March 16, 2020
LATEST UPDATE ON COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
Dear Church of the Open Door Family and Friends,
I prayed the Lord’s Prayer with you in mind today. Just like I said in my sermon yesterday, I’m praying that God’s kingdom may come and that His will may be done in your life, today! I’m praying that you will “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (our memory verse for the week.) That’s not all I prayed for you, but some of it J.
In keeping with my recent pastoral letters/emails, we are “submitting to the civil authorities” (Romans 13:1ff) and seeking to “love our neighbor” by doing “no harm” to them (13:10) and complying with the updated requests of our governmental leaders to help slow down the spread of the Coronavirus. Nationwide guidelines announced today, March 16, call for people to NOT meet in groups of 10 or more. Therefore, we are cancelling all events and meetings at our campuses for the next 2 weeks. This includes all Wednesday programming, Care Ministries on campus (GriefShare, DivorceCare, Celebrate Recovery, She-Brews, etc.), as well as special events like Compassion Experience, Daddy Daughter Dance, etc.
Furthermore, we are encouraging LifeGroups to also take a break and not meet for the next couple of weeks. Again, this is to slow down the spread of the virus which passes unseen from person to person as you touch common, everyday items like door handles, chairs, utensils, and other surfaces that may have been infected.
I know for many of you, these are important ministry, fellowship and encouragement times. I’m sorry we need to cancel these activities, but I encourage you to take advantage of keeping in touch with each other in other ways, through phone calls, social media, facetime, etc. Make sure you are in the Word every day, maximizing that path of spiritual growth. You can access the churchwide devotions on our website, our app or have them emailed to you every day. (Sign up here.)
Yep, I’m still washing my hands quoting Scripture (see my previous pastoral letter/email). Today it’s been our memory verse for the week from Ephesians 6:10-11 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” I encourage you to do the same. If you need to bring your phone or notecard with the verse along and put it next to the sink to help you, you can quote it twice in 20 seconds. Washing your hands and your heart. And that verse is a great verse to meditate on and let affect your attitude and heart and mind during these crazy days.
Join us each Sunday at our online services. We had a ton of people worship with us online yesterday, I hope you were able to join us. We will be doing an online service again this coming Sunday at 9 and 11. Some noticed online that there were a few people in the seats in the Auditorium and wondered how they were allowed in. They were staff members, so about 25 of them were sitting in the chairs. It sure was weird preaching to 25 people in a room that big!
Speaking of our staff, they are implementing ways of ministering to you and helping you minister to others and will be seeking to try to contact you to pray for you and encourage you over the next couple of weeks. We’re a big church, so please be patient as we work through all the names of those who have given us contact information.
Together, we will love with the grace God gives. Reach out to those who are in your LifeGroup, those who you regularly serve alongside as ministers of faith and encouragement. Remember, everyone is a minister, and our staff is here to equip you to minister well in these trying days.
Many of you have already been asking “how can we help meet BOTH the needs of our church family and also the community?” I LOVE your heart! Yes! We have already been meeting with the City of Elyria and Lorain and Second Harvest coming around their efforts and helping them to fill gaps during this time. Many of those have to do with food for kids and seniors, delivering to seniors who are staying at home, and child care for some families. Many more specifics at each campus will be coming as the entire community determines the short and long time impacts of these changes.
We’ve setup a few simple ways for you to plug in just by texting us:
- To join the Coronavirus Volunteer Team, text CARE to 440-462-4622 or click the link:
https://churchteams.com/m/Register.asp?a=dlVHMGZNWHhBU009. As volunteer opportunities come up, like serving families through Second Harvest, the city, or other programs at the church, we’ll reach out and get you plugged in with more details.
- If you would like specific prayer, text PRAYERto 440-462-4622 or click the link: https://churchteams.com/m/Register.asp?a=a3RwRTg4N3RnREU9
If you are staying at home during this time because you are considered High Risk for Coronavirus and would like someone from the church to stay in contact with you frequently to talk with, pray with you, or see how we can serve you, then you can text ATHOME to 440-462-4622 or click the link: https://churchteams.com/m/Register.asp?a=c0wyeDRSdGxNVTg9
Finally, let’s remember our Father in heaven is sovereign and we can turn to Him and surrender any anxiety or discouragement we have to Him. He is close to those who are struggling and He will help us navigate these days. He is working in the midst of the mess we humans make of things. Let’s surrender our hearts, our lives and our days to His loving, trustworthy leadership!
