Dear Cornerstone Family,
God has a vision for our church. And as we see throughout scripture and church history, there are obstacles and challenges to bringing that vision to life. The good news is He is showing us how to engage all of them with His grace, patience, joy, and creativity. Our church is deployed in its mission in ways like never before. It is exciting!
We are currently in our ninth week of worshipping together from our homes. We know that over the course of the nine weeks, you’ve probably been on a rollercoaster of emotions. Fear, anxiety, anger, grieving, frustration, and maybe hope. We understand because we’ve been riding the same wave. We are worried for our friends, family and neighbors that may be at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. Honestly, we are frustrated that we can’t be together and do things like we “normally” would. But, we have hope that we will emerge from social distancing not only overcoming this disease, but that we will be a better church for having gone through this experience.
We are reminded once again of Paul’s words in Romans 8:28. And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Since Governor Wolf has announced his three phase plan for reopening Pennsylvania, there has been a great deal of discussion about what that looks like for our community and our church. While some counties have moved to the “Yellow” phase, Perry County is still in the Red phase with stay at home orders in place. Some counties, organizations and churches have called for the state to lessen these restrictions and some churches have announced plans to reopen in the next few weeks. At this time, and for the foreseeable future, Cornerstone’s building will remain closed for all services and large group activities, but we are still very much open. (We’ll get to that in a moment).
Our elders and staff have been planning for what our reopen will be like. There are several components that are part of our decision to evaluate when our building will reopen in the months ahead.
1. Public Health - Jesus is very clear in his instruction to love our neighbors. We believe that every person is created in the image of God and has infinite worth. While there has been a relatively low infection rate in Perry County, we want to be sure that when we open our doors, we are not put in a position where we put anyone at risk. We are not confident at this time that large-group gatherings are safe for our congregation or our neighbors. We will continue to monitor all information related COVID-19 and we look forward to making decisions to bring us back together in the future. Our reputation must be that we put others needs above our own.
2. God’s Word - The phased reopening plans for Pennsylvania currently prohibit all large/mass gatherings in the red phase, which is where Perry County currently is listed. Even when our county is moved to the Yellow Phase, gatherings of over 25 are prohibited. This includes restaurants and bars, gyms, sports venues, movie theaters, etc. In the New Testament, we are repeatedly instructed to submit ourselves to the governing authorities unless they order us to do something that violates our faith. Under the current circumstances, all gatherings regardless of locations have been suspended and we do not feel that the officials of this state are asking us to do anything that puts our faith in jeopardy. To honor the teachings of Jesus and God’s Word, we will continue to submit ourselves to the governing authorities in the State of Pennsylvania. (Reference: Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:11-17; Titus 3:1-2).
3. Representative of Christ - The world is watching. As Christians, we are called to be ambassadors of Christ, acting as His representative for our community to experience His love and grace. We have been given a unique opportunity to step out of our building and BE the church. To practically love our literal neighbors through this uncertain time, to bring hope and light to the darkness. We want our decision-making process about physically opening our building to give the same reflection of Jesus. As we continue to gather information, we will prayerfully consider each course of action. And while our building may remain closed, we will continue to bring light through love and be the best neighbors ever so even those who may have previously wanted nothing to do with “the church” may be compelled to consider Jesus. (Reference: 2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 12:1-2, 1 John 2:6, 1 Corinthians 1:11, 1 Peter 2:21, Ephesians 5:1-2).
4. Experience - We truly miss seeing you all each Sunday. We miss the conversations and the laughs. We miss singing together and dodging kids running through the multi-purpose room. We miss the laughter and the snacks. When we are able to safely get back together, things will look different. We will abide by any recommendations in place from authorities and we will put safety and sanitary measures in place. In the current situation, we are continually weighing what we could offer that would ensure safety without compromising who we are as a congregation. We long for the day when we can be together again, but the worship service we could provide in the moment would not feel like what we all miss.
5. Prayer – As a people we are offered a direct line to God’s wisdom. Prayer. And in the book of James He promises to give abundant wisdom to those that pursue Him. So, while we investigate the science; glean from what other churches do; and offer servanthood submission to our governing authorities, we will ultimately follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit through prayerful discernment.
For those reasons, our building will remain closed for the foreseeable future. We do not anticipate returning for worship services until we can ensure a safe and positive experience for our staff, volunteers and congregation. Under current guidelines from the administration, this would happen when Perry County enters the Green Phase of the reopen plan.
That being said, Cornerstone is much more than a building. In fact, when our church began meeting together in 2004, we didn’t even have a building. But we are still the church. And while our building is closed, we are very much “open.”
We are gathering each week to celebrate together through church online. Some of our connect groups have reconvened on Facebook or by utilizing Zoom. Camp Cornerstone Kids Ministry programming is being shared on our website and more helpful information is available via Facebook. Revolution Youth at Cornerstone are meeting weekly utilizing Zoom. While not all of our ministry teams are serving in their normal capacities, they are learning and growing and considering new strategies that will allow us to best serve our congregation and community through this season and beyond.
And we are very focused on loving our neighbors.
- Our benevolence team has been able to provide resources to those impacted by COVID-19
- Our Meals Team has fed over 50 families twice a month over the last eight weeks, and plans to continue while there is a need
- Honoring our Heroes team delivered snack boxes to first responders in our area and gift bags to health and safety workers in our congregation
- A team of volunteers made phone calls, sent emails and hand written cards to our entire database of almost 900 families
- We provided dinner for medical staff at the UPMC Pinnacle West Shore Hospital ER, Geisinger Holy Spirit ER, UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg ER and Geisinger Holy Spirit CVICU, giving nurses and staff a much needed break
- YOU have been checking on family, friends and neighbors and shining a light in your community
- There are so many great stories that have come out of this. Stories that never would have happened without this challenge. Stories that will have to wait for now, but definitely stories that have effected eternity.
In addition, we are so thankful. So many of you have continued to give generously and sacrificially through this uncertain time. Not only have you supported our ongoing ministries through our regular donations, you’ve gone above and beyond and donated over $5,000 to be used specifically for outreach related to COVID-19.
Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus and serve alongside others in our community to care for those with physical and spiritual needs. We started this letter with Paul’s words in Romans 8:28. God surely is working all of this together for His good. We know that this current situation can be filled with anxiety and frustration. We feel it too. But there is SO MUCH good happening and so much light filling up the darkness. We can’t wait to see God work all of this together to change lives.
There are always opportunities for change when our normalcy is disrupted. Jesus does this quite a bit in scripture. We see things one way, and then He invites us to see it in a whole new way. A new way that is exciting.
Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement. We’re in this together and we’re here for you!
Cornerstone Elders and Staff