Coronavirus Update

This page will remain updated with the latest announcements about COVID-19 and Covenant Life Church. As this is a fluid situation, please check back in regularly for the latest updates.

April 1, 2:00 p.m. Update

Beloved,

You are missed. I have missed being with you the past three Sundays and the prospect of, at least, another month of being physically separated deeply saddens me. There is a genuine ache for the distinctiveness that marks our life together as a church. The deep joy of sitting under God’s word together, singing congregationally, sharing conversations in the lobby, the laughter (and the cries, too) that fill CLK’s hallway, the shared grace in observing the Lord’s Supper together, sitting under God’s word together, praying together after the service, and enjoying one another’s company are just a few of the sights and sounds of our life that I treasure and miss tremendously. I am thankful for modern technology that helps us stay somewhat connected for now, yet I long for the day when we can gather and be with one another again. 

There is scarcely a page in the Bible that does not deal with the trials and troubles of life, from the mundane to the catastrophic. Yet, over them all, the “Lord our God the Almighty reigns” (Rev. 19:6). He “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11); not merely some things or most things or easy things – all things. This means he is always at work and that nothing can thwart his purposes (Job. 42:2), including COVID-19. God’s sovereignty over suffering sustains the soul, even amidst death, because his purposes are wise (Isa. 28:29) and good (Ps. 73:1). The Scriptures are a living testimony to this wisdom and goodness of God amidst trial and trouble and are, therefore, meant to infuse our lives with endurance, encouragement, and hope in Christ (Rom. 15:4). So, I hope this update finds you tethered to God through His Word.

LATEST UPDATES

  1. Bob Walker is beginning an online Bible study through the book of Galatians, using the Free from Bondage God’s Way study guide. You must commit to the full five weeks of studying through this book and doing the 15-20 minutes of daily homework to participate in this study. The initial meeting will be this Friday, April 3, from 8:00-8:45 a.m. Email Bob if you are interested in receiving the invite for this study.
  2. This Sunday, April 5, we will continue exclusively live-streaming our service through our website and on Facebook (in the place of in-person gathering). We will begin the live stream at 10:05 a.m. so that you are prepared for the 10:15 a.m. start. By way of reminder, we need to view our live stream in this season as a temporary concession, rather than a creation of ongoing convenience. We genuinely praise God for the capabilities we have and the access this gives to our church family and others while we are seeking to “flatten the curve” of the spread of COVID-19, but this live stream option is not part of our plans for ongoing ministry. 
  3. This Sunday, April 5, we will conduct our April Members Meeting/Corporate Prayer meeting online from 4:30-5:45 p.m. We will be voting on Corporate Directors (as explained in Charlie’s 3/27 email), voting to receive new members and to remove members who have joined other local churches. We will then spend our time together in prayer. This prayer meeting will be exclusive to CLC members.
  4. In light of the recent extension of the government’s request to continue to adhere to the CDC’s social distancing restrictions until the end of April, we will offer a pre-recorded Good Friday service on Good Friday (April 10) from 7:00-8:00 p.m. You will have the ability to watch this service anytime thereafter. We encourage you to carve out an hour before Easter Sunday to reflect on the necessity of the cross and the love of God seen in the atoning work of Jesus. We will also be live streaming our Easter Sunday (April 12) service 10:15 a.m. Both of these services would be great opportunities to invite non-Christians to watch with you. We are making links to share with friends, neighbors, and coworkers who may be interested in tuning in.

