Latest Covid-19 updates/guidance concerning our church

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Pastoral Update (July 18)

Dear church family,

Here is the latest update with regards to the re-opening of KEC.

Where we are currently at

1. The basic S.O.P for our Sunday services has more or less been drafted. This will be communicated to the congregation once we are ready to go ahead.

2. All essential livestreaming equipment has also arrived. There are a number of less essential items still on the way. In addition, the installation of the Ethernet in the church hall has just been completed.

3. Benjamin Baru, the Home Fellowship Group Deacon, has gathered enough ushers together for us to proceed with re-opening. However, he will need to run a briefing/training session with them first.

4. Due to the slight uncertainty because of the recent community transmission cases in Kuching itself over the past week, the leadership has not quite fixed a date yet for re-opening. However, should there not be any drastic change in circumstances, we are currently aiming for either the second or third Sunday of August.

Pastorally speaking…

The coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a challenge like none other in our lifetimes. Unlike one-off tragedies, like a terrorist attack or a flood, the pandemic is a long and drawn out affair, reshaping our societal norms, and it is difficult to ascertain when the end will be in sight.

A few months ago, I shared with our leaders what I am about to share with you. I stressed to them that it was natural for them to feel overwhelmed, under-prepared and helpless. This pandemic has taken a toll on us all, and I am sure that many of you are feeling exhausted. After all, many of us have lost things. We might not have lost a loved one to Covid-19, but we have lost old routines and old patterns. Perhaps we can no longer gather with friends the way we once did. Perhaps due to the introduction of new technology, we find it hard to get used to new ways of doing things.

As such, before we move on, it might be necessary to simply pause and mourn. You might know the well-known work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who talked about the 5 typical stages of grief. These 5 stages can also be used as a framework to process our own initial responses to the coronavirus over the past few months:

Denial: This virus won’t affect us. We can carry on as usual.

Panic/Anger: Oh no, the virus is here, and it’s in the Christian community! / How dare you disallow me from doing this or that?

Sadness: I’m sad I can’t sing on Sundays with a big group of people. I’m sad I can’t see my friends. I’m sad because I have no idea when this will end.

Acceptance: This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed. I think I might even give Zoom a go.

Bargaining: Okay, if I listen obediently to the authorities and follow their guidelines to the letter, everything will be better, right? If I do my quiet times religiously every day, God will make it better, right?

Kubler-Ross has since added a 6th stage – finding meaning. If we presented it in graphical form, it would look like this:

So the first thing I want to encourage us all to do is to allow ourselves space to name our own emotional responses. We should take time to be still with God in the “Grief” stage in the chart above. Even when we re-open, it will not be like before, and we can allow ourselves to feed sad about that. So I would like to encourage all of us to keep spending time with God in the Word and prayer, and bringing before him all our fears and hopes. Do take advantage also of the webinars we will be offering in July and August.

Eventually, we must look forward, and move on to the “Looking forward” stage of the chart above. We will need to keep trusting God and hold on to his promises, as he leads us into a new situation, like the Israelites before us while they were exiled in Babylon. We must adapt.

A few questions we could ask include these:

  • How are we seeing God at work in this situation?
  • What have we learnt about God from this, and how is this impacting us spiritually?
  • How will this recalibrate the way I serve others?

Christ will not let his church fall, and we can be confident he will keep building his church. But let’s make sure we keep walking with him. Let’s not give up. Keep encouraging one another. Keep connecting with Christ. Keep the gospel central. Let perseverance build character, and character, hope. And our hope does not put us to shame (Romans 5:4-5).

Love in Christ,

Pastor Brian

Pastoral Update (June 27)

Dear church family,

We want to keep updating you where we are at in terms of re-opening KEC. Here is a reminder, once again, of our 3 navigating points. (Please see the pastoral update on 19th June for a fuller explanation of each navigating point).

