Over the past several weeks, the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the fragility and weakness of our human lives while simultaneously exposing any illusion of control we may have thought we had. Cases and deaths have increased, and fear abounds. The things we once took for granted, like enjoying the company of friends, and meeting at church, now seem like luxuries. If it wasn't clear before, now it is: these are not things we can presume upon, but rather are gifts from God to be thankful for.
In light of this, the elders have spent many hours in discussion and prayer while seeking the Lord's wisdom in how we can be both prudent and faithful during this time. Our desire is that COVID-19 will be an opportunity for displaying the glory of our Lord within Coram Deo Church - in our worship, in our care for each other, and in our care for our neighbors.
Lord’s Day Worship
Online-Only Facebook Live Streaming
There is no substitute for the public, physical, embodied worship of God's people in the local church. So the decision to go online only is a compromise that none of us feel quite right about, but we are convinced that this temporary solution is where God is calling us.
We see this move as a matter of compromise, not convenience. However, we don't want to allow our physical distance from one another to result in spiritually complacency. So we encourage everyone to take special care in this season to prioritize the Lord and His people, beginning, as always, with Lord’s Day Worship. We will be live streaming on Sunday mornings at 10 am and we invite you to participate through Facebook Live. It is not a replacement for physical presence, but we hope that God will be honored and that Christ's body will be edified through these means.
God made us embodied creatures, there is no substitute for the physical gathering of God's people. During this time of being scattered throughout our community, the elders have decided to forgo communion as a part of our corporate worship. We believe that the Lord’s Supper is fundamentally a shared meal between God’s people that unites diverse people together as the body of Christ. It is our conviction that to eat from the Lord’s Table while separated from one another would be missing a crucial element of any shared meal - being together. We don't take this lightly and we believe this is a temporary measure in light of a temporary crisis. In its place, we plan to corporately pray for God to bring this time to an end, heal our world, and bring us back from exile so that we might share that meal together again. This is a time of waiting upon God to act.
With the exception of the Lord’s Supper, all of the regular elements of our worship liturgy will remain the same. We don’t want to worship differently inasmuch as we can help it. The other side of this is that we want to encourage you to physically participate much as you would if you were physically present. The worship of God’s people isn’t a spectator sport even if you’re in your living room. We will still invite you to sing, to stand for the reading of God’s Word, and encourage one another using Facebook’s communication tools.
Additionally, moving our worship gathering into a public arena like Facebook affords us some missional opportunities that are not as easily replicated when we gather in person. While you participate, we encourage you to use the means that Facebook has created to extend the reach of the service. Things, like sharing or liking the live stream, starting watch parties and inviting friends to participate, and commenting, will help make the service visible to many people on Facebook who otherwise might never step foot inside our doors on a Sunday. Let's pray that in these ways God would use this crisis to bring many to His name.
One thing we need to be mindful of during this season is our generosity. Giving is one of the ways that we care for one another and we know that many needs that will arise during this season. Many of us may be prone to forget to tithe as we are not gathering in person. We will still invite you to give your tithes and offerings during the service itself, though the means will be digital and you may want to do it later in the week. You can give safely and securely via our website or the app. You can also still mail checks to our mailing address at 5951 St Hwy 303 NE, Bremerton WA 98311. We are doing our best to be wise stewards of the resources God entrusts to Coram Deo Church and we value your continued partnership and generosity.
During this season, we are asking our Life Groups to continue to meet together. We will be utilizing another digital conference call tool called ZOOM to help facilitate those gatherings. You will need to download and install ZOOM on your device and it will allow you to see and hear each other and interact together in real-time. Each Life Group leader will be provided with a paid ZOOM account and encouraged to use it however they see fit to benefit the group. Some folks in the body have already been using ZOOM to connect with one another and it’s been greatly encouraging.
At a minimum, we are asking that when Life Groups gather that you do the following three things:
- Check-in - Use the time to catch up and ask how other members of the group are doing. Are there needs that have emerged within the group that the group can help meet? What unforeseen challenges and blessings have you been experiencing amidst social isolation?
