Dear Cedar Grove Family,
During the week of March 8, we began closely monitoring the rapidly escalating health crisis. After following the advice of our local health department and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as communicating with other churches in our area, we made the very hard decision to close our doors for what we thought would only be a couple of weeks. On Sunday, March 15, we took our first baby steps into the world of online church. While we had previously provided online audio files, we had never dabbled in the realm of video sermons online. It was a bumpy beginning, but we were able to provide you with the sermon via video on our website!
On Monday morning, March 16, we called the staff together for a brainstorming session to discuss what we would do if a shelter-in-place order was mandated. Anticipating that this was a very likely scenario, we talked about what we needed to do to stay connected with all of you and how we could improve upon our first online service attempt. As we were gathered, praying and planning, every single one of us got an emergency alert on our phones! A shelter-in-place mandate was to be in effect at 12:00am on Tuesday, March 17.
Well, here we are, 17 weeks later! With a resourceful spirit and some experienced assistance, we have made significant strides in our online presence. Our Sunday morning services have markedly improved, and while we have more improvements to make, I am so excited for how far we’ve come. Our Sunday experience includes the use of Facebook Live so that we can interact with all of you! Of course we miss you all so very much, but when we watch the chat boxes and see your greetings, funny comments, words of encouragement, responses to God’s word and your floating “smiles and hearts” bubble by, we feel like we are with you and you’re with us!
Thankfully, we had the resources to purchase some new equipment and we have learned so much about how to make our Sunday experience great. I am so thankful for our staff and their tenacity with figuring out the tech pieces. I am especially thankful for Johnny Levi and his help in the production side of things. You’ve all seen Johnny during a few of our services when he joins Andrew for the music portion of our videos. Johnny has an abundance of experience in the music, audio and video side of things, and those skills are so important as more people are watching and engaging with our services than ever before. In fact, we literally have a worldwide audience! The time and resources we’ve put into broadcasting the services has been necessary and a very good investment for us. As we join hundreds of thousands of churches using this technology, the message of God’s love and redemption has gone viral. (It’s nice to use the word viral in a positive way!)
I really wanted to be able to give you a definitive regathering plan in this communication, however that is not possible at this moment. I want you to know that Joel and I, along with the elders, are constantly monitoring and evaluating our situation. I regularly attend meetings with the Alameda County Public Health Officer and other county officials. These virtual meetings are super helpful as we navigate this tumultuous situation. Please pray for us.
I have tried to think of a word picture to describe this season of life and what comes to mind is wind and waves. We are constantly hearing about surges and flattening curves, highs and lows, ebbs and flows, and I feel like I’m getting a bit seasick! However, I know full well that Jesus is in charge. As the scriptures call out: Even the winds and the waves obey him.
We can hear the sound of the wind and see the trees moving, but we can’t actually see the wind. In that way, it’s a bit like COVID-19. We can’t see it, but we sure can see its effects. While fighting an invisible enemy should not be a foreign thought to Christ followers, we are struggling with this battle just the same. It is difficult to know exactly where to strike and when to duck and dodge!
Waves are one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring things of nature. Looking at the ocean, you can see innumerable waves as far as the eye can see. You can even see waves from an airplane, and you realize they are endless. They are in continual motion – rising up, moving forward, losing their momentum, and then rising up again. They surge; now that is a word that has become familiar to all of us! Surging waves are produced when huge swells reach shorelines with a steep profile. They travel at high speeds and have no crest associated with them. Although they might seem harmless because they don’t break like other waves, they can be very dangerous because of the strong pulling effect associated with them. They can literally suck you out to deep and treacherous waters.
What’s my point? I simply want to communicate that we have some very precarious waters to navigate as we work toward regathering. So again, please pray for us as we work toward the goal of meeting together. We so much want to be with all of you in person! Pray as we navigate Exposure Control Plans, Contact Tracing, Site Plans, Safety Protocols, Health Screenings, Face Coverings, Social Distancing, no singing, no hugs, no handshakes…I’m feeling seasick again!
I want to share a quote I read recently: Please keep in mind that both the gathered church and the distributed church are equally valid and important expressions of the Body of Christ. Jesus never intended for the church to be only contained in a building on Sunday mornings. COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to engage our communities in new ways. We should not just long to return to what was, we also should eagerly join God in building something better.
Thank you, church family, for your faithful giving during this difficult time. Because of your generosity we’ve been able to continue our ministry. We’ve also been able to support missionaries globally and partner locally with Open Heart Kitchen and other non-profits in the area to provide food for those in need in our community.
So much is going on behind the scenes! With the building closed, we are taking advantage of this time to continue some of our renovation projects. We have new paint and carpet in some of our kids’ areas, and we are painting the offices in the next few weeks. Oh, and watch for our new logo soon!
Again, thank you for joining our online services and devotionals. Your attendance and interaction mean so much to us! Additionally, I know that many of you are connected through Life Groups and are finding a variety of other ways to check in on one another. What a beautiful picture of the church in action!
Continue being faithful, invite your friends to our services and love your family and neighbors. As we continue to work diligently to bring you great online services, we look forward to the day when we can safely regather. We love you.