Your Elders and the leadership of RBC have received much feedback from many of you representing various views on the issue of COVID-19 protocols at RBC. The majority of feedback surrounds the requirements currently in place to attend Sunday worship services. We are grateful for your guidance, trust and willingness to reach out with your thoughts, concerns, encouragement and prayers. In addition to much time spent in prayer and discussion, we have read many articles and listened to many talks and messages sent to us. As we and the pastors consider how best to care for you and fulfill our scriptural duties, we also prayerfully consider how our conduct when we gather may impact our local community, whom we are called to love and care for as an extension of Jesus’ love and care for us. In the case of COVID, it is not easy to know how best to do both. There are rational, but opposing, viewpoints that impact our decisions. There are scriptures we could quote that support various viewpoints. We have soberly considered these and the range of opinions within the larger medical community as well as from government agencies, non-government researchers and healthcare providers. We also heard from many of you, not only through our recent survey, but through many conversations and emails. Thank you for your patience with us. We are very grateful for your comments as well as the respectful and mature manner in which you have addressed us.
Sincerely, each time we remember you, we do so with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. You have endured, with continued generosity and hopefulness, a year of historic challenges to normal fellowship, discipleship activities and collective worship of the LORD Jesus Christ on Sundays. To paraphrase Paul, we give thanks to God for you since your faith in Christ still grows and the love of each of you for one another remains (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).
After multiple meetings, much prayer, and careful dialogue about all pertinent issues, the Elders are in unanimous agreement that we intend to move to a “dual service” option: one requiring facemasks and social distancing, just as we have in place now at 9:00am, and one more relaxed protocols which alters the facemask and social distancing protocols at 10:45am. This “dual service” option would allow those within our body who hold differing convictions and preferences the option of attending a worship service in which they can better engage without concern or distraction.
While the elders are in agreement that we would like to move to a “dual service,” the question remains of when should this begin. It is not an issue of willingness, but of timing. We have concluded it will not be before 2021.
The natural questions that arise then are When in 2021? and What does it depend upon? While many considerations are factored into the decision, such as biblical principles of shepherding, the number of confirmed positive cases in our area, the ongoing impact on all of you, vaccine availability, etc., at this time there is a particular important factor that rises to the surface: What are the conditions of the two hospitals that serve most of our community and congregants (Reston Hospital Center and INOVA Loudoun Hospital)?
As of last week, the ICUs at both hospitals were at 92% capacity. This is much higher than during previous years at the same time. Reston Hospital’s COVID floor is 100% full with another ward now being used for overflow. All hospitals in the greater Northern VA area are experiencing staffing shortages and struggling to meet demand. Added to this are the negative trends of COVID-19 infections and the traditional increase of seasonal flu affecting the elderly and vulnerable.
Consequently, when we begin the dual service option in 2021, it will be strongly tied to better stability at our local hospitals. We will continue to monitor all factors and metrics at the beginning of every month starting in January, hoping for improved conditions so that we can move forward. We will keep you informed.
Thank you again for the good attitudes you have consistently demonstrated through these remarkably difficult months. You continue to fulfill what the Holy Spirit moved Peter to write in his first letter. “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).
As followers of our Savior LORD Jesus Christ, it is not unity on how to respond to COVID that we have been given. We have a better and deeper unity–the unity of “one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Thank you for your “eagerness to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Thank you for months of sincere praying since the pandemic began in our region last March. We ask that you continue to pray for our LORD to bring many to salvation because of the present difficulties and to stabilize the circumstances at the hospitals. And also pray for us as we navigate many issues and together continue to know Christ and make him known here in Northern Virginia and around the world.