Family,

For the past few months we’ve heard a lot about coronavirus. As this foreign born disease has made its way to our front door step, we wanted to provide you with information about how recent developments will impact our weekend worship services.  For numerous reasons (outlined below) we, your pastors, have decided to cancel service this upcoming Sunday (March 15th) while we await more information so as to get a better assessment of the best course of action moving forward.

After much prayer, observation, investigation and conversation, we’ve concluded that this is the wisest course of action for us. Below you’ll find a brief summary that outlines the factors that led us to our decision concerning the current coronavirus outbreak. While we’ve had many conversations throughout the week, the last 24 hours have really changed our outlook on the matter. Decisions like this are often tough because the loudest voices are often the most extreme. While one extreme tends to act like this is the end of the world, the other extreme acts like it’s nothing more than a different strand of the flu. I think both are wrong and potentially dangerous. Causing unnecessary panic can be just as dangerous as failing to take all the necessary precautions. 

Here are 5 factors that led to our decision:

1. Respecting (Not Fearing) The Unknown

Frankly, there’s so much that’s unknown about coronavirus. Irrational fears are weeds that grow in the soil of ignorance. Weeds are unwelcomed guests that should be uprooted. We as God’s people don’t make decisions based solely on fear. God’s glory and not our fears are what tip the scale for us. Nevertheless, irrational fear isn’t the only thing that grows in the soil of the unknown. Healthy respect is the good crop meant to grow in the soil of the unknown. We don’t want to cower in the face of the unknown, we welcome the caution it brings. So right now, with so much known about the Coronavirus, we want to be respectfully cautious. 

One thing that is known about the virus is that it’s spread in a way that very few anticipated. To date, it seems as if every country that has only taken moderate measures to protect against it has been drastically affected and impaired by its spread. I’m thinking of countries like Italy that are currently overwhelmed in large part due to their underestimating the gravity of this virus. Now we see a large section of the country quarantined. The unknown is a major concern when it comes to this virus. What we do know is that it likely won’t be the harbinger of apocalyptic doom, but it is more serious than a lot of us initially imagined!

2. Following the Money

I think the seriousness of this virus can be estimated by looking at what the rest of the world is willing to forfeit in order to preserve their safety. The only thing our world loves more than money is life itself.  I was skeptical about how big of a deal all of this was until I witnessed the NBA’s swiftness to cancel the rest of their season until further notice. Seeing the willingness of organizations like the NBA, NCAA, and MLB (which account for billions of dollars in revenue each year through games, stadium tickets, sponsorships, TV deals, etc.) to put everything on pause without blinking twice made me feel that this may be more serious than you originally anticipated. Facebook and other large organizations are shutting down their offices and letting people work from home because of the risk of this thing spreading.  All of that to say, 24 hours can change a lot. And it has done just that for us.

3. The Downside of Capitalism

Unfortunately, one of the unintended consequences of capitalism is that tragedy is often a platform to increase profit. Even as I type this letter, I’m getting emails from people using Coronavirus as a way to sell products to help churches ensure they can still collect tithes.  In trying to take the necessary precautions to outfit our church with increased sanitation stations, we’ve seen that even the small tasks are major undertakings. Purchasing hand sanitizer and equipment to help us take the necessary precautions is proving to be as difficult as it is expensive. Simply put, we’ll need a little more time to prepare our meeting space to be as safe as possible.

4. Like Inclement Weather

When Atlanta snow has glazed our roads over with black ice, we take precautions and have similar conversations about whether or not to cancel service. Our primary concern isn’t that we doubt the ability of the majority of our church to navigate through icy roads; rather, our concern is for the few who might really endanger themselves.  We see this as a similar issue with one major exception. If someone were navigating through inclement weather and the worst happened, sorrow would spread through the church.  If someone finds themselves in church on Sunday and they have been infected with coronavirus (and don’t know) they could spread more than just sorrow, but sickness. Which leads me to my final point.

I know we can take precautions to let everyone know to avoid coming to our gathering if they’ve felt sick or are older or have a compromised immune system; however, even if we do that, we’re placing ourselves at the mercy of those with the worst judgement, not those with the best. We don’t want to entrust the health of the church to an individual’s self-assessment. We can often be too optimistic when it comes to things like this and don’t give it the caution it deserves. Right now, doctors are the only ones who can confirm whether or not someone has coronavirus. So until our sanctuary is adequately prepared with the necessary equipment, we think it best to postpone.  Because frankly, even if everyone who isn’t feeling 100% healthy stays at home the fact of the matter is that our Sunday service is open to complete strangers who (1) may not get any of our communication about precautions and (2) may disregard the information presented to the general public and fail to exercise sound judgment in their decision making. So the only way that we can ensure the best judgment wins out is to initially forego having Sunday service in our main worship space this weekend.

In Conclusion

While any one of these factors in isolation wouldn’t be enough to lead us to this decision, taking them all together tips the scale for us. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

We know this message was long. We just wanted to provide you with a thorough explanation as to how we arrived at our destination. 

In conclusion, we know that cancellations of sporting events, and closures of schools, restaurants and the like can mean financial hardship to members of our family and community who depend on those things for their income. If that’s you, please inform us of your need so that we can help to support and/or circulate your need to others who may able to help.  This is a great opportunity for us to care for one another as a church.

Grace and peace, 

The Pastors of Cornerstone Church

John Onwuchekwa | Richard Mullen | Moe Hafeez | Bob Selph | Jared Dawson

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