PFCOB's Coronavirus Precautions
March 12, 2020
Siblings in Christ,
Perhaps some of you have heard by now that the first death in Los Angeles County from COVID-19, the coronavirus, took place this week at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.
Today the Executive Committee of our Church Board met to discuss what protective measures our church can take in response to this pandemic. It was decided unanimously that we will cancel all in-person church gatherings, including worship, starting today through Palm Sunday, April 5, after which Executive Committee will reassess the situation. This includes Sunday worship, board/commission meetings, choir and praise team rehearsals, small groups, and events. Some events, such as Birthday Dinner, Field Trip, and Love Feast will be rescheduled. Our prayer and our hope is to be able to gather back together for worship together on Easter Sunday, April 12, but Executive Committee will make that decision and communicate that decision closer to that date.
I understand this may be surprising, shocking, or even upsetting to some of you. As a committee we struggled with this decision, thinking that certainly as such a small group we can't be in that much danger, but the reality is that this virus begins with only one and spreads exponentially from there. Each person that joins in worship is connected to hundreds of others through work, school, family, and other simple outings such as grocery shopping, etc. And our membership, though small, includes many in the age range of those who are the most vulnerable to this illness. Canceling in person worship gatherings seems to us to be the most prudent decision in these unprecedented times. This is doing what we know works (social distancing) to lessen the impact of what is surely going to play out in hard ways over the next few weeks.
In the meantime…there will still be ways for us to worship and continue in our journey with Jesus in ways that won’t require face-to-face contact. I will be working to provide some resources each week for you to use at home on Sunday mornings, or during another time you find appropriate for worship. These resources might include spiritual practices, prayers, recorded sermons, and prayer partners, to name a few. Please check your emails, phones, and snail mail regularly for these resources.
If you have not given your tithe or offering this month, we encourage you to still do so by mailing your check into the office! And speaking of the office, we will remain open so you can still reach Acia or myself by calling the office. I will be available for pastoral care primarily over the phone, although I will make in-person visits in emergency situations only.
I want to acknowledge that this is uncharted territory for us as a congregation, and for communities around the world. Personally I have never pastored during a global pandemic before, and I do not have all the answers! But I have been paying attention to scientists and to leaders across our city, state, and country, and praying to God for wisdom during this time. I strongly encourage all of us to do the same. I also acknowledge that while the widespread impact of this virus will be an inconvenience for some, it will be devastating for others.
A few notes about how this impacts our discernment process: Our congregation has been in a discernment process about our future for a while now, and from one perspective these measures decided by Executive Committee might appear to “throw a wrench” into our timeline and discernment process. However perhaps it can be helpful to consider this: at our core, we believe that the Church is not about a building or about a group of people meeting for one hour together on Sunday mornings, but we believe that the Church is more than that. The Church is a group of people who love Jesus and who are committed to demonstrating that love to those around us. One of the ways we can show that love, especially to those most vulnerable, is to exercise these safety measures and precautions. The Church can still be the Church even if we are not physically together: through prayer, through phone calls, through video calls.
Another thought: We recently decided to brainstorm ideas for possible “holy experiments” that we could try; remaining deeply rooted in our Brethren values, practices, and beliefs while exploring and seeking new ways of being the Church together. It seems like we have the opportunity to start that experimentation right now!
I have also been in touch with Pastors David & Rita of Cristo Sion and Pastor Mark of Eden Mission Church to inform them of our decisions. I hope you will join me in prayers of gratitude for Cristo Sion as many of their members undertake the importance of regularly cleaning our facility, as well as prayers of love and support for Eden, a community of Koreans and Korean-Americans who along with others of Asian descent have experienced increased prejudice and racism during this time.
If you have questions and concerns, I encourage you to reach out to me. Either way, keep an eye on your emails, your phones, and PFCOB’s social media pages and website, where we will communicate regularly.
One more note: Many of you know I was scheduled to travel to Ohio for meetings of the Mission & Ministry Board this weekend. I was given the option to forgo that travel and to participate in the meetings this weekend via Zoom (an online video platform), and I have decided to choose this option. This means I will not be out of town but I will be committed to these meetings Friday morning through Monday morning. You can still reach me on my cell and through emails and I will do my best to communicate as needed during any breaks.
My deep prayers are with each of us during this season of unknowns. May God bless these protective measures, may we discover new ways of supporting and loving each other, and may we lean into these unexpected season of learning to be the Church beyond our walls.
April 2, 2020
Dear Pomona Fellowship,
Our Executive Committee met this evening over Zoom. Our original statement on March 12 stated that we would reassess our in-person gatherings around Palm Sunday. In light of the continued spread of the virus, tonight executive committee officially approved the following decision:
Pomona Fellowship Church of the Brethren will continue to suspend in-person gatherings until state and local officials tell us it is safe to resume in-person gatherings. Executive Committee will communicate with the congregation when we will resume gatherings.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me. I am grateful for your love of Jesus, your love for each other, and your love for this church.
Yours in Christ,