Riverside Family,

We wanted to give you an update as soon as possible on ministry at Riverside Church, in response to the most recent developments in regards to COVID-19.

We’re so excited to be back to having our in-person services! Face coverings will be made available for you as you walk into our doors, but they’re not required.

We’d also like to address the fear and anxiety that some of you may be experiencing. We realize that the circumstances are escalating around this virus outbreak at a fairly rapid rate. Because of that and because of the unknown, many of you may have concerns about what this all means. As followers of Jesus Christ, we can rest in the assurance that no matter what the future may hold, we are secure in Him. John 16:33 tells us this: “in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We want to encourage you to take heart in that promise. We believe that fear is one of the greatest weapons of the enemy. So many times we face the unknown and we are gripped with fear. For some, this fear and anxiety can be crippling. It is a very real issue that should not be taken lightly. We encourage you during this time in knowing that no matter what circumstances come our way, the Lord remains our refuge and strength, “an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). In anxious times, the church can shine as a light of hope, care, faith, patience, and prudence, demonstrating for the world how our faith provides true assurance against worry and fear.

We encourage you to stay calm in the face of this situation. As a believer in Christ, we understand that He is fully in control. The hysteria surrounding this virus causes more fear. Let us not contribute to that reaction by sharing unverified “facts” about the virus or joining in the doomsday chorus.

Still, while we should not fear it, we must be prepared for what this may bring. Countless passages in Scripture tell us that, even as we trust that God is in control, we should be wise and seek to be prepared for anything that we may face. Follow the advice of our healthcare professionals. All individuals should continue to take the following basic personal-hygiene measures to minimize your risk and the risk of those around you:

·     Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available.

·     Avoid touching your face.

·     If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into the crook of your elbow.

·     Avoid handshakes.

·     Avoid contact with sick people.

·     Stay home when you are sick.

Use these good hygiene practices, and if you’re in a group that is at higher risk of infection, stay home as much as possible.

Most importantly, remain in prayer for this ongoing situation. While there may be some exaggerated misunderstandings causing fear, this is also a very real and potentially dangerous virus. Hundreds of thousands have been affected worldwide and we should be in fervent prayer for those who have contracted the virus or been in contact with it in some way. Pray for our healthcare workers who don’t have the option of staying home. And pray for our leaders to make wise choices in the handling of this outbreak.

A great passage of scripture to reflect on in times when we need God’s protection is Psalm 91:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

In Christ,
Pastor Paul and Bonnie Booko