Friday, November 20, 2020

Highlands Family,  

We’re looking forward to gathering together with you this Sunday for worship in person and online. As follow up to yesterday’s update which shared about the plan for services on Sunday in light of the new health restrictions, we thought it would be helpful for you to hear more about the thought process and heart behind the approach we are taking, particularly when it comes to singing and worship.  

Our highest priority is to be a church who obeys the Scriptures. In this moment, we recognize there are many important Scriptures to consider, and there are valid biblical arguments for singing or not singing this Sunday. We did not take this decision lightly; in fact, it was incredibly difficult. But ultimately, we had to come up with a plan for this Sunday on short notice. We believe the plan we have in place is honoring to God and does not stop us from engaging our hearts in worship in a way that is pleasing to God. This Sunday instead of singing at our in person services, we will be engaging in worship through preaching, scripture reading, meditating on the lyrics of the songs, and prayer.  

At this time, we have chosen to take the position that protects the most vulnerable who choose to attend services in person. There are absolutely people in our church who see this from different perspectives, and that’s ok. This is an opportunity for grace, understanding, and unity among diversity in the body. 

Here is some of our thinking that contributed to the decision that was made: 

We believe deferring to the government (Romans 13) is appropriate in this case because the intention is to protect people. We do not sense we are being persecuted or prohibited from freely exercising our faith by complying with the latest health restrictions for a few reasons.  

First, the government is not singling out churches; restrictions are being applied to a number of groups.  

Second, the restrictions are not intended to be permanent but only for a time. While congregational singing is a significant part of our worship and a clear command of Scripture (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), we believe we are free to wait a few weeks before practicing it again. (For comparison, the church is also commanded to eat the Lord’s Supper, and we regularly choose to wait a few weeks at a time to observe this command but do not feel we are in disobedience of the Scriptures when we do so.) These biblical commands to sing come in the context of loving the church body and living wisely towards the world.  

Third, the intention behind the restrictions is to love people well. The intention is not to silence the gospel or control how we practice our faith moving forward. God knows our hearts and “desires mercy not sacrifice” (Matt 9:13). This is an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love for people while we gather. 

We hope this has given some helpful context to our approach as a church. We know this is a challenging time for all of us. We want to do our best to be here for you and care for you in the midst of this challenging season. As you make plans for Sunday, please pray and use discernment about how God would lead you to worship with us, whether online or in person. We are eager for the day when we can all be together again. 

Highlands Leadership & Board of Elders