Letter from Brad, March 12, 2020

My Dear NorthRidge Family…

I love the church. I've devoted my entire adult life to serving God through the church. Anyone who knows me (and, after 29 years as the pastor here, many of you do), I'm relentless about faithfully gathering every weekend to worship, grow, and "Wake the World Up to Jesus" 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, 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 one of the hardest decisions of my ministry. I've decided to suspend all services and events at our physical locations for the time being. I 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. It's possible it may not turn out to be all that devastating. (I'm praying for this outcome.) However, as the shepherd of the NorthRidge 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. This is especially true at NorthRidge because of our size and draw. People come to our campuses, not just from one community, or only this region, but from all over the world. While we're grateful for this, it also creates a more significant potential of including those who unknowingly carry the virus.

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 (NKJV) "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. 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. We will be seeking to develop online services that are 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. We're praying that God uses these online services and devotionals to impact you and that you'll share them with others who also need the Hope of Jesus in this time of uncertainty. Pray for us.

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.

However, it does mean that we will NOT be gathering together at any of our campuses on the weekends or during the week for any ministry groups. These kinds of gatherings only help to increase the risk of spreading this virus. The experts have established varying recommendations of group size… from 50 to 250. But, again… this uncertainty leads us to err on the side of caution… at least until we know more. Just know… we'll be working hard to create ways to continue investing in you spiritually during this time. 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!

Expecting God's best,

Brad Powell
Senior Pastor

FAQs

What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Has there been a confirmed case of the disease at NorthRidge?
To date, we have no confirmed cases.

When will weekend services be streamed?
Services will be streamed at the regular times: Saturday at 5:16p and Sunday at 9:16a and 11:16a.

Will you offer remote services for RidgeKids? Students?
We are working towards having a relevant Kids and Students ministry presence. There are many things to address and create and will be communicating this as we move forward.

Are other churches doing this?
NorthRidge Church is an independent local church that has no governing body presiding over us. As a church, we have relationships with other churches; however, the decision to suspend weekend services and events was made with the best interest of NorthRidge members, attenders, and the community at large, in mind. Other churches may choose to follow our lead, but that will be a decision they make independently of us.

How long will you not have services at a physical location?
This is a situation that is changing rapidly, and we will continue to monitor what the local and federal agencies are recommending. As we watch the situation, we will make ongoing decisions with the information that we have available. 

How will we be updated for following weekends?
We will be communicating weekly through our current platforms… E-connects, Emails, Social Media and on our website at NorthRidgeChurch.com/COVID19.

Has my event at NorthRidge been canceled? How do I find out?
Please check our website for updates. All events and ministries have been suspended for the time being.  

Will I be reimbursed for my registration fee? (if applicable)
Since each event registration is unique to that ministry, you should contact that ministry directly about reimbursement. 

Will my event/workshop be rescheduled?
We will be working with each ministry leader as well as the church-wide calendar to see which events can be rescheduled. 

Can my group still meet at NorthRidge during this time?
At this time, we are following the recommendations, advice, and guidelines made by experts in the field and our local government to suspend any gathering of 100 or more people. For the time, smaller groups will continue to meet in homes. (Since the building will be closed to the public during this temporary suspension, smaller gatherings of people will not be able to meet on campus.)

Will NorthRidge employees report to work?
Yes, they are following their normal schedule while adhering to all the health guidelines.

How is NorthRidge making decisions?
NorthRidge is pastorally led with elder oversight. The decision-making process begins and ends with seeking the wisdom and direction of God. From there, the collective insight and experience from Pastor Powell and the leadership team make the best decision possible with the information at hand.

Will NorthRidge buildings remain open during the closure?
No, the buildings will be closed until further notice to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Are SOPA classes cancelled?
SOPA, our School of Performing Arts will continue to meet at this time.

Are you concerned about giving with no physical services?
Yes. We still will need financial and prayer support to fulfill our 16 Word mission. While the COVID-19 has completely bewildered much of our society, it did not take God by surprise. We are confident that God is bigger than this virus that is affecting the entire world. We are also confident that because Jesus promised to build His church, our suspension of weekend services will not thwart God’s plans for NorthRidge. Our prayer is that the families of NorthRidge will continue to honor God with their resources by giving online, mailing their giving, or texting to give.

What if I’m feeling fear and anxiety about COVID-19?
Contact our Care Offices to speak with one of our counselors or pastors. Many times when we face situations and circumstances that are beyond our understanding; fear, and anxiety can creep in. We must recognize that God is present and has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. We are loved and fully accepted by God through Jesus. His love for us never fails, and it never ends. His presence is what brings about a sense of calm and peace. God’s Word reminds us that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18), so when you feel overwhelmed or anxious about what's going on around you, remind yourself that you are loved by the Creator of the Universe. Look back to the Cross...the greatest demonstration of love ever known and find rest that you have been forgiven. Worry can be fought with worship, so focus on your Savior and worship Him!

How is NorthRidge cleaned and disinfected?
NorthRidge has been increasing cleaning schedules using the safest antibacterial cleaning products. We have upgraded our air cleaning filters to the latest HEPA technologies to eliminate even more microorganisms. As well, we have increased our Hand Sanitizers on site.

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?
The Center for Disease Control has set up information at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/

Still, have questions or need to contact us?
If you have questions regarding a particular ministry, please contact your ministry leader. For additional questions or concerns, please email [email protected].

What can I do for my family? (see below)
From the ready.gov website section about pandemics, here are some ideas for you:

  • Store a two week supply of water and food.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough, and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and other sources and store them, for personal reference. Get help accessing electronic health records.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.

During a Pandemic: Limit the Spread of Germs and Prevent Infection

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.