Note from Tim 2020-06-02

Yay! Soon after I began to compose this letter, the governor’s orders for shelter-in-place have relaxed again. Thanks be to God for the progress! After the work of the phase-in team and consistory last week, and now in light of the most recent governor’s orders, we are evaluating and moving toward a first worship gathering outdoors at RRC—potentially as early as June 14 (weather permitting). When we meet, it won’t be the same as the old, but it will be a great start! More details will be forthcoming as the team will distribute instructions to guide us as we meet. The phase-in team will also soon distribute a survey to get better informed as they continue to develop plans for how to most effectively and safely gather for worship in the weeks and months ahead. Our plans include continuing to provide a video recording of our worship each week.
 
As I noted in Sunday morning’s invitation to prayer, George Floyd’s tragic death and protests and riots are disturbing, disheartening, and grievous. The most common and encouraging responses that I have been hearing and resonating with are “What can I do?” or “How can I be a part of the change?” One of my greatest challenges for knowing how to respond is my inability to understand, empathize, and thus act with love. I need help with multiple blind and not-so-blind spots for my daily repentance and heart work. As I connected with Stephanie Bergman, it was apparent, as a mom of a black son, that these events are especially troubling. And she has been working for some time to become better equipped to understand the struggles that people of color will face. So, I invited her to develop a letter that would share her perspective and some of the resources that have been helpful for her (I apologize as I should have made this clear before her letter was distributed in a RRC email).
 
These topics stir up emotions because of our different experiences and views. And we won’t always agree. And so, it’s good to go back to my sermon (1 Cor. 8) from two Sundays ago where we saw that as we process the many questions, experiences, and differing opinions around these topics such as racism, reopening, and riots, we are called to a posture of gospel grace. We can extend love and grace when we understand that everyone is on a different journey, we choose relationship over being right, and down is the way up—i.e. we bend down for the sake of raising up the whole. I will welcome and accept those who think/act differently when I see how Jesus welcomed, accepted, and suffered death for me while I was radically different.
 
All of these events should have us searching for and learning God’s perspective. Thousands of people are flooding the streets of American cities with a cry for justice. And so, this Sunday, we will focus on Isaiah 58 and what God looks for from us as it relates to justice and we will consider some practical ways to take action with love. The gospel always provides hope and encouragement for the deepest struggles of our hearts, culture, and Satan’s destructive efforts!
 
Finally, let me share some great news about our finances with this note from Chris Orvis: While we are dealing with a number of challenges in our lives, we have been blessed that financial hardships have not been one of them to date. Through April, giving has been ahead of budget by nearly $45,000 while expenses have been below budget by $16,000, resulting in net positive cash flow of $61,000 through the first four months of the year. May’s financial reports are still in process and don’t look as if they will be as strong as the first four months of the year so as a result the net positive cash flow will likely decline.
 
To date, we have fulfilled all our planned mission obligations. Additionally, no staffing adjustments have been made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of the cost savings through April has come as a result of several ministries not fully functioning as a result of the current social distancing practices in place. While we have been blessed to date, it is reasonable to expect further financial challenges going forward should the economy not recover quickly. The leadership team will continue to closely monitor the financial condition of Rockford Reformed Church and respond to changing circumstances as necessary.
 
It’s clear that some of you have remained wonderfully and sacrificially faithful in giving and while some cannot give as much, others are stepping in to give more. As Chris suggested, perhaps this is part of God’s provision for what could be leaner months ahead. It is certainly God’s gracious provision through you and we will work to be good stewards of the resources and vision to which he calls us.
 
Pray for our vision implementation team as it meets this Tuesday evening. I am very encouraged with the many evidences of God at work in the midst of these crazy days. We have countless reasons to gather and give him praise.
 
Pastor Tim