Response to Escalation of Coronavirus Crisis – COVID-19 and the Local Church
An Evangelical Response to, and Guidelines Concerning, the Escalation in Ireland of the Coronavirus Crisis / by Nick Park (Executive Director, EAI)
Updated Friday 27th March 2020
For those that value careful foresight and planning, the current Covid-19 crisis is extremely unsettling. We find ourselves having to make on-the-spot decisions, trusting the Lord to guide us as we do so.
Tonight the government announced new restrictions which will have a massive effect on most churches until after Easter. For many of us, our plans for this weekend are in turmoil. The timing of imposing more restrictions (effective from midnight tonight) could hardly be worse from a church standpoint, but we recognise that governments make decisions based on public health and protection, not according to our church schedules.
The Taoiseach says he doesn’t like the word ‘lockdown’ – but this is certainly a lockdown in all but name. People are to stay at home with very narrow exceptions. Gardai have the power to stop and arrest those who don’t abide by these restrictions. There are to be no public or private gatherings of any size whatsoever.
Many congregations (including the one I pastor) have either been pre-recording, or posting live online, services from their church buildings to air on Sunday mornings and at other times. This is no longer possible under the new restrictions.
First of all, I would stress that whether to cancel church services, or to cease to record services with a small group in church, is not a matter for debate. To continue to hold such activities would not be a demonstration of faith, but rather a lack of love for the vulnerable in our communities and of unwarranted and unbiblical disobedience to the civil authorities. The State has a God-given mandate to protect its citizens. We recognise that they have the right to impose fire regulations in order to safeguard life and limb – and the current situation would appear to be an extension of that principle. For any churches to continue meeting in the present circumstances could potentially cost others their lives, irreparably damage their testimony in the communities where God has placed them, and bring reproach upon the Church of Jesus Christ in general.
If you are aware of churches that still plan to meet in defiance of these new restrictions, please do everything you can to reason with and dissuade them.
Over the next day and a half, many church leaders will be scrambling to implement alternative arrangements. Some will record a service from their homes, or go on Facebook live. Others, blessed with technically gifted staff or volunteers, will pull together clips from various sources and put something together. I have already been in contact with my fellow local church leaders and arranged for a musically-gifted married couple to record a worship set in their home. I will personally record the other components of the service in my home, and someone will edit it all together. It is not ideal – but we will trust God to bless it and use it to impact people’s lives.
No doubt we will all find ourselves reassessing what we did before next week, learning from one another, and making the best of this situation.
Let’s continue to pray for one another. So many churches have launched new prayer initiatives, including a number that are operating 24/7 prayer. I believe that this unprecedented outpouring of intercessory prayer in our nation will work on our behalf this weekend.
One of us shall put a thousand to flight. Two of us shall put ten thousand to flight. Together, we shall see something great happen in this nation.
EAI will continue to provide updates, advice and encouragement, and to share tips and ideas, to help churches and individual believers during this time of national crisis. We will also be cooperating with a number of churches and ministries to promote prayer initiatives. Please do visit our website https://www.evangelical.ie or social media channels regularly to avail of these resources.