As we announced last week, we are looking forward this Sunday to sharing what the Elders have been praying through for the last several months regarding our next steps for future Elders and leaders of Redeemer. However, prior to Sunday’s announcement we'd like to briefly address the latest regarding Covid.
It has been over 10 months since Coronavirus first impacted our lives here in NW Houston. Nearly a year later, we grieve the impact this virus has caused, including sickness, economic difficulty, and worst of all, loss of life. The initial response -- the closing of schools, businesses, churches, and more -- was something our community partnered to do as a means of stemming the tide of this unknown virus. Since then, as we have seen, there has been widespread disagreement regarding recommended safety measures such as social distancing, hand sanitizing, masks, etc. And, of course, we all hope the necessity of such measures comes to an end very soon!
COVID AND THE CHURCH
But here is the tragic reality of the disagreements: The response to covid safety measures, particularly masks, has led to relational discord and even destruction within schools, churches, and even families. To see such stark division within Christ's church is heartbreaking, It is our conviction that for our church family, this must not be so. As the Elders of Redeemer, we continue to pray that God’s Spirit would guide our body so that such divisions do not take root.
I know many are weary of masks (and discussions about masks). From the very beginning, the desires of the Elders in our approach to social distancing and masks, was to create an environment in our gatherings where the largest number of people could attend safely. Praise the Lord, because of the willingness of our body to take such measures, we've done well to avoid any outbreaks that would jeopardize anyone's health or prevent us from gathering.
THIS IS LOVE
Consider this portion from Sunday’s passage:
Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining -- 1 Peter 4:8-9
To love as Peter exhorts us means moving beyond what is comfortable (steps which he says might usually lead us to complain). Love will lead us to sacrificially lay down our life and rights as we invite others into our lives. The Lord calls us to no less. In the early church -- when there was a group of believers whose consciences wouldn't permit them to eat meat that had been used in pagan worship, the rest of the church didn't eat it - out of love. I'm sure many wanted to complain and some may have even refused. But as Paul exhorted the church to prioritize others, they willingly gave up their freedom (and a good steak) for their brothers and sisters.
When it comes to this issue, we have three priorities as your Shepherds:
- The safety & well-being of our church (Acts 20:28)
- The ability of the body to heed God's call on us to not forsake gathering (Heb. 10)
- The unity & Christ-likeness of our church (John 17)
Please forgive us where we have lacked clarity on the matter. We want to be sensitive to the variety of opinions and have sought to avoid leading with a heavy hand. However, to serve you better, we want to provide better guidance, particularly as case numbers are currently high. We are asking, as a church family, that we follow these guidelines:
Though wearing through the service is recommended, it is ok to remove your mask during the sermon if needed. Also, until it is no longer a concern, we will continue keeping the chairs spread further apart to maintain an adequate gap between you and those in front of and behind you. Let's also remind one another: This isn't forever. It's only for right now.
- Please wear masks upon entering, exiting, moving about the building, and while singing during the service.
- Please practice hand hygiene and social distancing, including leaving two seats between you and the parties next to you.
MARKED BY LOVE
Friends, let us "serve one another through love." (Gal. 5:13)
- For those vulnerable & unable to attend: Wwe love and miss you. How will you love & stay connected to those from whom you're currently separated?
- For those diligent to wear masks - we love you. How will you love & demonstrate patience toward those who don't share the same practice?
- For those who are opposed to masks - we love you. How will you love and sacrifice in order to prioritize the needs of your brothers and sisters?
At the end of all this - I pray the testimony of the church is not that we were right or wrong about masks, but that we loved one another in such a Christ-like way that our unity stands in contrast to the fractured world around us.
Church, we love you,
The Redeemer Elders