A Ministry Guide during this time of Social Isolation: Four Areas of Focus
In many ways this is a confusing and disorienting time. This is a new and very different season for all of us. In light of that, I want to provide you with some guidance on how to think about being part of a church in a time of social distancing and isolation. Your leaders are asking the same questions that you are: “What does it mean to be a church in the local Hershey area during this moment of our history?” We have discussed and prayed through this issue and want you to know our current thinking.
Overall Approach: We believe that this is a time for us to return to the basics and focus on what is critical to our mission as a church.
With that in mind, I want us to turn our focus to four areas of our life and ministry together in the Hershey area. By encouraging you to focus on these four areas, our goal is to provide you with practical pastoral counsel during this time of stress and change. Over time, we want to encourage you to seek appropriate ways to be involved in each of these four areas. We are exploring ways to provide opportunities in each area for you to be involved according to your ability. In doing so, you can have a sense of being connected and engaged in our church community during this time.
The Four Areas of Focus:
1) Respond with Worship
The worship of God is a priority. In today’s language it is essential and necessary.
“We worship God because God created us to worship him. Worship is at the center of our existence, at the heart of our reason for being. God created us to be his image—an image that would reflect his glory.” (Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to Scripture, 2002, 1)
Our Shorter Catechism reminds us of this in its first question and answer: “What is the chief end of man?” [purpose for humanity] Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
This time is an opportunity to learn to live our lives as worship to God.
To begin, here are a few things we suggest:
- Facebook Live Sunday Worship: Attend weekly worship with us online. This is not our preferred way to meet, but it is one possible way to continue meeting together as a church family in worship. During this time, we are committed to offering weekly, corporate worship in whatever form we are able to provide it. Currently, streaming our service through Facebook Live is a way that we want to enable you to follow public health regulations and gather with others for worship on the Lord’s Day. You can follow a link to our Facebook page from our website at hersheypca.com even if you do not have a Facebook account.
- Household Worship: We are suggesting that if you live with others (family or roommates), to begin a time of “household” worship in which you read a passage of Scripture, sing a Psalm or hymn, share requests, and pray for each other.
Hebrews 10:19-25: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
2) Return to the Spiritual Disciplines
The spiritual disciplines have been a way through the centuries that believers have found useful to grow in godliness and wisdom as well as to stay rooted to Christ.
Donald S. Whitney describes them this way: “The Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth. They are the habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since biblical times.” (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 1991, 15)
In many of our lives, we have neglected or forgotten these important, practical means of living out the Christian life. Let’s use this time to return to the basic principles of the practice of our Faith.
- Daily Prayer: The first thing that we want to encourage you to do is to find regular times to seek the Lord in prayer. This week, I’ve introduced a Daily Prayer moment on our Facebook page through Facebook Live. This is a brief 5-10 daily check in, including a reading of one Psalm, and a prayer for a local community issue. You can join in at noon. It is also available after that for streaming. Use this time to develop a pattern of prayer, then plan a personal prayer time in the AM or PM as you start or end the day.
John 15:1-5: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
3) Engage in Fellowship
Staying connected with other believers is important for your encouragement and spiritual health, especially if you find yourself otherwise isolated. The same is true for those who are entering a potentially stressful time of care and service to others. We need each other and want to find appropriate ways to encourage each other. We are exploring new ways to do this, to begin:
- Call and video chats: The best way to start this is to pick up the phone and call someone else in the congregation. Say “hi” and ask how they are doing. You might simply share your personal stories and experiences, discuss your level of anxiety or fear, read a Scripture verse together, pray together, or simply have a pleasant conversation. This is an easy way to break the isolation. Remember those who are at greater risk and reach out to them—even if you don’t know them yet! Simply say that you are part of Hershey PCA and you wanted to say hello.
- Card writing and/or emailing: At this point, we have not heard any instructions to limit mail (but if so, you could do this by sending an email). Consider taking time to write a note of encouragement to someone else in the congregation or to one of our missionaries. If you have children at home, you might have them draw a picture to send along. Many would appreciate such a thoughtful remembrance at this time. (Please follow any public health recommendations concerning whether or not to send mail to others.)
Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Romans 15:5-7: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
4) Offer Hospitality, Gospel Outreach, and Mercy
We remain a people charged with a mission from our King, Jesus Christ—to make disciples of all nations. While this seems difficult during these times, the Lord can do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” Let’s ask and think of ways that we can continue to make disciples. In this season that means asking ourselves the question, “What does hospitality, outreach, and mercy look like during a time of social distancing and social isolation?” Look for appropriate ways in line with current public health recommendations to engage in these things. It will take creativity and thought, but the Lord is not bound by our restrictions, let’s ask and live as though we believe that!
- Neighborhood focus: Begin with this: As long as we are able to be out and about in our neighborhoods, if you find yourself home more frequently, make it a goal to get to know your neighbors by name. You might go for a walk on good days and talk with your neighbors (staying outside and keeping appropriate social distance). Talk to them about their experience so far and ask them if it would be ok to pray for them as part of your spiritual disciplines.
Galatians 6:10: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Hebrews 13:1-2: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
1 Peter 3:15: “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to
anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect….”
Galatians 2:10: “…they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”
As new opportunities arise, we will be asking how they fall into one of these four areas of current focus. As we find new opportunities in each area, we hope to pass on those ideas and tell stories of the various ways we are learning to be the church together in this time.
It is our prayer and hope, that by God’s grace, by focusing on these four areas in our church life and ministry during this time, we can come through united, growing, and stronger than we were before this began.