In course of just three hours, I was asked a few times whether the classis could say something helpful to the leaders of our classis churches in the midst of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic. Church pastors and staff are likely struggling with what they should do that would both regard well the health of their people as well as continue to uplift and support their faith. Could there be resources, best practices, and advice provided to church leaders that might guide them and stimulate their faith-full thinking toward these ends?
As I have been following the situation and the discussion, these seem to be the primary considerations:
- whether to continue holding worship services, cancel them, or encourage people to stay home
- if continuing to hold public worship, then how best to modify worship practices in ways that mitigate the spread of the virus
- how to continue supporting people in a time of “social distancing,” recognizing the negative psychological effects of isolation
- who makes important decisions, and how these are communicated
About that last item: it is very important that your church have a single source of information about decisions you have made, and that the message be consistent. I encourage you to have such messages come from only the pastor, lead pastor, or co-pastors (depending on your configuration), even as these statements will be composed collaboratively. I think you should also make clear to your staff that “freelancing” is not permitted; in other words, staff should respond to questions by strictly referring to the official statement without modification or editorializing.
It is my understanding that some of our churches will be modifying their practices significantly, at least for this Sunday. Among them is Hope Church, which will tell people not to attend, and will broadcast via radio and Facebook Live.
At this stage, I have a few documents to share with you. I’ll be adding to these as I learn of other good resources.
The first is from the Regional Synod of Albany, “Ten Best Practices for Doing Church in the Age of Covid 19”
The second (which you likely have seen) is WTS President Felix Theonugraha’s statement on the seminary’s steps in response to the pandemic.
The third is Holland Classis member Rev. Jeff Monroe’s thoughtful article on God, Christian faith, and COVID-19.
This document contains the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services interim recommendations on COVID-19 mitigation.
I have been asked whether we might share with each ideas and encouragement. This post is open for comment, so we can engage in conversation over these important matters. I hope you do!
- Hope Church has suspended all public gatherings at their building through April 11, and encouraged their people to listen to the 11:00 am service on WHTC or Internet
- Third Reformed Church has announced plans for “online worship” instead of public worship for March 15
- Trinity Reformed Church has announced that they will not gather for worship on Sundays through the end of March, but rather the worship leaders will broadcast their 9:30 am services on WHTC and over the Internet
- Beechwood Church will not gather for services through the end of March, and will live stream the 10 am service
- First Reformed Church will not gather for services on March 15, but will live stream and broadcast over cable the 9:30 am service
- Fellowship Church has shifted to online worship for March 15 & 22
- RCA General Secretary Eddy Alemán has written this informative pastoral letter