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Dear First Christian Reformed Church,

I am writing to communicate to you First CRC’s response to the unfolding COVID-19 situation. The consistory met this morning to assess changes that we need to make to protect the health and safety of our members and to promote the health of the broader Sioux Center community.

Before I get into the details, I want to remind all of us of the eternal perspective within which decisions like these must be made. Every Sunday we hear the will of God for our lives revealed to us: in Christ, God has set us free from slavery to sin and death that we might love God and that we might love our neighbor. Even as we make decisions about the church’s response to COVID-19, we desire, above all else, to love our God and to love our neighbors. We do not want to make decisions in fear and anxiety, but rather in a wisdom rooted in God’s love for us that compels us to love others. In this moment, we can love our God and neighbors, especially the elderly and those with underlying health issues, by reducing the amount of contact we have with one another in an effort to slow the spread of this virus.

While there are presently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sioux County, those giving medical guidance are asking organizations to behave preemptively. In order to reduce the potentially virus-spreading contact we have with one another, the consistory has decided to make the following temporary changes at First:

1. We will not pass the offering plates during the services of worship. Offering plates will be placed at the back of the sanctuary. You are encouraged to place your offering in the plates either on the way into the sanctuary or as you leave. You may give online.

2. We will be postponing celebration of the Lord’s Supper until the threat of potential exposure to the virus has been reduced.

3. Until further notice, we will not have coffee following the morning service.

4. Please greet one another without physical contact (in other words, please do not shake hands).

5. Sunday school classes, children & worship, and nursery will be cancelled until further notice. The nursery room will remain open for the use of families who need it (with sound broadcast into the room). The last few pews are reserved for families with small children, and the whole congregation will do their best to exercise patience with the children in our midst.

6. Wednesday night community meals will be cancelled until further notice.

7. The bus will not be picking up passengers.

While the consistory is not willing to tell people over a certain age not to come to worship services, we strongly encourage the elderly and those with underlying health issues and immune deficiencies to stay home until those with medical expertise change their guidance (Healthcare organizations are identifying those over 60 as particularly vulnerable to this virus.). Also, if you are experiencing symptoms that correspond to COVID-19, please stay at home. While the Church is the embodied body of Christ on earth and our physical gathering is of utmost importance, for this season it is properly loving to both God and neighbor to stay at home. And while live-streaming is normally an inadequate substitute for gathered worship, you are encouraged to join us via livestream for both the 9:30a.m. and 6:00p.m. services at https://www.firstcrc.com/sermons/watchlive.cfm. Or you can listen to the evening service on KDCR 88.5 FM.

The consistory has developed a smaller team to monitor the situation and make decisions as new developments are communicated from local healthcare professionals and government organizations. Please stay tuned for future emails.

We are the beloved children of the God who came and said to us, “I am the resurrection and the life.” We need not be guided by fear or anxiety during this time. May we be a people who uphold in prayer those who have lost loved ones or are ill. May we uphold in prayer those who are reacting to this with fear and anxiety that they might come to know the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ. And may we be a people who bear witness to the victory of our Lord over death even as we navigate our responses to COVID-19.

On behalf of the consistory, I wish you every blessing and the peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ,

Pastor Kurt

Worship Note