Dear Living Hope Family,

Many of you have contacted me with questions regarding our stance on COVID-19 and Living Hope’s plan of action. As you know, I wrote to you last week to inform you that we would not be canceling our weekend services for the foreseeable future. As it turns out, last week we were not able to foresee very far into the future. In light of new developments, including the official declaration of COVID-19 as a world pandemic by the World Health Organization and the new guidelines for assemblies proposed last night by the State of California, the Leadership of Living Hope has arrived at the following decisions:

We have decided to cancel both of our weekend services this weekend, including our Sunday morning service in Emeryville at 11am and our Sunday evening service in San Francisco at 6pm. This was not an easy decision to make, as it will be the first time in 16+ years that we have canceled a Sunday service, but the health and safety of our people is of utmost importance to us, and we will do whatever is necessary to provide a safe environment for our people to grow in fellowship with God and one another.

In lieu of a live gathering, we will live stream the service to everyone at 11am. Let me be clear that we will still provide you with a full Sunday service; Sunday Shift will stream at 10am and the service will start at 11am. There will be worship, announcements, an offering, and I will continue my series on Prayer with a powerful Part II! Joining the stream will be easy: there will be a link at the top of the home page of our website, we will drop the link in the Living Hope Members page, we will email out the link to all of you prior to the start of the service, and we will be pushing out the link through all of our social media platforms.

Some have also asked if it is ok to meet in your small groups from house to house to experience fellowship together as you worship. I will leave it to you to decide whether or not it is safe to do so. I would simply say that if you are a more experienced (aka older) saint and therefore more vulnerable to the virus, or if you have symptoms of any kind, it is better for you to remain home than to risk the health of yourself or others. In terms of small groups in general, we are encouraging you all to meet online, via zoom, google hangouts, or some other type of communication technology. In this digital age, you can continue to live out your commitment to community, care, prayer, and fellowship even at a distance! Please keep your eyes and ears open for future announcements. We are not sure what this will look like for us in the weeks to come, as we have seen that things can change quickly. But as things develop, we will communicate as quickly, clearly, and thoroughly as possible. To date, we have not had a case of Coronavirus reported by anyone attending or affiliated with our church. We are simply seeking to be proactive and cooperative with the measures being taken by our government to contain the virus.

While we are taking these precautionary measures, I want to encourage us all to be careful to avoid the extremes of nonchalance and panic. Nonchalance is a form of spiritual pride that assumes that we will be insulated from the effects of this crisis, perhaps because we are Americans, or maybe because we are Christians. And panic is the fruit of the spirit of fear that catastrophizes the situation beyond proportion.

I spoke to Bishop Kirby Clements this morning and his words ring true in my heart: “We must remember history!” While he did not elaborate, I knew exactly what he meant. Since the 2nd century A.D., pandemics have always been moments in which the glory of Jesus has shown through the church in marvelous ways. In the Antonine Plague of 165 A.D., for instance, as thousands were dying every day in Rome, everyone fled but the Christians. The Christians boldly ran toward those afflicted with the plague, caring for them during their final hours and feeding those who were hungry. And the Christians did this again in the Cyprian Plague of 255, and in many other pandemics throughout history. This boldness in the face of crisis has been one of the primary marks of the church and was largely responsible for the growth of the early church and the spread of the gospel throughout the Greco-Roman world.

While we are taking every necessary precaution to protect our people, we are not cowering in fear! We know that the name of Jesus is more powerful than the name of the Coronavirus! At this hour, we not only believe in the healing power of Jesus, but we depend upon it!

I am also aware of the economic hardships that this crisis is causing many of you. I’ve heard reports of investments being liquidated, and I can only imagine the impact of this crash upon many of you. And this Sunday is Celebration Sunday; a time for us to celebrate the pledges that we have received for the vision that God has set before us. Let me say that I am convinced that the blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no sorrow to it (Proverbs 10:22). Our trust is in the Lord, and we are praying for God to show himself strong on your behalf!

I have much more to say, but I will save it for Sunday morning. I sincerely hope you will join us this Sunday for an unusually powerful online worship experience, and I am believing God for great things in the days to come. Pastor Sunhee and I love you all very much, and we are praying for you more than ever before!

Blessings and much love,
Pastor Benjamin