ENCOURAGEMENTS TO REDEEM THE TIME

  1. Let’s keep looking to God. When God’s people failed to remember God, it left them vulnerable to trust in worthless idols (Hosea 4.6). How forgetful we are! Nothing is more important than pursuing God through ordinary means of grace every day. How much better it is to be informed of God’s word to us than it is to be glued to the news! It is the sure and steady anchor for our souls in these days. Let’s trust Him for the promises He has made and not hold Him to any that He hasn’t. 
  2. Let’s keep looking to who we are in Christ – the church! Paul is clear in Ephesians 4 of the work of the church to build itself up in love. Our mission doesn’t stop during this pandemic. While we may not be able to gather right now, we can still speak the truth in love to one another. We can “comfort the discouraged, help the weak;” we can “rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in everything.” (1 Thes. 5.14, 16-18). 
    • If there was ever a time to start praying through the church directory, it is now. 
    • Keep meeting with one another virtually. Don’t neglect CG meetings or other opportunities to connect with other members.
    • Reach out to those who are less able to get out, or circle back around with those you were initially concerned about when this outbreak hit. Be aware of (1) the needs of working parents who are now homeschooling, (2) single members working from home, now cut off from social connections, and (3) more vulnerable members who may feel singled out and excluded. Social distancing means we keep a safe distance from one another. but it doesn’t mean we neglect to engage, serve, and love one another. 
    • Rediscover the lost art of writing notes and letters. Continue to make phone calls daily or make use of video capabilities to see one another. 
  3. Let’s make the best use of our live-streamed services. I realize that for some, the live stream option doesn’t remove distractions and regular interruptions. A few thoughts to help make this time profitable.
    • Pray. Spend time on Saturday evening or Sunday morning in the word and prayer in hopes of preparing your heart to be changed by the word preached, songs sung, and prayers prayed. Pray for other members and nonChristians you know are watching online. Pray for a sense of unity even while we are spread throughout Tampa Bay.
    • Prepare. Tune in early to work through any technical issues – decide in advance how to best participate (which device to use, the best place to display it for all to see), have your Bible close at hand, print the children’s sermon guides for the kids, and listen to any songs you do not know throughout the weekend (you can find our order of worship on our Facebook page). Look to invite others to watch with you and if you do, then be intentional to follow up with questions about the sermon and application to their life. 
    • Participate. Look to remove distractions as best you can – dishes will need to be washed, laundry folded, bills paid, cleaning will need to happen. You will get emails, texts, and other notifications during the service. Commit to those you are watching with that you will set apart this time for God and one another. When we stand, stand. When we sing, sing. When we recite together, recite the Scriptures aloud. This is a live stream, not a recording, so while you watch, you are not alone even if you are alone in your living room. Envision dozens upon dozens of CLC households, united in spirit, worshiping throughout Tampa Bay.

I’m praying we would be salt and light throughout Tampa Bay (Matt 5.13-16). The Lord is at hand, so we need not be anxious (Phil 4.5-6). This will pass, and then the next trial will come. In the hands of our good God, every trial tests the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold, so that it might result in “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). He is faithful; he will do it (1 Thes. 5:24).

By Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 25, 12:00 p.m. Update

Faith family,

I hope you are well and trusting in our Lord Jesus today, even amid continuing uncertainty about what tomorrow holds. As the elders continue to meet, pray, and plan, we do so with a growing sense of gratitude for your help and understanding in these times. The encouragement that we have received around our efforts to care for each member has been wind in our sails. The willingness to walk together through these times, in a posture that seeks to identify evidence of God’s grace as opposed to grumbling and complaining about the way things have to be, has been a particular joy and help to us. We are hopeful that the Holy Spirit will continue to empower us to live our lives in wise, careful, and loving ways towards others. At the same time, we are asking that He will grow us in our ability to rest in the hands of our sovereign Lord, Who is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. Beloved, He is to be trusted, for He is generous and trustworthy! May our confidence in that and our love for Him be on the rise during these days.

At a glance

Because of the rapidly evolving nature of the information that is made available to us daily, we have chosen not to make decisions about our gatherings more than a week in advance. This, we trust, will allow us to stay as current as possible with the latest information as it is made available. With that being said, here are a few announcements.

1. This Sunday, March 29, we will continue exclusively live streaming our service (in the place of in-person gathering). We regret that we will not be able to meet in-person this Sunday. We are further saddened that our church will not have the opportunity to partake in the Lord’s Supper together. We encourage you to reflect on the wonder of this meal and its benefit to our faith and our church. We praise God for the improvements that were made to the quality of the audio & visual (thank you Charlie, Brent Crosswhite, Frankie, Hunter Hughes, and others who helped). As we did last week, we will begin our live-stream at 10:05 a.m. to help you get set-up on time. Please pray for continued fruitfulness from this series in James.

