Updated March 18th, 2020.
Beloved, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In accordance with the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America (issued on March 16), and following CDC recommendations and state restrictions for assemblies of more than 50 people, we will be cancelling our Lord’s Day worship services at least through April 5th. We will also be suspending our Community Group gatherings for this time as well.
This decision was not made reluctantly or resentfully, nor out of panic or doubt. In fact, we are happy to comply with our government’s regulations and to follow the directions of our state and local authorities. Out of a sincere love for God and neighbor, we ought to abide by public health guidelines and reduce exposure during this season. We all must do our part in helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (For a fascinating visual explanation of how to “flatten the curve,” see this helpful article.)
Yes, we will miss our weekly time of corporate worship and the fellowship of the saints—a means of grace which we so desperately need! But during this time of strange providence, may we long not only to gather once more as a local church, but all the more to gather together with the Church of Christ around the throne of the Lamb in glory forever. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
The Church “Scattered”
Until we gather for worship again as a local church, we will not be attempting to recreate our Lord’s Day worship services online. While being able to listen to worship music and watch sermons are among some of the many blessings technology provides for the saints, there is simply no substitute for the corporate worship of the gathered church and all the means of grace provided therein. We believe it would be healthier to respect God’s good and mysterious providence in this time when we cannot gather.
However, in the event that this situation becomes more long-term, we will be deciding on a new temporary arrangement for the life and worship of our church. In the meantime, we will continue to publish encouraging and informative articles on our church blog as well as occasional video updates on our church Facebook page. We encourage you to check out our recommended resources as well as our specific page for “Lockdown Resources.” There, you will find links to a variety of trusted ministries (such as free online learning through TGC Courses and family-friendly videos from BibleProject), including hundreds of hours of sermons and teachings, that will be of great benefit to you especially at this time.
Let us also not only devote ourselves to the Word, but also to prayer. The Apostle Paul’s instructions are helpful here:
I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Finally, if you are able to continue giving to the gospel ministry of ECC, you may do so online through Tithe.ly (or their mobile app) or by mail (addressed to 237 E Miller St, Elmira, NY 14904).
Christ, Our Sanctuary
Beloved, amidst this time of uncertainty and anxiety, be encouraged that Christ is King over all, that nothing takes our God off guard, that this pandemic will pass, and that God’s perfect plan of salvation through judgment will be accomplished.
During this season of not being able to gather as a local church, listen to the words of Charles Spurgeon from his classic devotional published in 1893:
“ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’”— Ezekiel 11:16
Banished from the public means of grace, we are not removed from the grace behind the means of grace. The Lord who places his people where they feel like exiles will himself be with them. He will be to them all that they could have had at home in the place of their sacred assemblies. Take this promise as your own if you are called to wander!
God is to his people a place of refuge. They find sanctuary with him from every adversary. He is their place of worship too. He is with them as he was with Jacob when he slept in the open field and woke, saying, “Surely the LORD is in this place” (Gen. 28:16). To them he will also be a sanctuary of peace, like the Most Holy Place, which was the noiseless abode of the Eternal. They will be kept from fear of evil.
God himself, in Christ Jesus, is the sanctuary of mercy. The ark of the covenant is the Lord Jesus, and Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna, the tables of the law are in Christ our sanctuary. In God we find the shrine of holiness and of communion. What more do we need?
Oh, Lord, fulfill this promise and always be to us like a little sanctuary!