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Hello Great Family,

I love the church. I've devoted my entire adult life to serving God through the church. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm relentless about faithfully gathering every weekend to worship and soak in God’s Word together. Even when we have two feet of snow…, I'm fighting to keep our doors open. I believe in our mission. I believe that there is nothing more important than helping people discover and develop their relationship with Jesus. Nothing.

The only time I relent on this is when I genuinely believe that it's required to protect our people. After all, a significant part of God's calling on my life, as a pastor, is to be a shepherd. One of the vital responsibilities of a shepherd is to protect the sheep at all costs. To fail in this, I firmly believe, is to fail in fulfilling God's calling on my life.

It's in this spirit, as a shepherd, that I'm writing this email. After pursuing God's wisdom, investing in understanding the issues presently facing us with the COVID-19 pandemic, counseling with our ministry leaders, consulting with local pastors, listening to the advice of the best health experts and our State and National leaders' recommendations for mitigating the impact of this very new virus, I have been led to make a hard decision. I've decided to suspend all services and ministry events at our physical location for the time being. This decision will be evaluated week by week and communicated clearly. We care too deeply about each and every one of you to jeopardize you in any way. As well, the Great Command tells us to Love God and love our neighbors. So, I believe, to fulfill this command in this circumstance, we have to love our neighbors enough to do everything in our power to diminish the spread of this virus and protect them.

I know that some of you will applaud this decision while others of you will disagree vehemently with it. After all, there's so much we don't know yet. However, as one of the shepherds of the Oakwood Community Church family, I am called to protect the sheep. And, right now, the best advice from those who are far more knowledgeable about medical science than I am, is that public gatherings of people are potentially dangerous and could increase the spread and devastation of this pandemic.

It's true that some people are being driven by unhealthy fear…. this is not the case for us. We wholeheartedly embrace the truth of 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." However, we also wholeheartedly embrace God's command for us to be Shepherds of His people…to love and protect them.

So…let me share what this does and doesn't mean. It doesn't mean less ministry. We have reached out to our local school district to find out how we can serve them during this trying time. As a team, we are going to be working very hard to seek to increase our spiritual investment in you. While we won't be gathering together in the same space, we are going to work hard at creating a great gathering together online. Our live streamed online service will be at 10am this Sunday. We will be seeking to develop an online service that is creative, unique, relevant, helpful, spiritually uplifting, and God-honoring for you. We want to encourage you to join us yourself… and with your families. For parents, we are also seeking to create ways to engage your kids too.

It doesn't mean forever. The key driver of this decision is all the uncertainties and unknowns at this present time. As we learn more, then we will be able to make more informed decisions. In fact, our prayer is that by not gathering now, it will help us to mitigate the impact of this virus and allow us to begin gathering together again even sooner.

As we seek to protect your physical health, we are even more passionately committed to protecting your spiritual health. In fact, this could be an amazing time of growth in our lives and church family… if we choose to trust God and remain committed. So let's do it together!

God Bless

P.D. (Psalm 139)