Elders Response to Level 3 Regulations

Dear Heritage Baptist Church Family,

In light of our President, Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent announcement that religious groups may resume meeting, you might all be wondering when we are going to meet again as a church. While we are happy that the President is allowing religious meetings again, we do not believe we are able to meet as a body given the restrictions still in place.

For the body to meet it requires that the body can gather. Consider the words from Hebrews 10:25, “do not neglect the gathering together of the saints”. Given the current restrictions, less than 50 people would be able to gather. 1 Corinthians 14:26 and 11:33 also emphasis the gathering of believers. In addition, the elements of worship that God has commanded, the sacraments, public reading of Scripture, corporate singing, corporate prayer, preaching of the Word would be significantly impeded or outright forbidden given the current requirements. (singing and sacraments are forbidden given the guidelines we have).

We have, however, decided that for the sake of those of our members who are isolated or otherwise might require something of a gathering together, we will be having a gathering at the church from which the sermon will be livestreamed. Let me be clear, we encourage you all to rather continue to worship with your families at home using the online format. However, if you feel there is a need for you to come to the church and be around others at this time, we will make provision for that. We will be sending out information soon with a booking system as we need to keep the numbers under 50, and this seems like the easiest way to keep a register. We are also required to take the temperature of everyone who attends a meeting. The seating in the church will be spaced 1.5m and you will be required to wear a facemask. All social distancing protocols will also need to be observed before and after services. In addition, there will be no corporate singing at the church, however, we believe you can hum. This service will be the same that is streamed. Given all the workstreams required in order to meet the health and safety regulations set by the state prior to meeting, we have decided that we will not be ready to meet on the 7th of June. A date for the first meeting will be communicated in due course.

Note that whether meeting at home, or the small gathering occurring at church, all of these are less than church; which is the gathering together of the body covenanted together under God. In none of these types of gatherings could we bring in members, or exercise discipline.

Does the state dictate how we worship?

Something you may be wondering; why are we allowing the State to dictate how and when we worship? The fact is that the State does not have jurisdiction to dictate how the church is to worship. Our decision to honour the government’s guidelines stems from our New Covenant Commitments, which come from Scripture, which we all agreed upon when coming into membership.  It says:

We agree to avoid whatever tends to destroy us or our neighbors and to engage vigorously in all lawful endeavors to preserve our own lives and the lives of others, especially by walking together in brotherly love, caring for one another, bearing one another’s burdens, watching over each other, faithfully admonishing one another, promptly repenting when we have sinned against one another and not abusing our Christian liberties to our own harm or that of our brethren

We feel that given the information that exists, our government is doing what it can to preserve life in a lawful fashion. While we are free to meet; we do not want to abuse our freedom to the possible harm of our brethren. If it were clear that the government was preventing us from meeting, or a full expression of worship due to persecution or resistance to the gospel, that would be an entirely different matter. In this instance however, our government, through the light of nature, and the law of God written on man’s heart, are preventing the full expression of worship due to a very real threat on life, and with this standard we heartily, yet sorrowfully agree.

As the guidelines are relaxed, we will continue to revaluate where we are. We continue to pray for you all and I trust you all continue to pray for each other and reach out in other forms. Please direct any questions at this time to me and I will seek to clarify or help as we process these strange times.

Wishing you eternal happiness

Tyrell Haag (on behalf of the leadership)