seclusion are not the norm of the Christian life. These are temporary restrictions given to us for extraordinary times and they should cause us to long for the return to the house of God and to fellowship with His people. We grieve over what we will miss. We will miss the times of joyful celebration brought by showers and weddings and graduations. We will miss the customized artistic pancakes at the St. Paddy’s Day breakfast. We’ll miss the teaching and spiritual nourishment that comes from retreats and bible studies. We will miss our regular fellowship times, and shepherding group activities, and above all, we will miss gathering together for the corporate worship of God.
We make these decisions out of a desire to honor the Lord, but long for the time when we can join together again with the throng at the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise. In a small way we can identify with the singer of Psalm 42 (my thoughts in parentheses):
Psalm 42:4-8 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. (He misses the gathering for worship and longs to return. Though our circumstance is not nearly as extreme as the writer’s, we can certainly understand in part his longing). 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (When fear and loneliness grip us, we must speak to our own souls instructing ourselves to continue to put our hope in God) 6 My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar (these are places far away from Jerusalem and the temple – secluded in our homes, we can feel far away from the people of God). 7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. 8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. (The Lord accompanies us with his steadfast love and song. And if we have him, we have all we need.)
This crisis also gives us the opportunity to serve. There are already many ways that each of us can serve the congregation and the community around us. We can demonstrate love one for another by simply checking in with neighbors and calling to encourage friends so please do that as you are able. Here are some additional opportunities to help serve within the community:
Tiger Pause is providing meals throughout the week to the community every day of the week. Contact Matt Nance at 724-630-9383. The following link is for volunteers to help serve a meal on the next few Lord’s Days. We encourage you to worship with us online and then volunteer to serve a grab-n-go lunch to the community.
Central United Methodist has taken on two additional soup kitchen efforts, now serving four meals a week. Volunteers are greatly needed. Meals: Monday 4:00-5:00; Tuesday 11:30-1:00; Thursday 4:00-5:00; Friday 4:00-5:00; Saturday breakfasts. Contact Jan Davis at 724-417-1208.
TRAILS will be delivering meals to Mount Washington and other HUD sites in Rochester, Monaca and Ambridge. Contact Karen Florence at 724- 674-9870.
The Big Beaver Falls School District itself is distributing “Grab and Go” breakfast and lunch for kids. Times, locations and other details can be found here.
May God continue to keep us and may he use this to lift up and magnify his glorious Name.
With our love and in the service of the King,
Titus and George.