Update #2 – March 17, 2020

Emmaus Fam,

Based on the latest recommendations from the CDC (3/16/20) that no more than ten people gather in one place, at one time, the elders have also decided to suspend House Church gatherings until further notice. We continue to ask everyone to heed to the latest recommendations from the CDC out of love for our most vulnerable neighbors. We’re working hard to adjust to rapidly changing realities. In light of the most recent developments we are planning the following:

  1.  We plan to begin recording/streaming a worship service each Sunday morning during this season when we are unable to gather. The online services will take the same shape as our regular Sunday morning services (liturgy, music, preaching), but shorter in length. We’re still working out details on the platform we’ll use this week, and we will communicate information as soon as we make a decision. We ask for your patience as we begin, we’ll be learning on the fly and hopefully improving our capabilities week to week. We plan to begin this Sunday at 10 am. Be on the lookout for specific details.
  2.  We are planning to have Rebecca record weekly godly play lessons for those of us who have children to watch and discuss together in our homes. We hope to begin these godly play recordings in the next 2 weeks.
  3.  I plan to stream/record a weekly midday prayer time on Wednesdays during lunch from 12-12:15 pm. We plan to start this in the next two weeks.
  4.  We are creating a rotating call list that will be divided up between the elders, deacons, and House Church leaders to reach out to one another regarding needs/prayer requests during this season.
  5.  We are planning to increase meeting CarePortal needs during this time. We believe based on current recommendations from the CDC, nothing would prevent us from delivering needed goods to children in crisis. We believe this can be done with appropriate social distancing while also getting these children what they need. We’ll provide more specific guidance for those delivering these items. If you’d like to be made aware of CarePortal requests our church is seeking to respond to, and you haven’t signed up yet CLICK HERE to join the Emmaus Church CarePortal Response Team.

Lastly, I want to remind you of something I shared with you from our last gathering. Jesus is the door of the sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Those realities have context, they have a place and a time. That context is the desert. When food, water, and provision are scarce and when predators that threaten our lives are lurking in the darkness, that is the very reality into which Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep… If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:7,9,11 ESV) May the good shepherd lead us, provide and protect us, and save us during these days in the wilderness.

Your Pastor,

Joel

 


 

Update #1 – March 13, 2020

Dear Emmaus Church Fam,

I am writing to you to inform you about some decisions the elders have agreed are wise in order for Emmaus Church to begin to respond faithfully to the spread of the COVID-19/Novel Coronavirus. Many have wondered, myself included, what is so serious about this particular disease? The reality is the new Coronavirus is at least ten times more fatal than influenza. Additionally, it is highly contagious and with high numbers of new coronavirus infection cases requiring hospitalization occurring in the middle of flu season, there is a rising potential that our healthcare system could be overwhelmed without immediate action. This is what is currently happening in Italy.

Before I mention specifics about our response I want to lay out some of the values that are informing our response. First and foremost we want to confess our hope is in the Lord. We sing this often because in times like this it’s the most important thing to remind ourselves:

We lift up our eyes to the hills. From where does our help come? Our help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1–2 ESV)

We want to hear the voice of the Lord saying to us “Do not be afraid.” We want to affirm God’s presence with us even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we want to look for the table being prepared for us in the presence of our enemies. Enemies like the new Coronavirus. Remembering and affirming our hope in this way in no way minimizes or disregards the current and future suffering as a result of this virus. Instead, our confession is that this present suffering is not the ultimate reality. The goodness and love of God manifested in Jesus Christ, through his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension reminds us that “because of the resurrection the worst thing is never the last thing.” (Fredrick Beuchner) In Christ, we have good reasons to hope rather than live in fear.

We also want to affirm the value of the Jesus people, the church, especially during a time of such anxiety, fear, and suffering. The church has a mandate in the midst of evil and darkness to be ambassadors of sacrificial love, service, generosity, blessing, and healing. Whatever measures we take, we can’t stop being the church. We’re people with a mandate from Jesus to be a city on a hill, to be a light in the darkness. We are called to love our neighbor. Especially our vulnerable neighbor.

Lastly, we want to affirm the voices and expertise of medical, scientific, and government leaders. We want to heed their advice as the virus progresses. You can keep track of national, state, and local recommendations here: (The Centers for Disease ControlTexas Department of State Health ServicesNueces Co. Public Health District). As I write this, there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nueces Co. However, our understanding is that is likely to change in the near future. It is also our understanding that as a nation we are moving away from policies primarily directed at containment (stoppage of the infection) to policies directed toward mitigation (slowing the infection). The first and most obvious mitigation practice is ceasing large gatherings of people during an outbreak. Doing so dramatically slows the spread of the virus reducing the burden on our hospitals and healthcare workers so those most affected receive the best possible care. Therefore, we have decided to make the following changes:

1. We are suspending our Sunday Gatherings until further notice

2. We are suspending all non-essential gatherings (Young Adult, Youth, Elementary, Bed Build, If Table, etc.)

3. For the time being, we are going to continue to meet as House Churches. However, we are strongly encouraging the following mitigation steps even in these smaller groups:

  • We are asking House Churches to suspend the meal as well as communion.
  • We are asking those who participate in House Churches during this season to practice the following:
    • Hand-washing, using soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, upon arrival and upon returning home
    • Social distancing, no contact greetings (no handshakes, no hugs, etc.). Maintain a minimum distance of 3 ft. from one another.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow. If you use a tissue dispose of it immediately and wash your hands.
    • Anyone who is symptomatic (fever, cough, body aches) or who has a family member who is symptomatic should not attend and should not return until they/family member has been without a fever for at least 48 hours.
    • Based on recommendations from the CDC, those who are 60+ in age, immunocompromised (receiving chemo-therapy, pregnant, etc.), or who have underlying conditions (High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Cancer, etc.) should avoid non-essential contact with others during this time. If you fall into one of those categories we want to encourage you not to come to House Church during this time. We also want to include you however we can and also serve you by doing what we can to help you avoid exposure. (Ex. Can we add your grocery order to our list and bring your groceries to you, helping you avoid having to go to the grocery store?)
    • In lieu of our Sunday morning gathering, House Churches are free to meet on Sunday morning if they so desire.
    • If you are not connected to a House Church but would like to connect with one during this time, please let us know. (info@emmauschurch.net)

I can say confidently these decisions are coming from a posture of seeking to put others first rather than anxiety, fear, or panic. These steps, if followed, will certainly save lives because they have proven to curtail transmission rate. Therefore, these are significant, tangible ways we can love our fellow Emmaus family members and our neighbors in the city through the coming days. As I send this, I pray that the Lord bless and keep you. May He cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Your Pastor,

Joel