March 13, 2020
This has truly been an unusual week, hasn’t it? Each day, the story of COVID-19 has increased in intensity and scope. Professional and college sports leagues are cancelling or postponing competition, the University of Oklahoma has moved to online instruction, conferences and work events have dropped off the calendar, and our news feed is being updated by the hour with more and more reports of the spread of this virus.
As a church leadership team (Staff and Elders) we have continued to monitor the situation and prayerfully consider how we should respond. Just last night, we gathered to pray for our congregation, city, and nation. At this time, we reflected and prayed over Psalm 46. This amazing Psalm begins with this powerful thought, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way.” I can confidently tell you that our church leadership is not living in fear over the COVID-19 situation, and we pray that you are taking your refuge in our God with us today!
Even as we take our refuge in the Lord, though, organizations all over the world are having to make difficult decisions regarding holding public gatherings. On a typical weekend 1,500 people congregate at Wildwood. As many states and cities around the U.S. have begun to issue restrictions on gatherings of over 250 people to slow the spread of COVID-19, we want to make a prudent decision about Wildwood’s practice. After much prayer, consultation with medical professionals, and discussion, we have decided to cancel all “in person” worship services, classes, and events on Sunday, March 15. We will evaluate the situation further after this weekend concerning future Sundays, and will let you know as soon as other decisions are made. NOTE: Next week is spring break and normal programming was already not scheduled for Monday-Friday of next week.
When state and local officials in other locations have issued their bans on large public gatherings, they have often noted that all “non-essential” activities should cease. I want to remind all of us that we do not view church involvement as “non-essential.” After all, Hebrews 10:25 reminds us that we are “not neglecting to meet together . . . but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” There is a real power in gathering together and encouraging one another in the Lord – especially at times like this. So, even though we are not meeting at a specific address this weekend (1501 24th Ave. NE), we will still be worshipping together as a church family at 11AM via our YouTube Livestream. We strongly encourage you to gather your family together and pull up our broadcast of the worship service (the video will be live at 11AM, but available anytime after that as well). Worship together as a family as our “virtual” service will include singing. Open God’s Word together, as Pastor Bruce preaches from Matthew 26:30-35, 69-75. Share comments together as the stream goes along via the comments section. Though we are not meeting in one room, we will still be of “one mind” and “one heart” as we are members of the “one BODY of Christ.” You can access that livestream here.
One last thought. I know some of you are relieved we are not meeting as this decision lines up with your convictions about how society should respond to this situation. Others of you will roll your eyes at this, thinking it is an over-reaction to the media hype. We understand both sides of these concerns. However, we feel a charge from the Lord to shepherd this flock in its well-being. While many of you are young and carry no underlying health condition, many of us do deal with this . . . or regularly interact with others who are in more “at risk” populations. Think of this act as one more way of “loving our neighbors” as Jesus instructs us . . . curbing our “preference” for another’s well-being. Know that it is our sincere desire that our church (throughout this season) grows in our faith in God and love for others (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Our desire in this response is to take refuge in the Lord as our strength (Psalm 46:1), while also demonstrating a loving response to our city by doing our part to reduce community spread of this disease.
“See you” Sunday at 11 in our livestream, and join me in praying for God’s protection on our church, community, and the nations during this time.
(For the Elders of Wildwood Community Church)