2. The women’s “Being and Making Disciples” workshop has been postponed. Be on the lookout for the rescheduled date to be announced in the coming days.

3. Our April Members’ Meeting and Corporate Prayer will happen online on April 5, at 4:30 p.m. We currently need to vote on a few items, and we desire to share a few pastor’s comments. Aside from that, we are looking forward to another extended time of prayer together. We hope to offer a church-wide, online prayer meeting every other Sunday. We are planning on varying our times from meeting to meeting (4:30-5:30 p.m. and 7:00-8:00 p.m.). We will send the link out next week.

4. Good Friday and Easter services. In light of the necessary precautions that are in place (and even currently unfolding) due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are carefully finalizing our plans for hosting these services and will communicate them next week. Please pray for wisdom for the elders and staff as we seek to prepare accordingly.

A few reminders

In our last correspondence, we stated a few considerations for how to walk out love for God and neighbor in these days. Let’s remember a few of them:

1. Needs will continue to arise over the days, weeks, and months ahead, and we are asking that you please let us know how you are adversely affected by COVID-19. If you will reply here with basic information about your need, we will do our best to come alongside you and be helpful.

2. Let’s continue to creatively connect with other church members. We are asking every member to reach out to at least one person every few days with a phone call or note of encouragement. Please prioritize phone calls and video capabilities to connect. Utilize the church directory as a prayer guide.

3. Take time to read through the CLC Membership Covenant and prayerfully consider how you can continue to walk faithfully in those commitments before God and unto one another. Continue to consider how others in differing life stages are being affected by this, and with empathy move towards one another.

4. COVID-19 does not stop the church’s mission! Let’s continue to be diligent to ask for prayer requests, faithful to pray, and keen to follow up in subsequent days. As you are walking your neighborhood streets, pray. As you see people, look to engage them in conversation. Look for opportunities to serve the more vulnerable people in your community. We are praying about how we can creatively reach out to those in our city during these days.

5. Spend time with the Lord during this time through the study and meditation on His word and in prayer. His nearness is our good. Oh, that we would taste and see that He is good. We have also curated some resources that we think would be helpful to you during this time. You can check them out on our website.

As always, if there are any questions or concerns, please reach out to any of us. We love you and it is a joy to serve as your pastors.

by Christ’s wounds & for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 18, 10:30 a.m. Update

Beloved church family,

I pray that you were able to join us on the live-stream of our service this past Sunday. I recently heard Greg Gilbert, pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church, say that one of the ways he believes God can, and will, use this pandemic is to stir afresh within each of us great joy and desire to gather together as a church family. Gilbert continued, “There are a lot of Christians across the world for whom watching a service on a television screen isn’t strange or sad at all. It is strange and it is sad for us; it is not normal for us…Because however many weeks we are in this situation, we want you longing to come back to this place, longing to feel the rumble of a few hundred people singing with the walls reverberating with that sound. We want you longing to see and embrace your brothers and sisters as we hear God’s word, read God’s word, and worship God together.” 

I agree with Gilbert here. As thankful as I was that we were able to make live-stream accommodations, and as hopeful as I am that we can continue, this past Sunday was a far cry from the soul-stirring, heart-warming gathering rhythms of our church family. In all that has been and will be lost due to this virus, may the longing to gather together only intensify. To be clear, while it certainly wasn’t ideal, it was a joy seeing so many of you participating with us in singing, praying, and sitting under God’s word. Thank you for being with one another as best we could.

What is to come?

As new information continues to unfold and government officials seek to further prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are faced yet again with difficult decisions as it relates to our church life together. For the reasons we stated in our last email, we believe that it is best to cancel the following activities.

