Across the denomination, Christian Reformed Church in North America offices and agencies have canceled events, switched to having as many employees as possible work at home, and encouraged churches and ministries to find creative ways to bring care and comfort to people being affected by the coronavirus COVID-19.
With a global reach, these actions are having an impact on the church’s work in many places, especially as COVID-19 continues to spread.
“I thank God for the many creative ways in which pastors and churches are addressing this crisis. These include the use of video for worship and preaching, as well as creating networks of connection to check on people in need,” said Colin Watson, Sr., acting executive director of the CRCNA.
“We remain a committed, caring, Christian community,” Watson added. “Even in the midst of difficulty, I believe that this is the time when the church can be most present by praying for, checking on, and ensuring the well-being of the entire body by using all the tools, technological and otherwise, that God has provided for us . . . to him be the glory!”
So far, said Watson, the CRCNA has changed its May Council of Delegates meeting to an online only format, but has made no change to its plans for Synod 2020 in June. “We are closely monitoring the situation and will make appropriate recommendations about this gathering in due time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the denomination has encouraged staff in its offices in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Burlington, Ont., to work from home and to practice “social distancing,” meaning to stay at least six feet away from people and to regularly wash their hands.
Here is a look at other actions.
On March 13, World Renew suspended its volunteer activity until June 1, 2020, and announced that its Disaster Response Services is suspending all volunteer activities, effective immediately, also through June 1.
For World Renew DRS this includes groups, one-week and three-week volunteers, and long-term volunteers, along with warehouse and office volunteers. World Renew DRS staff and volunteer managers will review options with those volunteers who are currently on-site in North America. Then in May a situational review will be completed to determine whether or not volunteer activities and sites can safely be restarted on June 1, 2020.
“This decision will have a significant impact,” said Bob Laarman, World Renew DRS director. “Homeowners who are already hurting, and who may have been waiting for help for months or years after a disaster, now have to wait longer for their homes to be safe and secure again.”
DRS, said Laarman, will work with local partner organizations to seek other ways to support recovery in communities where its volunteers have been working. “We have a responsibility not to expose vulnerable people, homeowners, volunteers, or staff, to the risk of disease. ”
The CRCNA and World Renew directors in the U.S. and Canada have also restricted staff travel, including international and domestic trips, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
“World Renew works in 32 countries worldwide,” said Carol Bremer-Bennett, World Renew U.S. director. “We are doing all that we can to keep communities safe and take the precautions needed to ensure the health of those around us.”
Resonate Global Mission has postponed all of its events planned for the next two months. Canceled events include Resonate’s Exodus Vision Trip to Egypt and the Holy Land and the Glocal Mission Summit scheduled for late April in Grand Rapids.
North American staff have been encouraged to work remotely when possible and to hold meetings virtually until May 31. Staff have been encouraged to cancel all upcoming travel plans until June 1.
Resonate staff and volunteers currently on international (long-term, short-term, and volunteer) assignments will be remaining in their host country until the conclusion of their terms and are making all necessary preparations for the COVID-19 crisis. If you have questions, e-mail email@example.com.
As of Monday, March 16, all classroom instruction at Calvin University has gone online. There are no confirmed cases of the virus on campus.
To this point, students who are able to return to their hometown during this period are encouraged to do so. However, the university will continue to support those students who need access to residence halls and dining services.
On March 16, Calvin President Michael Le Roy and Vice President for Student Life Sarah Visser provided an outline of the necessary actions Calvin is taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In a letter they said the school is consistently adding new FAQs to its COVID-19 FAQ page.
In addition, Calvin University had to postpone its biennial Festival of Faith & Writing until April 7-10, 2021. They did this because the majority of attendees and speakers are not local and would have to travel from across the country (45-plus states) and internationally (12-plus countries) to the conference.
All of these cancellations can help to remind us of the human toll COVID-19 is taking. The virus pays no heed to borders, said David Koll, the CRCNA’s director of Candidacy.
Koll said he was attending a meeting of the CRCNA’s Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander (SEAPI) leaders in Chicago last weekend when he learned that another planned gathering of ethnic minority leaders across the CRCNA in late April has been canceled.
“I am so disappointed, as I was looking forward to being with you and many others, and especially to your having an opportunity to interface with the other leaders,” he wrote later in an email to the many leaders who had been planning to attend.
In response, he received an email from one of the SEAPI leaders reminding him in a stark way of the global impact of the pandemic.
After that leader had left the meeting in Chicago, said Koll, she learned that her sister-in-law in Jakarta, Indonesia, had tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a large annual meeting of her Reformed Protestant denomination. Although the sister-in-law has remained healthy, two leaders in her church had died and one other leader was critically ill.
“So I’m requesting urgent prayer from you and other leaders and friends. Please pray for the entire church of Christ in Indonesia, and for our government; and [pray that] people who do not believe in Jesus may get a chance to hear the gospel at this time,” she asked.
“And may God be with us all,” she added. “May our leaders of churches and governments . . . be granted wisdom and extra strength to lead and protect.”
Hearing about the situation in Jakarta and seeing what is happening with the CRCNA, Koll said he finds that the psalms really come alive to him. “Psalm 46:1-7 is pretty powerful and worthy of our focus before, during, and after anything that [the media have] to say,” he said.
This psalm begins, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. . . .”
Koll added, “And Psalm 90 helps us remember our true dwelling place and our secure existence in the hands of God, even as many of our days and years may feel like a prolonged ‘moan.’”