May 4, 2020
The news concerning the Living Church of God is very positive at this time. However, we are saddened by the death of one member from the coronavirus, and we ask that you join us in praying for the family. We have a small number of members who have contracted the virus but are recovered or recovering at this time. We need to continue to be vigilant in praying for God’s protection.
We are seeing renewed interest in God’s truth. New subscribers are being added at a much higher rate. Reports from offices around the world indicate large increases in literature requests. A few individuals are seeking to fellowship with us and some have already begun to do so.
However, this is a fearful time for many, and it is also a confusing time as COVID-19 is difficult to figure out. We are currently in uncharted territory for our generation. This is not the first pandemic the world has ever seen, and it certainly is not the worst in terms of how many are likely to die before it is over, but has there ever been a worldwide shutdown of economies such as this?
From what we read and hear, this pathogen clearly causes a very nasty illness for some seniors and those with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, a compromised immune system, or certain other conditions. Even some seemingly healthy young or middle-aged individuals with no apparent underlying conditions have been made very sick. At the same time, many people are apparently exposed to it and have mild, little, or no symptoms from it.
We also hear conflicting reports about how serious the threat is from this virus from intelligent and well-meaning sources that paint radically different pictures. Even whole nations have taken different approaches, and which one of us can say at this time that we know which is the best approach? I’m sure we all have opinions, based on who we are listening to, but sometimes the best course is to humbly admit that we don’t know.
The important question for the Church at this time is what should we do once governments begin to open up their areas in various ways, as many national and local governments are beginning to do? We certainly want to meet in person again as soon as possible. And as we recently informed our ministry, one size does not fit all. The Church cannot make personal decisions for our members. We can give spiritual advice. And we can decide whether we will rent a hall, hold a picnic, or conduct a summer camp. But each of us must decide whether to participate in person, whether to get together with our spiritual brother or sister, or whether to refrain from doing so until circumstances improve enough for us regarding our level of health. Of course, the Bible gives us instruction to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1), and this certainly applies to civil authorities as long as they do not command us to disobey God. So nothing here should be taken as permission to go against civil authority as some are doing right now in various protests we see in the media. Brethren, let us not get caught up in the spirit of this age—every man doing what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25; Deuteronomy 12:8; Proverbs 12:15).
Where restrictions are being loosened, we ought to consider loosening up our own restrictions, but with the use of caution and wisdom. Where a congregation is made up of healthy younger people, it may be okay to begin meeting together. Those with underlying conditions need to take the threat of this virus seriously and it may be unwise to mix with younger people or others who unknowingly may be carriers of the virus. Those who do choose to get together on a limited basis need to practice proper hygiene and cautionary measures as well. Now when I say, “get together,” this has broad meaning. It may mean two or three families getting together in a home to tap into a Sabbath service on the Internet. Small groups do not guarantee that there will be no spread of the virus, but they do limit the number of people exposed. It may mean that a small congregation can meet where a hall is sufficiently large enough for the attendees to spread out a bit. It may mean that outdoor activities, such as a picnic or adventure camp, can resume for our members, but caution and wisdom need to be exercised.
Singing is an issue that needs to be addressed. As early as March 10, we read about the example of a choir practice in Washington State in which 45 of the approximately 60 in attendance were sickened with the coronavirus and two died. They practiced social distancing, were well under the government guideline of no more than 250 meeting together, and no one was known to be sick at the time of the practice. Apparently, even though they thought they were separated distance-wise, singing projects more of the virus into the air. For this reason, we think it is prudent to avoid singing in a closed environment for the time being until we have a better handle on this. We can always sing hymns in our homes, but for now, let’s avoid singing where we meet in groups. We can conduct services with our normal opening and closing prayers, sermonette, announcements and sermon. Music can be played prior to services and instrumental music can suffice for “special music.” This should give those more vulnerable among us greater confidence to meet in person, as well as create a safer environment for all members.
The point that I’m trying to make is that different locations and different circumstances should dictate how members of the Church conduct themselves, especially when it comes to official meetings. And no one should be put on a guilt trip for staying away until things settle down. The Church has decisions to make, but you as an individual have decisions to make. The Church may rent a hall for services or Bible Studies, but it is up to the individual to determine what is the wise thing to do. For the time being, we will continue livestreaming services for anyone who feels it is in his best interest to fellowship with the Church in that way. However, the time will come when this service will have served its purpose and will be discontinued except for very unusual situations. Until then, however, we want to continue to provide it for the membership as we all navigate this difficult transition.
Please look to your Area Pastor who will be making decisions concerning reopening in-person services. He will do so in conjunction with, and in communication with, his Regional Director. These decisions will vary from area to area and from region to region as do the many factors associated with this virus. Some ministers are older and/or may have preexisting conditions and may not be able to open your area as quickly as another area. We must look at the overall picture to make these decisions.
Thank you, dear brethren, for your cooperation and understanding during this challenging time. All reports indicate you have stayed positive and supported one another in prayer and in deed. Despite the inconvenience this has caused all of us, we are experiencing something that has to take place before Christ returns; this should encourage us all to know that day is closer. As we transition from one situation to another, let us not go to extremes or be self-willed. Let us continue to stand together by being supportive of the decisions made for your congregation, area, and region. Do not get caught up in Internet wars and the politics of this pandemic. Stay within government guidelines, whether you personally agree with them or not. Be humble about your own opinion. Use caution and prayerful wisdom and consider the well-being of your brethren. And let us not judge one another, when what is good for you may not be good for the other person. Remember, we also have to do our part to stay healthy during this crisis.
Sincerely, in Christ’s service,
Gerald E. Weston