Regarding Church during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Global Pandemic
UPDATED: 12:29 pm, April 7, 2020
Hi Church Family-
I continue to pray for you! I wanted to send you a brief email so that you know what to expect for our Good Friday service this week. I’ll number some points below so it is easier for you to follow.
1) We will be gathering online at 7:30 pm this Friday. You can access the Good Friday service the same way you have been accessing our Sunday services. Go to http://vineyardofharvest.org/stream.
2) The Good Friday service is a combined service for English service, Chinese service, and kids. So please note that the service will be conducted in English with Chinese subtitles.
3) During the Good Friday service, we’ll be watching a 10 minute clip of the movie, Passion of Christ. Due to the graphic nature of the video, it may not be suitable for young kids. There will be a QR code that pops up on the screen. Families with young children can scan that code on their phones and have their children watch a kids Good Friday video in a separate room during that portion.
4) At the end of the service, we will have communion together so please prepare communion elements beforehand. In case you need help getting bread or grape juice (communion elements), send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the number of communion element sets you need and your mailing address.
5) Please consider inviting family members and friends to join the Good Friday service. Especially in the times we are in, the world needs the hope that was secured and offered to us on that first Good Friday. Attached to this email are some graphics that you can use to post or send to family and friends to invite them.
We find ourselves in challenging times! Our church family is here for you! I am praying for all of you. And our church wants to help in any way that we can, including financially. If you find yourself in need, please reach out to us. Send a confidential email to email@example.com, and give us the opportunity to be the church family to you.
God bless you guys. “See you” this Friday!
UPDATED: 9:02, April 2, 2020
Hi Church Fam!
I hope and pray that you are well! Just wanted to drop a quick note to let you know I continue to pray for all of you.
Remember that we will be partaking of Holy Communion together this Sunday. In case you need help getting bread or grape juice (communion elements), send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the number of sets of communion elements you need and your mailing address.
I want to keep encouraging you to reach out to others at this time. I’m doing the same. Many people are struggling in these days. We have a great opportunity to love people with the unconditional, fear-dissipating love of Christ. The gospel message is the hope this world needs!
I want to share one specific way that our church is engaged in helping our community. We are working to support the healthcare providers in our area with the protective equipment they need to serve our community during this time. VOH members can support in 2 ways:
1. Drop off donated PPE and supplies (gloves, medical masks, eye protection, protective clothing, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes) to the VOH Hope Building weekdays between 10am-2pm. These items will be donated to our local hospitals.
2. Donate to the COVID-19 Relief Fund through our VOH online giving channels. If giving with check, please specify “COVID 19 Relief” in the memo.
I will close by just sharing a simple verse that I have been meditating on. Since I turned 42 a couple of weeks ago, I have been meditating on Psalm 42. Verse 5 especially captures my attention.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
In the state of our current world, there are tons of reasons to be downcast and disturbed. But the beauty of our Christian faith is that we put our hope in Jesus and praise Him because He is our Savior and our God.
May God’s hope deeply fill you today! Your pastor is praying for you!
UPDATED: 9:04 am, March 28, 2020
Dear Church Family:
Just a quick reminder that our service will be “premiering live” tomorrow (Sunday) at 11:15 am. Join us at http://vineyardofharvest.org/stream.
You might wonder why we are so strongly urging everyone to join the service at the same time when people could simply watch the service online at any point in the week. I want to share with you an excerpt from a post written by my friend, Mike Safford, who pastors the Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard a few hours away from us.
Pastor Mike points out that gathering remotely “has deep roots in Christian spirituality. The Roman Catholic stream as well as Anglican and others have utilized for years resources like the ‘Liturgy of the Hours’ or the ‘Book of Common Prayer.’ They are resources to guide the church-global, even as they’re scattered, toward reflecting and praying on the same content, at the same time each and every day. It is a means of ‘being together’ even when we are apart. Solomon said so many centuries ago ‘there’s NOTHING new under the sun.’ Being the church-scattered, and finding ways to ‘come together’ is not something that was introduced by Covid-19. The Church has a looooooong history of navigating how to be together while apart, and we can step into the newness of this by remembering that it’s not new. We are the Church-global, BOTH when scattered AND when gathered. Today we are together, even though we’re apart. Many of us are learning today what God has been teaching his Church for generations.”
