covid-19 updates

Friday, May 29

To our brothers and sisters in Christ at The Bridge Church,

We hope and pray that this letter finds you experiencing the peace of God which transcends all understanding. We trust ultimately in Jesus, our Savior, who “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). And we have a living hope, knowing that “he has caused us to be born again…to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:3-4). May those words be real, impactful, and meaningful to you in this time.

And yet Jesus himself told us to expect suffering. We find ourselves in a situation riddled with suffering, suffering that cannot simply be removed, but only traded for different forms. On the one side, we have a virus that has devastated many families and communities surrounding us. On the other side, we have restrictions that have also devastated many families and communities surrounding us. There are issues dividing us as a people everywhere we turn, and the church is not immune to those kinds of disagreements.

It has broken our hearts not to be able to be together as a church for so many weeks. Gathering together around God’s Word to proclaim and be reminded of the good news of our redemption and resultant freedom in Christ is vital to our flourishing as followers of Jesus, both in our inner spiritual lives and in our outward missional lives. We are meant to labor for the gospel in our communities as a body, and without our weekly gatherings, it is easy to feel like a severed limb. Our longing to gather right now is a beautiful and right echo of our longing to be together with all of God’s people around the throne of Jesus, which he has promised us will come to pass
And so the question is posed: do we gather right now? This letter is our answer to that complex question.

Understandably, ambiguity in the reasons for, and lifting of, restrictions has fostered a growing mistrust in some people toward the decision-makers in our community. The initial stated purpose of the restrictions was to slow the rate of infection or “flatten the curve” in order to protect our health system from being overwhelmed. Even though this goal has seemingly been accomplished, various experts recommended extending the orders. Every time the goal has been moved or a restriction extended, it has been characterized as an effort to best “love our neighbor.” Sadly, we are beginning to see that loving our neighbor this way is resulting in the unintentional forsaking of many other "neighbors”. There may be a decreasing number of people suffering directly from COVID-19, but there is an increasing number of people suffering indirectly from it. The impact of unintended consequences like depression, addiction, domestic violence, and poverty will last longer than a season, perhaps even a lifetime.

For this, and many other reasons, we are all eager to see our economy reopened, our community released, and our gatherings resumed. This holds particularly true as we think of gathering as a church. Without doubt, all of us recognize the importance of gathering for worship and the role it plays in our spiritual and emotional health. And though we neither fear the approval of men nor the infection by virus, we do fear God. As elders, we are accountable to God for how we live and how we guide this flock. At times, this requires us to shepherd our members by making judgments that are sometimes uncomfortable, often unpopular, and, on rare occasions, unlawful. Relative to the decision to gather, the elders are praying together, counseling with other pastors, and studying passages such as Romans 13.1-7, 1 Peter 2:11-17, and Hebrews 10:23-25 (all of which we’ll be covering this coming Sunday) to help our decision-making:

Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath but also because of your conscience. And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s servants, continually attending to these tasks. Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.

This passage, and others like it, remind us of the weight and cost of civil disobedience. Such decisions not only impact our relationship with men, but also with God himself. Because there are many instances in Scripture where believers opposed government, we know that the authority of God-ordained government is not unlimited, and that submission to these authorities is not intended to be without exception. The elders and pastors do believe it is possible to “honor” the governor and civilly disobey. We are prayerfully considering when it will be permissible and prudent to do so. (Please note that despite President Trump’s remarks on May 22, the only actual legal orders in place are from Governor Inslee.)

It must also be noted that we believe in Scripture alone, meaning, the Bible is our supreme authority. But we do not believe in Scripture only. We must, therefore, seriously consider issues of health and safety in so far as we can understand them with the information available. Simply, even if a decision is biblically warranted, we must also consider whether it is wise in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 10.23. We are, therefore, regularly asking questions like:

  • What is right? This is a question about our obedience.
  • What is safe? This is a question about our safety.
  • What is wise? This is a question about our witness.

We understand that the elders may be required to make a judgment that involves disobedience to our government’s order as written. The elders do not feel compelled to make that decision at this time. We understand that this will be received as encouraging to some and disappointing to others. Please know that we take our responsibility very seriously. We are reluctant, therefore, to unintentionally bind anyone’s conscience by making a hasty decision of this nature. As the elders continue to wrestle through what the Bible teaches about our relationship to God and government, we encourage our members to engage in personal study, prayer, and counsel as you make decisions for you and your family.

