May 7, 2020
Dear University Reformed Church,
Paul’s opening words in his letter to the Philippian Church resound with greater meaning these days and give clear voice to our thoughts: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:3-5, 8).
Your earnestness to pursue Christ and His glory during these days serves as a great source of encouragement. The testimonies of love extended through cards received in the mail, phone calls to one another, giving financially to those in need, and steadfastness in prayer has shined brightly. Your resolve to honor Christ in your homes, community, and the workplace has remained undiminished. Your commitment to joining the livestream worship services, though not ideal, has been exceptional (in fact, we believe that the number of people watching our live streaming services is more than we normally have on a regular Sunday morning). Your faithful and sacrificial giving to the church during this time of economic uncertainty has been remarkable (the Session decided not to pursue the CARES Act resources available as a matter of conscience and your strong financial giving made that decision all the easier). As Paul said, “your partnership in the gospel” could not be more evident. The Lord is moving and accomplishing His purposes in these unique days and the faithfulness of His people plays no small part.
Though the Lord is clearly working, we are also anxious, as are most of you, to return to in-person corporate worship services. With Paul we say, “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
As a Session, we appointed a subcommittee for this very task and have spent considerable time praying, thinking, and deliberating about how and when to return to in-person corporate worship services and other in-person ministries of the church. You can rightfully discern that there are a number of factors to consider. We have also heard from some of you and share many of the expressed concerns relayed from both ends of the spectrum. As we weigh decisions about the way forward, we take seriously our calling to care for all the sheep of the church and pray that you know we are seeking to do so faithfully. In addition, we remain in continual communication with other local churches and are seeking to collaborate where we are able.
The leadership of URC (staff, Diaconate, and Session) has sought to over-communicate during this time and even now feel like a formal communication from the Session would prove helpful. We desire to share with you six guiding principles adopted for future COVID-19 related decisions as we move towards gathering back together.
- Glorify the Lord and honor His word (Ex. 20:3; Deut. 6:5; Jn 14:15; 1 Cor. 10:31; Ex. 19:5; Rev. 14:12)
- Love our neighbors (Matt 22:39; Phil. 2:3; James 2:8)
- Uphold the importance of gathered corporate worship (Heb. 10:25; Acts 2:42-27; Col. 3:16; Ps. 122:1)
- Honor and seek to cooperate with government recommendations (Rom. 12:18; 13:1-7; Jer. 29:7; Jn. 13:35; 1 Pet. 2:17)
- Respect the consciences of brothers and sisters (1 Tim. 1:5; Rom. 14:5, 13; James 4:17)
- Walk Humbly, as we don’t know what we don’t know; we will adjust as needed (James 4:13-15)
These principles will continue to govern our future plans, which are still in process but will be communicated as soon as we are able. If you have thoughts, questions, or concerns about the process of restarting corporate worship, please feel free to reach out to your elder.
We would ask you to do four primary things right now: (1) Please pray for the Session to be filled with and operate according to wisdom as we make decisions over the next days and weeks. (2) Remain patient and continue to seek the Lord in faithfulness. (3) Remember to treat one another with respect and love. (4) Trust that your leadership desires and is seeking the best for our congregation both in terms of physical and spiritual health.
As Paul closes his prayer for the Philippian church at the end of his salutation, so we pray for our church, “that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11) We serve a great God and we are united with wonderful brothers and sisters at URC. Let’s keep trusting and laboring together for the sake of the Kingdom. May the Lord work in our generation.
Your brothers in Christ,
The Session of University Reformed Church