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Dear Church Family,
As most of you are aware, Dr Bonnie Henry announced on December 7th that the current COVID-19 public health orders are extended to January 8th, 2021. Sooke Baptist Church will be upholding these orders and will continue with services online only via both Facebook and YouTube, during this period.
You may have heard or read in the news that a few churches in the Fraser Valley have decided to go against the public health orders and have had in-person services. The Board of Sooke Baptist Church is not in agreement with their decision to go against the health order. One of our reasons for complying and some from Fellowship Pacific are noted below.
If we meet together at the church in the building, we risk alienating those citizens of Sooke who would see this as self-serving vs. an act of sacrifice on behalf of all our non-Christian friends and neighbors. In doing so, we would also throw away years of gospel witness in this community which we love. We must be seen as faithful and courageous but also ruled by Christ’s command to love others and to above all serve them with that love. This is how they will remember our actions after Covid has finally been diminished.
As a church board we stand in agreement with the direction set out by Fellowship Pacific dated December 8, 2020. (please read entire letter attached).
Key bullets from the Fellowship Pacific communiqué are listed below.
- The Hebrews passage (Hebrews 10:24-25), is directed at church people who chose for themselves not to meet with others. It was not a command to churches regarding our response to government authorities, and may in fact be most applicable today to Christians who choose to skip church because it is online.
- The passage states that a primary reason for meeting together is to spur one another on to love and good deeds. In the pandemic world, spurring one another to love and good deeds may well take the form of not asserting our rights, if it comes at the risk of passing on the virus to others.
- Most importantly, the current Public Health Orders do not preclude gathering but rather state that we cannot do so in-person, for a prescribed period of time. We can still gather using the technology available to us, just not in the place or way we usually have done so. As mentioned in previous updates, our government is encouraging both gathering online and creativity in fulfilling our purpose, repeatedly telling faith communities that they are needed more than ever. Both myself, as Regional Director, (David Horita) and Brent Chapman, President of Fellowship Pacific, have participated in conference calls with Dr. Henry, Minister Dix, and Premier Horgan. We believe that our government leaders are sincere in their encouragement, and have been assured that this is for as short a period of time as is prudent for health reasons.
- Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Another aspect of the Covid gathering issue pertains to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is a belief among some that the rights of Christians are being trampled by the government as they over-extend their authority, transgressing religious rights protected in the Charter. However, this is a heavily debated issue. At the risk of pretending to be lawyers, it is important to note that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states in the first section that these rights are never absolute and are subject to “reasonable limits.” It is also the case that emergency powers give governments a lot of leeway during events like pandemics. So the question is less about the legal right of government to restrict gathering in some scenarios, but rather the judgment required to determine whether or not the application of emergency powers during Covid has gone too far.
You may be assured that the Regional Fellowship Pacific Board will continue to closely review the issues of our religious freedoms and will join with others in defense of them should it become clear that we need to do so.
A final reminder is that we want to demonstrate graciousness and love to one another, modelling the heart of Jesus that is expressed so well in Philippians 2. We do not emulate Jesus by claiming our rights, but rather by giving them up for the good of others, to the ultimate glory of God. And as Paul reminds us, God will work in each of us to will and to act in order to achieve his good purpose. We thank God that he is in control.
As we temporarily are not meeting in person, don’t neglect encouraging one another through calls, e-mails, cards, and/or social media. Please continue to pray for our national, provincial, and local leaders as well as for our medical professionals.
Thank you, dear church family, and may you be blessed over this Christmas season,
The Sooke Baptist Church Board,
Denise Brummell, Carol Davies, Rick Eby, Laura Ferguson, Darcy Patterson, Les Patterson, Maddison Prinn, Andy Schell, Richard Steele, Michael Wilson