Woodside’s Response to Covid-19

Woodside’s Response to Covid-19

The Covid-19 Pandemic has arguably impacted every one of us. The challenges we are experiencing as individuals, and the church in Canada are unprecedented.  At Woodside Bible Fellowship, our desire in this time is that we thrive, and we conduct ourselves in a way that honours our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).  As Elders we would encourage our church, and Christians in general, as Christ’s ambassadors, to view this time as an incredible opportunity to model out the love of Christ in a broken and fragmented world.

One way in which we can honour God is to fight for unity.  Unity is a common thread throughout God’s word, whether that be David declaring “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1), or Jesus praying: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21).

We have looked on with sadness at the division that the pandemic has caused within the global church, within local churches, and even among friends and families.  As Elders of Woodside, we commit that we will do everything possible to fight for unity in a time of great discord, because we do not want to, in any way, hinder proclaiming the Gospel.  To do this, firstly we in leadership, and then the entire Woodside family must make a renewed commitment to be firmly grafted to the vine of Christ (John 15) so that we can produce the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-26), which is so desperately needed today: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Furthermore, we all need to pray for a new measure of supernatural wisdom to navigate these significant challenges, and we do so confidently because we know if our heart is right, he will give us the wisdom we need to traverse these days (James 1:5-8).

We recognize the obvious – there are significant differences in opinions regarding the seriousness of the pandemic, the government restrictions imposed, the risk/reward of the vaccines, just to name a few.  There are many of us who call Woodside Bible Fellowship home, and it is impossible to satisfy the opinions and preferences of everyone, but as we seek wisdom we will endeavour to firstly honour God, and secondly honour the many stakeholders we touch each day.  Whether this be leadership, staff, members, visitors, our neighbours, or governing authorities, we choose to honour all by not dismissing anyone, but treating them with the mutual love and respect that Jesus showed while traversing this earth.

Having said the above, the Elders of Woodside Bible Fellowship have taken the approach to function within government guidelines (i.e. honouring masking guidelines, capacity guidelines, reporting guidelines etc).  Following are our considerations as we have taken this approach:

  1. We believe that Covid-19 (and the associated variants) is a serious disease. It is evident that where the disease spreads uncontrollably, local health care systems have become overrun resulting in unnecessary deaths and serious long term health complications.
  2. We do not believe that the church has been unfairly targeted in the Canadian and Ontario government’s response to the pandemic.  In fact, when fairly looking at similar venues (i.e. movie theatres, live performance theatres, sporting venues etc), one could easily argue that churches have been given more favourable treatment by being allowed to be open with limited capacity, while the other venues were given no opportunity to open.
  3. We are called to honour those in authority.  “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13: 1-2).  We recognize that there are times where we are required to defy the authority placed over us, when it contradicts God’s direction in our lives.  For instance: midwives refusing Pharoah’s orders to kill male Jewish boys (Exodus 1:16-17), Rahab refusing to give-up the Israelite spies (Joshua 6:25), and the Apostles defying the decry not to preach the Good News (Acts 5:29).  As an eldership team, however, we do not feel that the directives of our governing authorities are currently asking us to defy our Christian directives.  
  4. We do not believe that we have disobeyed God’s directive to meet together as we find in Hebrews 10: 24-25.  The church has always made exceptions to this directive for obvious reasons such as sickness, accidents, aging, surgeries etc., and as such these people who were kept from Sunday gatherings for months or even years were not living in disobedience.  We strongly believe that we should meet in person whenever and however possible, and have used every opportunity to meet in-person with capacity restrictions both indoors, and outdoors with no capacity restrictions throughout the summer and fall months. 

What about the vaccine?

In Ontario taking or not taking the vaccines available for this pandemic is currently a personal choice.  There are some sectors requiring vaccinations or regular testing (Ontario Directive 6), however churches do not currently fall under this category.  For our staff and volunteers, we will continue to honour our legal requirement to keep medical information confidential and therefore cannot share the individual vaccination status of our staff and volunteers.  While staff and volunteers may voluntarily disclose their status, we are not currently in a position to mandate any such declarations.  We do, however, commit to making our programs as safe as possible to our own church body and those outside, and we will continue to find ways to do so.

As a church we encourage our members to participate in research and healthy discussions to determine if taking the vaccine is the best course of action for them and/or their family.  We believe there is wisdom in having healthy discussions with family, friends, co-workers, church staff, elders, etc., and where they have medical concerns – their doctor.  Some within our church have chosen to be vaccinated, while others have chosen not to be vaccinated.  As Elders of Woodside Bible Fellowship, we do not believe there is specific Biblical directive regarding the vaccine, rather there are important guidelines as we traverse this issue.  It is most important that we put the interests of others before our own. We believe that we should “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)  We believe that, as a church, we need to have the mind of Christ and we need to strive for unity by not “quarrelling over disputable matters”.  Romans 14 provides excellent guidance for how we should deal with this situation, and we pray that we can continue to have reasoned and respectful discussions with each other rather than unhealthy judgement that leads to disunity.

Conclusion

Our primary responsibility as a local church is to demonstrate the love of Christ to our church family and to the world around us.  One of the key ways of doing that is through a demonstration of unity in the midst of disunity and turmoil.  It is not surprising that Satan would be fighting for disunity in the church during this exceptional time.  As Elders of Woodside Bible Fellowship, we commit to not letting Satan have a foothold in our church at this time, but rather we commit to strive for unity so that God can ultimately be glorified.  As staff, members and participants of the Woodside family, we ask you to join with us in this effort, understanding that we may be required to fight against your own flesh and against spiritual forces opposed to God’s unity (Ephesians 6:12).  Thank you for joining in this important battle.  May God richly bless you and your family during these days.  Together we proclaim, our God is Good.

Woodside Elders