This Sunday, March 15, we will not meet publicly. Instead, we will “gather” online for the live stream broadcast of our worship service, worshiping in our homes.
Please understand, this is not about panic, but prudence. Like you, we have been paying attention to the developing information about the Coronavirus, and wondering how it affects us. Some states have imposed restrictions on gatherings larger than 250 persons, which would affect us. As of this writing, Florida has not. But a number of high traffic businesses are making the decision to do so themselves.
In talking with other local pastors, most churches will probably not suspend their gatherings unless required to. That is my natural bent as well. “You don’t cancel church.” But as I prayed and sought counsel, I reached a tipping point around two considerations: our elderly, and the high prevalence of tourism at SCC. I haven't heard if old age makes a person more likely to contract the virus, but apparently it makes it more dangerous to. And with so many people visiting from out of state on any given Sunday — some from states where the virus is already community spread — and with there being an asymptomatic incubation period, we could have people transmitting the virus to our elderly without knowing it. And so it has become a pastoral concern for me, both for those at risk in our own church, as well as the responsibility we have to Sarasota to help slow transmission of the virus in this community.
“So, are we canceling church?” No! Just the public gathering. We have been live streaming our worship services since 2012. We are still having church, we’re just asking everyone to watch online from their home, or in a small group in someone else’s home where the risk is more easily managed.
If you know of anyone who does not have online access, please reply to this email with their name and address so that we can plan to get them a DVD.
“For how long and what about other events?” We will keep monitoring the situation, which seems to be changing rapidly, and make decisions as we go. Our default is to not cancel things. At this point, we have given no instructions to cancel midweek events. Assume that it is still on unless you hear otherwise. Stay tuned and we will do our best to communicate.
I pray that what we’re doing will be not only effective at reducing the virus spread, but meaningful to each of us as we worship God in a different setting. As always, let’s be praying for each other, but also for the people of this community, and against this virus. The only one who really knows what this virus is going to do is God. So spend serious time talking to him about it.
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.