Upon the First Worship Service Cancellation Due to the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic

Pastor Steve Moulson originally wrote this as an email, a letter of encouragement to us on the occasion of the first Sunday worship service that was canceled due to social distancing orders in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A few days ago I did not anticipate writing this email.  The session at All Saints which is the temporary session of Church Hill Pres has voted to cancel all services this Sunday.  We will be reevaluating the situation this week and considering how to move forward should the situation continue.

I hate having to write this, as worship is the cornerstone of our Christian life, and the high point of the week for the believer.  But out of love for our neighbor and a hope that this will help stop the spread of the virus, we have made this decision.

I’ll write more in the coming days, but for now, a few thoughts. 

1.  It’s OK to be concerned.  This is a big deal.  We might be dealing with this for weeks or months. We don’t know. This could be history. It could be forgotten by Christmas. Regardless, it has affected all our lives, and the lives of people all over the world.  It remains to be seen what the fallout will be. So be concerned. Concern causes us to act, and this is a time for action.  

2.  It’s not OK to panic. You can sweat and cry and grit your teeth and let your heart race until you pass out. The outcome of all of this will be exactly the same. You cannot add an inch to your height or a minute to your life by worrying (Luke 12:25).  Worry is what happens when you stop living as though God exists, and that He loves you, and that all He does in your life is for your good. 

3.  This is a time to love your neighbor, not to avoid them if they are in need.  There may be someone near you who can’t get to, or is afraid to go to, the grocery store.  There could be other ways that people are affected by this.  This is a great time to reach out to those around you, see what the needs are, and help.   Obviously we need to be wise about contact with others, so be wise, but help where you can without endangering them. 

4.  This is not a time to be out in public unless absolutely necessary.  My pastor-friend in Lombardia, the hardest hit region in Italy really believes the US is behind on this.  We need to stay home. 

5.  This is not a time to engage in conspiracy theorizing.  There’s some stuff out there for sure.  Conspiracy theories are gossip, and gossip is sin.  These theories typically arise when people want to blame bad events on something or someone they hate.  Don’t listen to it.  Turn off the news, watch this site for updates.  Don’t trust anything that isn’t backed up by primary sources.  

6.  God knows the coronavirus.  He knows what it is, what it does.  He knows where it came from, where it is and where it is going.  He knows you are concerned for your life and the life of those you love.  He loves you.  He loves them too.  And your life is in His hands, not in the hands of some measly virus. 

7.  I am your pastor.  I am here for you.  If you need me in person, I will gladly be there.  

Martin Luther, the German Protestant Reformer gave his advice during the plague:  

Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal.

Therefore 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 infect 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 and does not tempt God.

I also commend to you the words of the Heidelberg Catechism:

27. What dost thou mean by the providence of God?

The almighty and everywhere present power of God;(1) whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs(2) heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought,(3) fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness,(4) riches and poverty,(5) yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.(6)

1.    Acts 17:25-28; Jer. 23:23, 24; Isa. 29:15, 16; Ezek. 8:12.
2.    Heb. 1:3.
3.    Jer. 5:24; Acts 14:17.
4.    John 9:3.
5.    Prov. 22:2.
6.    Matt. 10:20; Prov. 16:33.

I will be in touch later about tomorrow’s virtual service, as well as throughout the week.  Keep praying for a swift end to this virus, and keep your hope, your confidence, and your joy in God.

Pastor Steve Continues to broadcast messages each Sunday via our YouTube Channel. We welcome you to join us.