Sunday Service for July 26, 2020

Dear Covenant of Grace Community,

After meeting for five Sunday under the big tent, we are resuming Sunday services at 8:30 am and 11:00 am in the church building. We will also livestream the 11:00 am service to our YouTube channel (here). We look forward to you joining us on Sunday!

In compliance with the most recent order from the Ohio Department of Health (here), we are asking all that attending Sunday Services wear a mask at all times while inside the building. There are some exceptions explained below.

Our posture through the COVID-19 pandemic is to follow the directives and guidelines set forth by Governor DeWine and the Director of Health for the state of Ohio. It is clear from passages like Romans 13:1-7 that Christians ought to respect the human governments to which they are subject, as long as submission to those governments doesn’t contradict our submission to the lordship of Christ.

1 Peter 2:13-17 - 13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

The order allows for several exceptions. Most notably:

  • The individual is under ten years of age.
  • The individual has a medical condition or disability that contraindicates the wearing of facial coverings.
  • The individual is an officiant in a religious service. We understand this to mean anyone on the stage for ministry purposes.

These are trying times. Jesus said we would go through them. These times are an opportunity to trust in Christ’s care for us. Times to draw near to God and to each other.

John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.


Sunday Service for June 28, 2020

Dear Covenant of Grace Community,

We are delighted to be able to offer the opportunity to meet open-air in a large tent on the back lawn of the church at 10:00 am each Sunday from June 28 to July 26!

Whatever your decision about regathering – whether you plan to attend Sunday or watch the livestream – let these oft quoted (by me) scriptures be your guide:

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Please note these points:

  • You are not required to wear a mask, but we ask everyone to practice social distancing – keep 6 feet from non-family members, avoid hugs and handshakes.
  • Whether or not you choose to attend Sunday you will not be judged!
  • Whether or not you choose to wear masks you will not be judged!
  • If you are in a higher risk category, we urge you to be very careful, but we are not mandating that you stay home. Count the costs, know your risks, talk to your family, but if you decide to come, you are fully welcome!
  • Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5b

Important details:

  • We will try to park everyone onsite. If the parking lot fills up, we will shuttle to the school parking lot.
  • Arrive early. If the parking lot does fill up, you will have time to take the shuttle and not miss anything.
  • You may bring your own coffee and water. There won’t be a beverage service.
  • Grace House and the Church building will be open for bathroom use only. Feel free to walk through the auditorium to see the new look! However, please don’t linger inside or allow your children to play inside the buildings.
  • We will sing! However, be aware that singing increases the spread of moisture droplets. Singing has been compared to a cough or sneeze.
  • We will take Communion! We will use individually wrapped cup and bread. Singles and one person from each family will pick up the elements at the break – please wait for more direction.
  • Children will stay with their parents during the service. Child care will not be available.

Much love in Christ!

Pastor Bert


Plans for Regathering

Plans for Regathering

  • We are committed to measured steps toward regathering that are informed by governmental guidelines
  • We are working toward allowing limited increase in attendance on Sunday morning

I have talked to a lot of people about when and how we can get back to the full expression of the gathered church – exuberant singing of praise, sitting together under God’s word specifically for us as a church community, participating in communion, intimate fellowship with holy hugs & kisses and all the rest. Ah! How we long for that!!

Our longing isn’t just for a familiar cultural experience. The gathering I describe above is what we are graciously invited to and solemnly commanded by Scripture to participate in regularly (Acts 2:42-47, I Corinthians 10:16-17, I Corinthians 14:26, Colossians 3:15-17, Hebrews 10:23-25). Livestream services and video chat community groups are helpful, but they are not the same thing.

So, until how to get from here to there becomes clearer, we need to look at our hearts. Brett McCracken in his excellent article, “Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You,” calls us to some countercultural heart responses:

  • Countercultural Sacrifice
    • We will be called to social distance, wear masks and do other things that may be difficult and frustrating. You may feel they are totally unnecessary. Rather than complaining or judging others who do feel these precautions are necessary, God will be most glorified by us sacrificing our rights and preferences in deference to and respect for others.
  • Countercultural Humility
    • Six months ago, everyone on social media was an expert on North Korea and Impeachment. Now they are experts on infectious diseases and willing to fight about it. God calls us to something different. We may not be remarkable in our knowledge, but we can be remarkable in our humility. The Bible calls us to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. So, let’s be willing to humbly embrace the best efforts that we can come up with.
  • Countercultural Patience
    • I’ve been meeting with 15 executive pastors and administrators from church in our area. We’ve been wrestling with how to begin to regather. One of them said something that stuck with me, “There are so many reasons we for us to want to gather again. Let’s don’t let impatience be one of them.”
    • In that meeting I learned that some churches are opening to around 35% capacity this weekend, but with no singing. Others are looking at July or August and some are considering that it may be sometime in 2021 before they begin to gather again
    • We don’t have a date yet, but we are looking for ways to begin moving in that direction. It will be important for us to set our expectations knowing that intermediate steps still won’t be that full experience that we are longing for. So, we need patience.

