On July 19, 2020 Hope PRC in Redlands, CA assembled together for corporate worship—outdoors.
The occasion for this outdoor worship service was the executive order of the Governor of California, prohibiting all indoor religious services due to recent increase in COVID-19 cases statewide. In light of this order, the church council made the decision to worship together outdoors, for this would enable the congregation both to worship God corporately on the Sabbath as He commands and to obey the civil government at the same time.
So on July 19, the members of Hope PRC gathered together for a very special worship service. Not only was this the first outdoor worship service in the history of the congregation—something we had only seen in church history books—but this was also Hope PRC’s first time assembled together again as a complete body since mid-March. In the weeks prior, only a fraction of the congregation congregation was physically assembled together at each service, with the others tuning in to the live-stream.
In light of the special occasion, a special sermon was preached. Pastor Kortus preached on “The Restoration of Worship in Israel” from Ezra 3:1-7. This text was chosen because it records the first corporate worship services that the Israelites held after their return from captivity. In addition, since the foundation of the temple was not yet laid (3:7), Israel worshiped God apart from the building that had been at the heart and center of their worship for so many years.
As a congregation, we have noted God’s providence that we live in a region where it is almost always sunny, and thus we do not have to worry (too much) about inclement weather. At the same time, the climate we live in presents the challenge of keeping the congregation as cool as possible during the services. So, as the pictures show, we have been making use of existing shade on the Hope Christian School property, setting up canopies, and dressing down ever so slightly. In addition, we have changed our worship times to 9a.m. and 6:30p.m. to avoid the hotter parts of the day. Admittedly, in spite of these efforts, outdoor worship is not nearly as comfortable or convenient as what we are used to. But as Ezra 3 teaches us, the worship of our God is a priority above all else. Thus, as a congregation we are glad for the opportunity to worship God in this way.
May our God continue to grant us this conviction as we go through the hottest time of year and face other unknown challenges from the disease or government.