Dear Members and Friends of IBCZ,
It has now been two and one-half months since we last met in the sanctuary for corporate worship. This has gone on longer than I’m sure many of us imagined back in March, and I know we all are eager to meet together again in person to worship God, provide instruction to our children and youth, and enjoy fellowship with one another.
You have probably heard that last week the Swiss government changed the date when churches can resume their corporate worship services. Originally, the first Sunday we could have met was June 14th, but the government has now moved that up to May 28th, (the first Sunday being May 31st). This past Friday the church Elders met online to discuss the timeline for IBCZ. We took into consideration the government ruling, the most recent health data, the input from many of you (Thank you for your thoughtful suggestions!), and the need to balance the importance of meeting together for worship with protecting the health and welfare of all our members and attenders.
Of course, we as the Elders know that no matter what decisions we make regarding when and how we resume our corporate worship services, some will have different opinions. That is to be expected. So, I first want to remind us of what Scripture says is even more important regarding our church life. Eph. 4:2-3 states, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Our unity of the Spirit is so important that we are instructed to “make every effort” to keep this unity. To do that, we must be humble (recognizing that our opinions are not the only ones that have validity) and gentle (recognizing the preciousness of each other). We must be patient, for sometimes we must even “bear with one another in love.” Thus, I encourage all of us to have this attitude as we decide on what affects us all – our worshiping together.
So I don’t keep you in suspense too long, I will share with you now the date the Elders decided on to resume our worship services (assuming there are no further and unexpected developments regarding the virus), and below I give the reasons for this decision. As of now, we will begin our corporate worship services July 5th. We will continue our live streaming through the month of June. (We will keep live streaming even after we start to meet again for the benefit of those who are not able to join us.)
Why delay that longer than what the government allows? The Elders, having prayerfully sought God’s guidance and considering all of the matters above, decided that simply because the government has given the Swiss churches the green light to meet beginning May 28th, that doesn’t mean we have to start already at that time. While the COVID-19 numbers have been coming down in Switzerland, no one can say for sure what the results will be of large groups meeting together for an hour or so in a room, even if social distance is maintained. The last thing we would want is for some of our worshippers, or even just one, to come down with the virus because someone else at the service had already contracted it but likely didn’t even know it. According to the latest findings, at least 35% of all people with the virus have no symptoms, so unless tested they don’t know they have it, yet they can still spread the virus to others who may then develop symptoms, even serious ones. That being the case, it certainly would not be loving to begin meeting for worship too soon.
In addition, if we were to begin meeting May 31st, the service would be much different than what we are used to, and different from what we can do by live streaming and recording our worship. According to the government’s statement, no singing (with or without masks) would be allowed, which we can do with our online services. (Thank you Amabelle, Cassie, Joachim, and Rebekkah for helping lead us in this!) We would not be able to celebrate Communion, which we can do online as everyone participates in their home as I lead us. So, for the time being, online worship allows us to have a fuller worship service than we could have if we meet together. (Thanks to Olan and Alec for weekly sharing your technical skills so we can broadcast the service!)
We are also aware that if we start to meet already and an outbreak should occur from our church (as has happened with various churches in different parts of the world), it would pose a danger to others in the community, be damaging to the reputation of our church, and hurt our witness for our Lord. Related to that, all attending the services would have to register, so that if it were discovered someone at the service had the virus, everyone could be notified. That would likely mean being quarantined for 14 days. For those who had already returned to work or school, that would be a challenge.
In light of all these things, we concluded July 5th is a reasonable starting date.
I am grateful for our Elders (Fritz and Adrian), and for their genuine concern for all the people who are a part of IBCZ. We had a deep sense of unity as we prayerfully came to this decision. Thanks again to those who gave us your thoughtful suggestions.
Please excuse this long letter, but I wanted to make sure you know not only our plan but the reasons for it. As July 5th draws closer, we will keep you up-to-date regarding all matters related to our worshiping together. If you have questions, feel free to contact me or one of the Elders. I keep you in prayer, and eagerly await the time when we can meet together again!
Grace and peace,