Dear Saints at ERC,

Greetings to you all in Jesus!

This letter concerns the Governor’s recent directive regarding face coverings in the state of Montana. I want you to know that David and I have spent much time in conversation, investigation, and prayer regarding the mask directive and how to lead ERC in response. We have also sought the input of other pastors who are walking through this situation with their churches. Please know that we are taking all these rapid changes very seriously, and we are trusting our mighty God along the way! We know you are, too.

In short, we believe the best response pertaining to this directive is to cooperate in humility. We recognize that, according to Scripture, there are times when civil disobedience is required (Acts 5:29), but we do not believe this is one of those times. We know that wearing masks can be irritating and inconvenient. We also know there is a diversity of opinions and beliefs regarding the efficacy of wearing masks. Our purpose here is not to ask for everyone to agree on the usefulness or importance of masks. Rather, our goal here is to prompt you to consider the role of obedience to our governing authorities even when we may not agree with or understand their reasoning.

The question David and I have sought to answer is not, “How effective are face masks?” Rather, the question we’ve been asking is, “Can we obey this directive without violating the law of God?” We believe the answer is yes.

So, in order to comply with the governor’s order, we are asking those in attendance to wear a face-covering of some kind at all our Sunday Gatherings for the time being (if able). This directive does not apply to events taking place in private homes.

We do understand that the Governor’s directive makes allowances for some people not to wear masks at our Sunday Gatherings.

This includes:

  • children under age five
  • anyone using the platform (prayer, musicians, preacher, etc.)
  • those with medical conditions that would make mask-wearing unwise or unsafe
  • those who are eating and drinking
  • those speaking to persons with hearing difficulties
  • those participating in activities in which wearing a mask would be impractical.

We see that some of these exemptions are a bit open-ended and require personal interpretation and application. Regarding these exemptions, please know that if you attend the corporate gathering without a mask, we will believe the best and assume that you fall into one of the above categories without challenging you.

If you remove your mask at some point during the gathering (during communion or while singing, for example), we also understand these activities to fall under the listed exemptions and will be eager to be gracious toward you.

I know this decision from the governor has been challenging for many of us for many reasons. However, as I took time to reread 1 Peter 2:13-17 and Romans 13:1-8, I was comforted to be reminded that, as Christians, whenever we can submit to the authorities in place over us without violating God’s law, we should do so.

As David and I labored over this decision and this statement, the word “weary” came up. It is indeed a good word for many, if not all of us right now. We are weary. We long for things to move back toward normalcy. We long for the day when COVID-19 is a long-gone memory. We long for Jesus to return and make all things new! We pray and hope for these things, and we are looking toward our Lord to sustain us until that day.

We remain committed to gathering joyfully to worship on the Lord’s Day. We will maintain all the normal functions which we have grown accustomed to performing. Our mission is still to make disciples who delight in, display, and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. That mission marches on.

We also want you to be encouraged, saints. We have some very exciting news we are eager to share with you very soon, and it will be our joy to bring you in the loop regarding what God is doing at Emmaus Road Church in some specific areas.

Here is one last note as you prepare to interact with your brothers and sisters, who may land in different places from you on some of these issues and regarding face masks specifically. Before we promote our opinions, make statements online, or send confrontational messages, let’s consider Paul’s words regarding how we must always treat each other:

[9] Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. [10] Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. [11] Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. [12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. [13] Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Romans 12:9–13 (ESV)

There is no body of saints with whom we would rather walk through this challenging time.

With the greatest affection,

Joel (on behalf of the elder board)