Dear church family,
I am writing to outline what is happening for the next few weeks at BEM KEC, in light of the developing Covid-19 virus. However, just before we do so, I am eager that during this time of high anxiety, we want our response to be shaped not by the surrounding culture, but by God and his Word.
As a church, we want to adopt 3 basic postures:
Firstly, a posture of faith. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused us to be all too aware of our frailty and mortality. We recognise that this virus is not harmless and has caused much distress already to many all over the world, and we want to acknowledge that. At the same time, moments like this should drive us back to our Chief Shepherd, Jesus, and to cast on him all our anxieties and cares. We are thankful for the assurance of Matthew 10:29 – “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” We find an anchor in his providential oversight when all around us, the world seems to be falling apart. Indeed, one verse before, Jesus reminds us that we should ultimately not fear things that “kill the body but cannot kill the soul”, but rather, fear the One who directs our eternal destiny, who “can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28)
So, as the Bible tells us over and over again: “Do not be afraid.” When we are fearful, as we would undoubtedly be from time to time, we can turn those anxieties in to prayers, and draw upon the Lord (Phil. 4:6-7).
Secondly, a posture of wisdom. We don’t want to panic, but we want to be prepared. This is no sign of a lack of faith, for Jesus himself prepares his people for trouble in the world (John 16:1-4), and similarly, Paul prepares Timothy by calibrating his expectations (2 Tim. 3:1-17).
Centuries ago, Martin Luther had to face the plaque “Black Death”. This is what he wrote: “I shall ask God to 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 inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of negligence.” In other words, he was practising wisdom and intentional social distancing!
So should we, even as we plead to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5).
Thirdly, a posture of love. It is easy during this time to think solely in terms of self-preservation. Nonetheless, Jesus shows us a different way, one in which he pours out his life for the sake of others (Phil. 2:5-11). Thus, we should try to make decisions not based on fear, but out of love. What that might look like for each of us is different, whether it is words of encouragement, a refusal to stigmatise, or even just a faithful, non-anxious presence.
As Martin Luther goes on to say: “If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.” He was driven by love, being wise, but ensuring he still put the interest of others first.
At this point, this is the decision that BEM KEC has reached:
1. Services for tomorrow (Sunday, 15 March) will continued as scheduled. However, additional precautionary measures will be implemented to those already in place. This includes changing the seating arrangements to create more distance between individuals, not passing around the offering bag but having a box available instead, cancelling after-service refreshments, and slightly shortening the service. (This will be reconsidered if there is a dramatic spike in cases in Sarawak over the day).
2. If you are sick, elderly, have travelled overseas recently, or are immuno-compromised, you are asked not to come. Our sermons are available on our website. Frontline health workers might also wish not to come either.
3. From Sunday, 22 March onwards, we are suspending our services for 4 weeks, as we anticipate an increase in cases based on the pattern we have seen in other places so far. All our regular weekly meetings – including our HFGs, prayer meeting and youth group meetings are cancelled during this time. We will try to make alternative arrangements, including the possibility of livestreaming the sermon on Facebook Live.
We will review when our services will resume during this period, depending on the situation.
4. We will continue to try to provide updates on Facebook, our website, and WhatsApp channels.
5. What can we pray for during this time? Here are 7 things, first listed by Dustin Benge:
a. Calm assurance in God’s sovereignty
b. Dispelling of fear and worry
c. Opportunities to serve neighbours.
d. Wisdom in decision-making
e. Global gospel advance
f. Willingness to follow instructions
g. Healing for those affected.
With warm regards in Christ,