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May 26 COVID-19 Update

May 26, 2020

We miss gathering with you in person and are prayerfully considering when and how to re-open our doors. We long to meet together again! Thankfully, even while we haven’t met in person, we’ve never stopped being the church. We have never stopped worshiping and praying together. We have never stopped studying God’s word. We have always been and always will be essential. Stories of how you have loved and cared for our community keep pouring in, and we are so proud!

For the time being, we will continue to meet over live stream and other online platforms, but we will continue prayerfully responding to local recommendations about meeting face to face. Stay tuned! Once it is wise to open our doors, you will be the first to know!

In 1 Corinthians 8–10, Paul addresses a conflict in the church over Christians’ right to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. In the ancient world, all the meat sold at the market came from animals that had been sacrificed as an offering to a pagan god. Believers had to choose between eating meat that had been offered to idols or abstaining from meat altogether.

As you can imagine, Christians had different takes on the best approach.

On the one hand, some saw eating meat as participating in the idol system. They didn’t want to be partners with demons, so they chose to abstain from meat altogether.

Others took the opposite approach. Their slogans were, “All of us possess knowledge” (1 Cor. 8:1) that “there is no God but one” (8:4). This group thought that abstaining from meat was actually acknowledging that idols were something to be feared. In fact, they considered eating meat an act of faith, a bold proclamation that “an idol has no real existence” (1 Cor. 8:4). They ate meat to show that they weren’t afraid of the gods the animals were sacrificed to.

Paul enters this debate in 1 Corinthians and reframes it. On the one hand, he acknowledges that idols are nothing to be feared and that “there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Cor. 8:6 ESV). But on the other hand, he challenges the theology that eating meat was an act of faith. “Food will not commend us to God,” he says, “We are no worse off if we do not eat and no better off if we do” (1 Cor. 8:8).

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul then talks about our motivation when faced with controversies like this. Do we emphasize our rights, or do we look for ways to serve? He asks, “Do we not have the right to eat and drink?” (1 Cor. 9:4). Paul had the right to eat meat, but he chose not to exercise that right. He concludes, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all” (1 Cor. 9:19).

There are a lot of parallels to our current situation: Do we have the right to meet face-to-face?

Quite possibly, we do have this right. Yet, like Paul, we want to make ourselves servants of all. The question for us as we consider when to meet face-to-face is “How can we serve?”

As we seek to best serve our community, it seems wise, for the time being, to postpone meeting face-to-face.

What, then, do we do at this time?

One thing we can do is take the time to lament. N.T. Wright wrote an article for Time that really resonated with me—we view this time as a time of exile. He writes:

We find ourselves ‘by the waters of Babylon,’ thoroughly confused and grieving for the loss of our normal life. ‘How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?,’ as in Psalm 137, translates quite easily into ‘How can I know the joy of the Eucharist sitting in front of a computer?’ Or ‘How can I celebrate Ascension or Pentecost without being with my brothers and sisters?’

Of course, part of the point of Psalm 137 is precisely that this Psalm is itself a ‘song of the Lord.’ That is the irony: writing a poem about being unable to write a poem. Part of the discipline of lament might then be to turn the lament itself into a song of sorrow. Perhaps that is part of the way in which we are being called right now to be people of lament—lamenting even the fact that we can’t lament in the way we would normally prefer. We need to explore those questions, and the new disciplines they may demand, in whatever ways we can. Perhaps this, too, is simply to be accepted as part of what life in Babylon is like. We must, as Jeremiah said, settle down into this regime and ‘seek the welfare of the city’ where we are. But let’s not pretend it’s where we want to be. Let’s not forget Jerusalem. Let’s not decide to stay here. (https://time.com/5837693/should-churches-reopen-thinking-about-exile/?fbclid=IwAR3sg8FHgCZ8eMDkJgJaPQ5Ou0FUEVLZpoiFwpDsFJtyahuGrK5eaN_hCCk)

We love that perspective! Stay-at-home conditions are not ideal. But we can “seek the welfare of our city” and long for the day when we return to Jerusalem. The church has never ceased being essential and we never ceased worshiping and praying. Our worship might look different, but the church was never a building! Please check back for updates about when we will resume face-to-face gatherings, but in the meantime we will continue promoting worship through our live stream and other online platforms.

