Dear Berachah Family,

I, along with your other pastors, love this church and love our Lord’s Day gatherings. We are relentless in our commitment to faithfully gather every Sunday to worship together, grow together, and then be sent out on mission together. As shepherds, we are also called to protect the sheep. Those two commitments are typically aligned and rarely come into tension except when there are weather concerns. But the ever-changing situation around the Coronavirus has presented a new challenge in this regard.

It’s in this spirit, that I (on behalf of the elders) am writing this email. After seeking God’s wisdom, investing in understanding the issues presently facing us with the COVID-19 pandemic, counseling together and with other ministry leaders, listening to the advice of health experts and recommendations from government leaders on mitigating the impact of this new virus, we have been led to make the difficult decision to cancel our Sunday gathering this weekend. The command to love God and love our neighbors means that we have to love our neighbors enough to do everything in our power to diminish the spread of this virus and protect them.

Because there is just about nothing more important for Christians than gathering together each Lord’s Day, we will work diligently to prepare and adjust so that we can resume our gatherings as soon as possible (hopefully the following Sunday). No doubt, this will mean changes to protocol which we will share with you as the situation develops and plans come together.

We are also temporarily suspending other official church gatherings for the time being out of an abundance of caution (ladies’ Bible study, carry-in dinner, The Well Wednesday, etc.). It will be important for believers to gather together in smaller settings during this time. We are working on new guidelines for our Berachah small groups and also recommendations for informal gatherings in homes for fellowship and encouragement.

I know that some of you will applaud this decision while others of you may disagree strongly with it. After all, there’s so much we don’t yet know. It is possible this may not turn out to be all that widespread (we’re all praying for this outcome). However, as shepherds of the BBC family, we are called to protect the sheep and especially the most vulnerable. And right now, the best advice from those who are far more knowledgeable about medical science than we are, is that if not managed well, public gatherings could significantly increase the spread of this virus. Because the situation has been changing so rapidly, we need to pause and prepare to manage our public gatherings well.

It is certainly true that some people are being driven by unhealthy fear and the desire for self-protection. Let me assure you that this is not the case with this decision. We wholeheartedly believe that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). What is motivating us is not fear, but love of neighbor. We are people of hope and do not need to be afraid right now. Christ is present with us! We have a wonderful opportunity to live out the hope we have in Christ through courageous, self-sacrificing love.

While these are significant changes for us, they do not mean less ministry. We will continue caring for one another in the days and weeks to come — especially those who may need to remain homebound (the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, the sick, etc.). If you are remaining at home during this period, please contact our deacon chairman, Jeff Miller, by email ( millerj1029@gmail.com) or telephone (404-456-3660) to let him know of your plans. We want to stay in touch with you. And we are prepared to help anyone in our church family who needs it.

We encourage you to pray for one another, stay in touch with one another, help one another, and encourage one another. Also look for ways to love others in the wider community. You no doubt have neighbors who will be homebound and who lack the loving support and network that comes with a church family. Reach out to them and make yourself available to help them with groceries, transportation, house help, etc. With schools closed, some families may need help watching children or with lunches. Some are frightened or sick and you can listen to them, love them, and speak to them of the hope we have in Christ. Be alert to opportunities all around you.

We know there is no shortage of information out there — some of it is helpful and balanced, much of it is not. Generally, the truth is likely between the extremes you’re hearing. Here are a few links to resources that should be helpful to you in tracking this situation and understanding what’s behind these decisions:

World Health Organization — Global Resource

We encourage you to gather as a family this Lord’s Day for worship together. Here is our recommended plan for that time:
  • Simply read (or listen to) the rest of the Joseph story from Genesis — all of it or portions of Gen. 39-50.
  • Pray for our church family, for those in our community and around the world affected by this virus, and for those helping care for the sick and mitigate its spread. Pray for our missionaries who are impacted by this as well. Pray for your neighbors, co-workers, and classmates.
  • Sing praise songs and hymns together. If you need help, there are YouTube song videos you can use.
  • You can continue to give in worship of the Lord here.

May the Lord give us the wisdom we desperately need! And may we not just endure these days, but see wonderful growth in our lives and church family as we choose to trust God. Let’s do it together, brothers and sisters!

Trusting God Together,

Pastor Justin