After monitoring the recommendations of global, national, and local leadership and in consultation with our COVID-19 Task Force and ministry staff, the CMR elders have decided to suspend all CMR gatherings for the time being. We are learning from our global neighbors that countries with the most impressive results controlling the spread of this virus are also those following some of the most intense quarantine protocols. As a biomedical researcher many of us know and trust told me recently, “It seems essential that we avoid large gatherings. This has nothing to do with fear or panic but rather to do with caring for our community by trying to prevent spread of a virus that is targeting the vulnerable ill and elderly.”
Christ teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves and we believe the most loving action we can take toward our neighbors is to do our part to prevent the spread of this virus. Best case scenario - we’ll all feel a little foolish because it will seem like we overreacted (although, from what I’m reading, it will be nearly impossible to tell the difference between an overreaction and taking appropriate action). Whatever the case, I’d rather be a fool for trying too hard to love my neighbors than any other kind of fool I could be about this.
Beginning this Sunday (Amrch 22nd), we will host a time of worship online for the CMR community. We are using the Zoom conferincing app so that members can join from a smartphone (iPhone or Android), a tablet, a computer, or just dial into the phone bridge.: There is no change an you are not required to sign up for an account. Here ae the details to join:
Meeting ID: 723 866 526
One tap mobile
+16465588656,,723866526# US (New York)
Dial in by phone:
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
+1 253 215 8782 US
+1 301 715 8592 US
Meeting ID: 723 866 526
One thing I ask - would you take some time Sunday to pray through our theme prayer for this year? That’s attached here. Laura, Samuel, and I plan to pray through that together at 9:30am Sunday morning. If you’d like communion supplies for your home, you can contact Charles Holton (919) 824-8000 about picking those up. Laura and I just picked up some bread and grape juice that we’re setting aside from our regular grocery order, which is another option.
Suspending our worship services also means we lose our regular time for giving. Especially during uncertain seasons like this, we want you to consider giving generously to the on-going work of the church. It’s hard to know exactly what kind of additional needs will be created within our church family and the larger Durham community by all of this, but CMR leaders are committed to identifying and responding to those needs to the best of our abilities. And we will need resources to do so. We encourage you to consider three options:
- Setting up an automatic bill pay through your bank (we’re going to pass along some instructions about how to do this soon)
- Mailing a check to CMR
- If you’re comfortable coming out, dropping off a check at the CMR office
We’re committed to sticking together through this. You can expect someone from your Care Group to contact you over the weekend. We want to encourage everyone to continue finding ways to stay connected to one another and checking in on each other - CMR members as well as other family, friends, and neighbors. This is a good season to reach out to one another and remember we’re together and not alone. Faith and calm can be contagious as well.
I’m doing one of those read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans this year. Actually, it’s a listen through on an audio Bible. I listened to two books this past week: Judges & Ruth. Judges is a book about fractured communities that roll from one crisis to the next, each one getting just a little worse than the last. God continues providing a way out, but the people never seem to learn how to trust God for longer than one crisis at a time. By the end of the book, the communities of God’s people have descended into chaos with the ominous final words, “In those days, there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was good in their own eyes.”
By contrast, Ruth - which takes place “during the time of the judges” - is about a small community in Bethlehem that rallies around its most vulnerable members (women, widows, and immigrants) to help sustain each other through difficult times. It’s about hard work, coming together, taking care of each other, trusting God’s provision, and speaking blessings over each other. There’s no king, but godly leadership comes from all kinds of surprising people. At the end of Ruth, a baby is born. He’s the great (9x) grandfather of David - a king who brings stability, faithfulness to God, and justice for the oppressed to the forefront of Israel’s life like no others.
I’m pretty sure I’m tossing out any preaching plans I had and we’re going to spend some time in Ruth for a little while. I strongly encourage you to read through that book and discuss it with friends and family (it’s really short!) Please spend some time asking and responding to the questions, "What does this say? What might it have meant to its first hearers? What might it mean for us right now?" If you’re willing to share your insights with me some time next week by phone or e-mail, I’d love to hear them.
I have a phrase rolling through my mind, I don’t know where I heard it or if I made it up: “When the going gets tough, God’s people do ministry.” We may not be meeting together for a little while, but there is still much ministry to be done. I cannot think of another community of faith I’d rather be doing that ministry beside right now than you. Even if we may not be physically standing beside each other for at least a little while.
Be well. Pray often. Reach out to others. Remain rooted & grounded in God’s love. We’re going to get through all of this together with God’s help.