SERVICE: SUNDAYS ONLINE ONLY AT 8:00AM & 11:30AM

Weekly Word from Pastor Curry: April 2, 2020

Hello Friendship,

Welcome to week four of our weekly updates, and we have just found out that President Trump has extended the Physical Distancing Guidelines through April 30. This extension means that the earliest we could possibly gather for worship at Friendship is May 3, but locally that does not seem feasible either.  While this is disappointing, I remember that the church is not the building, the church is God’s people! You and I, we are the church even when we are not meeting together physically at the church building or another location. We are the church, even though we meet virtually online or via conference calls. We are the church despite our current difficulties. We are figuring out how to make it work and remain the church.

Did you know the early church existed without an actual church building? The early church worshiped in house churches. Simply put, they worshiped at home. For the first 300 years of early Christianity, Christians typically met in homes primarily because sporadic persecution did not allow the construction of public church buildings. And guess what? The church survived and thrived. Because those early believers believed God, trusted God for future possibilities, and prospered, the church that exists today is here. We can and will weather this storm, if for no other reason than to leave a legacy for the future of the church. So let’s continue being the church!
Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9
Now, this Sunday is the First Sunday, and as I have said in previous updates, we will celebrate communion together as the church. Please make sure you have your elements ready. If you need more information on your items, please go HERE.

Communion celebrates the Gospel: Jesus was broken for us so that he can fix us. Celebrating communion marks the story of Jesus, how He gave Himself ultimately to provide us with a better life, a new start, and a new relationship with God. It’s not about a ritual to revere, but a person to worship. Jesus is less concerned about the method of celebrating communion and more concerned that we celebrate it. So we will celebrate.

Communion is important because it’s a command to remember. Jesus wants us to remember every time we eat bread and drink wine (or grape juice), and even when we sit at the tables in our own homes, that He is the one who provides all we need. He gives us the physical food that we need to survive, and the spiritual nourishment we need to keep taking our next steps with Him.

Because we face the unprecedented reality that we will not worship in our sanctuary for Resurrection Sunday (and the rest of this month) and with the rising death toll of this world-wide pandemic, I believe there is a need for us to fast and pray.  I have been fasting from 6a to 6p on Wednesdays, which is our prayer day in the Friendship Worship Community. I want to invite those who are willing to join me in fasting. Some of you have heard me talk about this on the prayer line. I fast from food entirely and only drink water. I encourage you to choose a fast that fits you and is safe for you health-wise. This fast is not mandatory, but merely an invitation. Would you consider joining me?
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV
I don’t want to reiterate everything I have said in previous updates. Please read the last three updates to understand the trajectory of my communication with you. I will say I am excited about Passion Week and Resurrection Sunday. I pray you will join us for all of our services. Remember, Passion Week services are as follows: Maundy Thursday Service (April 9th at 7:30p) and a Good Friday Service (April 10th at 7:30p). This year both will take place online via our streaming service. Then our Resurrection Services are Sunday, April 12th, at 5:30a, 8:00a, and 11:30a. Again, all services are online ONLY.

This week I want to encourage you to gain all the information you can on the Government Stimulus Package available to those experiencing hardship and difficulty during the COVID-19 pandemic/crisis. If you are out of work or experiencing financial difficulty, there are government programs available to you. They have loosened the requirements for unemployment, and you may qualify. All applications must be submitted online. Here are some helpful links:

California Unemployment Insurance Program
  • Coronavirus update:
California is providing updates on Unemployment Insurance changes related to COVID-19 here: https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm 
  • General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program:
https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/

Also, check out this link https://sd19.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd19.senate.ca.gov/files/audio/call.mp3 for a call hosted by Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson out of Camarillo/Santa Barbara Area.  This town hall call will help you understand the differences between Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Paid Family Leave, how to determine which program applies to you, and how to file a claim. For more information please visit Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson’s website at https://sd19.senate.ca.gov/coronavirus-resources.

Last week, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide relief from many of the issues created by the coronavirus, and President Trump signed the bill into law Friday night. Included in the many components of this $2 trillion package is a six-month relief for most student borrowers by suspending their student loan payments—interest-free—through September 30, 2020. And for borrowers seeking student loan forgiveness, this bill is a big win.

The CARES Act also assists Small Businesses. This assistance is known as the Paycheck Protection Program. The Paycheck Protection Program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses. Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards. Please research to see if you qualify for these programs. As I get more information, I will make it available to you!

Additionally, if you need assistance with services such as rent and mortgage assistance, food and shelter, healthcare, job training, transportation, childcare, and senior care, you can dial 211. 211 is a free 24-hour emergency helpline that assists individuals and families in a variety of ways. Seniors and disabled persons are encouraged to register with the 211 databases before a disaster happens. To register, dial 211. From a cell phone, VOIP, or if you have other trouble reaching the helpline, you may call toll free 1-877-541-7905.

As I close this week’s update, I want to remind us that not only are we the church, no matter where we are; we are a family. Hear me; the church is not like family; it is a family. God is our Father, Jesus is our elder brother, and we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Family is the primary way the early church identified themselves. In these days of uncertainty, we must remind ourselves of this and stay connected with each other and pray for one another.  My staff and I are doing our best to reach out to the entire family. We have just begun a process to call all the members we have in our database who do not seemingly have access to electronic communication. We are also reaching out to those considered most vulnerable, our members over 65. WE want all of our family members to know we love you and care for you. For our families with youth and children, please remember the weekly lessons at  https://wearefriendship.church/kidslesson and subscribe to the church YouTube page to get automatic notifications.

Friendship family, please “stay in your place, maintain your space, and cover your face!” Yup, that’s the newest guideline. In other words, stay in the house, practice physical distancing, and wear a mask. Beloved, let us all remain safe, sanitary sensible, and spiritually sensitive!

God Bless You,

Rev. Kenneth C. Curry, Jr.
Senior Pastor
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