I share this excerpt because I am personally excited about “being together” tomorrow! I hope you are too!
UPDATED: March 24, 2020
Dear Church Family:
You have all been in my thoughts and prayers, especially the last few weeks. I miss seeing you all in person, but I am extremely grateful and blessed by how our online fellowship has been developing.
I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday’s online service. Sunday happened to be my birthday, and I could honestly not think of a better way to celebrate. I joined the Chinese livestream service for a bit and “chatted” with people. And then the English service live chat was buzzing with activity leading up to the service. Honestly, it was fun engaging on the live chat with those who joined! God’s presence was with us as we worshipped and received God’s words.
Below, I want to communicate a few items. I will number them just so it is easier to follow.
1) Please note that we will change our English online service time to our original time of 11:15 am. There are several reasons for this, and I will share a few so that you have some context. First, after consulting several of our leaders, it seems wise to keep to our originally scheduled time so that we have some sense of normalcy and can smoothly transition back to in-person services after the crisis is over. Also, we have been finding that more than a few people who attend the Chinese service have been tuning into the English service. So it would be meaningful for them to join the full English service. Finally, since our services are now streamlined, an 11:15 start time will end before 12 pm and be a good time for families.
2) I want to encourage you to keep inviting friends and family to tune into the service. Believe it or not, more people are joining the English service now online than were joining before in person. Amidst fears and uncertainties, people are leaning in to find spiritual answers. So I urge you to send some loved ones a link to our service. This week in particular, I plan to give a brief but clear gospel presentation and call to response. Once again, the link to our service is http://vineyardofharvest.org/stream.
3) Next Sunday April 5th (not this Sunday), we will observe holy communion together. If possible, please have some bread and grape juice at your house. But if needed, we can help! If you need us to send you some communion elements via mail, just email us at email@example.com. Email us your address and how many sets of communion elements you need.
4) Finally, I leave you with the passage of Scripture I have personally been meditating on. It’s a crazy time. On top of all the changes for church, Evangeline and I have been running a mini pre-school at our house with our 4 little ones Ha! I’m sure your life has it’s own set of challenges. Here’s the invitation Jesus extended to all of us. Let’s respond to His welcoming words. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28
UPDATED: 6:34 pm, March 20, 2020
Wow, what a week it has been! I’ve been praying for all of you. If there are specific ways our team can keep you in prayer, please let us know at https://vineyardofharvest.org/prayer-requests/
And thanks so much for many of you who have told me you are praying for me too! I so appreciate your prayers. Our family went from 3 kids in the public school system to homeschooling all of them starting this week along with caring for a newborn. Evangeline has been great at anchoring our family because as you know, our church has been rapidly adjusting to all the changes this week too.
I’ve been hearing great things about the virtual small groups going on! Personally, I had an incredible time with my small group over Zoom last night that really settled my heart after a crazy day. In case you’re not yet part of a small group, check https://vineyardofharvest.churchcenter.com/groups/seasonal-small-groups for groups that are still open for you to join.
With the new guidelines by California to stay at home, we once again need to adjust how our church engages. Below are a couple of changes we are making.
1. Since we have more flexibility in service time with this online format, we are switching our English service time to 10:30 am as long as we do online services.
2. Since we need to stay at home, I will be preaching from my home, and Job will be leading worship from his home. With this arrangement, we can’t do the service live. We’ll record and splice together our portions tomorrow. BUT, I will be joining virtually with you on Sunday and look forward to interacting with you via the comments feature. The live chat feature will be enabled before the service starts, and I would love to virtually say hi to you on Sunday during that time. So tune in early, and let’s chat! You can find the links here and here.
