In light of new rules articulated by state and provincial leaders March 23, the offices of the Christian Reformed Church in North America in Burlington, Ont., and Grand Rapids, Mich. are now closed as of yesterday—12 a.m. March 24 for Grand Rapids and 5 p.m. March 24 for Burlington. The closures are an expansion of earlier restrictions issued for staff in an effort to limit physical closeness in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Video meetings were arranged for U.S., Canadian, and World Renew staff to provide details on the closures. Acting executive director Colin Watson led a joint video town hall for all staff, articulating the need for the closures and taking questions about their impact.
Watson opened with prayer and reading Psalm 98. After relaying the information about complying with civic authorities' requests to guard public safety by closing non-essential businesses, he thanked ministry staff for adapting to working from home and said "By God's grace we are able to continue to do the essential ministry."
Darren Roorda, Canadian ministries director for the CRCNA, opened the Canadian staff meeting reminding staff about their responsibility of care, first to the Lord and also to the people with whom we minister—the churches and the people in them.
Some questions that arose included concerns about the safety and well-being of staff and their families—particularly those stationed outside of North America, to which leaders responded by prayer.
Watson also acknowledged that the CRCNA is an organization that depends heavily on donations, and he addressed questions about processing these during the office closures. He said the pandemic is taking a huge toll on our economies and we can expect this to have an impact on donations.
“We continue to trust God for his provision, but we have to make sure we are prepared and behave stewardly,” he said.
Terry Veldboom, director of finance & operations (Canada) for the CRC, said each CRC ministry continues to communicate with their respective donors and all have current and established online donation avenues. “But in this time of ‘distancing,’ we are mindful that churches may not be as developed in this area, and as such we are desiring to be respectful of financial challenges facing the local church.” He pointed out a financial resource for churches that is part of the suite of COVID-19 resources being offered by the denomination.
Watson said denominational leaders want to prioritize safety but suggested promoting the term ‘physical distancing’ rather than ‘social distancing’ as people comply with the requests of health authorities. “We need to enhance social connection even while we decrease physical connection.”