Coronavirus Response

Bethel’s council met on Monday, May 18, and, in coordination with other Sioux Center Christian Reformed Churches, has set a tentative plan to guide our next steps as a church.

 

1) Sunday, May 24, we will continue our practice of exclusively Livestreaming in the AM with a small-group Bible study offered in the PM. We do, however, invite you to consider beginning to gather with 1, 2, or 3 other Bethel families (neighbors, friends, extended family) for shared worship on Sunday mornings – either outside (weather permitting) or in a home if there is space to keep social distancing. Even before we can begin to regather in larger numbers in the church sanctuary, beginning to gather in smaller groups for Christian fellowship (especially with others you already interact with during the week) is a healthy step back into community.

2) Sunday, May 31, we will continue to Livestream in the AM but also hope to do a pilot in-person worship with Bethel council members and staff that morning to test our safety procedures for the congregation’s eventual return. Again there will be a PM small-group Bible study.

3) Sunday, June 7, we will continue to Livestream the AM but hope to attempt an in-person PM service open to Bethel members (pending the trajectory of local cases).

4) Sunday, June 14 and beyond, we will review the above experiences and then-current conditions and communicate plans for next steps.

 

Each step above is contingent, and we will be monitoring and weekly responding to the feedback of our local medical authorities as they track area COVID-19 case numbers and hospital capacities. If we need to make adjustments (i.e. if local cases are spiking), we will communicate the changes. Our goal is to carefully begin to move toward providing the option of in-person worship in ways that are smart, safe, and infused with love of our neighbor.

 

As we do so, a number of items to share:

1) Guiding motive: We seek corporately and individually to love God with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Actions guided by any other motive (fear, frustration, impatience, etc.) are not healthy ways to keep in step with the Spirit. That means we all commit to certain actions, not for our own benefit, comfort, convenience, or even safety – but for the safety and benefit of those who are most vulnerable around us. As we saw this past fall in our study of I John - we cannot seek to return to worship as an expression of love for the God we don’t see if we do so in ways that don’t also reflect love of neighbor we do see (1 John 4:20).

2) Risk: As a council we acknowledge there is inherent risk in re-engaging. There is still no vaccine, no proven effective treatment, limited test capabilities, and lots of questions surrounding COVID-19. Our own experience with Bethel members is that the disease is very, very contagious. And while for up to 80%, symptoms may range from non-existent to mild, for a small number COVID-19 can be severe and even fatal. We therefore strongly encourage those at high risk (over 70 or with underlying health conditions) to please consider staying home and continuing to Livestream. If you or a family member are feeling at all sick or have been exposed to COVID-19, please also stay home and Livestream. We are committed, whether gathered in worship physically or virtually, to the welfare of every member and our broader community.

3) Lament: As a council, we also acknowledge an appropriate grief over what God has called us to give up in this season. Not only has COVID-19 impacted human health and livelihoods, it has also affected our rhythms of life, including worship, for the past 10 weeks. And while we all long to “get back to normal” – even once we begin to regather in worship – it will not be normal. We will need to begin with a sizable list of limitations and precautions. It will likely be awkward. We’ll learn as we go. As we do, we ask that we each prepare ourselves for a continued season of ‘emptying’ on behalf of others – even as Jesus emptied himself for us (Philippians 2).

4) Unity: Because of the many uncertainties surrounding this novel coronavirus, there are lots of differing opinions nationally, locally, and within Bethel. Some will want to charge ahead; others are deeply cautious. We want to respect the consciences of one another even as we together seek the Spirit’s leading. If you do not feel comfortable returning to worship in-person when that option is offered, with our blessing please continue to Livestream. If you wish we were more aggressive in returning to corporate worship, please keep us in your prayers for God’s wisdom. Through it all, let us seek to walk this road humbly together.

5) Hope: God has sustained his church in worship through pandemics, global war, and the fall of nations and empires. He will sustain us through this season, even if it takes many months before things begin to feel ‘normal’ again. As one member pointed out, if mothers can put up with 9 months of adjustments in pregnancy (even extended bedrest), we can certainly adjust to some multi-month struggles now. The same God who enabled Paul and Silas to worship shackled and beaten in a Philippian jail, will enable us at Bethel to also share His gifts of joy and of worship throughout this season of trial. Our prayer is that He will also grow and deepen our faith through it…and maybe even bring salvation to those outside watching us (Acts 16:25-40).

 

If you have any questions, please let me or any council member know: 712-441-5871.

 

In Christ,

Pastor John