July 27th, 2020
Officers of Waco Family Baptist Church
To the Members of WFBC
Dearly Loved Members and Friends of Waco Family Baptist Church,
We have found ourselves in a strange time this year. We continue to use that term, “Strange”, but there is just no other word for it. We may be tempted to despair, but we know that our God who is Sovereign over all things is also Omni-Benevolent. It is important for all of us to remember that no virus can harm God’s elect. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As we sing in the Hymn:
Whate'er my God ordains is right: here shall my stand be taken; though sorrow, need, or death be mine, yet am I not forsaken. My Father's care is round me there; he holds me that I shall not fall: and so to him I leave it all.
During the nationwide shutdown in April, the Officers (Elders and Deacons) met together and discussed the best plan of action. There were some discussions among pastors of other churches in our association as they also sought the proper path for their congregations. Some brought up the legal and constitutional rights that churches may have to meet in spite of ordinances to the contrary. It was at this time the proprietors of our rented space contacted us to let us know that they were shutting down due to the pandemic. They asked that we also cease to meet. The officers felt that the decision was clearly for the best interest of the congregation that we move to a livestream only format.
Though we all were disappointed at not being able to enjoy the same closeness to which we were accustom. Pastor Gill also was very clear at the beginning of this time that the Gathered Church was fundamentally different from a digital livestream, and our expectations should be different. The goal was to encourage us to long for the day when we would gather again face-to-face. And even more, we should long for the coming Sabbath Day in the eternal state.
We were glad to see a decline in Covid cases and the opening up of businesses, and we were so relieved to return to the church building to meet again. We sang together, we shared in the Lord’s Table, and we heard the Word of God preached as the Gathered Church listened. But there was still some cause for disappointment. Some of us felt that they could not join us in meeting for various reasons, so we were not complete. And if you will forgive a feable attempt at levity, we all know that the “Covid Communion” is not the same.
Then a few weeks later, we found ourselves with Covid cases on the rise in Texas, and even in McLennan County. The SDA church made the decision to once again cease meeting. Several churches in our Association were also not meeting. Our officers were not ready to make a decision based on another churches actions. But we were also concerned with the potential danger that may be brought to our congregants. Just a couple weeks ago we had at least 5 members who were awaiting CV19 test results. Some of these along with other church folks were sick and we were also concerned for their health and well-being. In addition, there were folks who had Covid contacts at work – co-workers who worked in close proximity tested positive for the virus.
It was with heavy hearts but a desire to demonstrate Christian Love for our Brother, and our Neighbor that we again suspended our in-Building meetings and returned to the Livestream only format. We felt with all the activity in the community and among the attenders of our congregation that this would be the best move for all of us.
Since that decision we have had 2 livestream Sundays as we continue to move forward preaching in the Book of Acts. We have also heard from some of our dear members about the distress and sometimes even despair that has been felt while we have not met these past 2 weeks. We love each and every one of you so we have met and decided to send this letter to express our care and also keep you informed of our mind and heart as we traverse these troubled waters.
We thought it might be beneficial for you to know some of the reasoning and thoughtfulness that has led us to this place. If we were to sum up all these things, we would say that we desire to Love Brother and Neighbor. We recognize that there is a significant portion of our church with some condition or health concern that makes them especially susceptible to the worst symptoms of Covid. Many have those underlying conditions which the medical experts warn about so strongly.
Additionally considered and playing a role in our thinking is the increase in Covid cases in Texas and especially in McLennan County. It is one thing to see infection and illness somewhere in our country, but quite another when they are in our community. And it is even more significant when our own members and families are threatened by exposure. And this week, the fact that we have 2 of our folks who have tested positive has increased our concerns. Even now, we would ask that you would remember to keep these 2 along with those in their household in your prayers.
Some have suggested that those who feel sick could simply stay home, but we know that there is a period of potential spread of the virus before symptoms are felt. And some who have the virus don’t feel symptoms at all or only minor symptoms.
We do not feel that these temporary measures are in any way sinful. While church attendance should not be neglected or forsaken, there are times when temporary absence is the right thing to do. We all do this on a smaller scale when we absence ourselves due to sickness in our family. Any of us would stay home and join a livestream in order to not spread our illness to others. In the same way, we hope that this temporary absence for all of us will prevent the spread of illness to our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
We know that there are risks that some have to take because of their jobs, to purchase necessary items, etc. We hope that you will all be practicing wisdom and care, loving your neighbors by washing your hands often, wearing a mask, and when possible utilizing contactless shopping and other such tools.
We recognize that some in our nation are using the circumstances of Covid as a tool to promote their political ideals or their some other agenda. While some are using the fact of the virus wrongly, we must recognize the reality of the illness and the real threat that it poses.
We also have read statements from famed religious figures in our day as well as writings from historical figures. While we have found some of these writings to be helpful, some more than others. We have found that some of these things are applicable to our circumstances and others not as much. There are those with whom we agree, and others with whom we might take exception. All this to say that we have taken these opinions as input, but we are not following any of them as a pattern that must be emulated or duplicated.
We the officers of WFBC have decided that we will meet weekly to assess and discuss the changes in the situation over the week, and weekly evaluate the possibility of returning to face-to-face meetings. We will be continuing in prayer for each of you and for the unity and health (both physical and spiritual) of our Church. We are laboring to maintain a measure of teaching, singing, prayer, and reading which will sustain us all during this time.
With Love and Service to the Body of Christ,
The Elders and Deacons of Waco Family Baptist Church