Over the past few weeks the number of confirmed cases of COVID 19 has increased steadily. While it seems the numbers are what is making the news, what I have been watching is how different people are responding.

On the one hand there are people who are responding with extreme concern. Some people are seeing the numbers and are expressing quite vocally that more effort should be made to contain the virus. On the other hand, there are those who are very concerned about the economy. These people are becoming very vocal in letting us all know that if any more restrictions are imposed that more businesses will be forced to close and that there will be long term impacts on our economy.

I have watched Doug Ford who has on more than one occasion expressed frustration at the difficulty of trying to balance all of the competing needs. Sadly, this polarization has entered into the western evangelical church. It is probably more evident in some areas than in others, but there is no question that the tension is real. Here at Alma, we are not immune. In my conversations, it has been made very clear to me that we have a very broad range of opinion regarding how to respond to COVID.

Back in June/July, the elders had some lengthy discussions before we opened the doors again after being closed back in the spring. The elders also had a lengthy discussion to consider the issue of communion, and what that would look like. The subject of music and singing continues to be a topic of conversation at the elders table.   We just recently started up a Sunday morning program for our kids. That was not an easy decision and was only made after a lot of thought, prayer and consultation. One of the more recent discussions has involved the topic of fellowship. With the weather getting colder, should we as a church provide more opportunities for people to gather socially? If we do, what would that look like? If we did allow for it, but had to implement some guidelines, would people cooperate?  Will the government even allow it?

When the leadership has wrestled with these questions, it has been very clear to me the extent of the burden that has been carried. These issues have not been taken lightly, and have weighed on the hearts of our leadership quite heavily. Your leaders have spent a great deal of time in prayer as they have tried to walk through these issues. They have also called on the church staff to contact our local Public Health department. In fact I wonder what the folks at the Public Health department think of the Alma leadership considering how often we have called for guidance or clarification.

Some of the decisions were especially difficult, not just because of the diversity of opinion, but because the guidelines weren’t so clear as to what we are permitted to do and not permitted to do . In those cases we have stepped out and made our own decision, with the readiness that we may need to change.

I know that not everyone has agreed with every decision that has been made. However, I want to thank you for your patience with us. I also want to thank you for not being so hard on us when you thought that we have made mistakes. The reality is that your elders are trying hard to do the best job they can in the midst of a very difficult situation where things are constantly changing.

What I really would like to say is a big “thank you” to our board of elders and our church staff. The next time you see Luke or Yvonne or one of our elders, please be sure to thank them. This is definitely not an easy time for those in leadership.

Mark McCready
Senior Pastor