Hello again Centre Street Church family.
If I had told you, six months ago, that our world and our life would be turned upside down--like it has--you would have wondered if I was delirious and desperately needing to see a doctor. If I would have described what we are experiencing today no one would have believed it. Many of us are still trying to process how dramatically our lives have changed as a result of this Coronavirus pandemic.
Not only have our personal lives been impacted, our church life has also been affected in a big way. A little over a month ago, thousands of us worshiped together at one of our five campuses. Since then, out of love and concern for the health of our friends and neighbors and our desire to cooperate with our government in stopping the rapid spread of this virus, we've cancelled our weekend public worship services. Our facility leases in Airdrie, NW, South Campus have been suspended. All our buildings are closed. Midweek groups and other ministries are not meeting in person as they used to. We’ve moved to worshiping only online in our homes. Not much is the same.
In Acts 2:46, we read that the early church gathered together regularly for public worship and the Apostles' teaching and then scattered out into the community and met together in homes Like the two wings of a plane, we believe both are important aspects of making disciples and we look forward to the day we can once again gather for public worship and scatter to love and care for one another and together accomplish the mission Christ has called us to.
But make no mistake, even though we cannot meet for public worship for a time, our church is still very much alive. At its core, our church is made up of hundreds of community groups and other small groups and ministry teams-- and many of you have been part of such a community--for years. Through this pandemic, we have learned in a whole new way not only how important it is to be in community with one another but how supportive these relationships can be especially in uncertain times like we are presently experiencing.
The good news is presently over 70% of our community groups are meeting through an online platform and we are working on even more of our groups meeting this way. Our children and youth staff continue to partner with parents in discipling their children and youth with online groups and video resources.
If you are a youth, young adult or adult and are not part of a group, please let us know--by going on our website or by calling the church and we'll do all we can to help you be part of a group or better yet, help you start a group or host a group in your community. If you want to access our online resources for children check out our website or call the church as well.
In my last update on March 18, I informed you that our ability to support our ministries, missionaries and staff depends on your continued giving. The reality is, the COVID-19 pandemic combined with the economic slowdown, and inability to collect tithes and offerings in public gatherings has had a significant negative impact on the finances of our church. Left as is, projections indicated we would end the ministry year (June 2020) with a large deficit.
Therefore, we developed a new budget based on our new financial reality and took steps to reduce costs wherever possible while still doing our best to advance our mission and ministry as a church. In order to garner more input, we vetted our process and conclusions with our senior team leaders and our Board of Governors, receiving their affirmation to make the following painful changes:
First, effective immediately, only critical spending will be authorized in both ministry and operational budgets.
Second, earlier this week we had to lay-off a number of our staff. While the lay-offs are temporary, we are not able to make any promises or guarantees to bring them back on staff, because we won't know whether we will be in a financial position to do so. We are seeking to understand to what extent we will qualify (if at all) to receive funds being made available through the provincial and federal government and will utilize whatever funds we receive to keep as many staff employed as possible.
The decision to lay-off staff has been very difficult and heartbreaking. These people are part of our church family and we appreciate who they are, we value them as individuals, their dedication, commitment and their ministry to the people of our church. Unfortunately, if finances continue to decline, we will have no choice but to continue laying off more staff. I know this is hard news and how I wish it weren't so--but we have to live within our means.
We know some of you have been laid off, others of you have experienced a significant down-turn in your business. Still others of you are not sure there will be a job waiting for you when the worst of this pandemic passes. This is a very challenging time for all of us---which makes me so grateful for those of you who continue to give faithfully.
Steve, our pastor of Compassion Ministry informed us today how he and his team were kept busy for an hour and a half unloading food---that people from our church were dropping off for the needy of our city and how with the help of many of you were distributing or delivering up to a 100 food hampers a week to the needy. God bless you all for your generosity and acts of kindness.
If you are able to give to the ongoing mission and ministry of our church but haven't yet, my big ask is that you would go to God in prayer and ask Him to give you the grace needed to trust Him in these uncertain times and then step out in faith and give as He leads you to. Since giving in our public worship services isn't an option, please consider mailing in or dropping off your offering at Central Campus during office hours (Monday to Friday--8:30 to 4:30) or go on our website and sign up for one of the many ways you can give online so that we can continue to make disciples, care for the needy and accomplish God's redemptive purposes in our city, nation and world. Thank you in advance for your generosity and support.
You know--history teaches us that pandemics and plagues do not last. The coronavirus will peak and then decline and then fade away. With God's help, we will make it through this difficult time together. Presently this pandemic is a valley we need to walk through but let's not forget that our Good Shepherd is walking with us and we can find comfort in His rod (His protection) and His staff (His provision).
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says, 'If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land". God promises to 'heal our land' of pestilence like COVID-19, if we, His children, will humble ourselves, turn from our sins, seek His face and pray.
In this time in which we are being asked to stay in our homes, I want to challenge us to not devote most of our time to trivial pursuits but to give priority to reflecting deeply on what this pandemic is teaching us about what really matters in life, to opening the Scriptures and to ask the Lord often, "Lord what are you saying to me and what are you asking me to do about it?"
For over a month now, I have been specifically praying that our church would come out the other side of this pandemic spiritually stronger and more aligned with God's heart than ever before and that all of us will go to another level in our relationship with the Lord as we humble ourselves, repent of habitual sin and seek His face with all our heart. May it be so, to the glory of God and for the sake of a world that needs the Jesus we know and love.
In closing, I just want to remind you that as we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we, as a church family, will be having 3 days of prayer and fasting starting this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You will find prayer guides on our website. I also encourage you to participate in the daily devotions that we have on our website.
Then finally, I remind you that next week we will be having our usual Good Friday services online at 9 and 11---and on EASTER WEEKEND---or more accurately--RESURRECTION WEEKEND--I am so looking forward to sharing God's Word with you--and also with many others in our city and nation who will be joining us online--Saturday evening at 6:30, Sunday morning at 9 and 11 and Sunday evening at 6:00 pm.
Until then--may God bless you and keep you--may He make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you His precious peace. In the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.