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.

For the time being, our services are going to look a little different on Sunday mornings. Our Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, has prohibited gatherings of 250 people or more, and we are going to honor that decision. Her order is effective today and is currently set to be in place through Sunday, April 5th.

We will not be meeting at our physical location, but we are still going to meet together online. Every Sunday, we’re going to be broadcasting our service, preaching, worshipping God, praying, and standing together. We can’t come together physically, but we can still be together and unified as the body of Christ. We’ve got so much great ministry to do during this season and we believe that God will continue to give us peace, to protect us, and to give us wisdom. We believe that our online platform gives us a great opportunity for evangelism and that God is going to move in powerful ways as we gather online. Continue to invite those who haven’t been to a service at Riverside by sharing our online experience with them. One thing is for sure: we are going to move the Gospel forward and we are going to believe God to use us in this time.

We want to invite you to join us for these special online worship experiences and encourage you to gather with family and friends who are healthy and willing, in living rooms throughout the area. You will be able to view our broadcast at www.riversidechurch.live or Facebook Live at our regular service times of 9 and 11! If you have concerns regarding your internet connection, we are working on a plan to make our service available for download ahead of time, so you have the opportunity to download the service and watch it on Sunday morning (look to our Facebook page for possible updates on that tomorrow). Another great option is to gather on Sunday mornings with family and friends in a home that has a reliable connection.

While we will not be gathering on Sunday mornings at our physical location, Riverside Church is still open and operating. Our other regular events and activities (Celebrate Recovery, small groups, Riverside Youth, etc.) will still continue as planned and our office hours have not changed. We understand that some may wish to stay home and not participate in our smaller activities as well, and we absolutely respect that decision.

We plan to start meeting on campus for Sunday morning services again on Easter Sunday, April 12.

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