Dear Evergreen Family,
We are living in a very unique but important moment.
The situation around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is constantly unfolding in the Los Angeles area, and the Evergreen staff have been monitoring and considering all the information that is coming out. Thursday afternoon I was on a conference call with the Department of Public Health along with other leaders from faith-based organizations in the Southland. They reiterated to us that the city is in need of significant disruption to the spread of the coronavirus, otherwise we put many more people at risk.
The world is on edge and we have seen how fear can lead to frenzy (and a shortage of toilet paper). Our faith gives us more than enough reason for courage – for we worship One who created life and conquered death. Moreover, we are part of God’s people – or as we like to say at Evergreen – His family, that was born from the blood poured out on the cross. And it is the character and legacy of our people, to love in the face of sickness and death.
Los Angeles is asking us for help. They need us to participate in a county-wide postponement of religious gatherings in the LA area in order to change the course of this pandemic. Of course, this comes at the most sacred and meaningful time in the Church’s calendar – the season of Lent. Yet as we consider how this sacrifice disrupts the plans we have made; I am struck by how it can help so many.
This virus does not discriminate who it infects, but it is especially severe to our aging, pregnant women, and those with heart, lung, and immune conditions. As a 95-year-old, multi-generational congregation, our church has many who would fall into these categories. However, I see this as more than just a way to protect the people that are within our church family, but to extend this care to those within our cities and communities as well. To use the language of our vision, this is our chance to love those in both home and neighborhood.
It is for these reasons that the staff and I have decided to suspend all ministry gatherings effective immediately. We want to do our part in stopping the transmission of this virus and protect those populations within our church and city who are most vulnerable to its effects. Our services will be modified and broadcast online through social media at 10am each week, and we encourage you to continue gathering “virtually” through technology as much as possible.
Please know that we are not going into hiding! Your Evergreen staff will continue to find creative ways to connect all of us during this exceptional season and continue providing online content for your Lenten journey. Our office will be open during the week to provide care and support for all of you, whether you need help listening to our online services, prayer for your health, or just a phone call to know you’re not alone.
It’s also important to remember that the world has not suddenly become a scary, isolating place, but that these social distancing and hygienic precautions are here to stop the spread of this infectious disease. As we get more information, we will post updates on our website, through social media, and through email.
I am reminded of this blessing from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
May the peace of God dwell richly in your homes and neighborhoods in these next weeks.
See you online!