3. I want to highly encourage us to worship together on Sunday morning at 10:30 am. I’m personally going to be worshiping along with you during that time. The video of our service will “premier live” at that time. A re-recording will be posted on our YouTube channel on Monday and also our podcast feed. But I want to highly encourage us to “gather” as a church family at 10:30 am on Sunday because God is specially present when His church gathers together.
4. Finally, just a reminder to access our service by going to http://vineyardofharvest.org/stream.
You are always in my heart and thoughts but especially in this season! Jesus is still on the throne, and He has something special for each one of us. Let’s press in even closer to Him in this time and await the wonderful kingdom breakthroughs that are right around the corner.
“See you” on Sunday! Love and blessings on each one of you and your families!
UPDATED: 5:35 pm, March 17, 2020
Dear Church Family,
I had a wonderful time worshiping through the livestream with all of you this past Sunday! I especially enjoyed seeing pictures on social media of your families and groups gathered to worship together. By the way, I’m so impressed with our community of faith for not letting the coronavirus situation prevent us from worshiping together as a church family. Last time I checked, we had close to 800 views of our livestream service. Personally, I sensed a special presence of Holy Spirit with us on Sunday.
As I’m sure you’re aware, our world continues to adjust to navigate this pandemic. In line with government guidelines, our staff met today to enact certain steps so that we can continue to do our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
I want to emphasize that God has a sovereign plan amidst all the chaos to “reset” our hearts that our land might also be “reset” to right standing with Jesus. We have a magnificent opportunity in this season to do and be the church in a new way!
We will continue to care for our church members and reach out to our community — now more than ever before actually! The format will have to change, but our heart and vision remains the same. Below are a few new ways we will engage in this season.
1. We will be closing our facilities to all small groups and ministries at this point. All small groups are strongly encouraged to keep meeting via Zoom. Small group leaders will be in touch with you about details.
2. Our church staff and other ministry meetings will continue to meet virtually using Zoom.
3. Only necessary admin personnel will be working inside the church building. The building will be closed to everyone else during this time.4. Sunday services will continue via livestream at our normal service times at http://vineyardofharvest.org/stream with the following schedule:
– Chinese service meeting at 9:45 am
– English service meeting at 11:15 am.
We also encourage all our members to remain diligent in adhering to CDC, state, and national recommendations of staying home, avoiding public spaces, and sanitizing regularly. We have an opportunity to shine our light so brightly in this hour, and I am proud to be part of a community that seeks to love our neighbors by abiding to these government recommendations.
In closing, I want to tell you that I am praying for you. I’m grateful for you. And Jesus loves you dearly as do I. Today, I’m praying Psalm 91:5-7 over you. “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.”
I recognize that there may be lots of questions you might have. Our staff is certainly available for you, but general questions can also be directed to the office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or 909-594-9010.
PUBLISHED: 9:26pm March 12
Dear Church Family:
You may have already heard that California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that gatherings of 250 people or more should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March to slow the spread of COVID-19. In line with this statement, we will not gather for our regular Sunday meeting this week. And obviously, all other Sunday ministries will be suspended. Other than essential team members to support, we strongly urge the vast majority of our church to join us on the livestream at vineyardofharvest.org/stream.
As you are aware, we had a big conference scheduled for this weekend. We have been in touch with our conference speaker, Steve Nicholson. Although he expressed willingness to teach over the livestream, he also shared that he would rather reschedule after the pandemic because Holy Spirit ministry is most powerfully experienced when we’re praying for each other, gathering around those being touched and seeing dramatic stuff happening. We felt it is more sensible to reschedule.
But we still look forward to a great Sunday service together over the internet! We will maintain the 10:30 am joint service time this Sunday where Pastor Dennis & Pastor Kwan will address the whole church together.
As for small groups/cell groups, each group will be making their own decisions about whether to meet or not. We believe Holy Spirit will guide each group’s decision.
Please keep us in prayer as this situation is obviously ongoing, and we need to re-evaluate week-to-week. Please also keep on praying for our world in this chaotic time! God is still good, and the message of the gospel is the hope that this world needs. We live by faith and not by fear as we navigate these times by the power of Holy Spirit! We are praying for you all!
Pastor Dennis & Pastor Kwan