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Cornerstone Forever Family -

What a year it has been!  We’ve had some really exciting times lately.  We’ve had some positives: 

  • a dramatic expansion of our ministries worldwide through livestream and our Virtual Reality Campus; 
  • new believers and our first baptisms at the VR Campus; 
  • one of the greatest years of giving in our entire history; 
  • a period of great unity around our Gospel mission and our vision to plant “10,000 seeds in 10 years”, seen in the passing of our new budget and bylaws and the unimaginable amount of views of all our digital content; 
  • and, elder and staff teams that are united and energized to equip Cornerstone for future ministry in a radically changing world.  

And yes, we’ve had some not-so-positives: COVID!!  From in-person worship shutdowns...to learning new technologies together...to the woes of isolation...to moving back and forth from outdoor to indoor church...to significant physical illnesses in the homes of many (including the pastoral families)...it has certainly been a difficult year.

Now we are entering another phase of difficulty as COVID rears its ugly head during the winter months.  As I’m sure you are aware, the Governor has moved Sutter County into the Purple Tier as of November 17.  Previously, this tier required churches to close down worship services or, at the very least, move services outdoors.  

During this second journey into the “Purple Tier”, Cornerstone will not be shutting her doors nor will we be worshipping outside. 

Let me give you our reasoning below.  

FIRST: We must obey authority only when it has proper authority. In keeping with God’s commands in Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Luke 20:25; and 1 Timothy 2:1-3, we will follow the God-given authority of our governmental leaders only when they actually have that authority. Let me explain what I mean:

Back in March, April and May we gladly submitted to our authorities out of love for others and obedience to God’s Word. Why?  At that time, our governor did have constitutional authority to close our doors, as seen here

  • The U.S. Constitution 
    • Art. 1, Sec. 9 - giving emergency authority to restrict rights in case of invasion of public safety; 
    • Amendment 1 - which does not restrict Executive & Judicial powers regarding religion, but only Legislative; 
    • Amendment 10 - giving California rights where the Federal government has not spoken; 
    • and Amendment 14 - allowing for some restriction of rights under due process of law
  • The California Constitution
    • Art. 1, Sec. 4 - only restricting the Legislative Branch from interfering with religion and allowing Executive restrictions on religious expression where the peace and safety of the State are at stake;
    • Art. 1, Sec. 11 - allowing restriction of rights when invasion occurs, which can include non-coordinated biological threats;
    • Art. 1, Sec. 19 b & c - allowing the seizure or control of property by the government to protect public health and react to emergencies;
    • and Government Code. Title 2. Division 1. Chapter 7. Article 3.  8572 - In an emergency, the Executive Branch can commandeer any property...and, 8574 - In an emergency, nothing can limit the powers of the Executive Branch to declare martial law and perform all the powers of the Emergency Services Act.

But now, things have changed.  The Constitution allows for citizens to petition its government for a redress of grievances (US Const. Amend. 1; CA Const. Art. 1, Sec. 3).  This is precisely what recently happened with the Gallagher & Kiley v. Newsom case.  Judge Sarah Heckman ruled on November 2nd that Governor Newsom overstepped his constitutional authority in his handling of the pandemic and that he must be prevented “from exercising any power under the California Emergency Services Act which amends, alters, or changes existing statutory law or makes new statutory law or legislative policy.”  This ruling was made official in the State of California on November 13th.  

To put it plainly: Governor Newsom no longer has the authority to issue pandemic restrictions with any legitimate force of law.  

SECOND: We must give the same, if not greater, consideration to spiritual and mental health needs as we do to physical health needs.  California’s Governor and Department of Public Health have done their best to address the physical dangers of COVID.  However, they have been woefully inadequate in addressing these other health needs.  In the same way that schools are an essential educational resource and grocery stores are essential to food supply for the overall good of the commonwealth, the Church has a primary and essential role as a spiritual, mental and emotional health resource in order to bring community-wide stability.  Shutting our doors was the right thing to do at the time we did it in March because we did not know enough about the physical threat we were facing and we sought to honor God’s Word in submitting to legitimate authority.  However, this unprecedented experience (or should I say “experiment”) has reinforced the reality that even with live-streamed services, the isolation was too detrimental for too many precious souls to warrant doing again.

THIRD: Our pandemic response should be proportionate to the degree of its severity.  When the coronavirus first hit us in March, we had so little information about its epidemiological nature.  We prepared for the worst, which is often a wise thing to do when dealing with a paucity of solid information.  Nearly nine months have passed now, and we can more clearly see the proper epidemiological category in which to put the coronavirus pandemic.  This pandemic is a significant “health crisis”, but it is most certainly not a “plague.”  Those are two very different categories requiring very different responses.  If this were a plague - a situation where nearly all of us would have attended a number of COVID-related funerals of friends and neighbors by now - we would almost certainly shut our church doors again and go fully digital in order to protect our entire community.  But this is not the case.  This is not a plague where the only consideration is physical health and preservation of mortal life.  Instead, this is a “health crisis.”  The proper response in a health crisis is to be wise and careful but to still consider a number of other important variables, like mental, spiritual, and even economic health, as mentioned in point number two above.         

FOURTH: We will stay open so each individual can exercise their authoritative freedom to attend physical church or not.   Because the authority for pandemic response is no longer constitutionally vested in the Governorship of California, as mentioned above in point number one, but has returned to the level of the individual citizen, we want to honor the “authority” of the individual to freely make their own decision about physical church attendance.  Nobody is obligated to attend physical church.  Each person can decide before God if it would be more appropriate for them to attend digital rather than physical church.  As reasoned above in points one through three, neither your Governor nor your Pastor has the authority in this particular health crisis to prevent you from worshipping your God in a physical location with other like-minded believers.

FIFTH: We will do everything within our ability to make physical church attendance as safe as possible.  In light of our decision to keep the church doors open, we will make every effort to keep everyone safe while working to restore physical, mental, spiritual and communal health in our city.  

Here are the safety steps Cornerstone Church will continue to take:

  • We will conduct non-contact temperature checks at the door.
  • We will have hand sanitizer in as many places as possible.
  • We will have socially-distanced seating and additional live-streamed rooms to keep attendance numbers to a minimum in any one space.  
  • We will clean hard surfaces as much as possible.
  • We will require the use of masks, especially during corporate singing.
  • Our Kids Ministry will continue their intensive, weekly cleaning procedures and will ensure that only freshly cleaned toys will be available to the kids for each service. We will have signs out reminding worshippers to refrain from handshakes and hugs.
  • We will continue to use our APP instead of paper for our program and sermon notes (you can download the app HERE for Android or for Apple).
  • Tithes and offerings will continue to be taken via dropbox in the lobby, mailslot in the main office building, and online or via text messaging HERE.

You can continue to worship with us and stay connected in the following ways:

  • Physically: at 700 Washington Ave. in Yuba City at 8:30am and 10:30am PST.
  • Digitally: go HERE to find our YouTube and Facebook livestreams as well as our Virtual Reality Church and message recordings.  
  • Stay digitally connected in community by joining our Facebook Group or our Discord Server.  
  • Please text FOREVERFAMILY to 84576 to receive updates on your smartphone.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.  Always remember: FAITH not Fear!!  Our true home is not this broken, disease-infested place.  Instead, it is a New Country, a New City, where no virus or fear or death can ever come.  We “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called [our] God, for He has prepared for [us] a City.” (Hebrews 11:16)  

I am so glad to be your pastor and am praying for you and our world, that all of us may deeply know this FAITH, HOPE and LOVE in this difficult time.

Love,

Pastor Jason (PJP)