A Message to our Bethany Family:
Just about a week ago I addressed you regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. I said that we would not fear nor fret. That we would remain calm and compassionate! I also said that as faithful stewards of God, we’d keep our church doors open; yet as good citizens of the state we would heed and obey directives of our elected leaders and public health officials.
Last Sunday many of you stayed home and worshiped, maybe in your PJs, but in your living rooms or at your kitchen table. That enabled us to heed the directives of LB Mayor Garcia and Health Officer Davis in regard to social distancing space for gatherings under 200.
Last time I addressed you I also said we had no idea how things might change in the days and weeks to come. Well, after worship on Sunday we all heard President Trump declare the next 15 days as being critical AND giving guidance, calling on Americans not to assemble in groups of 10 or more. On Tuesday the Administration Health Officials made it clear that the President’s guidelines were not simply to be viewed as suggestions for consideration.
Thus, as good citizens of the state we have no choice but to close our sanctuary doors for the next two weeks and suspend on-campus worship. We will see what the next few weeks brings and together find out when we will be walking through those doors again for worship.
As faithful stewards of God we will, HOWEVER, enable the Bethany family to worship faithfully! Worship for the Fourth Sunday in Lent will be available on Bethany’s website by the afternoon of Saturday March 21st. (This will be a recording of the service…we will not be “livestreaming” the service.) Our website address is www.bethanylutheran.org We will be updating our website often with new information including Sunday Worship Resources, Lenten Devotionals, and our continuing response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Just click on worship, devotionals or update and you’ll get what you’re looking for.
If you struggle hearing this news, I am with you! I’m gonna share something with you that only my wife Connie knew before this: Last summer I had a gallbladder attack at 4:00 AM on a Sunday. I ended up missing worship. You know what? Before I agreed to go to the hospital I sat in our bed and cried like a baby for a few minutes…not because of the pain, which was substantial, but because it was the first time in close to 30 years of pastoral ministry that I missed church when I was scheduled to be “on.”
This coming Sunday will feel weird…it might even bring a tear to your eye when you can’t join the saints in person. The longer this new pattern lasts, the more it will hurt…the heart, not the gut. But this isn’t optional, this is NOT an Acts 5 moment – “We must obey God rather than man.” YES, God does command us to worship; number #3 on the list! However, He does not require that worship take place in sanctuaries and in public “no matter what”. This is a Romans 13 moment – “Submit to the governing authorities…established by God…they are God’s servant to do you good.”
As those who worship faithfully and as good citizens, we will worship in our homes the next few weeks (and again things might change the time frame.) Though we will be worshipping in our homes, we will be viewing our sanctuary, our ministers will be leading the service and though not assembled together on the corner of Clark and Arbor we will be worshipping with our fellow Bethany family spread across the greater Long Beach region; and each of our homes will host the same Guest, for the Lord, who blesses at Bethany, is with us!