Previous Updates

May 13, 2020

“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11–12 ESV)

Paul’s words in Romans resonate with me. I am longing for things to return to normal! That day is coming, but we are not there yet.

Washington State has issued its plan for re-opening, and likewise we have created a plan to open along with the state’s recommendations. It is important at this time that we keep our eyes on Jesus and focus on what we can do to best serve our city. While we are all eager to resume meeting together, we have the opportunity to love the vulnerable by staying at home according to state recommendations. We are committed to creating a powerful online experience during the stay-at-home period, and we will resume face-to-face meeting as soon as it is wise to do so.

Here is how the state’s re-opening plan will apply to the ministries of Believers Fellowship (keep in mind that the dates of Phases 2–4 are not yet determined and could be pushed back):

Phase 1 Washington State (May 5)

  • High-risk populations: Continue to stay home, stay healthy.
  • Outdoor:Some outdoor recreation (hunting, fishing, golf, boating, hiking).
  • Gatherings: None, drive-in spiritual service with one household per vehicle.
  • Travel: Only essential travel.
  • Business/Employers: Essential businesses open, including existing construction that meets agreed-upon criteria, landscaping, automobile sales, retail (curb-side pick-up orders only), car washes, pet walkers.

Phase 1 Believers Fellowship

  • Streaming Sunday AM Services
  • Streaming BFSM and CM
  • Curbside Ministries (including CM and BFSM)
  • Remote Small Groups
  • Streaming Meetings

Phase 2 Washington State 

  • High-risk populations: Continue to stay home, stay healthy.
  • Outdoor: All outdoor recreation involving fewer than five people outside your household (camping, beaches, etc.)
  • Gatherings:Gather with no more than five people outside your household per week.
  • Travel: Limited non-essential travel within proximity of your home.
  • Business/Employers:Remaining manufacturing, new construction, in-home/domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.), retail (In-store purchases allowed with restrictions), real estate, professional services/office-based businesses (telework remains strongly encouraged), hair and nail salons/barbers, restaurants <50% capacity, with table sizes no larger than 5.

Phase 2 Believers Fellowship

  • Streaming Sunday AM Services
  • Streaming BFSM and CM
  • Curbside Ministries (including CM and BFSM)
  • Remote Small Groups. Outdoor meet-ups of groups less than 5.
  • Streaming Meetings

Phase 3 Washington State 

  • High-risk populations: Continue to stay home, stay healthy.
  • Outdoor:Outdoor group recreational sports activities (5-50 people), recreational facilities at <50% capacity (public pools, etc.).
  • Gatherings: Allow gatherings with no more than 50 people.
  • Travel: Resume non-essential travel.
  • Business/Employers: restaurants <75% capacity/table size no larger than 10, bars at <25% capacity, movie theaters at <50% capacity, government (telework remains strongly encouraged), libraries, museums, all other business activities not yet listed except for nightclubs and events with greater than 50 people.

Phase 3 Believers Fellowship

  • Sunday AM services for < 50 people resume
    • Less than 50 chairs in worship space
    • 8:00 service (no kids)
    • 9:30 and 11:00 service kids allowed in worship space but no CM
    • Possible 6:00 PM service depending on demand
    • Sign up on Planning Center
    • Greeters check people in
    • Streaming in Wilderness Room
  • BFSM Ministries of < 50 resume
    • No MS on Sunday AM
    • No travel or overnight events
    • Interns can come
  • CM resumes 5th grade class
  • CM for grades <5 remains curbside and streaming
  • Church Office re-opens
    • In-person staff meetings resume
    • Elder and deacon meetings resume
    • Bible studies resume (< 50 people with social distancing)

Phase 4 

  • High-risk populations: Resume public interactions, with physical distancing
  • Outdoor:Resume all recreational activity.
  • Gatherings: Allow gatherings >50 people.
  • Travel: Continue non-essential travel.
  • Business/Employers: Nightclubs, concert venues, large sporting events, resume unrestricted staffing of worksites, but continue to practice physical distancing and good hygiene.

Phase 4 at Believers Fellowship

  • Sunday AM resumes full capacity
    • Full band returns
    • Adult check-in ends
    • Normal greeters return
    • Coffee ministry resumes
    • Bulletins return
  • BFSM resumes full programming
  • CM resumes full programming
  • Church office resumes full operation

April 16, 2020

What’s the latest on Believers Fellowship and COVID-19? When will church re-open?

