"…to the praise of the glory of His grace…" Ephesians 1:6


Dear Springs of Grace church family,
Grace and peace. Thankful for the reminder that the Lord is with us and He is the Lord of the storms. In the two incidents of storms in the life of Jesus – on one occasion He spoke, and the storm ceased. On the other occasion, Jesus got into the boat with the disciples. He didn’t minimize the storm, but He maximized Himself.
As we walk together through the COVID 19 pandemic, I want to help you think pastorally and live out these truths in faith and in love towards God and others. We want to love our neighbor well and we want to help one another and exhort one another, so that we might finish well the faith God has given us.
NONE OF WHAT IS MENTIONED BELOW IS MOTIVATED BY SELF-PROTECTION. I am not afraid and as Christians I do not want our church family to be afraid. I believe the risks are real and serious, but I understand that for most of our church the risks are not much more serious than the flu. However, for those listed in the “at risk categories” there is a very serious and deadly risk. One of the basic principles I see in Scripture is that those who belong to the Lord should especially care for the vulnerable – because that is God’s heart. I am suggesting these changes not to minimize our own risks but to protect others from risk.
Two of the most common commands in Scripture are “Don’t be afraid” and “Love one another”. That’s what I want to communicate to you and the rest of our people.
As I mentioned Sunday, the church has loved well its neighbors in times of pandemic in the past by risking our lives in the care of others. Many of our medical personnel are on the front line of doing that caring work and many of them are a part of our church body as nurses, doctors, therapists, etc. Please pray for them and support them. Others will no doubt be asked to help in different ways. One expression of love for our neighbor is in following the guidelines set forth by the CDC and World Health Organization and in conjunction with the Oklahoma State Department of Health. We are called to love and to love especially the least of these among you.
As an expression of that love, caution and care for the Springs of Grace family, and with a desire to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma, Springs of Grace will continue to gather for Sunday morning worship services (which will still include nursery care) but will be canceling all other ministry events and meetings through Sunday, March 29, 2020. We will also be live streaming our services for those who are at particularly high risk or who are sick and will provide specific instructions in the next couple of days of how to best access the entire worship service. We recognize that live streaming is not a good long-term way to be the church, but we hope that it can allow some access to worship during these times.
We are encouraging our community groups and bible studies to explore other ways to meet via phone or video calls to continue ministering to, encouraging, and praying for one another in the weeks ahead. WE WILL BE SEEKING TO ADAPT OUR PRACTICES TO ALLOW ADDITIONAL MEETINGS IN LOVING AND APPROPRIATE WAYS.
We care deeply for those who are already affected by this and are praying for God’s leading and wisdom as we navigate the next few weeks.
We will continue to closely monitor all information and guidance from officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Oklahoma State Department of Health. We are intending to increase our sanitization process. We are looking for a crew to help us with those steps Saturday. We will be following screening practices and seeking to follow the directions of the medical community within our church family, as well as the CDC. We will prayerfully determine on a day-to-day basis whether further steps are needed and update accordingly. These are intended as guidance for church attendance and ministry, but we trust each of our families to make other lifestyle decisions as God leads and directs you.
Take Precautions
For Sunday mornings, we caution you to practice the standard, flu-season safety precautions that we are already familiar with, including:
• Cough etiquette and hygiene
• Thorough and regular hand washing (particularly after touching your face)
• Social distancing (limiting physical contact with others)

Risk-Related Guidance for Sunday Morning Participation
Based on guidance from the CDC, we understand that they are recommending you do not attend Sunday morning worship services if you are in any of these at-risk categories:
1. Older adults (typically age 60 and above)
2. People who have serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease
3. Immunosuppressed individuals (people with recent or upcoming surgeries; people on autoimmune treatments, including steroids; people with impaired heart, kidney, or liver function; or people going through cancer treatment)
4. Direct caregivers of at-risk individuals (non-medical personnel)