Regardless of your personal viewpoint, the elders desire everyone to be patient and gracious in their responses to the governing authorities as well as those people we disagree with. That does not mean we must affirm every opinion held or decision made. It does mean that we must be discerning about how, or even if, we share our disagreement. When we disagree, and choose to express it in person or online, we want to encourage everyone to do so in a way that is honorable and loving, edifying and glorifying, both publicly and privately. In addition to spending time studying Romans 13, we would all do well to consider what Romans 14 requires of us in terms of forbearance towards others.

The elders believe, all conspiracy theories aside, that most of the governing authorities in the U.S. desire churches to be able to return to gathering. As of today, we believe these are reasonable restrictions and that any delay in lifting them is driven primarily by a good desire to preserve life. We believe we should defer as long as we can to these restrictions relative to our public gathering, in so far as they remain equitable and justifiable. Even if we disagree with the timeline or with the strategy of our government, the elders believe it would be difficult to make a case that we are being forced to choose between obeying God or man at this time, even with considering Hebrews 10:23-25, which we’ll discuss this weekend. We recognize that a day for this kind of choice may come sooner than later. But, as one elder at a nearby church recently said: When I picture myself standing before the judgment seat of God needing to explain why I did not submit myself to the governing authorities, I do not want to stand on a weak or questionable argument.

Thankfully, the governor released a statement yesterday easing restrictions on religious gatherings. In response to that, we will be holding a limited outdoor service on the church property this Sunday, May 31 that will also be live-streamed. Details will be released as soon as possible (you will be required to register to attend in-person). We are also reevaluating our plans for rephasing into full-scale gatherings. We realize there will be mixed reactions to this. Some of you will be opposed to gathering, saying it is too soon. Some will simply be excited for the opportunity, while others will still be vexed at any kind of restrictions.

At this point, we feel it is right, safe, and wise for us to meet this Sunday outdoors with a limited number of people and strict guidelines in place. As each day unfolds, however, the elders will prayerfully evaluate what is best next and, guided by God’s Spirit through His Word, make our judgments regarding when our family resumes gathering in less restricted ways.

Meanwhile, the elders encourage everyone to make their own decisions as we navigate a time none of us would have chosen to live through. As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring: “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Decide to rejoice always. Decide to pray without ceasing. Decide to give thanks in all circumstances. Decide to set your mind on the things above knowing that the “same kinds of suffering” are being experienced by our brotherhood around the world. After Jesus warned us of suffering, he said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” Decide to believe that soon, the God of all grace, will himself restore us all.

The elders and pastors of The Bridge Church

Saturday, May 23

Many of you are wondering how yesterday's news affects our plans to resume Sunday gatherings. That is a complex question, one that we require more time, information, prayer, and consultation to make. Our gathering this weekend will still be online only. We will send a detailed update next week that includes any adjustments to the previously laid out plan along with a detailed explanation of what criteria we are using while making these difficult decisions.

Please pray for the leaders of this church and others, and continue to labor toward an increase in the gospel both in us and around us, even while we are a dispersed church.

Tuesday, May 19

We will provide more details as needed as we move into each phase. Please continue to be prayerful and discerning, and allow Jesus to be your daily and ultimate hope as you work toward the advancement of the gospel within you, in your families, and with your neighbors.

Wednesday, March 25

As our government continues to increase restrictions on community movement, we continue to try to love our neighbors well by taking its mandates and requirements seriously. This week, we were faced with the difficult decision of are we, as pastors, essential personnel? Is what we accomplish together at the church building during the week and particularly on Sundays essential?

The answer is likely yes. By the letter of the law, we feel confident that providing spiritual care and encouraging our church with the gospel through a weekly Livestreamed “gathering” is absolutely “essential” and therefore allowable.

However, we also see that the spirit of the law is this: if you can stay home, then stay home. And we believe that we can stay home and still provide the same Livestreaming service to you on Sunday mornings! The only difference will be that each of us involved will be at our own homes instead of on stage at the church building.

So you can continue to tune in at 10am on Sundays on YouTube Live for service, or 9am on Zoom for prayer (links will come as the weekend approaches). Meanwhile, we are shutting down the church building except for potential “mini” blood drives and the ongoing renovation work in our bathrooms.

We’re happy to be able to serve you in this way still, even as it means some extra leg work to make it happen.

As always, please let us know if you
  1. Need something
  2. Know of someone who needs something
  3. Have something to share

Thanks, church, and take care.

