“The church is not the building.” Most of us have heard this truth for years, but over the past week, it has become reality here at Providence. In order to promote health and safety—and do our part to contain the coronavirus—we’ve suspended all church activities for the rest of the month. At the end of the workday on Thursday, March 19, we will also close the church campus until the end of March. I am so grateful to my colleagues on the Providence staff who have worked hard in preparation for the ministry of this church to go off-site.
A church at work remotely is still very much a church at work, so please visit our website to see how we plan to stay connected to God, to one another, and to the needs of our congregation and community throughout this time of physical separation. We’ve created a page that gives you links to all that is going on in the life of our church, as well as links to resources we’re compiling. This “Stay Connected” page will serve, for the time being, as our new homepage.
Here is a rundown of basic information about how we’re moving forward together:
- Nothing can replace our physical gatherings, but we are making remote worship available online each Sunday morning. An email with a link to the service will land in your inbox by 9am on Sunday, along with links to two brief Sunday School lessons for adults. Blake Kendrick will be teaching the Feasting on the Word curriculum, and I will be following the Smyth & Helwys Formations curriculum. These services and lessons will be archived so they can be watched at any time. Also, each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6pm you’ll receive our email epistle, To the Providence Diaspora, with a devotional thought, a link to something interesting online, and the latest Providence news. We are in the process of developing additional online learning and interactive opportunities.
- The Providence ministry team and deacons are committed to continue caring for our congregation, even as hospitals and care facilities have closed access to visitors. Our phones still work, though, which means we will be reaching out that way. If a particular crisis calls for physical presence, I will be ready to make thoughtful exceptions to our general rule in order to provide the care needed. Remember, too, that we all members of Providence are ministers to one another, so please continue to check in on one another—and let us know of needs you come across. We also hope you’ll let us know if you have physical, emotional, or spiritual needs yourself. We’re your church, and you should expect us to be here for you even at a distance. As always, you can reach the minister on-call at 704.366.4030×147.
- Our entire staff is maintaining regular remote office hours. We are all accessible by phone. Call the church (704.366.4030) and dial the extension of the person you wish to reach. These extensions can be found HERE providencebc.org/team. Ministers will check their voicemail boxes daily and messages will be returned as soon as possible. My extension is 114.
- The work of the church is much larger than the pastors and staff, and we are working on ways for the committees of Providence to continue meeting and providing leadership for our shared ministries.
COVID-19 Task Force
- David Eskew, this year’s deacon chair, and I have assembled a group of church leaders to help guide decisions and shape our ministry together during this critical time. This task force consists of our senior ministry staff, interim church administrator, director of weekday ministry, deacon chair and chair-elect, moderator and moderator-elect, and the chairs of the personnel and finance committees. Please contact me via EMAIL if you have questions for this group.
How to Serve
- Many of you have the gifts and the capacity to serve our congregation and community in important ways right now. We are actively assessing how Providence can most readily and effectively serve others in Jesus’ name and we welcome your participation. As these opportunities for organized service develop, we will advertise them on our webpage and via the Diaspora email.
- Finally, thank you for your continued generosity to Providence, its mission, and its ministries. We will continue to receive offerings mailed to the church and submitted online HERE. Like many other non-profit organizations, we are seeking to sustain our ministry in a period of financial strain and uncertainty. Your gifts help us to maintain commitments to our mission partners, employees, and service providers, as well as allowing us to continue caring for our congregation and our community.
My colleagues and I have been comparing the work of this week to building an airplane while it’s in the process of taking off. I suspect that many of you have had similar experiences over the last seven days. It’s been disorienting, disruptive, and discouraging. Many of us feel rather weak and helpless right now. But I’m reminded of something the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians. After listing his many and various sufferings over the better part of two chapters, Paul concludes with this ringing affirmation of faith: “So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10). We may feel weak, friends, but remember: Jesus is strong.
May the peace of Christ be with you!