We trust your judgment and conscience on attending.
Additionally, we request during at least this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic that you do not attend Sunday morning worship services, if you meet any of the following conditions:
1. Have had Corona flu-like symptoms in the past 14 days – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/COVID19-symptoms.pdf
2. Have traveled internationally within the past 14 days
3. Have traveled recently to domestic areas that have been highly affected by the coronavirus in the past 14 days
4. Have been in close contact with someone with Corona flu-like symptoms in the past 14 days
Pastoral Care and Love For One Another
We are working to set up a plan for caring for our entire church body and helping with our community as we care for our people in this season, especially for those in our church family who are at greatest risk. We will be asking you to be especially diligent to check on one another and help us to take our love to a higher level. If you or your family have a desire or feel like you could benefit from having a pastor, elder or staff visit and pray with you, we would love that opportunity. Please do not hesitate to ask. We encourage the church family to continue to gather together in smaller groups to pray and love and encourage each other as you have opportunity.
Dealing with Anxiety
The Bible has a lot to say about the storms and challenges of life. I love the Apostle Paul’s instruction from Philippians 4
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
There is such a balance to the Bible’s instruction. As Christians we are to “rejoice” – but we rejoice knowing that our ultimate rejoicing is “in the Lord.” The momentary stuff that excites us is tempered in that we know it is only the foreshadowing of something greater that is to come.
We are “reasonable” because we live as Christians with the realization that the Lord is at hand (He’s near.) We don’t face any storms alone. Our anxieties are to be dealt with by going to the Lord in thankful prayer. And we have much to be thankful for. We have peace with God and are no longer at odds with Him, because of what Jesus has done for us as our substitute.
There is a lot we don’t know about what is ahead with COVID-19 and it is just a reminder that there is a lot we don’t know about everything. I don’t pretend to know what God is doing good through all of this. But as I look to the cross and what Jesus has done for us there – the anxieties change to thankful prayer.
Do you remember the cross? Jesus is up on the cross, and His disciples run away. Why? They say, “What good could God do out of that?”
Perhaps we look at the disciples and think, “What bad follower/friends! They ran away.” But they were just looking at the cross, and saying, “I can’t see any good God could bring out of this.” Yet at that very moment, they were looking at the greatest deed of wisdom and love in the history of the world, but they didn’t get it. So, they ran away.
As Christians, we stand in front of something scary or in anticipation of a storm and we say, “I’m not going to stand here in front of something I have no idea why God is letting this happen to me and run away saying, ‘What good could God possibly do out of that?’ No. Instead we stand before this cross, and say, ‘Lord, I don’t know how you’re working this, but I thank you ahead of time for whatever you’re going to do in our lives through it.’”
We know that God is good and loving in all He does. And we know that there is a sure hope of the best to come with all who hope in Him. We look forward to the day when there is no more tears, sickness, sorrow and death and we get to be with our bridegroom – the Beloved Rock on which we stand.
The result, according to verse 7 is peace within. The peace of God will actually march around you and guard your hearts and your minds. Your circumstances may not change, but the peace of God will be a force for you. It will protect you. God doesn’t protect you by walling yourself off from people, but it is by taking your cares to God in thankful prayer.
Peter said to cast your cares on Jesus, because He cares for you. Do not stir up inside your own heart and mind all the worries about school closings, travel plans, economic downturns, or the potentially infected surfaces you’ve touched! When you are afraid, turn to Him. Cast your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. In fact, let handwashing or rubbing on hand sanitizer or coughing into your sleeve become a moment in which you consciously entrust yourself and the future of everyone you care about into His hands.
God may well say to this storm, “Be still” and spare us from it. Or He may well come on the waves to us and give us the opportunity to ride in the storm with Him. Let’s not spend our efforts trying to minimize the storm, but let’s take these days as an opportunity to in love – maximize Jesus. “As much as you do it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”
With much love,
Your elders – Joe (for Joe and Jared)