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Hardship and Church Health: How This Could Be Good for Us

Hardship and Church Health: How This Could Be Good for Us

Editorial comment: As you read this piece, consider how you have found these words to be true in your life, or how you’ve found them true in the life of another believer or our church. Then email me at [email protected] I’d be so glad to hear and might circle around in a few months with a follow-up post.

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A few months ago I didn’t know the first thing about the coronavirus. Now, everyone knows the first thing about it. It’s bad. Let’s start there.

There are some real ways in which this whole thing is bad for us. It’s a killing machine, especially for our older population. That’s bad. We can’t gather and that’s bad. The economy is halting and that will be bad in ways that we are only starting to understand. Yesterday at 5 p.m., one of our members let me know he was not available Friday night. A friend was getting married. By 6 p.m., he followed up to let me know the wedding was canceled. Just try to imagine being that couple.

But then there is that famous promise we have been given. The reference, Romans 8:28, is as famous as the verse: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Those are unqualified words. In fact, they are abundantly clarified words. “All things” here include all the “sufferings of this present time” (8:18), all the “futility” and “groaning” of this present creation (18:20, 22)—even “tribulation,” “distress,” “persecution,” “famine,” “nakedness,” “danger,” and “sword” (18:35).

We must not minimize the pain here. Our Lord never does that. But let us not miss the good in the midst of that pain. For our encouragement in hardship, and our prayers over the coming weeks and months, here are five reflections.

First, the coronavirus will be good for our faith.

I have observed you on social media, and we have talked here and there. Some of you might have bought too much toilet paper—that’s between you and God—but my read is that your hope is settled because your faith is genuine. There’s a reason for that. Peter tells us that we have been born again unto a living hope, and that our various trials serve a specific purpose: “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Pet. 1:3, 7). This trial, friends, will prove our faith and it will purify our faith. This trial will not let us be tricked into placing our hope in this perishable, defiled, and fading world. That’s a good thing.

Second, the coronavirus will be good for our Sunday gatherings.

Wait, didn’t we cancel our Sunday gathering? We’re hosting an online service (more on that tomorrow), but yes. Isn’t anything short of being together a big loss? Absolutely. But I’m seeing an upside: surely we will grow to value being together all the more. May we be all the more convinced that the church is not the platform on Sundays, but a people; not something to consume, but something we’re connected to. We are not customers on Sunday morning; we are partners in the gospel (Phil. 1:5).

We’re a strong singing church, but maybe we’ll give God more glory for commanding us to sing to one another (Col. 3:16). We’ll keep reading the Bible at home, but maybe we’ll see even more clearly God’s wisdom in his words to pastors, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1Tim. 4:13). Hearing the Word is always a good thing. Hearing it in public is his plan for us. Our purpose in meeting digitally on Sunday isn’t an attempt to deliver on all that God intends for us in meeting. Some of that grace, yes. But it’s also to make sure we taste church in order to truly miss church.

Third, the coronavirus will be good for our relationships with one another.

But aren’t we supposed to practice “social distancing”? Absolutely. If the Lord is kind, this is one way we’ll save ourselves from the rates of infection and death that we’ve seen in Italy. It’s why we’ve discontinued our Sunday gathering for a time, and it’s why we canceled all of our other programming. All of that is a matter of love for neighbor. Here’s the upshot: now we’ll get to see just how much we love one another.

We have good plans and programs at Heritage. I think we’re deliberate about what we do and why and how. But if our well-laid plans can also make us spiritually lazy, then we’re about to get a workout. If our programs can lead us to equate busyness with fruitfulness, then we’re about to bear some fruit together. And that will be good for us. Be encouraged when our younger members go shopping for our older members, and when we labor to stay connected in ways that prove that really we do care. I don’t see why we can’t come out of this a closer family, even having been apart for a time.

Fourth, the coronavirus will be good for our pocketbooks.

