Wayside's Response to COVID-19
Updated: Mar 23, 2020
Each of us must prayerfully consider what steps we will personally take to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and serve one another as the body of Christ.
Wayside Bible Chapel is implementing new online features for all church functions (including Sunday service and Bible studies) to enable those unwilling or unable to be physically present to partake in worship, fellowship, and study.
We strongly encourage those who are vulnerable or those who live with them stay home and worship with us via livestream (details below).
There is absolutely no judgement towards you, regardless of what actions you decide to take.
We ask that you consider how you might be Christ's love to those around you, watching for opportunities to help others who are at risk or who have been negatively impacted by the societal shutdown.
Beloved brothers and sisters of Wayside Bible Chapel,
The news and the world have been seized in fear by the potential disaster this novel disease could inflict upon our society. We at Wayside Bible Chapel want you to know that we have been prayerfully and thoughtfully considering what precautions to implement, and this post serves to inform you of our mind. However, as we are accountable to God, we encourage you to likewise prayerfully consider your own response to the pandemic and do so with a clear conscience before your brothers and sisters and before God almighty.
Due to recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and our own state government, we strongly encourage those in the categories of the most risk—the elderly and those with underlying health issues (see graphic below)—as well as those who are not feeling to watch the live service from home. We will be explaining how we will make that possible. Please be patient as we all get used to the new technology. We would ask that you continue to support the church as we have staff and missions commitments to be met.
If you choose to attend worship services, please give a warm, heartfelt elbow bump as a greeting. As the virus is airborne (not just transmitted by droplets), please sit with adequate spacing between you and others. The CDC recommends 6 ft.
We will have the upper room available with a live feed on the TV for extra space. Keep in mind this is temporary and will pass. Make an extra effort to communicate love and sincerity in this new manner of relating. Because we have grown comfortable with one way does not mean we can't put as much love into a new way of greeting.
Starting next Sunday (3.22.2020), we will be offering full livestreams of our entire service, including worship and the message. You can connect with us in the comfort of your own home with any of the following three options.
Through our Webpage: https://www.waysidebiblechapel.org/podcast
On Youtube: https://youtu.be/uQnc2rqYxl8
All you have to do is tune in through one of the aforementioned ways around 10:30 Sunday morning. All the worship song lyrics and sermon visuals will be streamed, so sit (or stand) with your Bible and worship the LORD alongside us!
Bible Studies and Fellowship Groups
As we have so many in the higher risk categories, we will be cancelling all small group meetings for the time being. We are looking into web based meetings and will be updating you soon on the means of doing so. You only need a computer and an internet connection. There is no fee to you or the church. Also, I encourage you to do more interacting on the phone to get to know and encourage one another and lift those at risk to the Lord in prayer.
As a final word, I want you to know that this is an opportunity for us to grow closer to the Lord and to one another. Our times are in God's hands and there is no safer place to be. Let us respond as God would have us by spending more time in God's Word, prayer, and helping and encouraging one another.
We will be using Google Hangout to enable each of the Bible Study groups to meet online. This free services supports text, talk, and video.
If you are currently a part of the men's study, women's study, Wednesday Bible study, or the Sunday prayer group, please take some time to log in to Google Hangout (or create a new account as necessary) at least 24 hours before the typical meeting time.
If you have not yet connected with one of these ministries, we think this might be a great time. Please email the church at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get you connected.
On the Topic of Pandemics
In 1527, the dreaded black death returned to Europe. The estimated mortality rate of this pandemic was 50-90%, and—just as now—every part of society was shutting down and retreating into isolation. John Hess, a dear brother to Martin Luther, asked in a letter whether Christians should follow suit in fleeing into isolation. This is what Luther said:
"You wish to know whether it is proper for a Christian to run away from a deadly plague....it occurred to me that God, the merciful Father, has endowed you so richly with wisdom and truth in Christ that you yourself should be well qualified to decide this matter or even weightier problems in his Spirit and grace without our assistance....Therefore we here give you our opinion as far as God grants us to understand and perceive. This we would humbly submit to your judgment and to that of all devout Christians for them, as is proper, to come to their own decision and conclusion" (Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, "Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague," Vol. 43, p. 19. Emphasis Added).
It is vital that each believer prayerfully petition God as to their response when crisis strikes. There is no stock, one-size-fits-all answer, for God has called each of us to our own, unique race to run. It is important that we, under the specter of this new threat, understand that personal conviction and conversation with God alone justifies or condemns our personal actions. There is not, nor should there ever be, any condemnation between brothers and sisters of faith based on what the other thinks ought be done.
Luther goes on to say,
"Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together (as previously indicated) so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another. First, we can be sure that God’s punishment has come upon us, not only to chastise us for our sins but also to test our faith and love—our faith in that we may see and experience how we should act toward God; our love in that we may recognize how we should act toward our neighbor" (Ibid. Emphasis Added).
His main point is this: we are not given a spirit of fear but one of divine power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). This does not, however, absolve us of the duty to act with prudence and wisdom; considering the effects of our own actions on our neighbors. Therefore, he writes,
"I cannot censure [those who refuse to flee] for their excellent decision. They uphold a good cause, namely, a strong faith in God, and deserve commendation because they desire every Christian to hold to a strong, firm faith. It takes more than a milk faith to await a death before which most of the saints themselves have been and still are in dread. Who would not acclaim these earnest people to whom death is a little thing? They willingly accept God’s chastisement, doing so without tempting God..." (Ibid. Emphasis Added)
"On the other hand, [Luther] warns against the over-bold who scorn ordinary precautions against contagion, thus tempting God, who has created medicine and given us the intelligence to care for our bodily health. Furthermore, such recklessness endangers others with whom one comes in contact. Use medicine, take what helps you, fumigate house, yard, and streets, avoid unnecessary contact with the sick and their houses, Luther exhorts" (Ibid., Introduction, Emphasis Added).
While we do not give in to a spirit of fear, we should take prudent precautions. How you respond is up to your faith. We should not judge one another's decisions, but trust that we are each led by the Holy Spirit in our response. What we do know is that God is sovereign and has allowed this time of testing to deepen our faith and give us opportunities to advance the Gospel. Dr. John Piper writes,
“All natural disasters are a thunderclap of divine mercy… calling all people everywhere to repent and realign their lives, by grace, with the infinite worth of the glory of God.”
During the plagues that went through the towns and cities of the late Roman empire, many Christians refused to flee but stayed and helped the sick and dying. This was a major factor in the explosive growth of the early church. As such, this pandemic is our opportunity to show the world we are not afraid to die—that our hope and our love transcend mere threat of physical death.
But again, we insist that each person act according to their faith. Take time in prayer, be enjoined by the LORD as to what you, personally, must do.
If you are not in a high risk category, you might ask elderly neighbors if you could do their shopping for them so that they can avoid crowds. Certainly there are those within our own congregation who can use our help. We will be watching for opportunities the church might have to help others in need. The greatest help is the example you set of not fearing and living in calm assurance that our God is on the throne of heaven and in control of all things.
Following are specific measures Wayside Bible Chapel has committed to for the indefinite future. Please read them carefully, and feel free to reach out with any questions you might have.
Keep an eye on your inbox for further developments. We will endeavor to pass on any and all updates and contingencies in a timely manner. In the meantime, you can watch current developments both in our local community and across the world through the following links.
City of Sedona Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CityofSedonaAZ/
AZ Department of Health Services updates: https://azdhs.gov/COVID19
CDC COVID-19 updates: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html