Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Since I wrote to you a week ago, the World Health Organization has now classified COVID-19 as a pandemic. San Francisco’s confirmed cases have increased from two to eighteen (as of 5pm Mar 12th). Our neighboring county of San Mateo has twenty cases. The continuing spread of COVID-19 has caused our various governmental authorities to update their guidelines. We have considered the guidance from the CDC, the State of California, the City and County of San Francisco, and San Mateo County. Across the board, they are recommending the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more, social distancing of 6’ in smaller gatherings, and limiting gatherings for vulnerable populations to essential meetings of 10 or less. We do not make these decisions lightly, understanding how important the church gatherings are to our congregation. At the same time, we want to be good citizens that cooperate with our community in minimizing the spread of a disease that poses a serious health risk to the vulnerable.
Therefore, the elders have decided that beginning immediately, we will …
Suspend all public ministries of this church. This includes all fellowship groups, bible studies, prayer meetings, sunday school classes, children’s ministries, etc.
Hold Sunday services online. Beginning this Sunday (March 15), our worship services, both English and Cantonese, will be held online only via livestream. We are asking that you worship at home online with us at www.sfbible.org/stream. Our Cantonese service will be at 9:30am, and our English service will be at 11:10am.
These measures will be observed through the month of March, with a reevaluation at the end of the month.
Move meetings online. In the upcoming weeks, as we see how the disease develops, some ministry leaders may choose to have their meetings online. Archie has sent out instructions as to how to do this.
If you have any questions or need help, please feel free to contact me or any of the elders. As mentioned in my previous email, if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, please email the elders so that the body of Christ can care for one another. If you are quarantined and don’t have appropriate home supplies, we can help run errands, provide meals, etc. Also, if you wish to volunteer to help with the member care ministry mentioned above, you can signup at this link: https://forms.gle/y9QGzeNGFr8bVhBR7. One more vital thing that you can do is to pray for one another and the church. You might even pick up that cellphone and actually call someone to see how they’re doing. =)
I want to leave you with some encouraging words from Pastor Roger. He had written an email earlier today to the student ministries staff, and I believe his words will help us think rightly and trust the Lord.
While we understand that our students are not in the risk demographic, I believe, like many of you, that choosing not to meet in person is a way for us to act wisely, serve our community, and love our neighbors by abiding the government’s request that we minimize exposure with others (Rom 13:1). This is especially significant for us to consider since our students may have parents or grandparents at home who are among those who are more at risk. Not only that, but we also must consider how ministry to our own families may look like during this time.
If our students, their family members, or both are afraid, we want them to know that it is absolutely ok for them to cease attending in-person meetings at church during this time. The government is not calling us to cease meeting out of a desire to persecute us. They are asking us to reduce contact with others so that we do not knowingly or unknowingly pass the virus onto others. This is therefore not a violation of Hebrews 10:25, but acting in a manner consistent with Romans 15:1 to bear the weaknesses of those without strength. We have a wonderful opportunity to help others see that we must repent of sinful anxiety and worry and trust in the Lord. When cabin fever sets in and our students are struggling with responding well to family, we have an opportunity to point them to the Gospel and Philippians 2 so that they learn how to die to self and consider their families as more important than themselves. If any of them have unsaved family, we pray that this would be an opportunity for their excellent behavior (or at least quickness to repent and ask for forgiveness) to be a gospel testimony as long as they are together.
With that said, let me provide you with some hope. Psalm 46 reminds us that our God is our refuge and strength in times of trouble. Because our God is with us, we will not fear. We will not lose hope. We will not allow the histeria to cause us to lose our minds over what is happening in our world. Instead, we will seek to remind ourselves and those who fall under our ministries that our Lord is near. That He cares. That He calls us to cast all our anxieties upon Him because He cares for us (1 Pet 5:7). We know that we have the peace of Jesus because He won at the cross. No matter what happens, our hope is secure in the fact that Christ is coming again to bring us home and make all things right. These are the truths that are available to us to comfort our hearts in times of trouble. Let us remind ourselves and others of these truths when we may be tempted to fear.
Praying that the Lord would be glorified in His church as we love God and our neighbors, and look to God in the face of this momentary, light affliction. “For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor 4:18
on behalf of the elders