United Church of God

COVID-19: Pastors Letter to Local Brethren March 17, 2020

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COVID-19: Pastors Letter to Local Brethren March 17, 2020

My Dear Brethren,

The events of the past week are unprecedented in this modern era of the Church of God, and thus coordinating with our home office has been challenging.  However, our Administration and Council of Elders has been meeting regularly to be able to give us guidance and direction, and as of a few hours ago, I can now share with you our plan for going forward.

As you all know, with the increasing concern of the impact of COVID-19, many states are closing schools and restricting gathering in groups to small numbers.   Yesterday US president Trump banned gathering in groups larger than 10, and highly recommended the closing of all restaurants and bars.  Minnesota Governor Walz also announced the temporary closure of all restaurants, bars, and other places of public amusement. More than likely, every state in the union will do the same.  This is not an act of fear, but of wisdom and prudence, and God’s Church should lead in such matters.

God’s people are not to be a people of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), but we should respect the instructions of the governing authorities (1 Peter 2:17, Romans 13:7).  God has promised to protect His people (Exodus 15:26, Deuteronomy 7:15) and while we trust in His promises, it is also our responsibility to practice love by minimizing our exposure and potentially exposing others until this pestilence runs its course.

For this reason, UCG president Kubik announced last week the suspension of Sabbath services worldwide for March 14th & 21st.  Yesterday afternoon the United Church of God (UCG), Council of Elders (COE) and various Administration officers and employees met via WebEx to discuss the impact of these temporary measures on the upcoming Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, General Conference of Elders meeting, and of course, weekly Sabbath services. We also received today a letter from UCG’s Director of MMS, Mark Welch summarizing their guidance.

The following decisions have been made about these upcoming days:

Gathering on the Sabbath for congregational services are canceled until further notice.  With the governmental banning of group meetings, UCG congregations will do their best to comply with this directive.  The Council of Elders decided that Home Office would continue webcasting a Sabbath service each week, but pastors could also make use of similar technology to connect with the local brethren. If you prefer to watch the webcast from Cincinnati, the link is https://www.ucg.org/webcast. 

Locally we will be testing the use of “YouTube Live” from my home.  If all goes well, we will continue using this service for all Sabbaths until this threat subsides, including the Sabbaths of March 28th, April 4th, 11th, & 18th, as well as for the Passover on April 7th and the First and Last Days of Unleavened Bread on April 9th and 15th respectively.  We may be ready to test our ability to do this with a Bible study on a night next week.  I will announce this when we are ready.

Unfortunately the Passover service will not be as a group this year, but we will all have to take Passover in our homes, or if circumstances or health prevent that, second Passover will be available on May 7th.  We will do our best to provide a live feed from my home for the service, but if this does not work for you, I have attached the printed version which explains how to keep the Passover in your home.  Please call me, one of the elders or any of the deacons if you have any questions about conducting the Passover on your own. I have attached UCG instructional papers on the Passover and in keeping it in our homes.

Members should gather in their homes to keep the Night to be Much Observed and should not gather in groups larger than ten.  Also, members over 65 should be careful in accepting invitations as they are more susceptible to this virus.  I have also attached a UCG doctrinal paper on keeping this special night. 

The first and last Days of Unleavened Bread will also not be observed in combined groups.  We will prepare to YouTube live services locally and members may also opt to tune into the Home Office webcast as well (see the above links for local and Home Office webcasts). 

We are being encouraged to send in our Holy Day offerings via electronic donation on the UCG homepage ( http://donate.ucg.org/General-Donation1st-Tithe_p_8.html ), or you can mail in your offering directly (United Church of God, P.O. Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254-9795. Place your offering in the offering envelope provided to you, place that envelope in a security envelope and mail that in).

The General Conference of Elders will not be held in person this year.  This conference is held each May for the corporate business of the church.  Instead, it will be an abbreviated version taking care of only the required business and will be done via webcast to all UCG elders. Please pray that this conference goes well.

I will be in touch vie email with updates and I am still available for anointing should anyone need it.  I can also mail an anointed cloth if need be.  Feel free to call or email me if I can be of any help. 

Also, please remember to contact any member not on email to share this information with them, and continue to pray for each other during these trying times.

As the song says, “God Will See Us Through,” brethren.  This may be our biggest test yet of just how much we rely on and reflect God’s love and wisdom.  Though this virus is currently restricting our fellowship with one another, let’s stay in touch as best we can, and encourage one another to faithfully endure until the time when we can be together again.

In God’s love,

Brian Shaw