UPDATED: March 31, 2020
In-person services and building use suspended until further notice.
Online Sermons and Worship Resources will be made Available.
Small groups should find ways to meet digitally rather than in-person.
Original Letter: Set March 17, 2020
Lakeshore Family and Friends,
In the late 1520’s, Martin Luther, a German pastor and theologian, wrote a letter to a friend and fellow pastor, John Hess, about how he should conduct himself as a Christian during the Black Plague. His advice seems relevant today.
“First I will ask that God mercifully protect us. Then I will disinfect, purify the air, give medicine and take it. I will avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed so I do not become contaminated and thus by chance contaminate others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me doing what he has expected of me—yet responsible neither for my own death nor the death of others. Of course, if my neighbor needs me, I will avoid no place or person but will go freely. This is a faith that is neither brash nor foolhardy but God-fearing.”
Much has happened since we sent our last message. Michigan’s governor has closed schools and restaurants and has prohibited meetings of more than 250 persons. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the cancelation of all events/gatherings of 50 people or more for the next 8 weeks. The federal government is recommending not gathering with more than 10 people in order to prevent the spread of this disease and to “flatten the curve” so that medical resources can keep up with demand.
At Lakeshore Christian Church we take very seriously both our call to meet together as God’s people and our call to do what we can as good neighbors to curb the spread of this dangerous virus. For this reason, the elders and ministry staff have decided to suspend our in-person services for the next 4 weeks (3/22, 3/29, 4/5, 4/12). This will include our Sunday morning worship services, as well as all classes and other events that use our building. While this may seem like a drastic step to some, we are convinced that it is the best decision for the health and well-being of our congregation and our community at large.
While services at the building are suspended, it is our hope that Lakeshore Christian will still gather together, as the churches in the New Testament did, “to devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer” (Acts 2:42). We are encouraging our small groups to continue meeting (as they feel comfortable/healthy enough to do so). Individuals who are not in small groups but who wish to attend these smaller weekly gatherings should contact the office in order to get connected. Those who are would prefer to maintain greater social distance can worship individually or as families.
What will these “House Church” services look like? Our sermons will be made available weekly (along with a few questions to promote group discussions). We will make worship resources available for groups who would like to worship together through music. We would encourage people to celebrate communion together, to pray together, and would also challenge our members to continue to be faithful in their giving. All of these resources, along with guidelines for giving, will be made available on our website. Special materials will be made available for Good Friday and Easter as those dates get closer.
It seems fitting that God would prompt us to take this necessary step in the midst of our “Comfort Zone” series. As we have been learning, God stretches and challenges us when we leave our comfort zones. It is moving out of these comfort zones that makes us grow. It is our prayer that throughout the coming weeks and months God challenges us to be the Church even as we are unable to meet in the church building, that we are given opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ even as we are unable to gather as a body, that we would look for ways to connect more deeply with one another even as we practice healthy “social distancing.”
The leadership also wants to take this opportunity to reiterate our dedication to the pastoral care of the congregation, which cannot be suspended along with our services. We would encourage anyone who has a need to please reach out during this time. We also encourage the whole congregation, as we strive to “bear each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), to continue to look out for one another. Times of “social distancing” can be very isolating and taking the time to send a text or make a phone call can be very meaningful.
Though we are certain that Paul did not have COVID-19 in mind when he wrote his letters, his words still provide us with important instructions in this turbulent time. “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. This is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:16-18). May these words encourage and challenge us as we head into this next season as a church body.
The Staff and Elders of Lakeshore Christian Church