A friend recently commented, “I’m concerned for our older population. A surprising threat to their health is the time they have on their hands to read the news and watch their portfolios.” I made my way to the local hibachi place for lunch a day or so ago. The owners—a sweet young couple, now familiar faces—were waving from inside. The sign on the door thanked us for our patronage, but said they were closed, at least for the time being. Even events like T4G and SXSW had to cancel their huge events. They had event insurance, but that insurance didn’t cover pandemics. Everyone is affected. It is already devastating.

Oh how Paul’s words are ringing in our ears right now: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1Tim. 6:17–19). Riches fly away. But that’s hard to believe until it happens. It will be a good thing if we can come out ahead with real treasure and true life.

Fifth, the coronavirus will be good for our neighbors.

I plan to write a bit more on this at a later time, but I can’t leave our witness off of this list. We have an opportunity here to show our community the glory of Jesus, and that can happen in two ways. The first way is less obvious and less appreciated, but it is central to Jesus’s strategy for the spread of his name. Remember what Jesus prayed, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (Jn. 17:22, 23). How will our neighbors in Greer and Taylors and Greenville see the glory of Jesus? In the love and unity of the church. But, of course, secondly, we show the glory of Jesus through our good works, which includes doing good toward our neighbor (Matt. 5:16). I’ve already heard of one young mom spending her afternoon calling all her older neighbors to ask if they needed help. That was so good to hear.

So, the coronavirus is bad. Everyone agrees. But we’re the people who know not only the first and the last thing about this bug, but everything in between. And there are some good things going on there.

 

Coronavirus, Community, and the Cross

Coronavirus, Community, and the Cross

Update: On Sunday, March 15, our governor asked us to cease all gatherings of over 50 people. We’re glad to comply. See Coronavirus updates here

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Dear Heritage Bible Church,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts even as the coronavirus rules the airwaves and, to a good extent, our lives for a season.

Yesterday evening we sent you a simple communication regarding our plans for services and ministry programming at Heritage in light of the COVID-19 virus National Emergency. Keep up with updates here. Here’s what we shared:

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) circumstances continue to evolve each day. Trent and I watched the President declare a national emergency this afternoon. He reiterated several personal precautions. Such news stories add to public concern about group interactions. Out of love for others, we have to err on the side of reasonable caution.

So for an indefinite period of time, we are cancelling all church programming except our weekly Lord’s Day gathering at 9:30 a.m.

Nursery, Pre-School, and Children’s Church will function as normal for this Sunday. However, we ask that no volunteers over 60 serve in these areas. If you are scheduled to work this Sunday, your ministry leader will be in touch with you. Parents: We ask you be extra careful that no child with a fever, cough, runny nose, etc. is brought to church.

While we will have the service, there is no judgment on you if you do not attend for personal safety reasons. Each of us needs to pray, keep monitoring CDC and SC DEHC updates, and consider how we serve others. Let’s be creative in staying connected and loving one another.

Several on the elder team are in frequent communication. We are getting input from a small group of HBC healthcare professionals. We would all appreciate your prayers.

We wanted to get that to you in a timely fashion. In this post I want to elaborate a bit and offer some of our thinking on this decision and other decisions we may have to make in shepherding in the coming weeks to months. In as much as we are able, we want to be in this together.

I’m not worried about grumbling about our leadership on these points, even though I know there will be different and evolving individual perspectives among us. You are a loving church and it is a joy to shepherd here. Praise God! I’m just eager to bring you in on the thoughtful and principled way we mean to go about this. We’ll all be better for owning these decisions as a church. Where we do make a decision that strikes you wrong—or where we may unwittingly over or under react—I hope this post will help us along together.

There are several priorities we’re pursuing. Here are the two big ones, and then some related considerations.

In terms of ministry programming, our first priority is that of our weekly Lord’s Day gathering.

It might at first seem backwards to cancel meetings in smaller settings but keep our weekly large gathering. This challenge of the coronavirus is something like a test question on a theology exam: how much can you take away from the church and still have the church? You can take away Bible Studies, as fruitful as those are. A collection of Bible studies may strengthen a church, but they do not make a church. Same with ministries to students and senior adults, and even Shepherding Groups, the main way we plan for discipleship.

