|Over the course of the last 24-48 hours as more information has come out we have decided that it would be best to cancel our services for this coming Sunday (and most likely more Sundays to come) as well as our Habits of Grace Seminar. We hope and desire that this decision is not motivated by fear but by wisdom and love for neighbor. Below is a letter written by one of our members (who is a lung doctor) that I thought was incredibly helpful and insightful. Please take time to read through it. |
We are working through a plan for this Sunday in that we still believe that it is the Lord’s Day and still a day to set aside for worship. The hope is by Saturday night to send you a guide to have a time of worship at your home which will include a recorded message, a prayer guide, and songs. We also are asking the church to take Sunday to fast and pray. I attached HERE a blog by David Mathis that gives information on fasting, if that is a spiritual discipline that you are not familiar with. I also attached HERE a little blog that I wrote on family worship that will give you an idea on what we are aiming for on Sunday.
If you are willing to host people this Sunday or are desiring to find others to worship with please let me know. We also are looking for some help organizing how we might be able to meet through video conference calls for those who might be sick and will have to take more extreme measures of quarantine.
Please let me know what questions or concerns you have. Please also take time to pray for our church, for decisions we might be making as a church, and for decisions our government leaders might be making for our country.
May God use this time to cause us to trust in him more and to use his people (including us) to passionately and boldly share his gospel of peace to all of those around us!
From Dr Jay Tuck:
Greetings in the Name of our Sovereign Lord –
Pandemics are not new for mankind. But for most of us they’re things that happen in other places and in other times that haven’t affected us personally. The current COVID-19 virus pandemic is different. It appears to be a worldwide phenomenon that is directly threatening the health and sometimes the lives of many. And it’s indirectly affecting the normal patterns of life of most. Our congregation is no different. The pastors and deacons of Red Village church have been working with medical professionals in our congregation on some practical advice and policies to share with our people.
Use common sense preventative measures. Vigorous, frequent handwashing is an effective measure to prevent the spread of viruses.
Coughing and sneezing is often unavoidable. Make sure you’re doing it in a way that minimizes the spread of your respiratory secretions.
Minimize attendance and group events (more on this below). It’s possible to be infected with COVID-19 without ever getting sick. And, like most viral illnesses, COVID-19 spreads from infected people before they get sick.
“Flatten the curve.” It’s probable that a lot of people are going to get sick from this virus. One of the most important things we can do collectively is to keep that rate of infection low, so our healthcare systems don’t become overwhelmed. We have the capability of taking care of a lot of critically ill patients, but there’s a limit to that number. This article explains this principle in detail (warning: there’s math).
Do not expose your neighbors to your illness. If you are showing signs of infection (including fevers, chills, sweats, runny nose, etc.) you should avoid unnecessary gatherings of people.
Christians should treasure gathering as a body. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23–25). There are, and have been, Christians who risk their lives to meet together under threat of persecution. On the other hand, few would advocate that we should meet during a natural disaster (like an earthquake or a tornado). A pandemic, if severe enough, is more like a natural disaster. One of our challenges is that we don’t know how severe it’s going to be. Because we don’t know, and because meetings of large groups of people may be making this pandemic worse.
For now, we aren’t discouraging our small group Villages from meeting together. Gatherings of small groups aren’t as much of a threat as large groups for spreading infections. But we’re also not requiring our Village leaders to keep their meetings going. If you do meet, make sure to show courtesy to one another using the general principles outlined above.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Not everyone can afford to self-quarantine or practice “social distancing.” Economic pressure often makes this impractical. Please keep your eye out for people who may need help with practical matters (like money, help running errands, childcare, etc.).
If you need help or you know someone who does, your pastors and deacons are a resource for you.
God saved us “to love kindness” (Micah 6:8) and to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
God works all things for our good, so we shouldn’t fear trials (Romans 8:28).
To die is gain, so we shouldn’t fear death (Philipians 1:21-23).
God takes care of birds and lilies, he’ll take care of us (Matthew 6:25-31).
UWHealth Covid-19 Info
Madison and Dane County Public Health
How DC Churches Responded When the Government Banned Public Gatherings During the Spanish Flu 1918
These words of comfort and hope were written by one of our overseas workers:
A REFLECTION ON PSALM 84
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Believers have always found hope in looking upward to the throne of God.
This psalm called its original audience to find joy in worshipping at the temple in Jerusalem. As pilgrims journeyed from the lowlands up to the heights of the temple mount, they were encouraged to sing and shout for joy because they were going up to the very house of God, the physical place of His presence on earth.