Navigating Points

1. We don’t give up on meeting together.
2. We wait for one another.
3. We keep encouraging one another.

Other pastoral questions

In addition, a few of you might be wondering: what does it say about myself if I don’t want to go back to in-person church services right now? Is not going back a sign I am acting out of fear instead of faith?

In short, the answer is: it could be, but it’s probably not. It could be, of course, that you have zero sense of God’s sovereignty and goodness, and are driven entirely by the situation you see around you. Only you would know your heart, and it’s good to examine yourself. If that is you, then the Scriptures encourage you to repent and lift your eyes to trust in the One who is eternally good.

However, I believe that for the vast majority of you, that does not describe you. Instead, I believe the Bible gives us another category alongside faith and fear, and that is prudence. Proverbs 22:3 says “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” In other words, one can exercise genuine faith in God and still come to the judgement that it is actually wisdom to be cautious at this point and not return to in-person gatherings right away. Others might exercise similar faith, and judge that for them, it is loving for them to return as a form of encouragement and service. The key thing is: the prudent “give thought to their steps”, as Proverbs 14:15 puts it.

Where we are up to

1. The seating in the church hall has already been rearranged and marked out to comply with the social distancing requirements as set out in the S.O.P by the State Disaster Management Committee. This was jointly done by KEC English and Bahasa Malaysia.

2. We have accepted the proposal put together by the A/V team and have made the order for the necessary equipment (eg. camera zoom lens). It is expected to arrive in mid-July. In addition, we have made preparations for an Ethernet cable to be installed, also by mid-July. As a reminder, this is so that livestreaming can continue in the main church hall to ensure those unable to attend in person can still participate in the service.

3. A congregational survey is being put together and should be available for you to fill in very soon. This is to get feedback to see where we are as a congregation, especially with
regards to our comfort levels in attending in-person Sunday services. It also gives the church leadership more data to enable us to serve the whole church better.

4. Our Home Fellowship Group Deacon, Benjamin Baru, who oversees our ushering teams, will need some time to regroup his ushers, as he will need to ascertain if they are able to continue serving in light of our changed circumstances. He will likely also need to recruit new ushers, and also to (re)-train them in light of the new S.O.P.

5. We are slowly drafting and tweaking a Sunday service S.O.P, based on the state government guidelines, to try to be as comprehensive and clear as possible as to what would be expected on a Sunday service.

In the meantime

Our proposed timeline is for KEC to re-open in August. However, the main thing is that we have everything reasonably in place before we do so. In the meantime, our Sunday services will continue online, and our small groups are still running. Please do join us! If you have never met on Zoom before, it is not difficult to learn. Joining a Zoom meeting is as simple as clicking on a link! 😊

In addition, we have 2 webinars upcoming in July

  • “Walking alongside depression” with Dr. Ng Mei-Cheen & Pastor Brian (Fri 17th July, 8pm)
  • “The Chasm of the cross: Gospel-centrality in the believer’s life” with Pastor Paul Ling (Fri 31st July or Sat 1st August, TBC)

These webinars are designed to help strengthen us to keep living the Christian life. During this time, we want to keep in equipping Christians through whatever technological means we have at our disposal, so that we can all help each other keep running the race. Let’s keep building each other up, even as we long for the time when we can fully enjoy fellowship with one another once again.

Warm regards in Christ,

Pastor Brian

Pastoral Update (June 19)

Hi all,

We want to update you regarding the state of our re-gathering plans in light of the latest information flowing from the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).

Navigating Points

As I’ve shared a few weeks ago, here are the 3 navigating points that are guiding us right now as we consider how to go about re-opening KEC.

1. We don’t give up on meeting together. Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “ 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Where possible, we want to work towards gathering together in person as a church, as that is clearly the priority of the Scriptures. If we are able to achieve the purpose of continually building each other up as an in-person gathering, we should do so, even if the experience is abnormal and somewhat awkward.