But there’s only one occasion when we “come together as a church,” and that is on the Lord’s Day (1Cor. 11:18). That’s the one place where the reconciling power of the gospel is uniquely visible in the people the gospel creates. It’s the one occasion in which Jesus’ presence is with us in a uniquely powerful way (Matt. 18:15–20; 1Cor. 5:4, 5). It’s the context for our practice of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (1Cor. 11). It’s the one program, for lack of a better term, for which we have both a pattern and prescription in the New Testament: it’s the day Jesus rose, the day the church met, and the day our lives depend on until the Day Christ returns (Lk. 24:1; Jn. 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2; Heb. 10:24, 25; Rev. 1:10). There are many important things we’re about doing here. But for all these reasons, the Lord’s Day service is our priority.

Another priority is that of love for neighbor.

We’re socially embedded creatures. That’s how God made us. We live together and we make societies. The reason we have the command to love our neighbor is because we owe them love as those made by God in the image of God. We don’t have to love every neighbor in the same way or to the same extent. There are things we know about and things we don’t; things we should know about and things we reasonably can’t. The Good Samaritan would not have become so famous if he hadn’t happened to walk by. Neither would he have been guilty of neglect. There are also things we have more and less power to do something about, and we should use what power we have to do what things we can (Gal. 6:10). Christians in Rome didn’t have the same civic responsibilities as we do in a democratic republic. Then there are ways we must act individually for an individual neighbor, and there are ways we act together for the sake of our neighborhoods and our nation. All of this requires much wisdom.

It’s that last consideration that led us to close our non-essential ministry programming for an indefinite period of time.

How does that love our neighbor exactly? Why, for example, couldn’t we just advise our more vulnerable members to stay back from things like Women’s Bible Study or a Shepherding Group? The issue is not in the first place the vulnerability of specific individuals who might come to a meeting. Rather, it’s the cumulative effect of meetings like these in our community on the pace of the spread of the virus, and its potential to overwhelm our healthcare system.

Andy Crouch has invested considerable time in understanding the matter. You should read his entire piece, “Love in the Time of Coronavirus.” He puts it this way:

COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is considerably more deadly than ordinary flu, especially for vulnerable populations: the elderly and those with existing medical conditions. They are generally dying of bilateral interstitial pneumonia, the signature worst-case outcome of COVID-19. Support of patients with this late-stage disease requires immense amounts of specialized equipment and medical expertise. At the same time, the disease can be mild in many people, even unnoticed. But this actually increases the risk to others, as “asymptomatic” carriers can transmit the virus to the highly vulnerable without realizing they are infectious.

Therefore there is a serious risk beyond the virus’s simple fatality rate: its potential to overwhelm our health care system, leading to many more otherwise preventable deaths from COVID-19 and other causes. In northern Italy, a region very much like the US in many ways (wealthy and culturally just as Teutonic as Latin), the health system, roughly comparable in resources to our own, is utterly overwhelmed. This is in spite of unprecedented quarantines, first at the city level, then at the regional, and now (with the results yet to be seen) the national level. Doctors in northern Italy report this week that they are resorting to wartime-style triage — simply not treating many who come to the hospital because they are too sick. This also means that people with “ordinary” medical issues, including critical ones, not related to the virus, may not receive even the most basic care.

Italy and the US are not apples to apples. Their population over 65 is 25%. But our 16% is still high. Let’s prevent what happened there and help our health care workers to help our vulnerable. Out of an abundance of reasonable caution, the community around us is accepting many burdens. In solidarity with our community, we joyfully sacrifice some of our normal graces for the common good.

In due time, once this has cleared or once we learn how to do this together, we’ll start Shepherding Groups back up. But for now, we don’t want our many leaders and members to have to negotiate the questions of whether to meet or not; or to have to navigate the socially sticky questions of food and hygiene. If you want to get your friends together who are in your Shepherding Group, by all means, wash your hands and have them over. Let’s keep loving one another, and let’s be creative and intentional about that. Let’s just not meet together as groups.

