Brothers and Sisters,
These are some of the most unusual days any of us will ever experience. May our good and sovereign God grant us all immense wisdom, peace, and a strong sense of confidence in Christ. Furthermore, may we be marked by a supernatural love and compassion for each other and our community. These have been just some of the requests lifted up to God for you today!
Uncommon days require atypical decisions. After much thought, discussion, and prayer, with sadness and eagerness comingled, your pastors decided this evening that it is wise for Church on Mill to follow the most recent recommendations of our governmental and health care leaders. This means, brothers and sisters, that for the remainder of the month of March, our Sunday worship gatherings, Wednesday nights, Thursday night Christian Challenge, and Friday night Life Among the Nations activities will be cancelled. Instead, we will meet on Sunday mornings via livestream only. Information on potential additional online opportunities are forthcoming, but for now please understand that all whole congregation and other large group gatherings on church property will not occur for the remainder of March.
The purpose of heeding the White House and Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendation is to do our part as a church to help stop the spread of the virus. This is an act of love for one another, and a display of godly compassion for the broader community of Tempe. Any gathering of more than 10 people presents an increased risk of transmission. As a result, the most loving way forward seems to be to comply with the recommendation.
While no one reading this email is likely to have faced this circumstance previously, we are not the first Christians to grapple with a public health crisis. We are not even the first to decide it most wise not to assemble for a few Sundays. During the Spanish Flu of 1918, many churches made the same decision. A pastor of a church in the nation’s capital wrote of that decision:
“The fact that the churches were places of religious gathering, and the others not, would not affect in the least the health questions involved. If avoiding crowds lessens the danger of being infected, it was wise to take the precaution and not needlessly run in danger, and expect God to protect us.”
We understand this decision is not without possible controversy; however, please know it was not made hastily or lightly. When providentially hindered, it is not sin for a church to be unable to meet corporately. Furthermore, this is not a case of persecution in which the government is mandating churches, because they are churches, to cease worshipping God together. Under those types of persecuting circumstances, our solemn duty would be to say, like Peter and the rest of the apostles, “We must obey God not men” (Acts 5:29). But these are remarkably different circumstances. We pray this decision will work for the common good (i.e. help stop the spread of the disease, protect fellow church members, show compassion to the community, etc.).
We think it wise for smaller ministries to continue at their leaders’ discretion. Everyone needs the tremendous benefits of the “one anothers” of Scripture. A lower risk way to live out the reality of our membership with one another as the body of Christ is to meet in smaller groups. Consequently, at this point in time, provided proper precautions are taken, Bible studies, discipleship groups, evangelistic appointments, gospel communities, and the like can continue. Some groups may meet while others may not. This is an area of liberty we trust the leaders of each ministry to thoughtfully exercise prudence within.
More details are sure to come. For example, the staff will meet tomorrow to strategize possible online options that may make it easier for at-risk individuals to gather virtually. In the meantime, as Pastor Chuck encouraged yesterday in the worship gatherings, let’s give ourselves to turn continually from fear or indifference to preparedness and compassion.
If you are experiencing a financial, spiritual, emotional, or physical difficulty as a result of the coronavirus crisis, please reach out to an elder or staff member. We would be honored to help coordinate care from the wonderful members of Church on Mill for your needs.
(on behalf of the Elder Team)
, Accessed 16 Mar 2020. , Accessed 16 Mar 2020.  Grimke, Francis James. Some reflections, growing out of the recent epidemic of influenza that afflicted our city: a discourse delivered in the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., Sunday, November 3, 1918 (Washington, D.C.), 6.