To our dear friends and family at Grace Church,
As you may have been expecting, we’ve decided to suspend all ministries that meet in our church building, including our worship services, classes, and the many smaller partner ministries that use the building throughout the week. Our building will not host any meetings, of any size, until our council deems it safe and proper to open it back up.
This decision isn’t exactly excruciating or painful, as it is a decision that is based in our desire to do the best thing for our own congregation, our dear friends in ministry, and our dear, dear neighbors and friends in downtown Portland. No one wants to be a part of this virus getting worse or having its way with our community, so we are delighted to join the worldwide, national, and local effort to fight it. Many of us have spent years repeating the mantra, “The church is not a building, the church is not a building.” Okay, so let’s live that way!
However, it is no small thing to suspend the public worship of Jesus for any reason at all—at least not for me. I am in love with the church, not as an ideal or spiritual, universal theory, but as the flesh and blood, young and old, flawed and frustrating community of people that we and all churches are. Followers of Jesus continue today to worship Him in settings and circumstances far worse, and more deadly, than this coronavirus, and we must never forget them, or fail to pray for them and honor them. However, it seems likely that we can do some good by suspending our meetings, so we’re going to do that. I’m unsure of how our ministry itself will proceed over the next couple of weeks.
I’m not of a mindset that it is important to produce some sort of internet-based ministry from Grace Church, one that would ask you to spend your Sunday mornings in front of your computers, tablets and smart phones, attending a cyber-church service. We’re small, local, and connected, so I don’t expect we’ll lose track of each other. I’m also not worried about finances, because we trust in the Lord to continue to care for us, as He has already done through allowing us to have the financial reserves to pay our bills, and to keep everyone on payroll, etc. However, this church is our family, and I cannot bear to be without contact with my family and friends for three weeks, so expect to hear from me! Please check our Facebook page, where I will post regularly, and maybe even go bigtime and create a couple of videos!
During this time, I think it is important that we be very clear that our faith, love, and courage are, in this case and in part, demonstrated by simply following the directions we are given by medical professionals, taking great care to not be a part of the spread of this virus. We should show kindness to all, a greater earnestness in serving and loving our neighbors, and not be tempted to dive into the political-based arguments and debates around this virus, finger pointing, or blaming other people or other countries for their responses to the virus. Honestly, do any of us really live our lives to be prepared for such things? I believe the greatest thing we can do during this time is to adapt to changes and show greater patience and love to those around us. I am very convicted of my own tendency to fire up my computer to see all the things people are saying about people, God, life, politics, me, etc., before I quietly turn to the Lord to confess my vast, ongoing need for Him, and to ask that others would receive His grace, kindness, and love this day. Perhaps Sunday mornings for the next few weeks can be a special time of doing some things that you normally don’t do on Sunday mornings. Perhaps we can spend some time outside, praying and playing with the kids, having coffee with the neighbors, just things that are nice to do on a quiet Sunday morning.
The early Christian historian Eusebius (c. 260-340 AD) wrote that the Christians of the empire stood out for their insistence on caring for both their Christian and non-Christian friends and neighbors in times of famine—sometimes even contracting diseases themselves as they refused to leave the side of those in need. During the times of the year when the wealthy citizens of the cities of the ancient Roman Empire would retreat to their mountain villas, servants in tow, for the cleaner air, better water and sanitation, and relative freedom from the plagues that regularly attacked the cities, many Christians would stay behind, caring for their neighbors. In a sense, the Christians practiced a type of universal health care, for Eusebius emphasizes that they sacrificially cared for all neighbors, regardless of religions, beliefs, and lifestyles. And I don’t write that to be trite or manipulative—you can see in our culture today the great tendency to look out and care for only those people who are like us, look like us, belong to us, or believe like us, etc. But we are to be indiscriminately loving, foolishly tenderhearted, and wildly generous in our relations with all those around us, as we seek to live out and to speak out the message of salvation found in none but our dear Lord Jesus. God has not granted our church permission to hate, condemn, and disrespect some, while claiming to believe in a gospel that promises grace, love, and hope for all.
I am excited and confident to see the way Grace Church family jumps at the opportunity to express the love and grace of Jesus Christ to the world around. Let’s see what God will do in our church over the next few weeks, before we gather again to worship together! And let’s keep in touch!
Sundays, 10 AM, on the corner of SW 12th & Clay in downtown Portland, OR. (Please refer to Visit Grace Church page for more information.)
We have lived in downtown Portland since our birth in 1874. Our purpose is to grow in our love for Jesus, each other, and our neighbors in the Portland Metro area. We believe God’s love for the world drove Him to send His very Son, Jesus, into the world to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. All who simply trust in His death on their behalf are forgiven and have inherited eternal life. We are welcoming to all who desire to explore Christianity, or who desire to worship and belong to a community of fellow Christians.
All are Welcome!