Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is good to remind ourselves of this identity in Jesus: we are brothers and sisters in the family of God! As a family we need to make an adjustment to our family gatherings – our Sunday services in particular.
Let’s be honest: as a family it is really hard to socially distance ourselves consistently and effectively. To “distance” yourself from other family members feels antithetical to what we’re called to be and do as believers in Jesus. So, to protect all of our members, we are going to implement “restaurant rules” for our Sunday services.
My family likes to eat at Chipotle. (Yes, I know for San Diegans Chipotle is a poor knock-off compared to genuine Mexican food, but bear with me.) When you enter a Chipotle, or any restaurant for that matter, you have to wear a face covering from the time you enter, while you stand in line to order, and as you go to your table. Once seated at your table, you are free to remove your face covering and enjoy your burrito. Then, when you get up from your table and as you walk through the restaurant toward the exit, you must wear your face covering again.
As the family of God, we eat out together every Sunday as we feast on God and his word! Before and after our services we are going to employ those same “restaurant rules.” That means, as you enter the amphitheater area for our service, as you interact with people beforehand, and as you interact with people afterwards, you need to wear a face covering. We realize that wearing a mask or face covering is not comfortable for many of us, so let me explain why we are making this adjustment.
Why “Restaurant Rules” Are Needed
Quite simply, this is a health issue; we are protecting the health of our fellow family members this way. And so, this is a love issue.
We realize that we do not all view the current circumstances in precisely the same way. However, if we are not as proactive as possible to protect each other’s health, we will unintentionally exclude some of our family members from being with and benefiting from their brothers and sisters in Christ. At a minimum, we greatly restrict everyone’s ability to enjoy fellowship together before and after the service if we are not as proactive as possible in these ways. These adjustments are needed to make sure all of our brothers and sisters can fully participate in and benefit from our family gatherings.
Friends, God’s word requires us to do no less. Volumes could be written expositing the pertinent passages for how Christians should relate to each other in a pandemic, but here are a few biblical principles and passages to consider:
- Love your neighbor as yourself, as an expression of love for God (Matt 22.37-39; Gal 5.14; James 2.8)
- Show brotherly love and affection, and outdo one another in honor (Rom 12.9-10)
- Sacrifice your “rights” if doing so serves your brother or sister in Christ (1 Cor 8.9, 13)
- Do good to all, especially to those of the household (family) of faith (Gal 6:10)
But perhaps most directly, consider Philippians chapter 2. In that passage God commands us to do what we would never want to do ourselves: humbly count others more significant than ourselves as we put their interests above our own. (“…in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”) I trust you can see how directly applicable that passage is to this health-related issue. Then realize the grounding for that command: the astounding humility of Jesus Christ in his incarnation, life, and sacrificial death for us (Phil 2.5-8).
You may not agree that wearing a face covering is helpful or necessary, but I know you will agree that God is glorified as you count your brother and sister in Christ as more significant than your personal preferences. If we will wear a face covering to stand in line for a burrito, how much more should we do so if it blesses and serves someone for whom Christ died. He endured far more than temporary discomfort to make us his beloved children; let us gladly embrace any temporary discomfort that will bless and serve our brothers and sisters!
Summary of Plans & Adjustments
In summary, here’s the plan for Sunday mornings, as an expression of love for one another:
- Wear a mask when you’re out of your seat in the amphitheater area
- Maintain 6 feet of distance from members of other households
- Exchange enthusiastic waves instead of hugs or handshakes
- Stay home if you feel ill, especially if you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath
In addition, we will more clearly demarcate our “mask-required” area of the amphitheater. We will also seek to have someone there, most likely one of our elders, who will lovingly remind members seated in that section to keep their face coverings on for the entirety of the service. Please consider the rest of the amphitheater area as a “mask-recommended” area, though wearing a face covering is not required while you’re in your seat in those other portions of the amphitheater area.
If you have any questions or concerns about these adjustments, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the elders. Joshua, Steve, Marshall and I are glad to talk with you at any time.
We look forward to feasting on God with you as a family this Sunday!
PS. Our livestream on our Facebook page will continue each Sunday for the entirety of our service, beginning at 9 a.m. If you have health-related issues or concerns that preclude you from any gatherings right now, please continue to “tune in” online HERE.