The worshippers set their eyes on the temple, knowing that when they came to it, they would find a resting place with God. Even the birds had nests in His courts (and of how much more value were they than a sparrow? v. 3-4). The path toward Jerusalem was rocky, dusty, and uphill; yet along the way, the people “made it a place of springs.” Even when they passed through dry, difficult places, they found joy in remembering where those hard places led—to the very dwelling place of God. And so, they rejoiced—He would be their strength as they went (v. 5-7). The psalmist extoled God and proclaimed that all who trusted the Lord would find Him to be a sun and a shield in the midst of their trials (v. 9-12).
In Christ, we have come to know that the temple was a copy of truer things to come. The temple reminded God’s people of His promise that a day was coming when the law would be written on our hearts and when the Spirit would not only be in the temple but in us, enabling us to walk on pathways of righteousness (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Even now, this psalm drives our eyes upward toward the throne room of God and the promise of a heavenly home in His presence. Jesus, through His death for our sins, His resurrection from the dead, and the gift of His righteousness when we had none, has gone ahead to prepare a dwelling place for us. Know then the surety of this promise:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
We trust that as we go toward that true and abiding home, always keeping our eyes on the gospel that saved us and sanctifies us, we will “go from strength to strength” (v. 7) Even the dry places of our lives will become like a place of springs in His presence, until the day we appear before Him in glory. And, like the pilgrims who journeyed toward the old temple, all who put their faith in Jesus still find that the promises of His Word are a strong shield as they go through this life.
We have hope in heaven, and so we do not lose heart. “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:16-17).
Each of us will die one day, and it can be hard to face up to that truth. But as believers, this life is not all we have. We are journeying toward a greater reality than we have yet seen and toward a deeper joy in the presence of Christ—free from sin, death, and sorrow—than we have ever known. The day is coming when we will truly abide in the courts of the Lord.
Brother sisters join this song
As we journey home;
Brother sisters join this song
As we journey home.
Hold my hand and walk with me
Till my pilgrim days are done.
And there I’ll find this jubilee
Until my chains you’ll see undone.
(Pilgrim Days,Will Reagan)
We have found ourselves in the midst of a pandemic. For most of us, life in the United States has been a “peace time”, war staying far from our shores and homes. Today though, through technology and globalization, we have become acutely aware of the effects of this virus and the very probable impact it could have(and is already having) in our back yard. In light of this we feel a heightened anxiety for our friends, our economic stability, our families, and of course our beloved parents and grandparents.
As fear and anxiety wage war on our minds and hold us captive, we must remember who we are, and what our future holds. Let us remember that we live on a tiny rock in the middle of an expansive galaxy. The very Being that set the cosmos in place, that formed the Redwoods, the intricacies of a butterfly’s Cocoon, that sculpted the towering Himalayas and that formed each of us, is the same being that sent his very Son to die for a people and restore them to himself. This pandemic is not a surprise to God, in fact he is, in his magnificent wisdom, working this together for an ultimate good. His promise still rings true, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and for those called according to his purposes.”(Romans 8:28) We are the sheep of his fold, and the shepherd will walk with, protect, and keep each of his ewes. Often we don’t know ,in this life, why suffering occurs, but we see in the broken body of Jesus, and in his blood, that God himself suffered and has defeated the final suffering. Death which used to keep us captive, has been obliterated. To the point where Paul states, “O death where is your Victory? O death where is your Sting?” The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Dear friends, if today you have found and been found be Jesus, your earthly body may decay(it will), your heart may stop(it will), your loved ones may die around you(they will), but Jesus who loved you and saved you, will guide you back to himself. You will one day be given a new body, rid of all disease and imperfection, and you will finally be able to rest in the presence of your God alongside all those who have loved Him. How great a day that will be!
In light of who we are, who God is, and what our future holds, we have a unique opportunity before us. Needs in our church body and community are beginning and will continue to spring up around us.
Let us keep this in mind, we cannot meet all the needs that come our way, but we can meet needs and have a significant impact, both today and for eternity. Here is how we can do so practically:
- Consider your sphere of influence(church members close to you, family, co-workers, neighbors). Become aware of the needs that they have and pray, think creatively as to how to meet those needs.
- For example, Amy was aware that Tori needed to self-quarantine herself due to a traveling to New York for work, so Amy took the initiative of Skyping Tori into our Sunday worship service.
- The Next Door App is a way to connect with neighbors and become aware of the needs they may have.