Hebrews 6:11-12 

11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

So, for now, hang it there! Don’t grow weary in well doing. Make attending your Community Group a priority. While we are still asking CG’s to meet virtually and to not meet indoors in homes, some Community Groups are looking to meet outdoors, while respecting social distancing. That’s a great idea.

Also, make the Sunday service livestream a top priority. Plan to tune it at 10:00 am to participate and receive from God’s word. You may be able to hear and see gifted preachers somewhere else, but this is the only place you can hear the word God gave to your pastor for you and your church right now.


Church Gatherings & Meetings – update 3/27/2020

We have been carefully following the updates from President Trump’s COVID-19 Task Force, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Governor DeWine’s COVID-19 Task Force. Considering their recommendations, we have moved our Sunday worship service online at least until after May 10th. We will change that date as needed based on the best information available. Please see updates from those sources below.

Please plan to join at 10 am for our Sunday service at www.cogc.org. Each week we will sing, pray, hear, and respond to God Word together. This is a great opportunity to share the live-stream link every week with friends and family. Resource: Sermon Notes For Kids.

Additionally, all Community Groups are encouraged to meet via video chat at least until after May 10th.

Please plan to join us for live-stream Good Friday Service at 7:00 pm on April 10.

Thriving in this season

  • Take extra time to be with God through the Bible and prayer.

Psalm 16:8-9 (ESV)

I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure
.

 

  • Think Biblically about our Sunday live-stream service. This is helpful: To Stream or Not to Stream: Considering Sundays in Seclusion
  • Join us Wednesdays at noon on Facebook for prayer. Our first FB prayer meeting has reached 326 people, 251 views, 196 engagements, 16 comments, and 3 shares!
  • Look for opportunities to care for those in need. Here’s a shout out to John and Angie Hogan & family: not only are they hosting Felicia Jones, but they arranged to bring in a neighbor’s RV to shelter Emily Jones during her 14-day quarantine from travel abroad!
  • Carefully follow the best practices to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19. Take it seriously. See below.

 

COVID-19 dates & updates

  • 15 Days to Slow the Spread announced March 16, 2020 from President Trump (ends March 30)
    1. Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.
    2. If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.
    3. If your children are sick, keep them at home. Contact your medical provider.
    4. If someone in your household has tested positive for the Coronavirus, keep the entire household at home.
    5. If you are an older American, stay home and away from other people.
    6. If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition—such as a significant heart or lung problem—stay home and away from other people.
  • CDC recommends canceling event of 50 or more for eight weeks starting March 16 (ends May 10)
  • Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, M.D. MPH issued a Stay At Home order from March 24 to April 6
    1. The order requires residents to stay at home but allows exceptions for essential needs, such as medical care, going to work at an essential government service or business, going to the grocery store, getting restaurant carryout and attendance at weddings and funerals. DeWine said playgrounds are closed but parks remain open and he encouraged people to get outside — with the proper social distancing.
    2. Dr Acton predicts the spread of COVID-19 will peak around the beginning of May with 6,000 to 8,000 new infections per day.

 

 

Last Updated: 3/27/2020

Church Gatherings & Meetings – update 4/3/2020

Palm Sunday

The next two Sundays carry great traditions for Christians.  This Sunday, April 5, is Palm Sunday, which remembers and celebrates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus was recognized as the son of David, rightful king and prophet of God.

Matthew 21:8-11 (ESV)

8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.

One of our traditions is to provide palm branches for our children to wave as they march and dance around the sanctuary. This year we invite families to create homemade palm branches so they can wave and dance at home as they participate in the live-stream service at 10:00 am this Sunday. Here is an easy way to make one:

https://www.motherhoodonadime.com/kids/passion-hymns-for-kids-heart-day-1-palm/

Good Friday

We will broadcast via YouTube a pre-recorded Good Friday service at 5:00 next Friday, April 10. This is a change from the announcement last week. The service will be available for view at anytime after 5:00 pm. We encourage you to find a good time to view the service.