With great love,
March 13, 2020
Dear Church of the Open Door Family and Friends,
By now, I am sure many of you have heard Governor Mike Dewine’s comments this afternoon limiting gatherings of people to under 100 individuals. He was certain to say that this does not mandate religious gatherings and churches in order to respect First Amendment rights, but it was recommended.
For many years I have used a helpful little question to guide my words and actions: “what does it look like to love well in this situation?” I’ve used that question as a spouse, as a parent, as a pastor, as a friend, as a boss, as a citizen, as a neighbor, and today I find myself asking that question again, especially as a neighbor and citizen. Scripture gives me the answer: Romans 13:10 and 15:1 sum it up well: “Love does no harm to a neighbor” and “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” (NASB)
I believe the best application of those Scriptures in this current situation includes giving each other space in order to help limit the potential transfer of the virus.
This is not acting out of fear, it is acting out of love. For example, if I come into contact with someone who has the virus, I may unwittingly and accidentally then pass it on to someone else. I may be strong and healthy and it may have zero effect on me, but I pass it on to someone else who is not as strong or has a compromised immune system, and its effect on them becomes life-threatening. So, it is clear that the most loving thing to do for the time being is to reduce contact. Again, the issue is not that I might get sick, but that I might be a carrier that gets others sick. This is what it means to “relate with other-centered love,” one of our Core CHRISTlike Characteristics: I put the needs of “others” ahead of my own.
So out of this desire to love well those who are attending our church and follow the intent of the order “to create space” and limit spread of the virus, we will be closing our physical campuses for worship services and all Sunday meetings and asking you to join us remotely on our internet campus (HERE) through March 30, in line with Gov. DeWine’s request. We will be evaluating on a week to week basis if or how the conditions and mandates change and will keep you up to date on how we are responding.
To clearly state, Church of the Open Door is currently not aware of any cases of COVID-19 in any way associated with a church attender, staff member or otherwise connected organization.
While this affects our Sunday services and programming for the next few weeks, the church is by no means stopping ministry. Rest assured that during this time, we will continue to minister, pray, and serve you and the community. We know there are many who are experiencing times of uncertainty, fear, and physical need and we will be continuing to address those needs in these coming weeks. Our staff will be responding to and meeting the needs we can on a daily basis and we want to encourage you to be attentive to your neighbors for ministry opportunities during this time as well.
We will be opening our physical campuses periodically during the week to meet in small groups or individually for prayer and ministry. We will be still maintaining Wednesday Night Programming, though other special activities and events may be postponed, and will be communicating accordingly. LifeGroups will generally continue meeting at the discretion of the Group Leaders. As always, we ask you to use good judgment and common sense if you are feeling unwell to limit your interaction with others and not join those programs.
This is a unique time in many of our lives and in our history and perhaps some of you may find yourself with more time on your hands than usual. Use it to spend time outside in nature, enjoying God’s creation, to spend time with your family, to read a book, or to read and meditate on some Scripture. Like this one from Ephesians 5:
15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT)
Make a covenant to not consume the garbage on social and digital media (which is a good idea anyway) that features all the wild fear mongering and conspiracy theories and instead, limit your time on social media and only use it to encourage, to build each other up and to maintain healthy relationships.
Ask God “how would you want me to make the most of every opportunity” in THESE days”? When I wash my hands (which I am doing much more these days), I am quoting Scripture, using that time to work on my memory and meditation verses. For example, it takes me exactly 20 seconds to quote our memory verse for this week and our meditation verse for today, quoting the words and the reference (Mark 10:45 and 12:30). I am doing it today when I wash my hands. It’s perfect! Or maybe you just quote the memory verse (and its reference) twice while washing your hands. Takes about 20 seconds. Hands washed by soap, heart washed by the Word.
It just so happens that I had planned on preaching on prayer this Sunday, something we all need. I hope you are able to join us online at our service at 9:00 (which we will replay at 11:00).
We will communicate any updates as necessary. If you know of anyone who does not have a computer or access to email, please communicate to them the changes to our worship services for the coming weeks and that we will be having online services only. If you feel comfortable, invite those close to you to watch on Sundays together. Here’s the link to the live service you can copy and share with others: http://www.opendoor.tv/live
May each of us make the most of this opportunity, for the glory of God.
