Dear Church Members,
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2).
The sudden arrival of pandemic has intruded on the peace of our lives. It is hard to know at this moment what the coming weeks and months will hold. But God’s people know that our Lord remains unchanged in His power and grace. Christians therefore may respond to fear and distress with the confidence of Psalm 46:7, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
First, let me pass on what we know about this virus. Even in the past day, a clearer picture has emerged. The virus spread from Asia to Europe, so that Italy, Spain and other European nations have experienced a rapid crisis. Clusters now have formed in the United States, especially in major cities. We can be sure that since the Coronavirus now has reached South Carolina, including Greenville, its spread will be extremely rapid. Wherever one person brings the COVID-19 virus, soon many have been infected and through them a far greater number. Often the person carrying the virus does not know he or she has been infected until after already spreading it. This means that we must all respond to government calls to practice social distancing with the utmost respect and compliance, with no gatherings of fifty or more people (a number that is likely to be reduced). While it does not seem that the spread of the Coronavirus can be stopped, if its spread can be stretched out over a longer period of time then our medical resources may limit the number of deaths.
The staff of Second Presbyterian Church met today (3/16) to discuss the implications of this situation for our church. We plan a meeting of the Session’s Administration Committee as soon as possible, with their recommendations to be approved by a virtual meeting of the Session. For now, in compliance with our Governor’s instructions (and even more with President Trump today saying that we should limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people), it is evident that all ministry gatherings of Second Presbyterian Church will need to be canceled or performed virtually (that is, via the internet). The staff is developing plans for as many of our ministries as possible to be conducted on-line. Likewise, I have asked Pastor Bailey to work with our Koinonia Ministry to develop plans for the pastoral care of shut ins and other needy members. You will be receiving detailed information on these and other matters in the coming days.
For now, let me offer these pastoral reflections:
1. Please take this health situation very seriously, if for no other reason so that you will not be a carrier of this virus to others. The spread of COVID-19 is extremely rapid, so the less movement we have in our society and the less contact we have with others, the more we are loving our neighbors. Especially if you are over the age of 65 or otherwise have compromised health, please consider limiting your movements to a minimum, as this virus most seriously affects older people.
2. Let each of us look for opportunities to love and serve others, consistent with health requirements, remembering the call of Philippians 2:4 – “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” People will be gripped with fear, so pray with and for them, and inform them of a God of grace who looks after those who belong to His Son. Be prepared to share scarce resources with others in need. We can expect COVID-19 to make a strong impression on our children, so let our families communicate a confidence in the Lord and exercise a great fervor in prayer. We know that God uses all things – even the Coronavirus – for the good of His people (Rom. 8:28), so let one of these good things be a renewed confidence that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).
3. Let’s aspire that our time under the Coronavirus would see an upturn in the prayers of God’s people that matches the spikes in this infection. Let us gather in our homes for regular times of prayer, asking the Lord to protect our families and members, to restrain the rate of transmission of COVID-19, and for the compliance of our community with the sound counsel that has been given by our government. Let us pray especially for our civil leaders, for medical professionals who will be stretched to the limit of endurance, for school teachers who have a demanding situation on their hands, and for businesses and people who are likely to experience special financial hardship. Let us pray for God to awaken this nation to its need to embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord so that many will be saved. Please also pray for your church leaders to make wise and godly decisions and to be able to respond to ministry needs that will arise.
4. Let’s be prepared for gospel conversations with our unsaved friends. Events like the Coronavirus shatter the secular worldview of progress and prosperity. Let us gently remind our friends that this world is not the safe home we may want it to be, but that Jesus Christ offers eternal life and freedom from judgment with God through faith in His atoning blood.
While the Coronavirus has descended upon us unawares, it has not occurred apart from the knowledge and sovereign rule of the God who cares for us. Let me encourage you, therefore, to set an example to your non-Christian family and friends of the difference that faith in Jesus makes. Please communicate to us your needs and be watching for church notifications via email. Let us pray for one another and for our poor world, standing amidst this crisis with hearts uplifted by God’s mighty Word. I will be praying for you all.
May the Lord bless you.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
Yours in Christ,