We are watching the CDC and the State of Washington’s recommendations closely. Currently, the CDC recommends following the president’s guidelines of not meeting in groups of 10 or more. The CDC also recommends that when you have to go out, to practice good hygiene and social distancing.

In addition to the federal guidelines, the State of Washington has issued a stay-at-home order extending through May 4th.

Following the recommendations of the CDC and Governor Inslee, we are still targeting May 10th as a date to re-open, but it is important to note that the situation fluctuates and this date is not fixed. When we do re-open, we are planning to do so in stages. The first stage will likely include the Sunday morning worship service with social distancing measures in place and without children’s ministry. I see us expanding to three services (8:00 AM, 9:30 AM, and 11:00 AM) to accommodate fewer people per service. Other ministries will roll out as appropriate.

One thing we must keep in mind is that the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals has not changed. The CDC has ordered emergency guidelines for PPE conservation during this time. We have done a great job of “flattening the curve” through our Stay at Home order, but if we re-open the state too soon, we are still at risk of overwhelming our hospitals. We can best love our community by continuing to stay home at this time.

On a personal note, I know the Stay at Home directive is getting frustrating, but I encourage us all to consider Paul’s words, “And let us not grow weary of doing good” (Galatians 6:9). Staying at home is still the right thing to do and we will get through this.

How is the church doing financially?

All things considered, the church is doing okay financially. This is a difficult time financially for everyone, and the church has seen a modest decrease in giving. However, some of our part-time staff have volunteered to take unpaid leaves of absence, which reduces our month-to-month expenses. We also have some cash reserves to help us through emergencies like this.

We thank you for your continued generosity and we are looking forward to meeting together to worship again soon!

What can I do?

The best thing you can do is persevere! If you find yourself frustrated with the Stay at Home directive, remember the words of Jesus: “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22 ESV) [That is a joke; but seriously, hang in there!]

But also, keep in touch with your friends and family. Give them a phone call. Send them a message on Facebook. Let them know that you are thinking of them. Social distancing does not have to be social isolation.

 

Finally, I am proud of what God’s church has done in this unprecedented time. Despite the frustrations, I have heard many express that they feel more connected to their church than ever before. We saw people tune in to the Easter live stream who have not been to church in years if ever. God is at work, even amidst this pandemic! My prayer is that when we return to normal, the lessons we learned during this time will enable us to engage our culture in fresh digital ways, and that the tools we developed for connecting will strengthen even our face-to-face relationships.

I am reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy from prison: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:8–9 ESV)

Indeed, the word of God is not bound! In this time of staying at home, the gospel is going out over airwaves and broadband, Tik Toks and Polos. God is still at work and we must keep our eyes on Him!

 

March 24, 2020

Governor Inslee has extended the “Shelter in Place” order for Washington State until May 4 in response to the coronavirus. We are still planning to be online only through at least May 10, according to the CDC guidelines. We continue to live stream from the church at 9:00 a.m. The stream will be available on the usual platforms (Facebook Live remains the best medium for the Sunday morning stream). The situation changes daily; we will update you with any changes to our reopening schedule.

Events are cancelled through May 10, and we are working on a calendar with “drop dead dates” for cancelling events after that. No events after May 10 have been officially cancelled, but stay tuned for updates.

If you would like to support the church financially, all of the usual giving methods still work. (Steve and Beth will even be visiting the office to pick up mail.) We appreciate your support at this time! You can give online, use the mobile app, use the bill pay services at your bank or mail checks to the church.

The following sites remain the best way to stay connected during “Shelter in Place” measures.

Sunday Morning Worship Service (9:00 AM)

Facebook Live Stream

Website Live Stream

Small Groups

Join a Marco Polo Group

Children’s Ministry

Facebook

Instagram

BFSM

Facebook

Instagram

YouTube

March 16

When will Sunday morning worship services resume?

As of March 15, the CDC is recommending no meetings of more than 50 people for 8 weeks. We are planning to be remote-only until May 10. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

The situation is constantly changing, and we hope that we can meet before May 10, but right now it seems wise to follow CDC guidelines and prepare to hunker down for 8 weeks.

How can I stay connected to the church until then?