In what circumstances might we cancel our Lord’s Day service?

We are asking ourselves that question, so let me get ahead of it. It’s helpful to make a distinction between circumstances that are ordinary and those that are extraordinary.

Let’s start with each of us individually. In extraordinary circumstances, it’s okay for a person to miss church. Not everyone who misses church misses for the reasons threatening the Hebrew Christians, who were tempted to socially distance themselves, shall we say, from Jesus (Heb. 10:24, 25). In fact, sometimes we should miss church. If you’re throwing up, you should stay home. If you’re in law enforcement, we’re glad you’ll be on the streets on your rotation while we’re worshiping. If you’re trading off with your spouse to care for your elderly and immobilized parent, don’t let that bother your conscience. The Lord smiles on you. Every Sunday we have people who do not gather with us because they are doing acts of mercy at the hospital or in their home with a child.

When it comes to cancelling church for all of us, there are a few scenarios where we might do this. Certain kinds of danger, for example. If there is a blizzard and we have fourteen inches of snow overnight, sure, we could ask people to come if the roads are clear where they are, but we know many will come that shouldn’t. Better in some cases to just cancel church. If the church was on fire, you and I don’t need to feel guilty about getting out of there. None of this is in contradiction with trusting in our Lord and his resurrection. Neither, I would submit, is cancelling church when the President calls a National Emergency (which he has) and when state officials make a strong request for us to forego our meetings for a time (which they could). Though our situation is not as severe, the Spanish Flu of 1918 presented churches with this very decision. It’s an extraordinary situation.

I should clarify that it would be our prerogative to comply, a matter of honoring our governing authorities; not a decision from fear or coercion, or a matter of unqualified obedience (Ro. 13:1–7). The state does not give us our freedom to meet; the state acknowledges and protects our freedom to meet. Certainly, if the request is ideologically motivated to restrict of our religious liberty, our response must be different. Under God, no one has the authority to tell the Church she can’t meet (Acts 4:19). Ours is heaven’s king, and our meetings are heaven’s assemblies. But that is not the situation we’re in.

If we canceled our Lord’s Day gathering, what would we do instead?

I don’t know yet. One option is nothing. You can’t truly do church—a word that means assembly—apart. We’re a covenanted community and there are many means of grace involved in gathering that simply can’t happen when we’re in our homes.  So, one option is to accept our circumstances as an unusual providence, and embrace the trial of missing one another. Then we come together again as soon as possible. If that sounds absurd, consider an illustration. You can watch a basketball game from the stands or your couch. But you can only play the game by being there. We don’t watch church, we participate. It’s why we don’t livestream our services—for what it teaches about what church is. Yes, there are some benefits, but it’s a net-loss as a normative practice. So, that’s one option: embrace the trial for what it is.

As another option, we could bend for this extraordinary circumstance and livestream a service, led from one of our living rooms. I suppose we’d call it, our unassembled gathering! It’s not church, but it is the church doing its best under the circumstances to taste what it means to be together. And it sure would be encouraging. We’ll let you know our plan if and when the time comes.

Finally, and importantly: how can we love our neighbors next door?

We’ve considered our place in the community, but how about our places as Christians in our neighborhoods? Here are some suggestions.