  1. Our Sunday gathering this week, as well as all other Sunday activities. We are making plans to live-stream our service with some improvements to enhance the audio and visual quality. We will begin our live-stream a bit sooner hoping to help those who experience technical difficulties or need a bit more time to get set up. If James 1:1-4 was timely, we believe that this week’s text (1:5-8) is equally needed as we seek the wisdom that we don’t have to navigate days that are unfamiliar to us.
  2. The remainder of CLI and Foundations for this semester. We are thankful for those who have prepared and taught us as well as for those who have made it a priority to attend. 
  3. Our special Members’ Meeting scheduled for Sunday, March 22 concerning the church building process, particularly the topic of debt, has been postponed to a later date. 
  4. Our student ministry gatherings.
  5. The family camp-out this weekend. 
  6. Finally, I am disheartened to announce that we are postponing our 10-year celebration of God’s faithfulness and grace to CLC (April 24-26). Be on the lookout for future plans to celebrate God’s kindness to us as a church family. Help us pass the word that this has been postponed.

How then shall we live?

As we have stated in previous correspondence, these unique days provide us with unique opportunities in displaying our love for God, love for one another, and love for neighbor. Here are a few reminders to consider.

  1. If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, please adhere to the recommended protocols and inform the elders.
  2. If you are in need of help, we want to know what your needs are. Please email us with basic information about your need. We are putting together a response team that will seek to help us practically meet needs for one another. A few areas of need that come to mind: yard work, housework, errands, doctor appointments, grocery pick up and delivery, financial assistance, job loss, childcare help, etc.
  3. If you have the margin to help others, please reply here and detail your availability. While we know that every member would be willing to help, we are looking for those who have greater than normal availability or unique skills to help others.
  4. As we consider how to move towards one-another (with social-distancing in mind), we want to ensure that every member feels the freedom to voice their preferences as it pertains to giving or receiving help. For example, if you have a newborn and have been receiving meals from others, but are now uncomfortable with someone bringing over food, please feel the freedom to make that known. If you are being asked by others how they can help you, and you would prefer to not receive help that may compromise health measures you’ve established, feel free to communicate that. Let’s not merely think about how we would like to help, but let’s consider the one receiving the help and hold their preferences in higher regard than our own.
  5. Creatively think of ways to connect with other church members. Utilize the church directory as a prayer guide and make it a point to reach out to one person every 1-2 days with a note of encouragement, a phone call, and/or a prayer. Prioritize phone calls and video capabilities to connect with one another. Texts are easy but there is something much more personal and life-giving in a voice to voice or face to face interaction, even if over a technological medium. We are thinking through online options for hosting CG meetings and corporate prayer times in the weeks ahead.
  6. Families, leverage this time to make memories together. Work to ensure that your speech is along the lines of Ephesians 4:29 so as to protect the worldview of children in your homes. It would be easy to complain during these days, so teach children that when days are difficult it is acceptable to grumble and complain. May our children watch their parents bring their requests to God and hear of the opportunities this time affords, not the inconveniences. Pray together, do projects that have others in mind, and enjoy one another’s presence. Families, remember our single brothers and sisters, as well as those who are older, who are being affected in different ways that you are. Look for ways to connect and check-in with those who could easily feel alone during these times.
  7. Two encouragements regarding our temporary suspension of Sunday morning gatherings…
    1. Parents, but dads in-particular — set the tone for family worship. Set up the live-stream of the service on a big screen or in another prominent way. Sing loudly, take notes, bring some excitement, and start planning early. May Sundays continue to be memorable for us and our children. 
    2. Continue to faithfully give. Not only will this help the ministries of CLC move forward in the days ahead, but it will continue to keep your heart from becoming close-fisted to that which God has entrusted to you. Giving faithfully will help serve our hearts to not trust in the wrong things during these days. There are multiple options to consider to help you give easily. If you have questions about how to give during this time, contact Bob Walker.
  8. Single brothers and sisters, leverage this time to draw near to God and creatively to others. Remember the elderly and families who’ve been uniquely affected by these precautions, and extend grace if their check-ins are not as frequent as you had hoped for. Look for ways to bless them with your prayers, encouragements, and your efforts to reach out to them.
  9. Let’s not only look within but also think about your spheres of influence and identify those who may be overlooked or in need during these days. Opportunities are all around us as we seek to do good to our neighbors and those particularly affected by this situation. There are church members who are willing and ready to be deployed to come alongside you in your attempts to love neighbors, coworkers, and family members. In our interactions with others, let’s be quick to ask for prayer requests, faithful to pray, and diligent to follow up in subsequent days. We trust there are ample opportunities to speak of Jesus in these days. May we prayerfully look to make the most of them.
  10. Don’t neglect to let Jesus dazzle you day by day. Prioritize time with God in and through His word. I’ve heard several people say, “I have more time now to slow down and do things that I haven’t had the margin to do lately,” May we not waste the opportunities to draw nearer to our God. This will be the lifeline for every other encouragement in this letter.

