IMPORTANT PASTORAL LETTER - 3/13/20
Dear Renewal Family,
In light of the city’s recommendation to cancel gatherings of 250 or more people and ultimately out of the conviction that this is the most loving course of action for the members of our church and our neighbors (by preventing the spread of the virus through social distancing) we will be suspending our in-person Sunday worship services in West Philadelphia and Center City until further notice.
This decision was made yesterday as we have been closely and prayerfully monitoring the situation however, we wanted to take the time to communicate instructions that would thoroughly explain the practical implications but also offer guidance and encouragement. Both are needed at this time.
The practical implications for our life as a church community are as follows:
- Sunday worship: Though we will not be meeting in-person for our Sunday gatherings, we will be live streaming a service led by a very small group consisting of staff and essentialpersonnel. The service will follow our normal order of worship but will be condensed. The stream will begin at 10:30am. The link can be found on our webpage (www.renewalchurch.org/livestream). We are grateful for the technology that exists to enable us to continue to gather virtually as the people of God and to find our rest in Christ as we fix our eyes on Him, which is of particular importance at a time such as this. Furthermore, if appropriate precautions are taken, you may consider the option of watching the stream together in a small group (under 10 people). If you decide to do so, please employ the following measures:
- Ensure no one present is sick or has any reason to think they have been exposed to the Coronavirus
- Disinfect shared surfaces before and after the meeting
- Direct everyone to wash their hands (more than 20 seconds) upon arrival and upon returning home
- Food and drink should be served individually
- As much distance as possible should be maintained between members of different households and their belongings (6 feet is recommended).
- Offering: Though we will not be gathering for our regular worship on Sundays, you may still give your tithes and offerings online (https://renewalchurch.onlinegiving.org) or mail your checks to the church office (4633 Cedar Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19143). Our giving is first and foremost a response to God’s generosity to us, and a matter of stewardship but regular giving in this time will also guard the church from financial strain.
- Community Groups: While smaller gatherings certainly present less of a risk, we believe the wisest course of action at this time is to suspend our regular Community Group meetings especially given the size of many of our groups. You may choose to gather informally, to keep up with one another, but please abide by the recommendations listed above on smaller gatherings.
- Pastoral Care and Mercy: Although our ability to gather in larger groups has been inhibited, our pastoral staff is still dedicated to serving you and supporting you through this time. We plan on continuing to meet you individually, in smaller groups, or virtually if necessary. If you or someone you know has practical needs that arise (whether due to illness or as a result of the numerous restrictions during this time) we encourage you to contact the diaconate (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Further guidance and encouragement:
- At this time, we certainly want to encourage you to be prudent and take every precaution to keep you and those around you healthy however, we need not live in panic. The most frequent command in the Bible is, “Do not fear” and we have a sure reason not to: Jesus has resurrected, He is on this throne and He will return. As this pandemic shuts down our gatherings, the sports industry, our schools and workplaces it need not shut us down. Heed these encouraging Biblical truths from the Heidelberg Confession: What is your only hope in life and death? That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him. Instead of letting fear master us, let us respond as the apostle Paul directs in Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
- Specifically, we encourage to pray for the following:
- God’s mercy to slow the spread of the virus and spare human life
- Healthcare workers (especially our own church members in the healthcare industry) to be kept healthy and that our healthcare system would not be inundated beyond capacity, but instead able to get help for all those in need.
- For those in poverty or in great financial need. Closing schools, large venues, and local business places a greater burden on those who are living pay to pay-check and who lack the resources and support that others may have. Pray that they would get the assistance they need whether through government and/or through neighbors and churches.
- Pray for the many college students in our city (especially our own church members) whose lives and college experience have been drastically altered. For God’s peace and provision.
- Pray that we, and all believers, would seek to make the most of every opportunity to declare in word and deed the hope found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- While wisely taking every health precaution, let us consider ways in which we can creatively share the love of Christ and serve others. Look out for needs on your block and in your community. With whole families being homebound, we have the opportunity to connect with and serve others in ways that were not possible just a few weeks ago. May the Lord Jesus fill our hearts with his love and empower us to follow His lead in sacrificial service for such a time as this.
Pastor Dwight Yoo
On behalf of the Renewal Presbyterian Church Session