Saturday, March 14
We are canceling all activities tomorrow due to the Coronavirus pandemic, including Households and the new small groups that we had hoped to launch.
As we continue to learn about the importance of "social distancing" to reduce the spread of the virus, we want to do everything we can to help the situation by limiting church activities. We hope that smaller worshipping groups may be able to begin meeting regularly soon, but wisdom calls us to move forward with precaution in loving service to our whole community.
Over the past week, Mike and I have both been extremely reticent to say that we are "canceling church". This is because we so strongly believe that we are called to "be the church" especially in this moment and we have so much confidence in the character of Geneva's members to meet this crisis. We can't wait until we can start gathering together again, whether in large or small groups. Until then we know that you will be reaching out to one another, and to your neighbors, showing the love and care of Christ in all sorts of ways.
Later tonight, Pastor Mike will send out liturgical and prayer resources that we hope will encourage and bless you in your worship tomorrow as individuals and families.
Friday, March 13
Full congregational worship, as well as all adult and youth Sunday school classes are suspended until further notice. Please read on for details and to learn about opportunities to worship in household-sized groups. The following is a letter sent from our Pastors on Friday, March 13.
Our Lord Jesus, as he was about to enter into his own suffering, spoke words of comfort to his disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
This is a time of trouble. We’re in the midst of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic, and there are cases of community transmission in Madison. We need to rest in the peace Christ offers. We don’t need to be afraid. We can say to one another, “Take heart! Jesus has overcome the world!”
At the same time, we need to respond in a thoroughly Christian manner to the trouble we are experiencing. We need to pray. We need to encourage one another. We need to continue worshiping God. As it says in the book of Hebrews, which was written to a beleaguered Christian community, “Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). We are the body of Christ, and we need to be that for one another. Our calling is to love one another.
We are also called to love our neighbors. At this time, that means not doing anything that will unduly endanger our neighbors, expose vulnerable people to unnecessary risk, or place excessive stress on our health care system. In a nutshell, loving our neighbors at this time means following the best advice of epidemiologists as well as national and local public health authorities. The best preventive measures include careful personal hygiene and social distancing.
Given that, Geneva’s Council has decided that we should temporarily refrain from gathering as a full congregation, and that instead we should encourage and equip the congregation to worship in smaller household or household-sized groups. The church from the beginning has gathered in two ways: large public gatherings, and smaller house-based gatherings: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47).
We don’t have all the details worked out yet, but we will be working with existing household leaders to find out if they are both willing and able to accommodate and lead small worshiping groups. We will also try to identify additional leaders and locations where our church may continue to worship in small groups. We will do our best to provide a place for every Genevan to worship, and to provide resources both for the spiritual needs and the practical needs of every group. We will provide materials for worship (liturgy, prayer, instruction in the Word, and the celebration of the sacraments), as well as practical guidelines for healthy gatherings.
For this coming Sunday, we hope to have some of the household groups ready to meet.
We also plan to welcome anyone who is not currently in a household to gather at The Crossing for worship this week. We expect that group to be relatively small (well under the current threshold recommended by public health authorities for gatherings). We will take the opportunity to organize the people who are at the Crossing this coming Sunday into household-sized worshiping groups.
We envision these measures as temporary. Our assumption is that it will not be advisable to gather as a full congregation for at least four weeks. Obviously this is an evolving situation, and we may need to make adjustments. Meanwhile, in the midst of this crisis, let’s remember that our hope is not for this life alone. God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46). The words of Jesus are true: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”