Dear Van City Family,
I don’t have to tell you it’s been a wild few weeks.
On March 15th, 2020, the state of Washington issued a statement prohibiting all gatherings with over 50 participants and all gatherings under 50 participants where the criteria for public health and social distancing are not met.
This is one reason among several that the leadership of Van City has decided to further adjust the way we’re doing church in an unprecedented situation. Let me explain.
The most repeated command in the entire library of writings we call the Bible sounds simple but is, in practice, pretty complicated. “Do not be afraid.” You don’t have to be a sociologist to recognize that in trying times, people tend to get a bit hysterical. The news cycle around Coronavirus and COVID-19 is evolving at such an extreme pace—day-to-day, hour-by-hour—that it can be tough to find your footing in an avalanche of scary, hyper-politicized, and often conflicting data.
Fear can make people irrational, and it works on both sides of this divisive issue. When people become terrified of the Coronavirus itself, or when they become afraid that the virus is being sensationalized, they’re more likely to think selfishly.
The teachings of Jesus nullify both extremes. While disciples of Jesus are commanded to reject fear, we are also commanded to “value others above ourselves,” to “mourn with those who mourn,” to “do to others what we would have them do to us,” which Jesus believed encapsulated the heart of the Scriptures.
That’s great news.
The teaching of Jesus frees us up to act in self-sacrificial love—even at the expense of our own preference and comfort—without being compelled by anxiety or panic. We get to embrace peace, reject fear, and out of that disposition, value others above ourselves.
Even though the Coronavirus is not very dangerous for many people at Van City Church, we realize that there are people for whom the sickness is a very serious threat and that those less at risk have been given the opportunity to inconvenience themselves for the sake of others.
This means that, once again, we’re going to have to rethink the way we do church at the moment. If you know anything about Van City Church, you know that we believe very much that Church is not an event, not a passive experience—but that it happens when people come together to contribute and participate, in-person, in all the messiness of life and discipleship, relationship and conflict. Church doesn’t happen in isolation or cyberspace.
Even so, we have decided to do things differently in an effort to better care for those who are vulnerable. We don’t make these decisions lightly, and we want to make the most of this time—to find ways to connect and to learn and to grow that, while not ideal, unite us as a family as we work to practice the way of Jesus together.
Here’s how we’re moving forward:
- For the time being, Van City church will not gather in-person on Sundays, and Van City Communities will not meet in-person throughout the week.
- We are resourcing Van City Community leaders with ways to meet via video conferencing every week to watch a recorded teaching together, to talk, to pray, and to discuss a corresponding practice.
- We will also release daily podcasts of short guided meditations from Scripture for worship, prayer, and contemplation.
Of course, as we continue to pray for those affected by and at risk of the Coronavirus and COVID-19, we also pray and long for a day that we hope is coming soon, when we can meet together once again, face-to-face, in a true realization of this thing called church.
For now, let us mourn with those who mourn, treat others as we would want to be treated, both without giving in to fear.
The church is resilient, not even death can overcome it.
Josh & the Leadership of Van City Church
If you have questions or need help, let us know.