A Letter from Pastor Kenny and the Elders About COVID-19
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
When Lee handed me the shepherd’s crook just a few weeks ago, I knew we were heading into a challenging season. At that time, I could not have foreseen what would lie ahead, but I did know one thing: God is going to work signs and wonders in this place. Though the challenges have changed, that belief has not. We are living through an incredible moment in history. The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has rapidly spread across the world and, with at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Lake County, the “trouble” has asserted its presence in our world. Though we do take heart in knowing that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33), we must face our present reality head-on, with all the faith, wisdom, and understanding God affords us. We do so with the expectation that He will do a marvelous work in and through us in the coming weeks.
As you may already know, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leaders in our government, and healthcare professionals are advising us to take decisive measures to stem the spread of this disease. Along with countless other churches across the nation and the world, we are choosing to comply. For the next three Sundays (3/15, 3/22, 3/29), VCL will not be gathering for corporate worship. We will also be closing the building and canceling all in-person committee meetings. At the end of this time, the elders will reassess the situation according to the most recent updates from the CDC. The attached document will spell out these things and their practical ramifications in more detail.
During this time, we will provide ways for you to worship together in your homes, including streamed and/or recorded sermons that we’ll make available via our website. While we want to encourage those in more vulnerable populations (older adults and those with chronic medical conditions) to keep their distance, we’re leaving it up to individual small groups to decide whether to gather. At your discretion, these times of home-worship can also be a great time to invite a neighbor in to share the peace that is ours in Christ. To be clear, we don’t want to cancel our corporate gatherings. But this is a sacrifice we believe God is calling our church to make for a time. As we do, we must recognize this as a season of compromise, not convenience. We don’t get to gather separately; we have to. The frictionless surface of a smartphone or a computer screen is no substitute for the sanctified friction of a firm handshake or a warm hug. Our prayer is to come back together as soon as possible, but we leave that to God’s timing.
I want you to know that the elders have not arrived at this decision out of a place of fear or anxiety. We are not afraid. We remain fully convinced that our God is on His throne. He is Lord over all—including coronavirus. We understand that there will be some who disagree with this decision. There are those who say the most faithful thing to do would be to gather anyway and trust God to keep us safe. I appreciate that position, but when Satan challenged Jesus to hurl himself from the top of the temple, He responded, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matt 4:5-7). We are called to live by faith and wisdom. By His grace, God has granted our world the knowledge we need to care well for these bodies He has created for Himself (1 Cor 6:13). By faith, we visit the doctor and keep our prescriptions filled. By the same faith, we take wise precautions to prevent contracting and transmitting this virus—especially in an environment where many of our brothers and sisters are among the most vulnerable.
Beyond concerns for our own safety, “social distancing” measures like the ones we’re taking are a profound demonstration of love for our neighbors in Lincolnshire, Lake Forest, and beyond. One of the most dangerous aspects of this crisis isn’t the disease itself but the incredible toll it will take on our healthcare system if individuals and organizations like ours don’t play our part in stemming its spread. The command to “love your neighbor” can often seem abstract. Today, it’s incredibly concrete: cover your mouth, wash your hands, clean your house, refrain from large group gatherings, and (for many) keep your distance. May we take these prudent measures, not as a sign of fear but a demonstration of our genuine love for others.
We pray we’ll be back together soon. When we finally do reunite, I anticipate it will be one of the most joyous services you or I have ever seen. Until then, I want to encourage you to persevere in caring for one another—especially for those who are the most vulnerable and will likely be confined to their homes for quite some time. Look out for your neighbors as well, whether they know Christ or not. As for the household of faith, we will all need to continue giving sacrificially to the Lord’s work in and through our church. This is not a time to draw back in fear on account of economic anxiety. The Lord will provide. He always has. He always will. Most importantly, we’ll need to pray to God that He would bring comfort, healing, and security to our world. Prayer is both our responsibility and our privilege as God’s people.
Brothers and sisters, remember to love one another. Wisdom will dictate whether we can visit one another in person or if phone calls will have to suffice. Regardless, I leave you with these words as a glimpse into the longing I and my fellow elders feel for you all right now, as well as our commitment to seeing that you are loved and cared for during this difficult season:
“But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.” (1 Thessalonians 2:17, NIV)
Please take the time to click here and read more about our plan for navigating this season at VCL.