  • Point people to Jesus in the midst of this uncertainty. There’s a palpable aura of trouble out there. That’s not a bad feeling. It’s a true feeling. We are dust and it is good to be sensitive to the dust. For those that don’t get sick, they may lose their job, or their business, or their senior year. Let us speak of Christ, this world’s only certainty. He has defeated death by his death, and that includes the coronavirus and a thousand other threats and thorns.
  • Convert worry into hand washing, and panic into practical expressions of love for the vulnerable. Some of us will be quarantined at home. All of us should wash our hands and practice social distancing. Others might watch someone’s children so a single mother can work. All of us should run to the sick when they need us. That’s what Christians have always done. 
  • Read up and keep reading. Reading is better than watching, by the way. The best place for information on COVID–19 is the CDC website. Here are some pieces I found helpful: “Love in the Time of Coronavirus,” by Andy Crouch (with a summary here); “Flattening the Curve for COVID-19: What Does It Mean and How Can You Help?,” by Kara Gavin; “Should Your Church Stop Meeting to Slow COVID-19? How 3 Seattle Churches Decided,” by Daniel Chin; “The Dos and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’,” by Kaitlyn Tiffany. Good reading will help you live wisely, and give the right advice. Stay current, but don’t miss the old stuff: C.S. Lewis’, “On Living in an Atomic Age,” or Martin Luther on “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.”
  • Pray for and honor those in authority. Our public leaders are in a position to make excruciating decisions. They need our support and our cooperation. Let’s be easy to lead and protect. And let’s be filled with thanksgiving for this gift to us of God’s common grace in human government.
  • Let’s watch our words, especially the ones we type. None of us are as smart as we think. Suspicion of our institutions and the media is high, and there are arguably good reasons for that. Political calculations are likely present, yes, even in the decision making and reporting on the coronavirus. But none of us are in the best position to sort it out, certainly not in real-time. So, let’s engage these things, but let’s avoid throwing dirt or digging in. Remember, be a good friend.

This virus has brought the country together in a surprising way. Today in the President’s address, it brought together the heads of Target and Walmart, and of Walgreens and CVS. The political rhetoric has cooled a touch as well. It’s a Christmas miracle!

But way more powerful than a crisis like this is the gospel of Jesus Christ which brings us to him, and brings us together every Lord’s Day to celebrate nothing less than the resurrection from the dead. Let us not forget what we have. If we get the coronavirus, brothers and sisters, let us make sure everyone knows that our Lord got us first. We aren’t afraid. We’re already better than cured.

See you Sunday, Lord willing.

—Trent

Coronavirus Updates

Plans for Resuming our Sunday Gathering! Updated May 13, 2020

We are planning to resume our Lord’s Day services this coming Sunday. Visit the Heritage Resume page to learn about our plans for Sunday. That page is to-the-point, but some of our thinking and details are on Pastor Trent’s blog post, Together Again, this Sunday: Why and How.”

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You’re Invited! Join Us Online Updated March 21, 2020

Go to our Heritage Live page for instructions and plan to join us this Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

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COVID-19 Update | Pastor Trent’s Blog Post Updated March 19, 2020

Read it here: Hardship and Church Health: How This Could be Good for Us

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COVID-19 Update | Update on Sunday’s Online Service Updated March 18, 2020

Heritage Family,

As Sandy shared in his email to you on Monday, we have canceled our normal Lord’s Day gathering for this Sunday. We are glad to comply with the governor’s request. As I shared in Saturday’s blog post, “Coronavirus, Community, and the Cross,” in this circumstance we would consider hosting something in place of our gathering through digital means. That is our plan.

This Friday, look out for an email and invitation from me to Sunday’s online meeting. We’ll be using a video platform called Zoom. More details and instructions to come. It should be as easy as following a link, which was important to us.

This email comes before all of our plans are completely laid, but I wanted to bring you up to speed. Thank for your patience as we get things in good order.

Grace to you –

Trent

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COVID-19 Update | March 16 HBC Update

Here we are, following our Good Shepherd day by day. The CDC is now advising groups of more than 50 to not meet for the next 8 weeks. The SC Governor has suspended school until the end of March. Just this afternoon the White House issued guidelines advising people to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10. So we are praying and making adjustments.

So until further notice, there will be no gathering on Sunday morning or in smaller official HBC groups at other times. Again we will continue to monitor recommendations from the CDC and SC DHEC. Then, make decisions for our ministry. For some insights into precautions for yourself and others, review the article Trent included in his blog. If you are in a high-risk category, be extra careful.

Don’t you love that we are invited not to fear? Dozens of passages such as Deuteronomy 31:7-8 or Matthew 14:22-33 remind us that God the Father and God the Son know the human tendency toward fear. Divine presence and powerful action on our behalf should assure our hearts and give us courage. As you pray, think, talk, and act, there are two simple categories: Loving God and Loving Others (members and neighbors).

