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Personal from Ministerial and Member Services: March 19, 2020

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Personal from Ministerial and Member Services

March 19, 2020

Lack of Faith or Acts of Love?

We are now living in unprecedented times. In the nearly 65 years I have lived here on this earth, nothing like this COVID-19 virus situation has occurred. It is somewhat surprising to me that, for the most part, the majority of people around the globe seem to be cooperating with many governmental directives on the federal, state, and local levels.

Clearly, these are not normal times. Many have questioned whether it is a lack of faith to comply with the many common-sense instructions on how to abate the spread of the virus so that it will be manageable by the various health care systems around the world.

Personally, I believe it is a willing sacrifice and an act of love to comply with these well-intentioned directives. Undoubtedly, these measures are causing a great deal of angst on the part of many who have been affected financially, laid-off, or, perhaps, even terminated from employment.

It takes real faith to be obedient to the governing authorities at times like this, trusting that God will see us through any trial or hardship as we strive to practice real Christian love for one another.

It is a sacrifice to distance ourselves from one another, because most people thrive on human contact, on touch, and on personal, close communication.

The Bible is clear that there are times when it is prudent and best for human beings to quarantine themselves, lest they spread disease. Now is such a time according to those who are most aware of how disease spreads. So much is still unknown in regard to the COVID-19 virus. Exactly how does it spread? How deadly is it? We don’t have definitive answers to these fundamental questions at this point. We do know that there is no vaccine anyone can choose to take at this point, even if we were inclined to do so.

Thankfully, God has built into the human body the ability to build up specific immunities against viruses and diseases such as COVID-19, but those specific immunities are not now present. Younger, stronger people are less likely to succumb to this disease, but even some relatively young, supposedly strong people have died—at least according to some sources. In addition, we know that older people and people with compromised immune systems and other health ailments are much more likely to die from this disease. What we do know about this disease has been frightening enough to health care officials to suggest, even implore, that we take these unprecedented measures. Moreover, governmental officials around the world are doing so.

It is only proper that we go above and beyond the call of duty to protect our fellowman from the spread of this dreaded disease. This has nothing to do with fear of the virus. If I get the virus, I will be anointed and will trust that God will see me through the trial, as I believe His promise to never leave or forsake me. If He allowed me to die from it, that is His will and I look forward to the resurrection to eternal life that awaits me as a true believer in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.

I have been a part of the Church of God since age 19 and my entire life has been based on faith in God and His promises. I suspect this trial will pass and life will go on for the vast majority of us. Nevertheless, I want to do my part now to yield to God and approach this in ways that would be pleasing to Him.

I believe we should love our fellow man and be willing to follow instructions and directives that are designed to protect us humanly—as long as they do not conflict with God’s law.

I do not see complying with these directives as an affront to God, but as a test to see just how willing we are to sacrifice in order to show love to one another. Isn’t that what the Passover season is all about?

We will all continue to observe the Sabbath, the Passover, the Night to Be Much Observed, and the annual Holy Days throughout this crisis. We will continue to worship God on a daily basis. We will continue to be faithful to God the Father and to Jesus Christ, our Savior. But, we may need to sacrifice personal contact with one another for a time.

I sent a letter to our ministry earlier this week advising them to send anointed cloths rather than anoint in person to minimize the spread of COVID-19 to you, brethren, and to our ministers. It is an act of love for both the ministry and the brethren to refrain from personal contact for a time. Our practice has been to send anointed cloths when it wasn’t feasible to anoint in person. Now is such a time. Here is one of the paragraphs from my letter:

“Of course, we all realize that our faith is in God to whom we pray for intervention and healing. We follow the instructions in James 5:14 James 5:14Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
American King James Version×
in faith, whether we anoint in person or with a cloth. God is our healer. It is not a lack of faith to choose to anoint with a cloth under the circumstances. And it is not a lack of faith on the member’s part to request a cloth as opposed to a personal anointing. In fact, anointing with a cloth is using wisdom and being prudent so as to eliminate any possible risk of infection for the member being anointed and for the minister.”

When we who have to make these hard decisions under God’s direction and guidance are confident of God’s will, we will go back to worshiping and fellowshipping up close and personal as we have in the past. As we deal with this “present distress,” we are faithful that “this too shall pass.” May that day come speedily!

Staying in Touch with One Another

I have been very pleased with the responses I have been getting from our ministry during these difficult times. They are truly dedicated to serving God and all of you in ways that, I believe, are pleasing to God. Please be patient as they strive to implement new webcasts, in some cases, and strive to communicate with you more effectively. Please reach out to one another, more than ever, and show your love and care by expressing it by phone and in other appropriate ways to all your local brethren. Please help your pastor to be made aware of any needs within the congregation for yourself and others. We want to help supply any needs while taking reasonable measures to keep from spreading the virus. If you do need to have personal contact to serve the needs of others, please take proper precautions such as checking your temperature and having the other person(s) check their temperature beforehand.

Summer Camps

We hope to be able to continue with our planned teen and preteen summer camps. If things continue as they are now, that will not be possible. However, we plan to wait as long as practical before canceling any of our camps. Perhaps things will really ease up in a month. If not, we will do our best to cancel in a timely way.

Some of our camp facilities may take the decision away from us sooner than we are ready to do so. We will keep you informed as things develop.

Upcoming Dates and Plans

We will be posting links to all coronavirus updates at ucg.org/members/news/united-church-of-god-coronavirus-updates so be sure to check this page regularly for the most up-to-date information.

• March 21, Sabbath: Webcast from the home office at 2:30 p.m. EDT (we would like all members to tune in this Sabbath, if possible).
• March 28 and following Sabbaths: Webcast from the home office at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Local pastors will originate their own webcasts for their congregations (where technology allows), preferably at a time that does not conflict with the home office webcast for members wanting to connect to multiple services.
• April 7, Passover: Service at sunset, observed at home. Local pastors will originate their own webcasts (where technology allows). Members can either connect to a local webcast, watch the video on the Members website, or follow written instructions. The Cincinnati congregation will webcast a Passover service at 8:15 p.m. EDT, but for those living west of Cincinnati, the service may not be appropriate due to the timing of sunset.
• April 8, Night to Be Much Observed: Home gatherings.
• April 9, First Day of Unleavened Bread: One service webcast from the home office, at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Some local pastors will originate their own webcast (where technology allows).
• April 15, Last Day of Unleavened Bread: Two services webcast from the home office, at 9:30 a.m. EDT and 2:30 p.m. EDT. Some local pastors will originate their own webcast for either one or two services (where technology allows).

I have not yet heard of any of our members worldwide who have contracted the COVID-19 virus. Some few have been exposed due to working in the medical field. They have been tested and are awaiting results of the test to see if they are free of the virus. I invite you to read the report posted separately from pastor Carmelo Anastasi in Italy, where they have had one of the worst problems with the virus thus far.