Coronavirus Update (3/16/20)

Dear Wapato Church Family,


As you are probably already aware, the CDC has recently recommended that gatherings of 50 people or more be temporarily suspended for the next 8 weeks. Many public schools, libraries, universities, churches, and sporting and cultural institutions have also shut down. If the 50-person recommended limit on public gatherings hasn’t already become state policy, it is likely to very soon, which would directly affect our church’s Sunday services. Therefore, it is also the recommendation of the elders and staff of Wapato that for the time being we pause any further Sunday gatherings, classes, or associated events and ministries in the interests of halting the spread of COVID-19 any further. We are called to respectfully submit ourselves to the authority God has vested in our governing institutions (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Unless, of course, they were in direct opposition to the way of our Lord and of his kingdom, there is no reason why we shouldn’t do so in this case as well. It is our opinion that cooperating with the CDC and eventual state recommendation of cancelling such gatherings even when it applies to our church is really the most responsible and caring action Wapato could take to protect the most vulnerable among us.


We realize this decision may strike some as an unnecessary capitulation on our part to government agencies or even to fear itself. However, we can assure you this decision was one we came to after much prayer and reflection, trusting in our God to give us the wisdom and compassion required of a shepherd to protect and provide for those entrusted to their care and who are most affected by the spread of this virus (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). We never want to succumb to a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), but in our innocence we also hope to be shrewd in the way we deal with such an outbreak (Matthew 10:16). The fact is, at this early stage in a pandemic an immediate and drastic response is crucial if we want to mitigate what would otherwise almost certainly be the exponential and uncontrolled spread of a potentially deadly disease. We strongly encourage you all to consider first not yourself and your own health but that of your brothers, sisters, and neighbors who are most at risk in the way you respond to this unfolding situation. 


We will reassess our cancellation policy in two weeks’ time, so please expect to be updated via email, our website, and social media. In the meantime, there are many things we can do to remain connected and to care for one another and those in our community. Here are a few ideas of how we can stay involved in one another’s lives and in our mission during this trying time:


Recorded Sermons & Other Resources


Pastor Josh will continue his weekly teaching and preaching remotely via audio—and video!—recorded messages. You just can’t stop this guy, he’s a lunatic. We also have such great technology at our disposal that can be used to engage in worship outside the Sunday service (e.g., YouTube worship playlists, Bible Project videos, Christian podcasts, etc.). Josh has committed to provide the church a weekly list of resources and something of an “order of worship” which we can use to guide our worship together on Sundays, even though we must temporarily do so remotely. These resources will all be accessible on our website and we will notify you via email and Facebook as soon as they are made available. 


For those who have children at home, use this time as an opportunity to begin or strengthen an already existing pattern of engaging in regular family worship. It is and has always been the responsibility of parents to train their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Ephesians 6:4), so even in the absence of children’s church and the Sunday service this foundational education and training can still continue. 


Prayer & Giving


As always, we should remain united in regular prayer, especially over this situation. Pray for health and protection over our community and beyond. Pray against a spirit of fear for the sick and scared. Pray for public officials, doctors, nurses, and researchers, as they learn more about this virus and how to combat it. Pray for Wapato’s leaders as we navigate this situation. And be sure to keep sending in your praises and prayer requests to Aimee so we can continue to lift each up before the throne of God even while separated.


Besides praying, we invite you to continue to partner financially in the ministry of Wapato Valley Church. The financial needs of the church remain the same in times of sickness and trial as they do in health and peace. Please make it a part of your remote Sunday worship to practice the discipline of giving at least 10% of your gross income to the church body God has established in this community. You can send your check to Wapato Valley Church 212 Front St. P.O. Box 570 Gaston, Oregon 97119.


House Churches & Other Ministries


While we may not be currently meeting in a large corporate gathering we leave it to the discretion of our small groups or “house churches” to determine whether they think it wise to continue to meet for prayer, fellowship, and discussion on an abbreviated schedule. If you do decide to continue to meet we ask that you practice appropriate social distancing and that you consider using that meeting time to pray together and collaborate in service efforts to those in the church or community who are most affected by COVID-19. You might also consider using Skype or some form of video conferencing in place of a face-to-face meeting. The elders will be making calls to everyone in the congregation just to check in, but ongoing personal connection and communication is essential in any functioning church family like ours (Galatians 6:2; James 1:27). 


As far as our other official ministries are concerned (e.g., the Food Bank, men’s and women’s ministries, etc.), we leave it to the discretion of the deacons/deaconesses who lead those ministries to decide whether they continue in a modified format or cease all official activity for the time being. Of course, the continuance of all ministries should be dependent on what is mandated from public health officials in the coming days.


Healthy Practices

There are some simple, everyday, low-tech steps you can take to reduce your chances of exposure and help protect others. They’re the same things we do to prevent the flu, the common cold, and other respiratory illnesses.


  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Practice “social distancing” by maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet between you and other people.
  • Greet each other with a holy “elbow bump” rather than a hug or handshake.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands right away.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.


Watch for Symptoms


Symptoms of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) (Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure):


  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath


Additionally, the following people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness:


  • Older adults
  • People who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease
  • People with already compromised immune systems


Final Encouragement


As the world around us continues to fear the unknown, may we, as citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom, stand firm upon the confidence we have in Jesus, our eternal hope. May we continue to provide hope, peace, patience, love, and care to the people around us, and hold close the words of Jesus himself:


“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body…Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?” 

—Matthew 6:25-27