Loving God

Continue spending time in God’s Word and praying.

Stay informed but don’t let yourself get overwhelmed in the 24/7 news cycle. We will continue to share articles like this one to encourage and equip you.

Sunday Service: Alternative to Gathering

For now, just know that we are talking and planning toward a 9:30 a.m. Sunday video/internet strategy. Trent will be sending an email on Wednesday to give more details. He and Brian Burch, HBC Tech Director, have already been talking through specifics and logistics.

Loving Members

Elder Communities and Shepherding Groups

Later this week, Abe Stratton will be sending an email update to Elders, Deacons, and Shepherding Group leaders. Especially during this time, our focus will be on loving each other through more time and energy given through elder communities and shepherding groups.

Benevolence

Be prepared to share your time and resources to help others in your elder community and shepherding group. Different sectors of our economy will be temporarily hurt worse than others. Someone in your elder community or shepherding group may have to stay home with a child, work reduced hours, or be temporarily suspended from working.

Loving Neighbors

Do you have a co-worker or an older neighbor in a high-risk category? Offer to check on them and help in various ways (e.g. pick up their groceries or medicines).

Psalm 23,

Sandy McCormick
Executive Pastor

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COVID-19 Update | Pastor Trent’s Blog Post Updated March 14, 2020

Trent posted a blog this morning following up with some biblical and pastoral thoughts about church life for the next weeks or months. Read it here: “Coronavirus, Community, and the Cross.”

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COVID-19 Update | Gathering and Programming Plans Updated March 13, 2020

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) circumstances continue to evolve each day. Out of love for others, we have to err on the side of reasonable caution.

So for an indefinite period of time, we are cancelling all church programming except our weekly Lord’s Day gathering at 9:30 a.m.

Nursery, Pre-School, and Children’s Church will function as normal for this Sunday. However, we ask that no volunteers over 60 serve in these areas. If you are scheduled to work this Sunday, your ministry leader will be in touch with you. Parents: We ask you be extra careful that no child with a fever, cough, runny nose, etc. is brought to church.

While we will have the service, there is no judgment on you if you do not attend for personal safety reasons. Each of us needs to pray, keep monitoring CDC and SC DEHC updates, and consider how we serve others. Let’s be creative in staying connected and loving one another.

Several on the elder team are in frequent communication. We are getting input from a small group of HBC healthcare professionals. We would all appreciate your prayers.

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Coronavirus Update March 12, 2020

The news and updates about the Coronavirus, like all situations in life, present us with an opportunity to glorify God. How can God help us demonstrate love for Him and others? We want to respond with faith in God and loving wisdom in caring for ourselves and others.

Remember and share these truths about God and our world.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1)—whether spiritual, financial, emotional, relational, or physical. He reigns and nothing happens outside his loving, wise, and good sovereign reach—even disease and death (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Job 1:20-21; Ja. 4:13-16). The Coronavirus is not the first of its kind (e.g. H1N1/Swine flu, Avian flu, Ebola, MERS, SARS), nor will it be the last until the Lord ushers in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-4). Ask the Lord to help you trust Him and not be anxious (see this article).

Pray, letting your requests be made known with thanksgiving.

Any reminder of our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) and brevity of life (Ja. 4:14) is good for us (Ps. 119:67, 71). The Coronavirus reminds us to fervently pray for ourselves, our neighbors, and our ministry partners. Here is a useful blog about prayer related this situation. One of our ministry partners, Lewis Kong in Hong Kong, has been having services online for a few weeks. There are actually new contacts being made as people view the services online.

Following are several actions we are taking and some which you can take:

Stay informed. We are continuing to monitor the latest news and recommendations released by the CDC, SC DHEC, and local officials. These links are provided for your ongoing use. We are also proactively learning what churches in other parts of the country and the Upstate are doing. For example, some content in this letter was used and adapted with permission from Downtown Cornerstone Church in Seattle, WA.

