UPDATE: APRIL 8th
As of April 4th, Governor Tom Wolf has updated the Commonwealth-wide Stay At Home Order under "Additional Guidance" for religious institutions to include the following:
"Religious leaders are encouraged to find alternatives to in-person gatherings and to avoid endangering their congregants. Individuals should not gather in religious buildings or homes for services or celebrations until the stay at home order is lifted." (taken from pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/)
In addition to this updated guidance, there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Jefferson County. These two developments have led to the leadership of BBC calling for the cancellation of public gatherings in the church building until the end of the Stay At Home Order (currently set to expire April 30th).
Members of the BBC family are encouraged to continue to be in touch with each other as much as possible through phone calls, texts and other remote means , Any in-person meeting must observe the CDC's social-distancing guidelines. Members are encouraged, if possible, to download remote meeting software (see link below) that we will use for Bible study and prayer together until the order is lifted.
In all of this, we continue to look to our sovereign God in repentance for our sin that has caused Him to "close our doors" lest we offer vain fire on His altar (Malachi 1:10), and we plead with Him to grant repentance to us and our nation so that He would "hear from Heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).
See here for remote meeting software:
“If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14, AV)
Across our Commonwealth and our nation, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to present new and unprecedented challenges. As a body of believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, Bethel Baptist Church exists to glorify God as a family of believers proclaiming the Christ of the Bible as the only salvation for a fallen world. We believe that this calamity has come from the hand of God, and only He is in control of where it spreads, how far it extends, and how many lives are impacted. We believe that all of this is from His hand, and He will perfectly work all of His purposes for His glory and the eternal good of all those who call on Him for salvation.
As of today (Friday, March 20th), the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has ordered the closure of all “non life-sustaining businesses” effective at 8pm on Thursday, March 19th. Under the guidelines issued with that order, “religious organizations” are considered “life-sustaining” and therefore exempt from the mandatory closure. (PDF at this link). In earlier directives, Governor Wolf has urged religious leaders to “exercise discretion in order to mitigate the spread of illness” (https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-puts-statewide-covid-19-mitigation-efforts-in-effect-stresses-need-for-every-pennsylvanian-to-take-action-to-stop-the-spread/).
In accordance with Paul’s instructions in Romans 13:4, we acknowledge that civil authorities are “God’s servants for our good”, and are to be obeyed whenever their commands fall under their proper sphere of influence. Protecting the public from imminent danger is part of the mandate that God has given the civil magistrate, and so we acknowledge the God-given right of Governor Wolf to order the shutdown of public worship services if he believes it to be necessary. As of this date, such an order has not been given, but if the day comes when we are ordered to close our doors to public worship as part of statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts, we will comply. In this specific case, complying with the civil magistrate is obedience to God.
In light of the current situation as outlined above, and in a good-faith effort to “exercise discretion in order to mitigate the spread of illness”, these are the steps that the leadership of Bethel Baptist Church are undertaking:
- All activities that take place at Bethel Baptist Church during the week are suspended. This includes Ladies’ Bible Study, Ladies’ Fellowship, Disciple’s Path Bible Study, Men’s Prayer Breakfast and Youth Group.
- All regularly scheduled meetings of BBC leadership (Elders’ meetings, Deacons’ and Deaconess’ meetings, Christian Education meetings) are suspended as well.
- All Sunday School classes on Sunday mornings are suspended.
- The 11:00am Worship Service will continue as usual, unless or until a direct order to cancel public worship services is received from the Governor, or active and confirmed COVID-19 cases are reported in Jefferson County.
As we gather for worship on Sunday mornings, we ask that worshippers observe the commonly-practiced methods for “mitigating the spread of illness”:
- If you are sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms (cough, fever), or if you have been exposed to someone with those symptoms, please stay at home.
- If you are in a high-risk category for illness (underlying health condition, respiratory issues, compromised immune system), please stay home.
- If you are not able to attend, you may access the weekly sermon audio at https://bbcsykesville.org. (In the event of an order to suspend public worship, the weekly sermon files will continue to be uploaded every week.)
- Please refrain from shaking hands or making physical contact, and maintain a minimum of 6 feet of distance between each other.
- If you have hand sanitizer at home, feel free to bring it with you and use it freely.
- We will place offering plates at the back of the sanctuary for collection of tithes and offerings, and will not pass them hand-to-hand as part of the Worship Service.
- Observance of the Lord’s Supper will be suspended for April 5th, with the May 3rd observance to be evaluated as that date approaches.
- As much as possible, please limit your time in the building to the main sanctuary. The bathrooms are available for use, but please avoid using the church basement, kitchen, classrooms or upstairs youth room (this gives us less to sanitize every week). The nursery is available for use, but we have limited the number of toys available (again, to facilitate easy sanitizing of the room during the week.)
In all of this we do not want to live in a spirit of fear, but to be carefully mindful of protecting our most vulnerable members from the risk of illness. We are observing these measures to demonstrate a good-faith effort to “mitigate the spread of illness” as urged by the Governor of the Commonwealth. Whether we worship together in our sanctuary or separately in our homes, our aim is to lift up the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ--the Sovereign King of the nations of this world, our only hope for deliverance from the uncertainty and fear in this world, and our only hope for everlasting life and glory in the world to come.
March 20th, 2020 A.D.