Pastoral Letter #5 in this “Present Distress”

By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:26 PM

Originally Posted April 30, 2020 -

Dear Church Family,

Grace and peace. Before I go any further, I would like to thank all of you for your kind encouragement, comments, sacrificial giving and patience as we work through this “present distress” together. I also praise the Lord for how you are taking advantage of this crisis to manifest the love of Christ, share the Gospel and connect people through the various electronic means we are using to proclaim the Gospel of Christ in both evangelism and discipleship. 

I know many of you listened to Governor Ivey’s latest Press Conference on April 28th addressing the State of Alabama as to how we will proceed in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic under the Federal Guidelines which have been established as our framework by our elected officials. As you are aware a number of businesses are now being allowed to reopen and function within “social distancing” limitations. You are also likely aware that our Governor and her pastor, Dr. Wolf, spoke directly to the issue of churches. At the moment we are being directed to continue our present course of ministry by making use of either live-streaming or drive-up worship services enhanced by other electronic/technological ministry initiatives. Furthermore, we were also informed that the reason we are required to continue limiting our worship services to ten (10) or less is because our State has not yet met the ”Gating Criteria” required to move to Phase 1 of our President’s “Opening Up America Again” Plan which was announced last week. Specifically, our State has not yet established a 14-day statistical downturn of COVID-19 reported cases. It does seem as if we are on track and it may not be long until we can move into Phase I which would allow us to pursue enlarged worship attendance parameters under established strict “social distancing” guidelines. Phase I would also continue to encourage those who are vulnerable or health impaired to avoid large crowds.

All of this means that we anticipate a worship/ministry change in the near future. So, under the leadership of our Session we are now working on “The Briarwood Worship/Ministry Interim Plan C” which we would be able to implement in a timely fashion as soon as our State goes into Phase I of the President’s Reopening Plan. In the meantime, we are making our case that within the guidelines of “social distancing” our Lord’s Church needs to be open for ministry as soon as possible for the well-being of our citizens.

Let me say that I do believe our National, State and Local Guidelines in response to the Coronavirus situation needs to be examined for future beneficial refinement but for right now my/our focus is “to love our neighbors” well, follow Romans 13 with appropriate submission to the Civil Magistrates unless the Lord’s Church is intentionally hindered in its commitment to faithfully obey Christ. Furthermore, we must be engaged in fervent prayer for those in authority over us, our fellow citizens and for our Lord to Providentially use this “present distress” to do beyond what “we could imagine or think” for His Glory, the Salvation of the lost and our growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. 

Finally, I would also again like to thank the Briarwood Pastoral Staff, Elders, Deacons and the entire Church Family for your patient, sacrificial and Christ-honoring response to this “present distress.” I do not want to fall into the sin of pride but I do believe there is room for “sanctified pride” that gives praise to God. Therefore, with praise to God I would like to say how proud I am of all of you in the Lord! It is a privilege to serve our Savior with each one of you.

So, my educated guess is that another letter communicating our “Interim Worship/Ministry Plan C” will be coming soon. Pray for all who are working hard to know what to do and how to do it so we can accomplish our God-given Mission—”For God’s Glory, Briarwood is committed to equipping Christian to worship God to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ” unhindered and with effectiveness by His grace and for His Glory.

Pastor Reeder