David’s Church re-opened on a limited basis on May 24. Following is a letter detailing the decision by the church Elders to open. If you wish to attend services, YOU MUST call the church office at 717-692-4831.
TO: Davids Community Bible Church
FROM: Pastor Allan
RE: Limited Opening of the Church on May 24
The Elders of David’s Community Bible Church have decided to partially open the church for Sunday services on May 24. Much discussion and prayer went into this decision. We realize this is a difficult and scary time for many and we do not make this decision lightly. We also realize that many of our members may not agree with us and that is OK. Ultimately, we will all answer to God for the choices we make. We ask no one to go against their conscience (Romans 14). Below is the rationale for our decision and the procedures we will follow:
We are not defying Governor Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order.
March 31, Governor Wolf issued a stay-at-home order for all of Pennsylvania. It outlined what businesses and entities were essential and could stay open with certain restrictions and which ones had to close temporarily. Please see Pennlive article for list:
Religious institutions were classified as exempt (see last line of article). Because churches are exempt, the pastoral staff of David’s was allowed to continue to work full time at the church. Please note, there is no further explanation on whether this applies to Sunday morning worship service. The Elders of David’s believed it was prudent to cancel all services and move them online for the safety and health of our people. All Pennsylvania churches are still under the exemption order given March 31. It appears Governor Wolf has deliberately left churches in this “gray” area of exemption. I believe this puts the church gathering in the same category as essential services such as supermarkets, etc. As you know, Walmart can have many more people than 25 people in the store as long as they follow the guidelines.
Governor Wolf and Secretary of Health Levine met with the Pennsylvania Family Council for a conference call May 7 to answer many questions about churches meeting. In the meeting, the Governor recommended churches remain closed until the stay-at-home order is lifted but he did not require it or order it. To quote Governor Wolf, “They [churches] can have services. Most religious organizations have done everything they can to keep their congregations safe…. We can say, ‘this is what we would like you to do’ [but] religious organizations can do what they would like to do.”
Also Dr. Levine was asked if churches can be treated as essential businesses, Levine replied that churches could consider acting like essential businesses, it would entail “a lot of cleaning,” “consider occupancy of 50% of the size of building” and “taping off chairs to spread people out.”
Pennsylvania Family Council concluded that: “…church can continue full throttle if we wanted to, the Governor’s office has appealed to our good common sense… If we are waiting for the Governor to give us the full green light, that is the church’s choice to wait, but we don’t need to wait.” Please refer to Family Research Council guidelines for reopening: http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF20D30.pdf
David’s Church will open partially and be limited to a certain amount of people.
We will be clear that the church will be limited in the amount of people that can come safely and remain six feet apart at all times. We will be clear that the elderly, the sick, or anyone with compromised health in anyway will not be “allowed” to attend. We will be clear on the guidelines that must be followed if anyone does attend. Everyone who would like to attend will be required to sign up in advance by calling the church office at 717-692-4831.
Guidelines for opening the church
- We will limit the service to around 100 people who will sign up beforehand with the office (717-692-4831). The sign up will be on first-come, first-serve basis until we are full. We will consider moving to two services if we have an overwhelming response. We will continue the live feed and encourage people to stay home.
- We will sit every other pew, opposite sides to social distance (this limits our usable pews to 28). Ushers will seat people and dismiss people to avoid any contact. (Possibly the balcony may be open for additional seating).
- We will not be allowed to gather in foyer, fellowshipping will be discouraged, and no one will be allowed to linger in hallways.
- We will have NO nursery, Sunday school, junior church, passing offering plates, or bulletins.
- We will prop open all doors to avoid any contact.
- All pews will be wiped down with disinfectant wipes before and after the service.
- Masks and hand sanitizer will be available (Please, no masks on children two years old or younger as per CDC guidelines).
- Signs will be posted outlining these guidelines (and given in advance).
Biblical support for our decision
We are a Bible church and we want to obey the Bible as best we can. There are several Biblical truths that are relevant in this time of crisis. It is our desire to obey the best that we can. However, this is a complicated situation and the Elders realize we may not all agree, and that is OK. Some of the verses we need to consider are as follows:
- We want to obey and honor the authority God has placed over us.
Romans 13:1-7, 2 Peter 2:13-17, Acts 5:29, Luke 20:25
- We want to love each other well! This means we are not putting each other in harm’s way.
Matthew 22:37-40, John 13:34, 1 John 3:18
- We do not want to be driven by fear but by trust in God.
2 Timothy 1:7, Romans 8:15, Philippians 4:6-7
- We are commanded to gather together as a church, and this is essential to our spiritual growth. The church is not a building; it is God’s people gathered together in His name.
Hebrews 10:24-25, Colossians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 14:26, Acts 2:42-47
- We realize not all of us will agree on this decision, and that is OK.
This is not a black and white decision. As Elders, we have to rely on the Lord and lead the church even in areas that are not as clear as we would like. These issues (like when to open during a crisis) can be called “gray” areas. What I mean by gray areas is that there is no clear truth on what exactly to do. God has given us minds to think, freedom to choose, and Holy Spirit led consciences that will guide us in times like these. In the early church, one gray area they struggled with was over the issue of what to eat. The church did not all agree. Paul wrote an entire chapter in Romans (chapter 14) on this issue and it is instructive on how to handle any gray area we face as Christians. Here are some truths he outlines:
- We are not to judge other Christians who do not agree with us in gray areas.
- We will all give an account for our actions to God (leaders of church will give an account on how they lead the church, parents will give an account how they led their families).
- We need to have love and empathy and understanding for those who may disagree with us.
- We need to make every effort for peace even when the church disagrees.
I encourage you to read and study these passages above for your own edification. I also encourage you to contact me, or one of the Elders, if you have any questions or concerns. My email is email@example.com. Or call the office and leave a message. Please continue to tune into Facebook for Sunday service and Wednesday night Bible study.
Thank you and may God continue to bless you and bless David’s Church.