Danny E. Olinger
On the Lord’s Day of March 8, I was standing before a combined adult and young people’s Sunday school class at New Covenant Community Church in Joliet, Illinois. In my update to them about the work of the Committee on Christian Education, I singled out two young men in their midst, Hans Mininger and David Robison. Hans and David, I declared, would soon be traveling to Philadelphia for the OPC Timothy Conference scheduled to start ten days later on March 18. Little did I know that before the next Lord’s Day the conference would be canceled. Even further removed from my mind was the possibility that many OP congregations across the United States and Canada would not be gathering for public worship that day. By that time, civil magistrates in both countries had begun to prohibit more than ten people gathering together in public settings due to the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019, commonly known as COVID-19 or just coronavirus. In many areas, these prohibitions soon became even more severe.
In the eighty-plus years since the birth of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, there have been many periods when congregations have encountered hardship. But there has never been a time when members of the OPC have not been able to gather together corporately for public worship as has been the case for the overwhelming majority of congregations since March.
“OPC” is not shorthand for the “only perfect church.” Our joint confession is that sinners are saved solely by the grace of God through the gift of Jesus Christ. But sinners though we are, it is such a blessing to be joined to sisters and brothers who love the Lord and desire to serve him in that expression of his church that is the OPC.
I realized this in a very personal way during this season. The day before I left home to be with the saints at New Covenant Community, I was informed that I had thyroid cancer and would need surgery. I shared the news of my condition with the committees that I serve in the church and with Calvary Church in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and asked for prayer. With every passing day, as the national news became increasingly dreary, I received emails, notes, phone calls, and cards from friends in the OPC. They were encouraging me in the Lord from Scripture and letting me know that they were praying for me.
Humbled and grateful for the brotherly and sisterly concern that has been shown to me by others, I could not help but think of the love that is shown regularly in the church. It made me realize that any members of the OPC who contract COVID-19 or are hurt financially in the aftermath will be showered with that same love, which flows from our union with Christ. Love for others during this crisis flows from the love of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In the articles that follow, we hope to encourage in the Lord from Scripture and help members and friends of the OPC as we make our way together through these uncharted waters. The articles also provide an update on how the situation has impacted OP ministries.
We who believe have a sure and living hope in the risen Christ, and to experience that being worked out in his church encourages me all the more in my labors. My prayer is that the Lord would use the content of this issue to encourage you likewise in your worship and service of him.
The author is editor of New Horizons. New Horizons, May 2020.