Communication from the Elders during COVID-19

Essential

 
April 28, 2020
See our ministers’ video blog/sermon
Dear brothers and sisters of the Arlington congregation,
 
Have you thought about how the nuances of the word “essential” have changed? In the BC (before COVID) era would you have thought of a grocery store worker as essential? Maybe you would have listed some doctors and nurses, but would you have included the janitors at the local hospital? And as you think about community —the things that make your specific neighborhood a great place—would you have listed your hair salon or the family-owned Thai restaurant?
 
Paul would have. At least within the community of Christ he knew “essential” had a very different meaning than in the world at large.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
I Cor. 12:21-23, 27. As we long to resume our face-to-face gatherings, we are reminded that it is Christ who knits us together as a body—and gives us all kinds of different gifts to build up the body. Eph 4:1-16.
 
We don’t know exactly when, but we are beginning not just to hope, but to plan to be together. We will not be the same people when we come back. We will have renewed appreciation for a thousand little things—from a smiling face at the door asking, “How are you?”, to a cup of coffee as we listen to each other tell tales of isolation and loss, to trays with little cups of juice.
 
And when we come together, our “togetherness” muscles won’t quite work the same. Some may have atrophied from disuse, while others will have grown strong. Each of us needs to be thinking and praying now about how it will all work, we each need to pray specifically about our own roles in the body of Christ. You will value different things than before. Some will have learned new skills. Some will just be at a different place in life. Some of our older people who have engaged heavily in the past may still need to connect virtually because their health will still be at risk. We will need some younger people to minister to them and assume new and significant roles.
 
If the Lord wills, we will be back together soon. In these waning days of isolation, please carefully ponder what roles of service you should have within the Arlington congregation. Remember that “essential” extends far beyond the obvious. There are a hundred little things that make our Christian community a blessing.
 
To help you as you think about these issues—and to help us as we put “church” back together—we have prepared a “Servant Profile”. Please, go to it, think about it, pray about it. And then, go through the list. Check the boxes for the ministries you are interested in learning more about or in helping with. If you have questions about a ministry, reach out—contact the ministry leader for details about particular tasks.
 
If you are able, we ask that you complete the survey at the congregation’s Breeze site (because this will simplify our tabulation and use of the information). And if you are unable to do this, please obtain a paper copy of the ministry survey from Gina Tune, our Office Administrator, and return the survey to her.
 
We ask each congregant to complete this Servant Profile by June 1, 2020. Now is your time: you are called to be “essential.”
 
With abiding Christian affection for you,
 
The Elders

 

Encouragement, opportunity, and reminders …

 
Thursday, March 19
 
Brothers and Sisters:

Another Lord’s Day approaches, and we’re all enduring this strange period of social distancing in which our corporate worship services have been suspended and we can’t be physically together as brothers and sisters in Christ the way we’re accustomed to.

As your shepherds, we think it’s a good time to share a few reminders with you. In sharing, our aim is to strengthen and help you as individuals, yes, but also to strengthen, help and preserve our Arlington Church community during this period of uncertainty.

If you’re like us, this week has felt a bit like suspended animation, like a holding pattern as we wait for the next thing to happen – a next thing that we expect will not be pleasant.

Amid our ordered lives (or our attempts at order, at least), the added uncertainty of the current situation is disconcerting. Not knowing creates anxiety. It throws us out of sync, out of our routine. We want to do something about it, but we’re not always sure what to do.

But that desire to do something can be productive. In doing something you can at least feel empowered, useful, even faithful, right?

So do something. Make your list. Care for your families, your neighbors, your brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray the hours, as Chess suggested in his email message earlier this week. Use the month to read through, say, the Gospels, one book a week. And next month, if we’re still homebound, read through them again. These are the Lord’s work.

And don’t forget, as you’re checking items off your list, to attend to two things that in part comprise what it means to be a part of our community of believers – and to continue them throughout this time when we are physically apart:

1.     Participate in an ACOC virtual worship group.To be clear, though some of our small groups are meeting online, other ACOC virtual worship options don’t exist yet … but we’re working on it. So here’s what to do:

If you are a part of an existing small group, reach out to your group leaders and ask if they have plans for a virtual Sunday worship time. We’ll be reaching out to them soon, too, to provide training on the technology that will facilitate virtual groups.

• If you are interested in participating in a virtual worship service on the Sundays during our separation, please click this link and complete the short form: https://arlingtonfamily.breezechms.com/form/VirtualWorshipGatherings.

