Greetings Heartland Family,
As a result of multiple conversations with healthcare professionals and the leadership of our church, and my best attempt to understand the coronavirus, I have decided to cancel Heartland’s corporate gatherings* through the month of March. This includes Sunday morning worship services, youth group activities, and Wednesday night’s AWANA program. At this time, the Heartland office (north location) will be open during the work-week; we warmly welcome your calls and questions in the coming days.
There are a few reasons I am taking this step. First of all, and most of all, I deeply love and care about the members of our community who are most vulnerable to COVID 19 – the elderly, those recovering from surgery or illness, and the immunocompromised. Our community has dozens of people who are so incredibly dear to us, and who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. My conscience as a pastor dictates that I do what I can to help protect these members. I realize that we can’t prevent the spread of this virus, but my hope is that this decision might help slow it down. I greatly enjoy our corporate times together, but I’m motivated by the idea that, by forgoing our gatherings for a brief season, we might protect the health, and perhaps the lives, of a few family members.
A second reason for taking this step is that, as I continue to hear how our universities, public schools, and organizers of professional, college, and high school sports are canceling public gatherings, I desire to stand with them in their strategies to protect our greater community. Some may perceive this decision as a missed opportunity to live by faith in our healing and protecting God, but I would strongly caution against such thoughts. This decision is not motivated by fear, but by my love for this community and desire to have our church join with others in seeking the welfare of our society. I greatly respect our medical professionals, school administrators, and our state’s political leaders. They are our friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and they want the same thing we do: to love and protect our community. Many are working tirelessly toward these ends, and I see this moment as a time to trust their conclusions.
Though we will not meet together in person over the next few weeks, we will not stop being the church – being the Heartland family. The church leadership will work hard to find ways to help our community join together to pray, study God’s Word, learn from one another, and walk by faith, courage, and hope in our awesome God. For starters, we will either live-stream the weekly sermon, or provide a pre-recorded video of the weekly message, at 10:30 through the Heartland YouTube channel. (To find this channel, search “Heartland EFC” on YouTube, or contact the office and we’ll help you find the website.) Also, you can keep up with the latest updates and information through our Heartland Facebook page and our website: www.heartlandefc.org.
These present circumstances may keep us from physically gathering together for a brief season, but they cannot keep us from worshipping Jesus together as the Body of Christ. Our church community greatly enjoys spending time together, so this will be a challenge. But, like every challenge we’ve faced together already, we will walk through it together with hope, joy, and an abiding anticipation of greater things yet to come.
Let me conclude this letter with the first question and answer from the Heidelberg Catechism:
- What is your only comfort in life and in death?
- That I am not my own,1but belong—body and soul, in life and in death2—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.3 He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.5 He also watches over me in such a way6 that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven;7 in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.8
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life9 and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.10
1 1 Cor. 6:19-20
2 Rom. 14:7-9
3 1 Cor. 3:23; Titus 2:14
4 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:2
5 John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:1-11
6 John 6:39-40; 10:27-30; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:5
7 Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18
8 Rom. 8:28
9 Rom. 8:15-16; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14
10 Rom. 8:1-17
Joy in Christ,
* Groups of less than ten people can meet together at the downtown location provided that:
- You call the office to schedule a room at the downtown (north) campus – the new church (south campus) will not be available for groups during this season
- No one present is sick or has any reason to think they have been exposed to COVID 19
- Shared surfaces are disinfected before and after the meeting
- Everyone washes their hands thoroughly (more than 20 seconds) upon arrival and upon returning to their home
- No outside food or drink is brought into the facility
- As much distance as possible is maintained between members of different households and their belongings