- Discuss - As a default, we are encouraging all groups to spend time discussing the sermon and the text from Sunday’s sermon. Some of you are working through other types of studies together and that’s great too. The main goal is to spend time together reminding each other of God’s Word and seeking to apply it to our daily lives.
- Pray - As time goes on, opportunities to pray with one another will be increasingly bright spots in our lives. We encourage you to share prayer requests and spend time praying for one another.
Connecting to Groups
Some of you may not be already connected to a Life Group. In normal times it is important for Christians to remain connected to one another in fellowship. In these socially distant times, it is no less important but we’re going to have to be much more deliberate about it. Our Life Groups will be one of our primary ways for church to connect and be cared for. If you would like to join a Life Group, please let us know by filling out this form.
Oversight and Care
As needs within our own body have begun to emerge, we’ve decided to implement a new leadership structure over our Life Groups to help efficiently meet those needs. Each region will be assigned one or more elders who will help shepherd and care for the Life Groups in those regions along with the assistance of some additional leaders for support. In the North, Rusten Harris will be the regional pastor. In the South, Derrek Busha will be assigned to those groups. And in Central Kitsap, (Bremerton/Silverdale), Brandon Johnston, Jon Needham, Aaron Kuhns, and Ryan James will provide care to the groups there. If financial or practical needs emerge within the group, the group is encouraged to try to meet the need. If additional support is needed, groups should contact their regional leader who will get additional support from the regional pastor. Refer to the diagram below for regional pastors and leaders.
Initially, we had planned to cancel all classes but in this time of instability, we see that they are more necessary than ever. We will be resuming our study through 1 John and live streaming all of the classes on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 - 7:30 pm. In much the same way as our Sunday Worship gatherings, we will invite you to join by gathering via Facebook Live and participating with questions and discussion throughout the class.
As all of our kids are at home from school now, we recognize that there are increased opportunities for discipleship throughout the week. We will be utilizing Facebook Live to provide intentional times geared specifically towards those kids and their families. Krysta Kogut, Coram Deo’s Children’s Ministry Director, will be going live on Facebook at 10 am on Thursday mornings and we would encourage you to tune in with your kids to join her!
Pastor Rusten will be moving the Coram Deo Youth Community online as well. They will meet via ZOOM from 6:30 - 7:30 pm on Thursday evenings and will be continuing their study through Exodus while getting creative with some fun ways to connect digitally.
Several times a week, one of the elders will be going live on Facebook to read a passage of scripture, share a brief word of encouragement, and pray with those gathered. Those dates and times will be published soon so that you can plan to participate. Additionally, if you have needs or questions that you would like to talk to a pastor about, we have set up email@example.com and you can email us confidentially there.
Our Great Hope
In this moment of cultural upheaval, it is easy to feel as though the world is spinning out of control. It’s tempting to believe that God is either not listening or if He is, He doesn’t care about our suffering and needs. However, in the Gospel, we see that nothing could be further from the truth. Christ took our humanity upon Himself and submitted Himself to all of the weaknesses and infirmities of the flesh. Plague and pestilence didn’t keep Him away then and they certainly won’t now.
As we consider how we ought to conduct ourselves in a time where fear is normative, we’d like to propose that in many ways it’s not all that different from any other time. When Jesus instructed the Church to make disciples of all nations, He knew days would be coming when it would be difficult to do so. We have not entered a new age where His commandments have ceased to apply to us. The mission of God’s people remains the same and as the Apostle James instructs us, we ought to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2–4 (ESV) The early Church knew this to be true. As they ministered to the sick and dying in Rome during times of plague, their hope didn’t come from their physical safety but the safety of being found in Christ. Simply nothing else will do.
So look for opportunities to minister to those around you. Get creative with how to do it wisely. But above all, remember that in Christ everything you need is already yours so you can give freely without fear.
In the coming days and months, we pray that this scare would be short-lived and milder than anyone could have predicted. But even if it doesn’t, may Jesus’ Church still seek to be faithful to His call. As generations of Christians have done before us, may we remember that we are not lacking in anything but have been blessed by Christ with everything we need. Stand firm in the trials that come your way and extend the love of Christ to everyone, that all may feel His healing touch.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
The Elders of Coram Deo Church