Let’s take a deep breath. I’m serious. Stop what you’re doing. Deep inhale. Hold it… 1 … 2 … 3 … Now exhale. One more time. Inhale. … Exhale. Sometimes you just need to slow down, stop, and catch your breath.
What a wild week it’s been. I’m one that can normally handle news at a fast clip, even if it’s bad news. But even my head was spinning when I went to bed Wednesday night. I couldn’t keep up with which colleges and universities moved to online classes, which sports teams told fans not to come to games, which actors reported their own sicknesses, or which flights were about to be grounded.
Now, plowing through this Thursday, my head is starting to spin again. Numerous alerts, changes, cancellations, etc., occur repeatedly every hour. This is as fluid a situation as you’ll find.
COVID-19, AKA “coronavirus,” is causing stress for many people. I can understand why some are concerned. This is a “new” virus, at least when compared to how long we’ve been dealing with “regular” influenza. We don’t yet have a tried and true vaccine. There’s an unknown element involved, and the unknown always has the potential to cause fear.
We live under the delusion that we are in control. But then something like a virus hits, and we realize that we don’t have as much control as we thought we did. We must then choose how to respond. We can respond in fear and allow that fear to control our lives, or we can respond in faith, looking to the one who is in control of all things.
If I may offer some pastoral counsel that is worth exactly what you paid to read it (assuming you didn’t pay anything to read this)… Let’s use common sense. Let’s be discerning. Let’s not believe everything that everyone tweets, posts, or says. But let’s not dismiss every piece of advice or every warning. Let’s listen to doctors and medical professionals who are on the front lines. Let’s not ignore the true experts, nor their suggestions.
As we do that, let’s not allow fear to overpower our faith. Let’s not forget that Jesus is still King, and he still reigns on his throne. Let’s remember that this world is not our home, that we sojourn here, and that during this journey we’re going to encounter sickness, disease, viruses, and even death. We are fallen people who live in a fallen world, but it is not our forever world, nor is it our final home.
It is entirely possible to face uncertain days with concern yet maintain faith. There’s a difference between concern and worry. Concern allows us to look at a situation, ponder a solution, and, in faith, move toward that end. Worry causes us to focus on the problem, live in the realm of the worst-case scenario, and fail to respond with faith.
Realizing that you may be concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and its ramifications, I wanted to take a few minutes to encourage you and to inform you again of the steps we’re taking at First Baptist Church. Please note the following…
FIRST: As of this writing (Thursday at 3:00 PM, CST), all weekend services and activities are planned to continue as scheduled. If this changes we will announce said changes in three places: (1) through our prayer email database – firstname.lastname@example.org; (2) on our church’s Facebook page; (3) on my personal twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jrussell7899 [anyone can access that site; you don’t have to have a Twitter account].
SECOND: If you have a weakened or compromised immune system, please stay home. (Numerous things can compromise or weaken your immune system, including age. Some medical professionals have suggested that those over age 60 should consider avoiding large crowds.)
If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, definitely stay home. If you have or have had a fever in the past couple of days, stay home.
And another thing: if you have cold or flu-like symptoms, definitely stay home. If you have or have had a fever in the past couple of days, stay home.
THIRD: For those who are not in any of the categories previously mentioned, please know that the facilities and environment at First Baptist Church are as sterile and as clean as we can possibly make them. The campus is cleaned and sanitized each week, including highly used surfaces and restrooms. Even the offering plates get a good cleaning each week. We’ve added hand sanitizing stations all over campus. While no one can guarantee a virus-free environment, we are doing everything imaginable to make our campus and facilities germ free.
FOURTH: That notwithstanding, we encourage you to use discernment and good judgment in determining your plans. If we err, it is best to err on the side of caution. We intend to be “open for business” this weekend. If you are in good health with no symptoms of sickness and you desire to join others for worship on campus, we’ll be here. But I also understand if you prefer to not be in a large crowd due to health concerns, and I don’t believe your absence for those reasons indicates a lack of faith. If that is your scenario, I would love for you to join us via livestream this Sunday morning at 10:30 at http://www.fbcmilton.org/media/live.
You know, if you have cold or flu-like symptoms, you should really stay home. And if you have or have had a fever in the past couple of days, you ought to stay home.
FINALLY, Some of our members participate in hospital and nursing home visitation. For the next couple of weeks (through the end of March), I would ask our volunteers to discontinue those visits. I anticipate this being a temporary measure, and it is requested both for your safety and the safety of those you visit. Some nursing homes are already eliminating non-family visitors, and many hospitals are implementing screening protocol. Once this concern has passed, I would welcome your renewed involvement in those ministries.
This is not the first time that our culture or the church have been confronted with uncertainty, nor will it be the last. Historically, we as a civilization have persevered, and I believe we will continue to do so until the Lord decides to return to this earth to take his church and his people home. As followers of Christ, we believe in using sound judgment and making wise decisions, all the while maintaining a faith that is greater than fear.
During this time please let our office know if you have a need that we can meet. The way our services are structured or offered may look different for a season, but we will always stand ready to minister to our members and our community as best we can.
We encourage you to pray for those who have been impacted by COVID-19, as well as leaders in various roles, both secular and spiritual, who are making difficult decisions that impact the population. As always, please feel free to reach out to our office with further questions. You can reach me directly and quickly at email@example.com.
Let’s get together this Sunday, be it on site or online!