By early next week, we hope to have plans in place for virtual groups to begin meeting Sunday, March 29. We’ll let you know when those plans are set.  

2.     Remember to send your regular contribution to ACOC.Maybe it’s jarring for us to mention that, because we don’t talk about money very much at Arlington. But the fact is we have ongoing bills to pay – the salaries of our capable staff, our mortgage and building utilities, the support we give to our ministries here and abroad.

In these days when our weekly passing of the offering plate cannot occur, we need your continued financial support – to the extent you’re able and with regular frequency. You may mail your check to the church (3201 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201), or you can give online at https://www.arlingtonfamily.org/give-electronically/.

Finally, be strong in the Lord. Know that He is in control. Contact us if we can be helpful or even if you’d just like to commiserate. You remain in our prayers.

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3

In Him,

The Elders

P.S. Again this Sunday, we’ll be sending you links to short videos from Chess or Oscar. We urge you to view them, and we hope you find in them encouragement, support, and comfort.

Saturday, March 14

These are anxious times – unprecedented, even. With the threat of COVID-19 infections growing and practically all sectors of our society reacting to help prevent its spread, many of us are having to adjust our regular routines. Even though closures and such are intended to protect our individual and collective health, it’s hard not to be concerned, maybe even frightened.

Remember that God is in control. We trust Him to work in and through this situation (and every situation, as He always has). As believers, we find our hope and confidence in Him, and that gives us strength to demonstrate his love, to be his servants, even in the face of our nation’s current anxiety. We have no doubt there’ll be opportunities in the days ahead for us to care not only for one another, but for our neighbors and our communities as a result of this public health threat.

As a church, one way we must care for one another is to be responsive to the threat COVID-19 poses. That’s why, in an effort to protect the health and well-being of our congregants and visitors, we have decided to suspend gatherings at the congregation’s meetinghouse for the next two weeks. This decision applies to Bible classes and corporate worship services and all small groups using the meetinghouse. We continue to monitor and will decide in coming days whether to continue this suspension.

Read on for details on what our temporary suspension of worship at the meetinghouse means and suggested alternatives for worship, prayer and service.

 
  1. No Bible classes or worship services will be held at the meetinghouse tomorrow (March 15) or next Sunday (March 22). We’ll be posting signage to that effect on the doors of the meetinghouse today.

 

  1. During this time, we leave it to small groups to decide for themselves if and how to meet, whether in-person or via technology (webcast via Zoom, Facebook Live, or other platform, for instance). Some groups are considering virtual gatherings for group worship (prayer, singing and communion). We urge you to consider how your participation in small groups may enable you to remain part of a lively church community even while circumstances constrain our larger collective gatherings.

 

  1. Beginning tomorrow, we’ll be sending out weekly videos from our ministers, Chess Cavitt and Oscar Gomez, containing a message of hope, suggestions for prayers, a bit of recommended spiritual “homework,” and updates on the current situation.

 

  1. In the next few days, we’ll be emailing some resources and activities for children to keep them in the Word during this time when we have suspended their Bible classes.

 

  1. We ask for your attention to and diligence in continuing to give financially to ACOC during this time. There are several ways to do that. You can give easily online at https://www.arlingtonfamily.org/give-electronically/. You can mail your regular contribution check to the church address: ACOC, 3201 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201. Or you can plan to make-up with a single contribution the weeks missed when we’re back together. In any case, know that your contributions in large part fuel our ability to maintain our facilities, fund our ministries, and help our neighbors.

 

  1. Lastly, remember that the church is a community (ekklesia), not a building. We are still the Arlington Church of Christ, but we will be operating differently for a time. We can and must remain a close-knit community by praying, worshipping, and serving together. So do that: Pray for one another. And don’t only pray but look for ways to serve one another and your neighbors. Check on each another with a phone call or text of encouragement, and bear one another’s burden of anxiety. Help out those in need with a grocery delivery or help with bill payments if need be (since some of our members surely work in places that have closed during this emergency, and therefore may not be receiving a paycheck). And if you have such a need, don’t be reluctant to let us know.
 

As your elders, we are always concerned about both your physical and spiritual health, but especially in this time of uncertainty and change to our worship routine. We ask for your prayers, even as we pray also for you.

And remember: Though much has been cancelled, sunrise and sunset have not been cancelled. Nor has praise been cancelled, since “from the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Ps 113:3). God’s providence remains. So keep calm. Wash your hands. Serve others. And carry on with prayer and praise to the ever-faithful one who never cancels.

In Him,

The Elders