Late Saturday afternoon, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order mandating there be no crowds of more than one hundred people in attendance. Within the hour, several members of the pastoral staff met with Andy White, the chairman of the deacons. After much discussion, we have decided that Western Avenue will not meet as a church body Sunday morning. We will livestream our worship service at 11:00 AM. You may participate in the service by watching the live feed on Western Avenue’s Facebook page or our church website (westernavenue.org). Please do not come to the church building unless you have specifically been requested to attend to serve in a specific capacity.
We do not believe this is a Hebrews 10:24-25 issue. There, the author urges believers to “not neglect to meet together.” This is not a matter of negligence. This is not your decision but ours (along with our governing authorities and health professionals). Your conscience should be clean because you are indeed “providentially hindered” from attending.
At the same time, we do see this as a Romans 13 issue. In the opening verses, the apostle writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom 13:1-2). This is not a matter of church persecution but an opportunity to serve our entire community in love. This is not a matter of fearful overreaction; there is a crucial difference between fear and prudence. Instead, this is a matter of expressing love for our neighbors, our elderly, the most susceptible among us, and concern for a potentially overtaxed healthcare system. All these compel us to join these unusual efforts to minimize contact to slow the spread of the coronavirus (and other viruses active at this time).
Your church staff will meet again on Monday. It is almost certain more developments will occur. We will take all these into consideration as we make plans for the days and weeks to come. These are not easy decisions. We realize some will disagree with the track we have taken. We think this is the best way to honor God and love our neighbors, the two things God has called all his children to do.