2. We wait for one another. 1 Corinthians 11:33 says: “ 33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together.” We want to physically gather, but we also want to make sure we can do it, as much as possible, as an entire church family. We don’t want to deliberately leave anyone behind. So that means we want to put into place protocols and structures (such as the appropriate cameras for livestreaming in the church hall) to ensure everyone can still connect in one way or another. We long to gather, but we want to be patient and wait for one another.

3. We keep encouraging one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: “ 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” We want to ensure that everything is done so that the church can continually grow in maturity. Even now, we try to do whatever we can in service of that aim. In addition, we want to try our best to ensure when we do gather together, we can somehow still achieve this, even if in a limited way due to current restrictions.

What we’re currently doing

1. We will be having a Church Council Meeting soon, so that the elders and deacons can discuss how we can best follow the state government’s latest S.O.P (effective 20th June), without losing sight of the navigating points as detailed above.

2. We are currently seeking to procure the appropriate equipment for livestreaming in the church hall. A proposal has already been submitted. We anticipate this will take several weeks, as the equipment might have to come from West Malaysia. Setting it up will also take some time.

3. KEC Bahasa Malaysia and KEC English are keeping each other updated on their respective plans to ensure there is co-ordination. KEC Bahasa Malaysia do not anticipate returning to in-person gatherings anytime soon for the moment.

Our general approach

In light of

• how the S.O.Ps are continually being refined by the government,
• the fact that those with young children and chronic illnesses are either unable or discouraged to come
• the fact that not everyone is comfortable yet to gather in person
• the possibility of another spike in Covid-19 cases
• the amount of organisation required in terms of marking out seating positions, getting ready a registration and sanitisation team etc.

it seems as if a slow and steady approach is still the best.

We want to encourage everyone to continue giving each other the benefit of the doubt, knowing that people might have different opinions and convictions regarding what is right for them in this current situation. We want to leave space for different people to live in light of their different ideas.

In the meantime, we continue to recommend that our church members keep connecting with one another, not least over online platforms like Zoom or Webex. Our online services will continue in roughly the same format as they have over the last few months, and do stay tuned for announcements of webinars happening over July and August designed to help you keep growing as a disciple of Christ.

Above all, may we continue to prayerfully persevere and keep walking with Christ during these challenging times, trusting that He is in control, and He will work out his sovereign purposes for our good and for His glory.

Warm regards in Christ,

Pastor Brian
(on behalf of the eldership)

June 3 devotional

Read Haggai 2:10-23

Over the last few weeks, churches in many countries got together to sing a song of blessing, taking the words of Numbers 6:24-26 and pronouncing it over their respective nations. Undoubtedly, the effort was sincere and many believers found this inspiring. However, the video does raise the question: how do we get blessing? Is a song declaring that it is so, enough? Is it true that God is unreservedly “for you”? We will find some answers to these questions in the last section of Haggai.

So far, we’ve seen that God’s people have been distracted, and they have been disillusioned. They have not made God’s priorities their priorities, and they were wondering if it’s worth all the effort to seek God’s kingdom first. After all, their circumstances were certainly difficult, as they encountered opposition to rebuilding the temple. And each time, God encouraged them to persevere.

However, there is still one more issue Haggai has to deal with. Not only are the people distracted and disillusioned, they are also defiled. It is roughly two months since Haggai’s last recorded message to them. Work has begun on the temple. However, God now summons the priests through Haggai (v.10-11). He wants to ask them a few questions, but not because he wants to get updated information. His intention is actually to teach them a lesson.

The questions all revolve around a concept of transferability. Question 1: If someone were to carry meat which had been sacrificed, most probably through a fellowship/thanksgiving offering, and so it was now “holy meat”, how far would its attribute of holiness “spread”? According to Leviticus 6:27, the garment would also be rendered holy. However, whatever the “holy” garment subsequently touched did not become holy. (v.12) Question 2: What if someone had become unclean due to contact with a dead body? Would anything he touches become unclean? The priests answer: yes! Unlike the first case, it is so (v.13). And they appear to be right – Numbers 19:22 affirms their answer.

