Pastor’s Musings

Executive Orders and Worship

Dear church family,

The rollout of Executive Order 2020-160 was confusing and surprising. Initially, news reports seemed to suggest that the order was designed to tighten restrictions in the Upper Peninusla, while simultaneously relaxing some restrictions for Detroit casinos. Further reflection shows that this order was actually a statewide tightening of restrictions on social gatherings. According to the EO, indoor social gatherings are capped at ten people; outdoor gatherings are capped at 100 people in our region. Also, the public is not permitted to enter performance venues, exercise studios, and the like. Obviously, a strict application of the indoor rule would make worship services impossible. EO 2020-160 does, however, provide an exemption for services of religious worship. In addition to this adjustment, a different EO places greater scrutiny on workplace safety for all workers who cannot work remotely. In light of these orders, I want to share a few things with you.

  1. In-person worship will continue for the foreseeable future. There are members of our congregation who have chosen to shelter-in-place since the beginning of the pandemic. There are other members of our congregation who should very seriously consider curtailing social activities. The position of FPC leadership is clear here: if you stay home, we support you and Jesus loves you.
  2. Online worship resources will continue to be posted. Sermons, prayers, and music are added to the Lord’s Day Worship page every Sunday. A new monthly devotional guide is available, including a companion video released on Thursday mornings. Zoom Bible study happens every Wednesday evening at 6:30. Radio broadcasts on WCSR play at 7:30 AM every Sunday morning, and they are set to reflect what is happening in corporate worship that day. People who love and care for you are a phone call away.
  3. Some modifactions to our normal Sunday will be reintroduced. We will continue to operate without ushers or greeters. There will be no food served after service. Adult Sunday school will happen in the fellowship hall to encourage spreading out. Choir will not be able to operate normally as long as the conditions persist.
  4. Mask-wearing is strongly encouraged. No mandate. No guilt. Please consider wearing a mask when you are moving around the building.
  5. The church office will shift to a 9-1 schedule. Irma will be able to do some aspects of her job remotely. Otherwise, the schedule shift is designed to mitigate risk. Just remember the change in the coming weeks. If you visit, please remember your mask.

Sorry for the long read, but I thought clarity would be helpful. Remember to care for your soul through fellowship, study, and prayer. Pray for revival. Seek God with passion. Honor God first and then honor governing authorities as much as you are able. Love your neighbor. I’ll see you soon!

Pastor Scott

On Masks and Corporate Worship

Dear church family,

You all are almost certainly aware of developments in the state of Michigan concerning precautions against the spread of coronavirus. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a new executive order mandating the wearing of masks in public. Here is the relevant material from the order:

Any individual who leaves their home or place of residence must wear a face
covering over their nose and mouth:
a. When in any indoor public space;
b. When outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more
from individuals who are not members of their household; and
c. When waiting for or riding on public transportation, while in a taxi or ridesharing vehicle, or when using a private car service as a means of hired
transportation.

There are some exceptions that you should know about concerning religious worship. First:

The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to individuals who…are officiating at a religious service.

Second, and most important for the members of this church:

Nothing in this order shall be taken to abridge protections guaranteed by the state
or federal constitution under these emergency circumstances, and no individual is
subject to penalty under section 8 of this order for removing a mask while engaging
in religious worship at a house of religious worship. Consistent with guidance from
the CDC, congregants are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings during
religious services.

It is our Christian obligation to submit ourselves to the governing authorities whenever possible. For further study, see Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17. Of course, we cannot obey a government if it is actively involved in acts of grave injustice and immorality or if it demands idolatry of us. The early Christians followed Paul’s inspired counsel but would choose execution over kneeling before Caesar as if he were a god.

So to summarize:

(1) We should obey governing authorities unless they require of us that which is immoral or idolatrous. (2) Masks are mandated when in public. (3) There are exemptions for religious worship. (4) Health agencies still recommend the wearing of masks during religious worship.

We are a people of grace and welcome. We are also a people of diverse views on the matters at hand. All I ask of you is that you take seriously God’s will for us as revealed in the Bible and love one another, even across differences of opinion and practice. One of the greatest dangers of our present moment is the race to be seen as righteous. Some do this by wearing a mask and condemning those who don’t. Others do this by not wearing a mask and condemning those who do. The truth is that we are all sinners, and our only hope remains the blood of Jesus shed for our sins. Seek Jesus first, and we’ll figure the other stuff out together.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8).

Pastor Scott