We are taking this opportunity to increase our online presence so that we can stay connected while it is unwise to meet face-to-face. Look for the following ways to connect remotely:

  1. Watch the Live Stream on Facebook Live. The service will broadcast live at 9:00 AM and then remain on the Facebook page for viewing after that. We strongly encourage you to watch live at 9:00 if you can. We will be shaping the service toward the live experience.
  2. Get into a Life Group. Life Groups are more important than ever! While our groups will not be meeting face-to-face, many will be connecting online through media like Zoom or Marco Polo. You can stay connected during this time, and Life Groups will be the best way to help one another. (Stay tuned for more information on how to join a group if you are not currently in one.)
  3. Connect on Social Media. We are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What about Children and Students?

We are working to create material for you to teach your children over the next 8 weeks. The curriculum will be age appropriate and be a mix of video, print, and online resources. Material will be published on Thursdays, so check back then.

How can I help at this time?

We need your help more than ever. The biggest thing you can do is join a Life Group. The needs will be great—overwhelming to any one person. But if we all get connected to smaller groups, we can serve one another and help each other through this tough time.

You can continue to support the church financially by sending a check through the mail, by using the BF app or through online giving.

 

March 12

Like all of you, the elders and staff of Believers Fellowship have wrestled with how to respond to COVID-19. On the one hand, we have absolute confidence in God’s care for us and his power over illness. Jesus has defeated Sin and Death through his resurrection and we do not have to be afraid. On the other hand, faith is not opposed to wisdom and compassion. Jesus told us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

Given the risk of gathering in large groups, it seems wise to the elders to cancel our Sunday morning worship service on March 15. We will continue to live stream—go to https://www.believersfellowship.net/watch-live/ at 9:00 for both worship and teaching. You will also be able to access the live stream on Facebook Live, even after the service has ended (https://www.facebook.com/BelieversFellowshipGH/).

In Mark 10, Jesus tells his disciples, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45 ESV)

The heart of discipleship is service. Following Jesus means laying down our lives for others. So, what does that mean with regard to the decision of whether or not to gather on Sunday?

First, there are members of our congregation who are at high risk for the coronavirus (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html). The compassionate thing to do is not expose them and not put them in a position where they have to choose between serving the church (as a greeter, Sunday school teacher, musician, etc.) and looking out for their own health. Cancelling the worship service will release them from the burden of making this choice.

Second, those of us who are not at high risk for coronavirus can do our part by helping to “flatten the curve” of infection. This means that our best option for facing COVID-19 is to flatten out the rate at which the virus spreads through our community. If too many get sick at the same time, hospitals will not be able to keep up with demands for care. But if we slow down the rate at which it spreads, our health care professionals will be better able to ensure that everyone receives the care they need.

At this point, it seems wise both for the high risk and the low risk to avoid large gatherings, even if it means missing a worship service.

COVID-19 is likely to be with us for some time. It is difficult to predict what will happen in our community, so we want to be flexible with our plans. It is safe to say that all children and youth programs (including Sunday school) will be cancelled until April (and possibly beyond). Again, this is both out of consideration for our children and our volunteers. We hope to start meeting again for corporate worship in groups of less than 250 (with no volunteers for coffee, greeters, Sunday school, etc.), but we cannot say for sure when this will happen. In the meantime, not gathering will have a financial impact on the church, and I encourage you to continue to support the ministry. You can give at https://www.believersfellowship.net/give/.

Please check for updates frequently (at least weekly). The website (www.believersfellowship.net) will be the main source of information, but we will cross-post on Facebook, Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/believers_fellowship/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/GHBelFellowship), and the mobile app.

This is an opportunity for us to be the church outside of Sunday morning. There may be people in your neighborhood or Bible studies who are (wisely) quarantining themselves. Think of how you can be of service to them. Give them a call. Offer to go shopping for them. Find ways to help and encourage.

Finally, please pray—both for our community and for our church. Pray for health. We have seen in Mark that Jesus has authority over disease and we believe that this is true today! Pray for courage—that we would continue to trust the One who created us and has a plan for history. Pray for wisdom—that we would continue to trust, and that we would be wise in the way that we approach this outbreak.

One Comment

  1. Greg and Elaine Krejci

    Elders and staff. Thank you for all you do, including watching over Believers. Elaine and I support your decisions and will be praying for the Church and everyone involved. God bless you and your families.

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