- Some of our neighbors, especially those with compromised immune systems are choosing to self-quarantine. They may need assistance with grocery shopping or be struggling with loneliness. A letter of love and support may help.
- If you are young and healthy, and if you are infected by this virus, you are very very likely to recover, so let us use our youth to serve.
- Red Village Church has set up an e-mail address titled firstname.lastname@example.org. If you personally have a need, know of a person with a need that you cannot meet, or are willing to be contacted to help, please send an e-mail to this address. The church is seeking to mobilize people within our church to meet the needs both within our body and outside of our body.
In closing, friends let this time draw us to pray expectantly, to love one another more deeply, and to seek to love our neighbors sacrificially. Jesus has secured our lives and our futures, we have found our home in Him, he is our abode, He is our rest, he is our High Tower.
Justin, RVC Deacon
What do we do with our kids if we are doing house church?
With the increase in measures to control the spread of COVID-19, Pastor Aaron reached out to RVC’ers who have lived in overseas settings where we often meet in homes for church to hear our thoughts. As a mother of young children who has been involved in house churches for several years, I wanted to share some of my experience.
Let’s talk about house churching with young children present. Kids are a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127:3), but often we are used to them being in separate children’s programming during the weekly church service. So having them present in the house gathering is quite a big difference! Hopefully this post will help you think through some ideas to make the idea of children present feel less overwhelming.
Remember the needs of the kids (and mothers)
House church is a unique situation allowing us to model to our children our value of the Body and the Word. When we gather we want to make sure to include them because the Word is not simply for adults. We want our gatherings to keep in mind the needs of the youngest present, the mothers who often bear the primary responsibility for caring for the kids, and the others present. The goal is not to simply have all these parties present but to care for the hearts and minds of each of those present. Thinking about the kids as well as adults applies to the music we sing, the way we have a Bible study or teaching time, how we have prayer time, and how to celebrate the Lord’s supper.
Sometimes we can forget our kids’ needs as we gather and grow frustrated with them for their noise or decide that the service would just be better if they would go in the other room and have some screen time. I want to propose some helpful ideas to include our children in these small gatherings of the Body.
Snacks and drinks
One basic need we need to account for our children is their hunger and thirst. Have you considered when your children may become hungry or thirsty? If it will be during the service, consider having a prepared snack already in the room where you will gather to feed them during the meeting. Our kids actually have often wanted more of a snack than they would normally eat and often earlier than I would have otherwise provided it, but having a snack present and prepared that all the parents are comfortable with has enabled longer and more meaningful conversation. I also realized I need to have drinks and appropriate drinkware for the children already at hand so I as the mother would not miss part of the service.
For very young children, it may be necessary to come to a house gathering or host a house gathering with all the supplies prepared for your child to nap. If you are going elsewhere, make sure to have whatever sleep props, bedding, and any baby monitor you may desire. Talk with the host to make sure you have a plan for a place you and they feel comfortable with the child being. Make sure you have thought through in advance how long you are comfortable with the small one crying or making noise and discussed who is responsible for getting the child up when needed. It is easy to allow distractions to keep us from the Word so minimizing these important.
Your children may need your help knowing what they can and should do during the parts of the gathering when they are expected to be quiet. Perhaps you can prepare coloring pages, playdough, kinetic sand, or simple crafts. Maybe you can pull out toys that are not in the normal rotation or get out toys that are quiet but can be used to build or put together. Provide your child with age appropriate activities. If your child is old enough, provide them a Bible to read along or a printed copy of the text that they can color/write on. Remember that simply providing activities is often not sufficient for young minds. You can help make the time special for your children by sitting beside them, or on the floor with them (if they are young) and doing their activity with them. As an adult, you will be able to learn to focus on the text even as your hands are busy doing something else.
Remember as you prepare to talk with any other parents to make sure they are comfortable with the activities that you are planning for your children. Some parents may not be comfortable with Veggie Tales coloring page or Barbies or Ninja Turtles, etc. The things that are not an issue in your family may be something another family would prefer to avoid for one reason or another. In the house church gathering, conversing about these things is often even more important than it would otherwise be.
Help them learn from the Word
Another thing to keep in mind as you plan the activities for the children is how to help them to learn from the Word. Consider drawing basic pictures to help explain what the text is saying for the child sitting beside you. Consider reading the text in a simpler translation perhaps even after reading it in the translation you prefer so the children will better understand. Summarize the text with simple words or ask the kids some simple summary questions before you get far into the study of the Word. If appropriate, you might even wish to ask the kids if they have a question they would like to ask. Our children might not be able to understand everything in the service, but they can understand to some extent.