There are a host of other things to consider, but let’s prayerfully digest and apply these together. You are prayed for. You are loved. Worship well this week and let’s be grateful for the world-wide reminder that this world is not our home. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to us.

By Christ’s wounds and for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 15, 12:30 p.m. update

All regular CG gatherings have been canceled for the week. If you have any questions, please contact Bob Walker.

March 14, 4:10 p.m. update

Covenant Life Church,

This has been an interesting week, to say the least. First and foremost, it has been a week marked by sadness and grief as life has been lost and families have been adversely affected by COVID-19. For these families, we mourn, grieve, and pray for comfort, hope, and the faith that is only found in Jesus Christ. It has also been a difficult week to discern and determine the difference between wisdom and fear. There is the need to live wisely as we do our part to mitigate the spread of this virus. There also is the need to avoid living in a state of fear, fear that relegates God beneath what He is, and beneath other things (COVID-19 in this instance). Our prayer has been that God would grant our church family the wisdom needed to live with wisdom and not fear.

It is in light of that prayer that we have continued to monitor the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and to consider how this affects our corporate gatherings. This morning at 9:33 a.m. we received a request from our local officials asking all gatherings of 250 or more to be canceled this Sunday. As we have discussed this request from the city of Tampa and prayed further about our decision, we believe it is now best to cancel our in-person gathering and all other church-related activities scheduled for tomorrow.

How we made this decision

There have been two major factors over the last 24 hours that have led us to this decision.

  1. The request from our local officials. Until now, regulations and guidance on large gatherings have come from state and federal levels. While we believe that those requests are valid and warrant serious consideration, they did not have the specific interest of the Tampa Bay community in mind. A national request takes into account the situation in Seattle as well as that in rural Alabama. Now that our local officials have made a request, we believe this has a unique bearing upon us and should be considered more seriously. We have also had discussions around density precautions. So far in 2020, we have averaged over 240 people on campus each Sunday morning. This means that we are very close numerically to the organizations that the government is asking to cancel public gatherings. We are left with the choice of gathering Sunday, even though we believe that we will not approach 250 persons on-campus, or not gathering Sunday because we are, on average, a church that gathers with 250 people. We believe that our love for our neighbors, our cooperation with our city officials, and our witness to the Tampa Bay area compels us to honor this request. In addition, there are other organizations that are taking measures to honor the city’s request. We want to be among the number of those who are working together to see that this virus does not spread in Tampa Bay.
  2. The exercise of our freedom in loving our neighbor. We believe there is unique freedom for each local church to make decisions that they believe are best for their congregations and communities. It is wise for us to be slow to pass judgment on churches that may be acting differently than we prefer. After all, this is an issue of wisdom. As more and more precautions have been asked of organizations in the bay area, we believe that very few people in our community would be offended if we canceled our in-person gathering, but that some within the church and the community could take offense to our decision to continue to gather. In exercising our freedom, we think it best to avoid any offense.

What we are doing in light of this decision

While we are canceling our in-person gathering tomorrow, we are planning on providing a live-streaming option for us to experience via Facebook Live. You can simply click the link to view the live stream, which will begin at 10:15 a.m. We believe that on the heels of such a week of ups and downs, it would be good for us to stream our service to remind our hearts that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1). We believe the songs we will sing will help us anchor our hearts and hopes to the God who is in control of trials. We also have been looking forward to kicking off our James sermon series this week.

So we ask you to make plans to join us at 10:15 a.m. from your home as we live-stream our service. Be prepared to sing aloud in your home, pray along with us, and sit under James 1:1-4 together. May this both encourage our hearts to appreciate the gift of gathering together and be thankful for the use of technology that would make this an option. To be clear, this live stream option is not something that we will continue as a long term option of staying connected with CLC.

