In observance of the city's recent ban of gatherings greater than 10 people, the session has agreed to cancel our corporate worship gatherings for now, with the goal of loving our neighbors and protecting our public witness. This is an enormous loss for all of us, and we are grieving along with you.
But to help you continue to worship informally at home with your families and/or others on Sundays, Josh and I will work on an audio recording of a couple familiar songs, a prayer or two, and a more informal teaching. We will broadcast this recording on Sunday mornings at 10:15a at our Youtube channel; we'll also post the recording into our website and podcast feed. We'll provide discussion questions and children's material at this Google drive folder.
Other Ways to Connect
You can also connect with CTK through our Facebook page, through our Slack channel (a messaging app), or through the Calvin videoconference study I'm leading (Thursdays at 11:30a; login info here; no need to keep up with the reading if you don't want to). I'm also trying to blog more.
Dear CTK family,
Here is a link to this morning’s sermon; if you weren’t able to come this morning, I would encourage you and your families to listen and find encouragement in the joy of Jesus’s resurrection, even and especially in the midst of suffering and uncertainty.
We’ve cancelled tonight’s prayer meeting at the Finches’. Instead, the officers will meet via teleconference to pray for CTK and our city right now, and to begin preparing for meeting your and our neighbors’ physical and spiritual needs over the coming weeks as we are able. Would you please let me or us know if there’s anything we can pray for, if you would like a visit or call from an officer, or if you need anything from us?
We will keep you updated about our plans for corporate worship. Please know that the session has thoroughly discussed and prayed over all this. We agree that we will continue to follow CDC and city guidance (even as it changes), trusting that following their medical and economic expertise is one way to obey Romans 13:1-7. Again, if you are in one of the CDC’s “vulnerable” categories (older adults, or underlying major health issues), or if you are showing any flu/cold symptoms, we are asking you to stay home. We understand that some may also stay home out of extra caution for themselves and others. Whatever reasons you have for staying home, we want to encourage and help all of you in this time - please let us know what we can do, and how we can pray, since we love you all very much!
I’ll keep updating our Coronavirus blog post as things change.
Whatever happens, let us continue to trust in our kind and merciful Father, and point each other and others to him in word and deed, since he is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way” (Psalm 46:1-2).
In His service,
The elders have agreed that CTK will still gather for corporate worship on Sunday mornings at 10:15p, until CDC/city guidance and recommendations (or Veritas Academy policy) would preclude a gathering of our size. With the city of Austin's latest statement, we are encouraging vulnerable people (older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease; see CDC here) to stay home.
Sunday evening's prayer meeting is cancelled; instead CTK elders and deacons will gather to pray for CTK and Austin, and to consider how we might care for CTK and our neighbors in this time of suffering and fear. Community groups and other small group gatherings should decide whether or not they will continue meeting, remembering that the city now recommends that vulnerable people do not attend gatherings of 10 or more people.
Here is our plan for tomorrow morning (slightly adapted from yesterday's post/email):
(1) space families and people by 6 ft at all times
(2) no children’s church
(3) no nursery
(4) no snacks/coffee
(5) for communion bread, an unopened package of crackers will be opened and spread on trays by someone wearing gloves. We will come to the front to receive the elements (see below), still remaining 6 ft apart at all times. We will return to seats, take both elements together after all are served. Servers will sanitize thoroughly before touching trays.
(6) hand sanitizer + tissues at back near doors, surfaces/handles/bathrooms disinfected before the service. Doors propped open (except bathrooms). A greeter will press elevator buttons for everyone.
(7) no bulletins or pew Bibles
In light of the heightened concern around coronavirus, I wanted to write to encourage you and also to let you know about some changes to our worship service.
The elders have been praying and discussing how we might respond to all this, seeking to make wise plans (Proverbs 11:14), while also trusting that our good Father rules over even sickness and death (Job 1:21; Matthew 10:29-31). We are praying that none of us would fall into panic, trusting that God is our refuge even in suffering and uncertainty (Psalm 27:5). We are also praying that God would move us to a deeper satisfaction in our resurrected King Jesus (Philippians 3:8-11), and that he would use us to bring the hope of the gospel to those who are spiritually enslaved through the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
What does this mean for Sundays?
We will continue gathering for worship at Veritas Academy at 10:15a until further notice. We've been in touch with the school, and will let you know right away if they have anyone exposed to the virus. They are wiping and sanitizing their facilities more than usual. Please let us know right away if any of you have been exposed. If any of you are particularly vulnerable or immuno-compromised, of course you can stay home, and listen to the sermon online (usually posted that afternoon). If anyone else is concerned, please feel free to stay home according to your conscience.
Here are some things we are requesting and changing:
Please be sure to wash your and your children's hands before coming to church, and perhaps also before entering the sanctuary. We'll try to have as many doors propped open as possible, and will have some hand sanitizer available at the back of the room. Also, if you have any cold/flu-like symptoms, please stay home. One of the officers can make a house call later if you'd like. Finally, please try to minimize physical contact (handshakes, etc.).
Greeting/Passing of the peace: In lieu of handshakes, etc., please wave, smile, etc.
Offering: We won't pass offering plates down the aisles; instead we'll have a couple of plates by the back entrance where you can drop off your offerings at the end of the service.
Communion: As usual, our prep volunteers will be very careful about washing their hands. Instead of passing down the aisles, we'd like you to come up to the front, where an officer will be holding the wine tray (from which you will grab your own cup), and another will be holding the bread tray with one hand, while with the other hand dropping a piece of bread into your hand. (They too will be sure to wash or sanitize their hands before serving communion.) There will be a couple officers helping to call you up by rows.
I'd encourage you all to read this brief article from CCEF on anxiety and Coronavirus; I found it helpful and reassuring. Here's my favorite part:
"Pour out your anxieties to your Father in Heaven. Do not churn fruitlessly inside your own heart with worries about school closings, travel plans, economic downturns, or the potentially infected surfaces you’ve touched! When you are afraid, turn to him. Cast your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. In fact, let handwashing or rubbing on hand sanitizer become a moment in which you consciously entrust yourself and the future of everyone you care about into his hands."
In this Sunday's sermon passage, John 16:16-33, Jesus assures his disciples that his resurrection really does give us a deep, abiding joy, even in the midst of this world's sorrow and suffering. "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (16:33).
Taking heart with you in Christ,