March 18, 2020
Dear friends –
On March 13, we sent out an email and Facebook message about Circle of Peace and COVID-19. Today the Church Board and I have an important update: Circle of Peace is cancelling all in-person gatherings for the next 15 days (through April 1).
There is a Q&A with details on the reverse. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.
By not meeting in person for the next 15 days, we shut down 12 previously scheduled gatherings, not counting worship and small groups. On the one hand, we are so disappointed to not be able to gather as we normally would have. On the other hand, it’s pretty exciting that we’ve grown to the point where we had scheduled 12+ gatherings in 15 days! We are confident that our decision not only follows the science and most recent government guidelines, it also follows Jesus’ command to love our neighbors by not putting them at risk.
The bottom line is this: For a period of time we will stop going to church, but we will not stop being the church. We will continue to make disciples, to grow as followers of Jesus, to love God and self and neighbor, and to give and receive God’s peace. Our mission has not changed. Our goal is to prayerfully use this disruption as an opportunity to be led by the Holy Spirit and experiment with different methods.
We acknowledge the uncertainty of this season. We all feel it. Please remember and pray for those especially at risk, and for health care professionals, both inside and outside our congregation. Since new information about COVID-19 is emerging every few days – sometimes every few hours – it is wise for us to expect more changes to come. And we believe that God has called us to be stewards of this moment. So by His grace and for His glory we will be innovative, adaptable, and fearless – together.
Pastor Jeremy Ashworth
COVID-19 and Circle Q&A – Current March 18, 2020
Q: What about Sunday worship?
A: We will not gather for worship on Sunday March 22 and Sunday March 29. Pastor Jeremy will do a livestream of the sermon at 10:30 AM. To connect to the livestream, go to www.youtube.com and search for “Circle of Peace Live.”
Q: So we’re not gathering in person for the next 15 days (through April 1) – what about after those 15 days?
A: Short answer: we don’t know yet. Since new information is emerging every few days – sometimes every few hours – the wisest and most responsible choice is to monitor and adjust. We are all closely watching new developments, and with God’s help we will act based on whatever limitations and opportunities we are presented with.
Q: What are we doing to minister & connect in the next 15 days?
A: This is so important! Our plan is to organize a new effort to call every single household connected to Circle once per week. The goal of this call is simple: a thoughtful check-in, a word of prayerful encouragement, perhaps to learn if someone has a need, or to see if someone can meet the need of another. In this time of “social distance” this ministry of “spiritual connection” will be critical. We need people now who are willing to take on this ministry of calling one or more households once a week. If you are available, or even just curious, please contact Jaime Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What else can we do to help?
A: Due to the urgent need for blood, Circle is hosting a community blood drive on Sunday, March 22nd from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM. We are told that you will not be able to drop-in, but will need to register beforehand online or by calling Katrina at 602-770-4675. We will be posting a link soon where you can book your appointment online.
Q: What about financial giving to Circle during this time?
A: Mail a check to 8430 W. Deer Valley Rd, Peoria AZ, 85382. Learn about digital giving options like Zelle or Planning Center at our website: https://www.circleofpeacechurch.com/donate/. Any questions, our Office Manager Juliana is happy to help, email@example.com or 623-879-6700. We’ll not belabor the point, but in the spirit of transparency it needs to be said that consistent giving will be crucial to the church’s financial health in this season.
Q: What are other ways we can connect digitally and spiritually?
A: Pastor Jeremy plans to send short video devotions to the church on at least a weekly basis through Facebook. Our Ministry Director Jaime Howard will offer some videos and resources for kids at https://www.facebook.com/kidsatcircle/. We will embrace this opportunity to experiment, so look for more to come.
March 13, 2020
Hi friends –
We’ve received several inquiries about Circle and COVID-19, so as Pastor I wanted to share the following. Some of it is logistical, some of it is spiritual, I hope all of it is helpful.
- Pace yourself. We’re in new territory with new developments happening every day. Listen to real experts (like the CDC) but be careful about how much media you consume. Breathe deep, pray without ceasing, be patient, and ask God for wisdom. Give it some time to resolve.
- Follow the experts. If something substantial comes from a government official (like the state of AZ) or a health official (like the CDC) Circle will take action. We’re going to follow government guidelines and follow the science. Likewise, if your Doctor tells you to do something or not do something, please follow your Doctor’s orders.
- Day at a time. Since new developments are happening in real time, we’re going to take it a day at a time. As of today, 3/13/2020, we are not planning on cancelling anything unless we have to. But if we have to, we will.
Here are some things to think about for this Sunday March 15:
- I (Jeremy) am going to be there for both services. I am writing a sermon and planning to preach my heart out just like I would any Sunday. We plan to livestream and record the sermon for the podcast just like we would any Sunday (special thanks to Jason Powell and his team who have worked so diligently to make this happen). At this point we plan for children’s ministry to operate as normal.
- Feeling sick? Stay home.
- I know this might feel weird, but we recommend that we greet each other verbally (“Hi! Good morning!”) but not physically (hugs, handshakes, etc.). This is not normal for your church or for your pastor, but the fact is some of us already do this anyways during flu season.
- If we’re able to get a hold of some extra hand sanitizer, we’ll have some. We plan to hold doors open as you come in so you don’t have to touch door handles. Likewise, we will set out the offerings baskets so you don’t have to “pass the basket.”
Several people have recently asked how to see sermons and / or how to give online.
To watch sermons go here: https://www.circleofpeacechurch.com/category/sermons/
Or visit our Youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9vXcykFlTuWx1oNnjO5eeA
To see several options for giving go here: https://www.circleofpeacechurch.com/donate/
Any questions about this, just contact Juliana at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-879-6700.
A word about our community: Circle is made up of people who are young and not-so-young, infants and toddlers and one man who is 100 years old. We have members who work in healthcare and public schools. Some of us are very healthy, others of us have compromised immune systems. Likewise, the community beyond our congregation is diverse in terms of age and health. By all means take care of yourself, but love your neighbor as yourself and look out for the interest of others as well as your own interests.
This might sound like a strange change of subject but stay with me: I don’t know any normal person who gets excited about obscure Old Testament laws, like those in the book of Leviticus or Deuteronomy. However, those seemingly boring books are full of guidelines about cleanliness, hygiene, and physical health. Why? Because God cares about physical health, human disease and prevention, and communal well-being. This moment is a good reminder of the scope of God’s care and the depth of God’s character (thanks Dr. Scott Gourley).
But this moment is not just about God’s character, it is also about ours. A friend of mine recently said: “Times of collective and personal crisis will reveal who we have conditioned ourselves to be” (Amy Gall Ritchie). This is an opportunity to be salt and light. I repeat: This is an opportunity for followers of Jesus to be a witness to the world and to be who we say we are. “Worry is not our friend, and panic is not our way… it takes the same amount of energy to worry as to pray” (Todd Wagner). Provide for your family. Check in on vulnerable people, because if we do it to the “least of these” we do it to Jesus. Seek the peace of the place where you are. Look out for and show up for your neighbors. Do not be a “carrier” of needless fear. As another friend recently said, “My prayer is that we would sense the peace of Christ in the midst of these circumstances and that we would trust the working of God’s Spirit, even as things feel uncertain. Christians are the people who remain calm in the face of uncertainty, and who stay grounded in the person and presence of Jesus Christ during times of societal anxiety” (David Rice).
There will be logistical disruptions. But I’m encouraging all of us to follow the science, and follow Jesus. Follow the experts, and follow Jesus. Follow your Doctor’s orders, and follow Jesus. And wash your hands. And follow Jesus.
Pastor Jeremy Ashworth
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