With great love,
MARCH 12, 2020
Church of the Open Door Friends and Family,
Like us, we know that many of you have been closely tracking the news of the coronavirus (COVID-19) both locally and globally. As you’re likely aware, there are now confirmed cases in Ohio, in Cuyahoga and Stark County. We know that with this virus there has been a particularly large amount of uncertainty worldwide, and that uncertainty can easily, and has easily, caused fear and anxiety in many. This is both normal and natural and there are a few ways for each of us to defend against that fear driving us.
- The first, is through centering on the Lord. Scripture tells us numerous times to have a spirit of love and to “fear not” in times of uncertainty and doubt.
- Secondly, we defend through educating ourselves more and from learning from reliable sources such as healthcare professionals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local officials, rather than social media, rumor, media and movie influence, and supposition. We hope to help with that here in this email.
- And thirdly, we defend by taking practical care and preventative steps as we would with any communicable disease such as the flu or common cold.
We have a staff team that is monitoring updates from the CDC and is partnering with local officials and medical professionals to formulate a preparedness plan. This plan will change and adjust based on the updates we receive, but as of March 11, 2020, here are the precautions we are taking to increase health measures and mitigate the spread of germs.
Diseases like this are primarily spread through close contact. Social distancing of 3-6’ is the medical community’s recommendation as viruses such as this persist only a short time on surfaces. Avoid touching your face to prevent transfer of the virus as simply having it on your skin does not cause infection.
We have taken this time to review our general best practices in our Custodial and Children’s Ministry departments to ensure not only that we have the best practices in place, but also that we are administering those practices well. After our review, we are happy to say that not only do our practices currently exceed all of the recommendations for providing a healthy environment in the light of the current concerns, but we actually have been doing so all along! Our restroom, kitchen, counter tops, table tops, door handles and other public and common spaces are cleaned regularly with proper disinfecting cleaners. Thank you to our Children’s Ministry and Custodial teams!
We are taking some additional steps as precaution as well. Throughout our campuses are conveniently located containers of hand sanitizer that meet the minimum 60% ethyl alcohol content recommended by the CDC. Not only are these in place for you, but also for our numerous volunteers, guest services, coffee bar and snack bar servers. All of our preparers are asked to wash hands upon arrival, followed by using sanitizer, and then periodically throughout the day. Because of this, you will not see the majority of our volunteers wearing gloves.
If you are sick, and this is a general suggestion for any flu-like illness, we ask that you consider staying home and joining our online service (details below). Rest is a key in getting better anyway!
With COVID-19, there is a known higher impact on our older members and those with already impaired immune or respiratory conditions. If you are concerned, please consider staying home and joining us online. If you need help connecting to our online service, please contact us prior to Sunday and we will help! 440-323-4644
Baptism is a sacred part of our faith journey, and we will continue to hold Baptism at our campuses. We have made the necessary investments to improve the water quality of our baptismal pool system to make it a safer experience.
Online giving is convenient and easy for all, you may decide that now is the time to try it: Online Giving. For the coming Sundays, we will be receiving the offering, but will be receiving that at the door at the end of service, rather than passing the bucket during the service..
We will not pass Communion trays when we observe this on the first Sunday of the month. We will provide pre-packed, individually wrapped Communion elements.
To minimize your need to touch door handles, our volunteer teams will hold exterior doors open to greet you.
When we have a time of greeting during services, we recommend you greet each other with smiles instead of handshakes.
If you find yourself feeling sick, we encourage you to join us digitally on our Internet Campus at opendoor.tv/live We stream live at 9:00 & 11:00 a.m. on Sundays.
We encourage you to take some time to understand proper prevention measures to avoid spreading the virus by reading through the CDC recommendations here.
Here are some of the basic measures listed on the CDC website:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
Psalm 56:3 says “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” We are so thankful for his presence that is with us all of the time. You may find yourself using your time differently over the days ahead. Use this time to practice the presence of God and spend time seeking the Lord. The following article is a small example of the way Christians in the past have loved people during times of crisis. https://www.str.org/blog/the-witness-of-christian-compassion#.XmlCfxNKi2x
We are thankful to be serving the Lord with you.
We will provide necessary updates to you via email, social media, and post them on opendoor.tv. I ask that you continue praying for our world and community, specifically for those who are directly impacted by this virus.
With great love,