Thursday, March 19

Sunday Services
  • We will be holding a Livestream service every Sunday at 10am
  • You can find that Livestream on our website or directly on our YouTube channel (be sure to Subscribe!)
  • The best viewing experience will be on a TV or large computer screen; remember that you can use the YouTube app on your smart TV or streaming stick—and you can even start on your phone and cast it directly to your TV.
  • If you need technical help setting yourself up for the Livestream, let us know!
  • If you don't have access to the internet or a large screen, let us know!
  • Sermons will still be available for viewing and download after the service is completed.
  • Because Life Groups are discouraged from meeting right now (see below), we recommend that you view the Livestream together with your family and possibly one other family.

Life Groups
  • To obey the "rule of 10", we're discouraging Life Groups from meeting in person for the next couple of weeks.
  • Instead, we're encouraging and resourcing Life Groups to hold "video conference" Life Group gatherings through Zoom. Check with your Life Group leader for more details!
  • If you're not part of a Life Group, now is actually the perfect time to join one! Be a part of a small community that can pray with you and for you, encourage you, help with supplies as needed, and resource you in any way that you need. You can browse and join available groups here.

Bridge Kids
  • We just released our first Bridge Kids Video Lesson here!
  • Starting next Wednesday, March 25, we will be holding a Livestream Bridge Kids service every Wednesday at 10am! Hop on our YouTube channel (see above) for live teaching, story videos, singing, and more! We'll say hello to your kids by name, they can write notes to each other, and we're going to experiment with video conferencing so they even get to see each other at some points.
  • We'll be mailing a packet of activities, coloring sheets, and more each week to go along with the lessons. Make plans to join us!

Other Notes
  • We're working on a new website that will better meet our current needs. Stay tuned!
  • If you haven't already, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; we'll be posting helpful videos, articles, and updates nearly every day, particularly on Facebook.

Friday, March 13

As the COVID-19 situation has developed, we have spent much time praying, researching, and deliberating over what an appropriate response is for our church that honors the mission and purpose to which we have been called by Jesus, including the grand call to love our neighbors. In light of that and with great difficulty, we have decided the following three things:

  1. That just as schools were permitted to meet through the end of the week, we ARE still going to hold service on Sunday, March 15.
  2. That we will NOT hold Bridge Kids classes—instead, we will meet all together in the auditorium.
  3. And that beginning next week, we need to greatly alter the way we hold ministry.

We will take advantage of our gathering this weekend to speak as specifically as we can to what future weeks will hold for our church. We’ll also use the time to reflect on what being a follower of Jesus looks like in a situation like this. Special precautions will be taken to clean and sterilize hard surfaces, and any food/beverage items will be handled with gloves and only after thorough hand cleansing. We will forego usual traditions of hand-shaking, meet-and-greet, etc., and encourage you to maintain as healthy a distance as possible from others while gathered.

We ask you to follow the government’s guidelines if you are sick or have been exposed to someone who shows symptoms of COVID-19 and remain home this weekend. We also ask that those of you who have higher risk due to age or health conditions also stay home. And we also understand that many others will want to stay home purely for the sake of social distancing, and we support you in that decision.

We will provide a recording of this weekend’s service as soon as possible afterward, and will update you fully on the state of ministries moving forward then as well.

We’re looking forward to our time together this weekend! Gathering together as God’s church is precious; we don’t take it lightly, especially now that we will not be able to do so in the same capacity for the next number of weeks.

More to come, wash your hands, and we’ll see you in a couple days!

Wednesday, March 11

Today, Governor Inslee announced a ban on public gatherings of 250 or more people, including churches, to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Our Sunday gathering currently includes less people than that. We will be holding our regularly scheduled church service this Sunday (March 15) at 10am, and all of our ministries are operating as normal.

We are doing our best to follow public health guidelines to keep people healthy and safe, and encourage you to do the same. If you are a part of the population that has a higher risk of complications to the virus, we understand if you choose to stay home right now. We are committed to providing recordings of the service as quickly as possible on Sundays for those who are unable to attend.

We would ask you to pray for area churches that are affected by this most recent ban as they are facing difficult decisions and circumstances about how to continue to flourish as a Jesus-proclaiming community in light of these guidelines.

If you are struggling with fear or anxiety regarding this situation and would like pastoral counsel, we are available and would be delighted to speak with you. Also, in God’s providence, the passage we are landing on this weekend will allow us to speak to that topic and see specifically how the gospel impacts our outlook in situations like this.

We will continue to update you as needed in the days and weeks to come. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.