As always, if you have any questions please let us know. Also, if you have unique needs that you require assistance with as a result of this virus, please reach out to us and make those needs known. Please let the church be the church in a time when the church is meant to showcase the love of God.

I trust you will tune in tomorrow morning at 10:15 a.m. If you know of others who regularly attend CLC, please pass this on to them as well.

In Christ,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 13, 6:00 p.m.

Church family,

We are continuing to closely monitor the status of COVID-19 in Tampa Bay. As of Friday, March 13 at 6:00 p.m., we are continuing with our original plan to hold services this Sunday. Over the last 24 hours, we have continued to examine our protocols and plans for this Sunday. While we outlined many of them in yesterday’s update, here are a few other updates.

1. We will not provide printed bulletins in an effort to minimize touch-points. A digital bulletin can be accessed on our public Facebook page at facebook.com/covlifetampa on Sunday.

2. Our bookstall will be closely monitored to discourage anyone from perusing books. We will be having a “touch it and you buy it” sale this Sunday.

3. Our CLK cleaning procedures will be increased and thorough. For example, we have a cleaning rotation every 30 minutes while children are in our care, in addition to the procedures before and after the gathering.

4. Those who feel it wisest to remain home and who are scheduled to be in a serve position, please contact a ministry leader as soon as possible to let them know. Your assigned serve position is not an obligation that should keep you from following through on the decision you think is best. If you are unsure of who to contact, please reach out to Charlie Jackson at cjackson@covenantlifetampa.org. In the event of a shortage of teachers, we will begin to make adjustments to our older CLK classes (4s and 5s, seeing as this Sunday the 6-7s are in the service).

Again, as we seek to make real-time decisions as information rapidly unfolds, I would ask that you pray for your elders and staff. Pray for wisdom, unity, and humility as we seek to be faithful in our positions of service. As a brief aside, I hope we recognize God’s grace to CLC through her pastors and staff. Seeing how the elders have allowed pressing discussions and decisions to take priority over other responsibilities has given me a unique sense of gratitude for these men as we seek to care for our faith family. I’ve also seen Charlie joyfully stay late, send out emails around his son’s baseball games, and come in on his day off to ensure that protocols are in place. Jenny has likewise prepared and planned in extra measures this week to best prepare for our gatherings. I praise God for this team. Rest assured they love you more than you know.

Lastly, let’s continue to pray for gospel opportunities that these uncertain times afford us. Gospel opportunities within our faith family as we pray for and love those who are most vulnerable to this virus. Let’s be quick to not allow social distancing to create spaces of isolation. Let’s explore other ways to meet with one another (phone or video calls) with the hopes of ministering to one another, encouraging one another, and loving one another. By God’s grace others in the church will have different opinions than you do about responses and precautions, and by God’s grace, there is a space for charity even in our differences. May these opportunities afford us platforms to display gospel charity and unity. But also, gospel opportunities outside of our faith family as we pray for and love our neighbors through this time. Asking people how you can pray for them is an easy way to love others, hear from others, and it gives you an opportunity to plead with God on their behalf. Let’s be intentional not just with the ask but also with the follow-up. There will be ample opportunities to die to self for the good of another. May we always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have in these days.

You are loved,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)

March 12, 5:30 p.m.

CLC family, 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1-3)—whether spiritual, financial, emotional, relational, or physical. This is crucial to keep at the forefront of our hearts amidst the ever-unfolding outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, across the world. Having been declared a pandemic, COVID-19 may tempt our hearts toward fear or anxiety, but the Word of God and the God of the Word brings peace and comfort. Our God reigns and nothing happens outside His loving, wise, and good sovereign reach—even disease and death (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Job 1:20-21; Ja. 4:13- 16). 

Our first response in the face of trials must be to take refuge in God through prayer and reading His Word. Cultivating a Godward perspective grounds our hope in Him and gives us a confident poise as we seek to be wise (Ja. 1:5-6; Mt. 10:16) amidst a world longing to be set free from its corruption (Rom. 8:20). This is not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last until the Lord ushers in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-4). A second response in the face of trials is consideration of and love for our neighbor (Matt 22:37-39).

