As a church, we’re into a full month of increased precautionary measures against the spread of Covid-19. We issued a set of advisories on the first weekend of February, and engaged a cleaning company to do a thorough cleaning and sanitisation of our facilities weekly.
The following week, we cancelled our Toddlers’ classes, all non-urgent meetings of over 50 people, introduced mandatory temperature-taking and weekly live-streaming of our services. We essentially trimmed our gatherings to just our weekend services, and on Feb 15, announced the cancellation of our Kingdom Invasion Conference.
These last four weeks have been intense as we sought to put measures in the church to ensure our members’ safety. For any other organisation, it’d be pretty straightforward. But for a church, there’s always a lingering question as to whether we’re acting in faith or fear.
This is what has made it intense for us. Even as we put measures into place, we’re often questioned – if not outright accused – about not having faith. On the other hand, other segments of the church call for even more precautions. Amid all this, we see a spectrum of responses from the Body of Christ in Singapore.
Some pastors called on members not to fear but to keep coming for services. Others cancelled their services and organised their congregations to function in small groups and watch services online. Looming at the forefront of everyone’s minds are the two clusters of Covid-19 cases reported in two churches.
I’ve pondered over these things and wondered what God is seeking to say to us during this period. I’ve no definitive answers to offer but here are some thoughts for your consideration:
1. Does precaution signal a lack of faith?
It’s interesting that, in our staff meeting this week, Pastor Dian shared how the concept of quarantines began in the Bible. If you didn’t know that, look at Leviticus 13 and 14.
Two chapters are actually dedicated to teaching Israel how to deal with situations with infections. It wasn’t just about infections on humans, but on properties as well. People who contracted infectious diseases had to be quarantined outside the camp and away from the community.
Infected properties had to be properly cleansed and left alone before being re-examined if the infection had been dealt with. Modern-day quarantines began in the 14th century, some 3,000 years after Leviticus was given to Israel. It definitely took some time for science to catch up with the Bible.
Let me say this – taking precautionary measures is biblical!
At the same time, to what extent should those measures be? You may not know this, but the Kingdom Invasion organising committee has received our fair share of emails accusing us of acting in fear by cancelling the conference. We’ve been soundly rebuked for our lack of faith and acting in fear.
I sometimes wonder if people realise the gargantuan effort required to organise a conference like Kingdom Invasion. While we’ve a small team that works on each conference over a full nine months, when the conference nears, the entire staff in Cornerstone is required to pull off the event.
In fact, the entire church comes together to see the conference take shape and be executed excellently. All these have to be done on top of the added precautionary measures we must put in place – in church and at the conference. The logistical and manpower strain added on our volunteers and full-time staff was something that we had to seriously take into consideration.
2. Crisis presents opportunity
In the midst of all this, we see a need for the local church to rise up in times of crisis to aid our communities. Part of the reason for cancelling KI is so that we can channel our finances, resources, and manpower to help our communities.
While we may not be able to prevent people with negative behaviour from panic buying, and acting in fear and selfish ways, we can tip the balance by responding with acts of kindness and faith. We can increase the presence and prominence of positive actions to overwhelm the negativity.
For this purpose, we started the ‘Cornerstone Cares’ initiative and, over the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed many amazing doors open for us to reach out to pockets of the community who have been most affected by the Covid-19 crisis – migrant workers, healthcare professionals, and even taxi drivers whose livelihoods have been significantly affected during this period.
I’ve seen our staff grabbing the Cornerstone Cares stickers and cards, going out to buy coffee and lunches for the security guards, cleaners, and workers around our building. I cannot imagine a clearer picture of faith than this. The best place for faith to be displayed isn’t within the four walls of the church, but outside. Fear makes us hunker down in what we consider safe places. Faith compels us to go out and keep loving people and trusting God for opportunities to minister to them.
Let’s have faith, and show that Cornerstone Cares!