Keep gathering on Sunday morning. Unless you are in a high-risk category (see below), we encourage you to continue to gather with the church. If you are in a high-risk category, please be aware that COVID-19 has a much higher risk for acute illness than normal viruses. As of Wednesday afternoon, the top SC public health official is not recommending the general public avoid large group gatherings. Therefore, we are not planning to cancel Sunday worship or electives. Note: Concerning Communion, we do not share a common cup or a common loaf of bread. But the elders will be discussing any appropriate adjustments to how we might lovingly and wisely serve the Lord’s Supper.

Use discernment in participating in other gatherings.  We will continue to monitor healthcare recommendations and update you on changes to any gatherings. For now, use your personal discretion about participating in Shepherding Groups, Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies, etc.

Remain flexible and cooperative regarding any modifications or cancellations. For example, we are cancelling the Senior Servants Banquet on March 21 because of so many in the high-risk categories. Also at this time, we are keeping the Family Meeting on Sunday, March 22 but cancelling plans for the breakfast for supper meal. There will be no meal that night. Use your judgment in possibly inviting other HBC members to join you for a meal after the Family Meeting.

Take normal precautions. As with any virus, the CDC recommends staying home when you are sick. If you or a family member has a cough, fever, or other respiratory difficulties, we ask you to refrain from participating in any church-related activity until you are fever-free for 24 hours. Additionally, frequently washing your hands and covering your mouth if you cough or sneeze are also key preventative actions per the CDC. All of our bathrooms not only have soap dispensers but hand sanitizer. Each of the children’s rooms is also equipped with hand sanitizer.

Take extra precautions in cleaning. Our facilities staff is paying extra attention to cleaning and sanitizing after any gatherings at our church. On Sunday mornings, various door handles will receive extra cleaning. You should do the same in your home and your workplace.

Take extra precaution when meeting and greeting others. For now, do an elbow bump, give an “air hug,” etc. when you want to welcome others. This could be at church or anywhere.

Avoid possible cross-contamination: Sharing or passing multiple-touch items. Out of love for others be prepared to be inconvenienced in order to care for each other. We need to be cautious because some members not in high-risk categories care for an elderly parent or another high-risk individual. Or a member might work in the healthcare field and serve those in high-risk categories. Effective this Sunday and for the immediate future, we will:

  • Not be passing offering plates during the morning service. But please be faithful in your giving via online or through the lobby offering boxes.
  • Not be passing clipboards in the Elective Classes.
  • Not be serving coffee on Sunday Mornings.
  • Not be having food items or beverages in the Electives.

Note if you are in a high-risk category.  People who are at higher risk of illness should consider ways to lower their risk of infection by limiting contact with crowds. The most high-risk categories are those: (1) over 60 years old, or (2) with underlying health conditions such as heart disease and lung disease, or (3) who are immune-compromised.

Note if you become exposed to the Coronavirus and self-quarantine. Should you be contacted or somehow learn that you have been exposed to an infected person, we ask you to self-quarantine (which is a way to love others). Check with your doctor for the latest instructions about a self-quarantine and when it is permissible to lift the quarantine.

Note if you become sick with the Coronavirus and please notify us immediately. We will need to identify those who may have had contact with you.

Be patient as the elders discuss and finalize contingency plans for alternatives to group gatherings. There will be plans should federal, state, or local authorities issue recommendations affecting group gatherings. Please pray for the elders to have wisdom about any possible changes. A small HBC team of professionals serving in various healthcare sectors will be consulted for real-time assessments and information to share with the elders.

Have Compassion and Serve. We grieve with those who have lost loved ones to this latest pandemic (Rom. 12:15). As things continue to unfold, all of us should be prayerfully sensitive about looking for ways to serve others who are high-risk, sick, or just fearful about the entire situation (Gal. 6:10). One possibility would be temporarily hosting some of our college students who have had an unexpected change in their semester schedule. Contact Dan Cruver if you are willing to temporarily host a student or students.

If you have any questions, please contact us.