May 22, 2020

Grace Family,

Two months ago, our lives were radically altered by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of “at-home” orders. Today, the end game of those orders – to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus cases – is being realized and the directives are being relaxed. What does this mean for Grace as we move forward, especially in light of President Trump “call(ing) upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open right now”?

To begin, a committee has been formed to address the matter of reopening. The committee is comprised of elder and office staff, health professionals, and parents, all from within the Grace Family. The purpose of the committee will be to research and recommend to the elders a graduated and multi-faceted reopening plan. The plan will be graduated according to the most current order from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, as well as Governor Newsom’s forthcoming guidelines (to be released on Monday, May 25). It will be multi-faceted, to meet the needs of our large church family which is comprised of both high and low risk members, and will be informed by the best practices of already reopened churches in other parts of the country. Your prayers for the committee, as well as the elders, are needed and appreciated!

The elders are aware that some churches throughout the state plan to resume meeting at the earliest possible date. For the present time, we remain committed to working with our local authorities to ensure the highest level of safety for our congregants, as well as the integrity of our work in the community. While the present period is one of profound inconvenience, the elders are grateful for the ways in which it has unified us as a church family and strengthened our ministry, especially by way of Food Bank. We are also grateful for the expanded scope and unhindered proclamation of the gospel that we have enjoyed via our live streamed broadcasts. For the elders, our overriding desire is that Grace “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Peter 2:13-15). So, our end game is motivated by the gospel. The elders will weigh any future changes in our position against the Scripture, the U.S. and California State Constitutions, as well as the latest congressional legislation and court room litigation. Your prayers for wisdom in our ongoing discernment of this matter are vital!

Finally, the elders are especially grateful for the way in which our current study in 1 Corinthians has prepared us for reopening. May Paul’s exhortation to live as others-centered and not self-centered persons promote a gracious spirit of deference among us all. And may love, as we learned last Sunday, pave the way toward an even more unified body.

Following the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, Pastor Francis Grimke, preached a sermon in which he shared the following reflection:

“There has been considerable grumbling, I know, on the part of some, particularly in regard to the closing of churches. It seems to me, however, in a matter like this it is always wise to submit to such restrictions for the time being. If, as a matter of fact, it was dangerous to meet in the theaters and in the schools, it certainly was no less dangerous to meet in churches. The fact that the churches were places of religious gathering, and the others not, would not affect in the least the health question involved. If avoiding crowds lessens the danger of being infected, it was wise to take the precaution and not needlessly run in danger, and expect God to protect us. And so, anxious as I have been to resume work, I have waited patiently until the order was lifted. I started to worry at first, as it seemed to upset all of our plans for the fall work; but I soon recovered my composure. I said to myself, Why worry? God knows what He is doing. His work is not going to suffer. It will rather be a help to it in the end. Out of it, I believe, great good is coming. All the churches, as well as the community at large, are going to be the stronger and better for this season of distress through which we have been passing.”

As it was one hundred years ago, so may it be today. Soli Deo Gloria.

Warmly in Christ,

Your Shepherding Elders

P.S. If you have any questions concerning this matter, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the elder board.