Covenant of Grace YouTube channel

Follow this link to find all of the COGC video postings:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTtYnJl4VNqsRXyQWxUJwWg

Church Gatherings & Meetings – update 4/10/2020

Good Friday & Easter

Greetings!  We are looking forward to our Good Friday Service at 5:00 pm Friday and our Easter Service at 10:00 am Sunday.  Just go to cogc.org to find the link. Both services will be available to view at a later time. We hope you will join and invite other, as well.

God’s Purpose for Our Generation

Acts 13:36 says “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption,” There is the purpose of God for every generation.  We are called to serve that purpose.  While that purpose involves many things, walking through this global pandemic makes some of those things become very clear. We are called to trust in God’s goodness rather than fear.  We are called to give up some of our privileges out of love for those around us. We are called to obey those in civil authority.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (ESV)

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

Developed by public health experts on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, these guidelines remain essential for containing the virus and protecting the most vulnerable among us:

  • Listen and follow all directionsfrom your state and local authorities.
  • Avoid social gatherings, especially those with more than 10 people.
  • Practice strict personal hygiene. Wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Use pickup or delivery options instead of eating at restaurants or bars.
  • Work from home if at all possible. Do not go to work if you feel sick.
  • If someone in your householdtests positive for Coronavirus, keep the entire family at home and contact your medical provider.

Click here for a 30 second video demonstrates the effectiveness of social distancing.

Philippians 2:14-15 (ESV)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world...

Update 4/17/2020

The White House Coronavirus Task Force has produced next steps for returning to “normal” life. Governor DeWine has said the plan is for Ohio to begin Phase One as of May 1st.

Based on our current understanding of the process we do not anticipate returning to regular Sunday services until somewhat after the May 10th target originally given by the CDC.

We will continue to monitor the progress of efforts to suppress the spread of COVID-19 and bring more clarity as to when we can meet together again. Please see below.

Summary from the Task Force*

Under Phase One of reopening:

  • Employers should continue remote working and to close common areas and "enforce strict social distancing protocol."
  • Restaurants, places of worship, gyms and movie theatres can reopen with physical distancing measures enforced. Bars should remain closed.
  • Doctors can resume elective surgeries.
  • Schools that have closed should remain closed, and hospitals and senior living facilities should remain off limits to visitors.

States without a spike in cases through Phase One can move to

Phase Two:

  • Schools, restaurants, bars and gyms to reopen with a smaller occupancy limit.
  • Non-essential travel can resume
  • People can gather in groups no larger than 50 people, but employers should encourage remote working.

Without any "rebound" in virus activity during Phase Two, states can move to

Phase Three:

  • Visits to hospitals and senior living facilities can resume.
  • Large venues can remain open but with strict physical distancing guidelines in place.

Click the link below for the full report:

Recommendations from White House Coronavirus Task Force

* Taken from an article in the Independent

Update April 24, 2020

Dear COGC Community,

I pray this finds you well and in the grasp of God’s grace! Here are a few updates and resources.

COVID-19

We are continuing to follow the President’s and Governor’s task forces for information and direction. I am involved with a group of executive pastors and administrators from 20+ churches in our area that is developing and sharing best practices for walking through and out of this season of the stay at home directive. In addition, I am participation in a number of webinars and conversations with online church consultants, Christian legal advisors and national church leaders. I am working on our own sanitation and gathering best practices for when we are able to gather again.

It is still too early to say with precision when it would be wise to gather again. I have heard estimates of late May to July. We may be able to stair-step up with smaller groups at first. Please continue to pray for God’s wisdom for us. In the meantime, please follow the guidelines for social distancing, hand washing, etc. including following the (click here) CDC How to Protect Yourself & Others

Resources

Here are some links to excellent resources that will serve you well:

  • Corona Virus and Christ – This link will take you to an outstanding book Dr Piper just published. It is available to download to read or hear. Dr. Piper’s Desiring God ministry reached out personally to Sovereign Grace Churches to offer free hard copies of the book for our family of churches. We have ordered hard copies that we will make available when they come. I’ve read the book and highly recommend it.
  • Creative coronavirus help - World Magazine This is a good resource for ideas and inspiration.
  • Link to Virtual Instruction – Navigating Online Resources and Child Safety PDF – This is a helpful guide to avoid sexual predation online for teacher and parents of students doing online studies from Greg Love and Kimberly Norris at MinistrySafe. We use the training and guidelines from MinistrySafe for security in our children’s ministry. This resource was provided to us via Sovereign Grace Churches.

You are on my heart and in my prayers,

Pastor Bert