March 17, 2020
Dear Church Family,
As many of you know already, yesterday Governor Hogan stated that he has made an executive order that no gatherings of 50 or more people may occur in Maryland. This is the law in our state and will be enforced in an effort to prevent the coronavirus from spreading as quickly. You may have also heard that health officials as well as President Trump have recommended that no gathering of more than 10 people take place.
Some may wonder what the church’s response should be. I found this quote from Martin Luther very interesting as he sought to explain his actions during the Black Plague:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.
If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.
See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy….” [From Martin Luther, Works, v. 43, p. 132. Letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess.]
Though we have never faced such a pandemic before, this is not new to the Church. Apparently, in 1918, as a worldwide influenza pandemic was ravaging Washington D.C. and 50 people a day were dying there, the churches felt it best not to gather until the danger had passed. They went 8 weeks with no services.
Because we are commanded in Scripture to obey those in government and out of a reasonable care to protect our congregation and community, we have decided to suspend our Wednesday prayer service and all Sunday services until further notice. We will continue to assess the situation week-to-week and keep you informed of our intent to either hold or not hold services.
We are seeking to make sure that those who wish to listen live to the sermon on Sunday can do so. Last week our provider ran into difficulty with the number of people around the country using its service at the same time. There were also some technical issues that needed to be addressed. We hope to provide you with detailed information regarding access to our live-streaming, to our message archives, and to our new online giving option available on our website, pbcmd.org.
We are grateful, however, that a good and great God watches over us regardless of our circumstances!
Under the Same Feathers,
March 14, 2020
Dear Church Family,
Often when I close a note or letter to a believer, I will use the expression, “Under the Same Feathers,” before signing my name. That idea comes from Psalm 91 where a promise is given to those who abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Of course, to be under someone’s shadow, one must be very close to him. For those who dwell close to the Lord, He promises to cover them with His feathers and provide shelter under His wings (v. 4). In this Psalm, there are even promises with regard to pestilence and plague for the believer who trusts in the Lord. It is not that God promises that we will never suffer, but that as we trust in Him, we can have “life” no matter what. We can experience peace, joy, rest, etc., even in the midst of a world that is crazy with anxiety and fear. And certainly, we will enjoy long life (eternal life) regardless of what happens to our body right now!
However, the reality is that we have an obligation to honor our civil authorities and do all we can to protect people from unnecessary exposure to danger. In accordance with Governor Hogan’s declaration that all public schools will close for the next two weeks, FCA will close as well. We will not host any groups in the school building for the next two weeks while we hire a cleaning company to do a deep cleaning of our facilities. For now, we are planning to have morning services only in the auditorium for March 15, 22, and 29. We will have nursery rooms available, but there will be no children’s church. The door between the church and school will remain closed, and the gym and all classrooms will be off-limits.
This means that there will be no Sunday School for the next three Sundays and no evening services. Because of this, there will be no Easter Cantata this year on April 5, since choir will not be able to meet in the evenings. There will be no bus ministry for those weeks as well. There will be no kid’s programs, youth meetings, or nursery on Wednesday, March 18 or 25. We will hold prayer meeting in the auditorium for those who can attend on Wednesdays at the normal time.
Thankfully, the virus does not appear to be deadly for children 9 years of age and under; however, we caution those who have long-term health issues or who are elderly to minimize their exposure in public places. Of course, anyone with cold or flu symptoms, we ask that you remain in the comfort of your home. We do live-stream our services through our web site at www.pbcmd.org and you will find messages from past services archived there as well. We upload all of our Sunday Services to sermonaudio.com, going back several years. We have also been able to provide a giving button on our website that will allow people to give their tithes and offerings remotely. You can find this on the top menu of the website or by going to www.pbcmd.org/giving/
This Sunday, Dr. Bruce McAllister is still planning to come and speak in the morning service, and you won’t want to miss what he has to say. If you cannot attend in person, you can listen live on the internet.
If you have any questions or need anything, do not hesitate to call me or call your deacon. We are a family, and families look out for each other.
Under the Same Feathers,