Like you, we are continuing to pray for those affected by the coronavirus and are praying that God, in great mercy, would bring suffering to an end. But until then, we must find the wisest, most prudent path forward when faced with a world gone awry. As your elders, we want to let you know that we are shaping plans for weekly public gatherings and community groups. We also need to ask for your help in a few ways. 

Please understand that we are not in a position to be a source of information about COVID-19, nor are we able to provide any kind of medical advice. If you want to know more about COVID-19, you should visit the Centers for Disease Control website. If you are in need of medical advice, you should seek that from qualified medical professionals. 

We encourage you to adhere to the following practices: diligently wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds regularly throughout the day; use hand sanitizer when soap/water are unavailable; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; cover your mouth with your inner elbow when you cough or sneeze; and stay home if you feel sick or have had a fever within the last 24 hours. 

As of 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, we offer the following counsel for CLC:

  1. We will continue our regular gatherings until further notice. We will evaluate this decision regularly as new information is released. We do not interpret the recent government request to cease “non-essential mass gatherings” as applying to our church. The size of our gathering is relatively small and is not considered non-essential. 
  2. For those gathering on Sunday, we encourage you to greet one another without coming into physical contact with one another. Please refrain from shaking hands, offering high-fives, kissing on the cheek, offering hugs, and other forms of physical contact. This may feel stifling to some, but it is a way to love your neighbor.
  3. In addition to our CLK sickness policy, we will take extra measures to wipe down door handles, handrails, surfaces, light switches, and toys before, during, and after our gatherings. We ask that you monitor your and your children’s health closely for the benefit and protection of others. 
  4. Community Groups are encouraged to gather in a manner that seems prudent to the members and leaders of the groups.
  5. All indications are that this virus disproportionately affects individuals who fall within the following criteria: elderly and/or those with underlying medical conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, heart and lung conditions, diabetes, etc. If you fall within these categories, we encourage you to remain at home.
  6. If you suspect you may be sick or developing sickness, please remain at home and seek proper medical attention. Please follow CDC guidelines when reporting your suspected illness. If you believe you have come into contact with someone who has the coronavirus, or if you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, it is crucial that this matter be made known to the proper authorities immediately. Please also alert the elders so we can discern how to best care for you and your family. 
  7. If you have traveled outside the US in recent days, please inform the elders. No extra measures will be requested beyond what the government requires, but we appreciate the notification.
  8. For the next several weeks we will refrain from passing offering plates, and instead will have preselected volunteers who will handle the plates exclusively. Please feel free to mail checks or give online (contact Bob Walker about giving options that reduce online processing fees). Also, we are looking into ways to receive “introduce yourself” cards via online forms.
  9. We will continue to offer coffee. We will staff the coffee bar with volunteers who will serve you coffee. Please refrain from touching cups, creamer, coffee urns, etc.
  10. Regarding the Lord’s Supper, we have ordered a supply of individual, pre-packaged Lord’s Supper elements. They will be distributed by the individuals who will be given instruction regarding proper hygiene to ensure there is no potential contamination. 
  11. If you think it wisest to remain at home, we will be offering a Facebook live stream of the service beginning this Sunday. The live-stream will be available on our public Facebook page at facebook.com/covlifetampa.
  12. Consider church members who are susceptible to the virus and, in addition to praying for them, find creative ways to care for them, meet their needs, and provide community (in ways that adhere to quarantine policies).

Let’s remember, beloved, that as Christians we are people of faith and not fear. Yes, of course, that does not mean that we act foolishly, paying little attention and taking few precautions. May even this difficult situation cause us to reflect often on the brevity of life, the brokenness of the world, and the beauty of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we watch a world react to this crisis, may we not neglect to share the hope we have in Jesus. What a moment for Christians to respond to this outbreak with faith and not fear, wisdom and not worry, and love in what we say and how we act. 

Thank you so much, brothers and sisters, for your help and understanding in these matters. If you need anything, please reach out to any of our elders or staff without hesitation. It is a joy to care for you and serve as one of your pastors. 

By Christ’s wounds and for His glory,

Justin (on behalf of the elders)