Set boundaries ahead of time
After thinking through all the ways you can be helping your children, it may be important to remember that children need to know what is expected of them. They need to know the boundaries. If they are allowed to make noise (sing or play “instruments” like spoons on pots or shake plastic containers with rice) or dance during music time, they should know that in advance. If they aren’t allowed to leave the main room unless they have permission to go to the bathroom, they need to know that in advance. If they need to be quiet during the time when you are in the Word, they need to know that too. Communicate your expectations and remember you are responsible to enforce the boundaries you set. Think through in advance what you will do if/when your expectations are not met.
How others can help parents
These ideas might seem like they apply mostly to the parents of young children, but they are also valuable for others to consider. Mothers and fathers get tired caring for children especially when they are seeking to have their children quiet and not distracting others present. Perhaps the non-parents present can help simply by sitting beside children and doing activities with them. A non-parent who is willing to color or play with playdoh can be a novelty to a child helping them to listen longer as well as allowing a parent’s mind to more fully engage in the service. The house gathering church is one that allows for many unique ways to serve one another in love.
Lastly, you are not alone in figuring out how to help your child learn during house church! There may be a learning curve for you as well as the children. The benefits of having your children present are great. I encourage you even when it is hard to not keep them from the Word, worship, prayer, and the breaking of bread if appropriate. You have a special responsibility and gift of caring for these young hearts and minds. May our Lord give you wisdom and grace as you navigate these new waters, Red Village!
-Guest post by an RVC’er who lives abroad and has been involved in house church gatherings for several years.
A self-quarantine can be tough for families with young children. It can also be a time of intentionally creating memories that will last for a long time. Here are twenty things (besides Netflix and Frozen 2) you can do with your kids during this season to invest in them and make your extra family time special.
- Go for a walk outside.
- Go to the park or Olbrich Botanical Gardens–The outside trails are free and open to the public. They’re a great place to enjoy spring and let some kids run off extra energy. Check their website before you go to make sure they’re still open.
- Build forts with couch cushions, blankets, tables, clotheslines, and sheets. Get creative, and let your kids sleep in it!
- Cook together. Make something special or take the opportunity to start teaching your littles how to prepare meals and even help clean up.
- Do art projects (make a collage by cutting up magazines, string noodles or beads on yarn or pipe cleaners, make a diorama, put paint in a Ziploc bag and let the kids mix the colors, paint on icecubes with water colors, color pictures and cut them into puzzles, or make musical instruments out of recyclables!)
- Draw with sidewalk chalk. Leave encouraging notes and pictures on the path for cyclists and walkers.
- Get a head start on your garden. Plant some seeds and care for them over the next couple of weeks. Watch them sprout, and learn about how plants grow.
- Clean together. Little kids can help, too! Paintbrushes and water or magic erasers turn dirty walls into a fun cleaning project.
- Play games! If your kids are older, play board games, telephone, kick the can, hide and seek, and capture the flag, charades. For little kids, try ring around the rosy, Pictionary where the adults have to guess, balloon volleyball, duck duck goose, London bridge, or build an obstacle course.
- Read together. If you didn’t have time to get to the library before they closed, you can still get new reading material via their e-reading apps, Libby and Overdrive.
- Sing together/have a dance party. Sing karaoke and learn some new music!
- Memorize Scripture together and maybe even put it to music. Download the New City Catechism app and listen to the songs.
- Potty train your toddler, if you have one.
- Cut up cardboard boxes or throw pillows on the floor for lava. Create an obstacle course and avoid the lava!
- Plan a first day of Spring party and look outside for evidence of new life.
- Many organizations are creating and putting out free content to help families have fun and learn during the quarantine. Here are just a few of the options:
- Prepare a skit or memorize a poem or a verse. FaceTime with grandparents and share it with them!
- Set up a treasure hunt. Let your kids use your phones as walkie talkies during the hunt. Bonus points, they’ll learn your phone numbers dialing each other! (Tip for parents with iPhones—ask Siri to turn on Guided Access, which allows you to lock the user into a single app so your kids can’t delete important things or text random people photos.)
- Create a list of things you’re thankful for. Post sticky notes of thankful things all over your wall and see if you can cover a whole wall. Or make two lists—“God is…” and “Therefore I am…” and fill them out as you learn about God’s attributes through your family devotions.
- Tell kids stories about when you were young. Recreate a favorite meal or moment from your childhood.
Joel and Michele Flage