What’s the bottom line? Defilement is more contagious than holiness. To use a contemporary analogy, when a Covid-19 carrier comes into close contact with you and physically touches you, your wellness doesn’t transfer to him. However, his disease certainly could very well transmit to you! In the same way, being consecrated (holy, set apart) is not contagious, but defilement (uncleanness) is.

And in verse 14, God now applies this analogy to his people. The offerings and sacrifices they made didn’t make the people holy just like that, as if it was a magical spiritual disinfectant. Instead, if the people themselves were already defiled, that made their sacrifices unacceptable instead. How could they have been defiled? Not because they had close contact with foreign people groups. Verse 17 suggests the real reason is that their repentance was not quite genuine. They might have started turning to the Lord (1:12-14), but there was still something lacking in their response. And if they were defiled, they could very well defile the temple. And if the temple itself is defiled – well, the people are in a hopeless situation! How could true worship and sacrifices take place?

So God is correcting potential misconceptions amongst the people. We could very well make the same mistake. We might make the mistake of thinking if we are in the “house of the Lord”, or if we are fulfilling our duties, like reading the Bible 30 minutes a day (alongside a devotional like this one!), or if we have a pastor or some other “anointed person” pronounce blessing over us, we will be made pure and acceptable. Yet God says this is not the case. He calls the people now to reflect on their immediate past (v.15-17) to see what he says is true. There was no blessing!

However, in verses 18-19, he asks them to consider what makes a difference. The answer lies in verse 18: it was when they laid the foundation of the Lord’s temple. In other words, as they turned back to God and followed his ways (the definition of repentance), they enjoyed his blessing. They were no longer defiled, but divinely favoured.

But how does God undo their defiling? It certainly wasn’t the case that if God’s people completed the temple, only then would God pour out his blessing. The people couldn’t undo it themselves, completed temple or not. This divine favour was unmerited! The answer lies in God’s promises in 2:20-23. God is going to act to overthrow all other kingdoms so that the kingdom of his Son may be established. Zerubabbel was a grandson of Jehoiachin, a descendant of David. In Jeremiah 22:24, God had declared to Jehoiachin that he would tear off the signet ring from him. And yet Haggai ends with this amazing promise: God will make Zerubabbel like his signet ring! God will restore a king from the line of David! And as we read on into the New Testament, we discover this promise is fulfilled, as King Jesus becomes the Lord’s signet ring. All authority and power are given to him.

And Christ becomes the foundation, the cornerstone of the new temple – the church. All who trust in him are cleansed (Eph. 5:25-27), and are blessed (Eph 1:3-11). All who trust in him are by definition repentant ones, who are poor in spirit, mourn over their sin, and now ready to live the life of the kingdom (Matt. 5:3-12).

So we come back to the question at the beginning: how do we get blessed? Are we blessed? Is God unreservedly for us? The answer is yes, you enjoy every blessing, and you can be assured God is 100% for you, if you are resting and building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. However, if you are resting on some other foundation, no matter how many churches join in the song, no matter how loud we sing, no matter how many likes the Youtube video gets, there is no blessing. So today, give careful thought, whose foundation are you building on? If it is Jesus, take comfort. God’s divine favour is on you, and his kingdom will never be shaken.

As we’ve reached the end of Haggai, why not take some time to reflect:

  • How has Haggai helped you not to be discouraged or disillusioned, but to persevere in seeking God’s kingdom first and building his church?
  • How has Haggai helped you to appreciate God, Jesus and/or the Bible more?

(Feel free to leave an answer on the comments section of our Facebook post of this devotional!)

PRAY:

  • Give thanks that in Christ, we know we are no longer defiled but have every spiritual blessing. Pray that we would be truly repentant people, and ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we have not always turned to God fully, or where we are building our lives on shaky foundations.
  • Pray for wisdom for our federal and state governments, as well as all the relevant authorities, that they would be able to help navigate our way out of the MCO as best as they can. Pray for farsightedness, good judgment, courage, patience and astuteness in execution of plans.

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