By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
March 23, 2020 12:55 PM

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As many of you know, this past week our State and County Health Directors instructed us to limit public gatherings to no more than 500. Therefore, we devised an Interim Worship/Ministry Plan to conform to those directives while maintaining accessibility to Lord’s Day gathered worship. Those who are most vulnerable to the Coronavirus such as the elderly, health impaired and any others who needed to be careful were and still are encouraged to access the worship services by our Website and Facebook live streaming sites. 

Not surprisingly, this past Monday we were instructed that the 500 number had been reduced to 50. We began to consider a new Interim Plan. While engaged in devising that plan we were informed that the number had been reduced by our President and the CDC to 10. That meant the issue needed to be addressed by the Briarwood Session to prayerfully provide us with wisdom and direction.

Having received that direction from the Session we have now developed the new Interim Worship/Ministry Plan which accommodates the new governmental guidelines and yet maintains our God-given mission to “equip Christians to worship God to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ.” That plan has been sent to all of our members which you have now received.

Let me share with you some Pastoral perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that will be produced in this “present distress.” I probably need to begin with a confession. As I received these new government guidelines I began to grieve (as did our Session) over the loss of unhindered Lord’s Day gathered worship. (I certainly don’t question the wisdom of these guidelines nor our need to embrace them.) But soon this grieving process gave way to an overwhelming desire to meet this challenge with confidence in the Lord and with an anticipation of what opportunities the Lord will create for us in this present situation. The reality is, we have not ceased Lord’s Day gathered worship. We are simply reduced to a gathered worship service of 10 people. We will make this service available through streaming via our Website, Facebook and other venues including WLJR.

Here is the way I see it. On some Lord’s Days we have had overflow crowds and we have sent people to the Chapel to participate in worship via the large screen technology because of space limitations. In these days we have a different limitation and therefore we can only accommodate 10 people so we will allow others (our overflow) to participate in the context of their homes via screen technology while anticipating that glorious Lord’s Day when we can again assemble as a church family with friends and guests for the glory and majesty of Divine Worship—all together.

Please know that we are also going to produce and send resources to help you as a family prepare for worship as well as your own worship folder which will be delivered to you by email, direct mail and Website.

Pastor, what about Sunday evening worship? Our Session has approved a Sunday evening offering called “Conversations on this Present Distress with Harry & Bruce.” It will be about 20 to 30 minutes long. Bruce and I will respond to the questions that you send to us through the following email: askthepastor@briarwood.org.

Other ministry resources will be sent to you by various discipleship ministries including our Children and Youth. Don’t forget that our daily podcast, Today in Perspective, a ten-minute program Monday through Friday looking at issues from a Biblical world and life view with Gospel solutions continues. Also, our five-minute daily devotional podcast Fresh Bread would also be helpful. You can access both with the Briarwood App and from our Website.

In addition, we are going to upscale our Shepherding Ministry for obvious reasons. To maintain social distancing guidelines and avoid infecting anyone this will be done by phone and electronic communication. Do know that at any time you have a need for a personal pastoral contact selected pastors will be available so do not hesitate to call upon us. We are also deeply concerned that in this time of isolation our older members may have special challenges. Our Deacons along with our younger Congregational Communities have already created plans to respond to such situations. But we do have to be made aware of the needs through our interaction with each other. So, please, as a church family, stay in contact as we pray for one another, our community and our Nation.

Let me share another pastoral perspective. Many of us who are challenged with an overly busy life now do not have an overly busy life. So instead of filling the newly created spaces with binge TV or isolating computer games, why not read a book as a family—develop our personal quiet time—family worship—go to the park, the woods or open spaces for a family walk. In other words, take advantage of these days to recalibrate, refresh and renew by putting into the empty spaces what is really important…those habits of the heart—God’s Word and prayer and family relationships that need time and attention.

Finally, my brothers and sisters, as we established last Lord’s Day, live with a “Biblical Perspective on Crisis as a Christian”—“sensibly, righteously and Godly in this present age.” Last week’s sermon is available and will be followed up in our topical expository series by examining case studies of how believers have responded to crisis and the Biblical lessons we need to embrace. This week our study will be on Joseph and his response to personal, family, national and global crisis (Gen 50:22-27).

 So, in this present distress, we trust God but we do not tempt God; we obey faithfully and therefore fearlessly; we live with prudence and not with panic. All of this allows us “to love God” and “love our neighbor.” I am fully convinced that these days will provide multiple opportunities for us to prayerfully embrace shepherding, evangelism and discipleship by the power of the Spirit of God, led by the Word of God, all to the Glory of God.

 Our God is sovereign and His Providences are at work in multiple ways and most of all we can be assured of His Divine Promise…

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Rom 8:28

For Christ, His Cross and His Crown,

Harry L. Reeder III