Dear Church family,
Thank you for being the church during these trying times. I have rejoiced at stories of people being led to Jesus, small groups meeting for prayer and encouragement, shut-ins receiving caring and loving phone-calls, and the Lord’s provision of grace, comfort, and healing. Children have been ministered to on-line, youth have begun to meet in appropriate ways, and the life and mission of the church continues, even as we have not been meeting in person.
Thank you also for your many expressions of patience and prayer as the pastors and Elders have been working through the question of re-opening. We have diligently and prayerfully continued to consider the situation, the variety of information available, and the example of other churches in the area. We’re excited to say that it is our best intention to restart in-person services on July 26th, if possible. Please continue to pray for our community and world, that the Lord would remove this pestilence from us.
A couple of weeks ago we made the difficult decision not to restart in June. We’ve been wrestling with a number of questions. First, obviously, is the danger that despite our best efforts multiple people could get sick if someone unknowingly comes to a service while contagious. When we meet together, we will have to accept that this is possible, and will be possible for the foreseeable future.
Second is the question of our testimony. All along we’ve tried to do what we believe is best both for the church family and the community. We have emphasized voluntary cooperation with the community in fighting the spread of COVID. If we choose to gather, for some it will represent a change of track in that regard.
Another thought that gives pause is how this affects the solidarity of our church family. In particular, those who are unable to attend but would like to may end up with a sense of being left out, rather than the current sense that “we’re all in this together.” By meeting together, we can create a greater sense of loss and disappointment for those who are, perhaps, the most vulnerable. And related to that is how pastoral ministry to the most vulnerable is affected. It would be irresponsible for a pastor to have contact with the elderly, shut-in, or at-risk, after being with dozens or even hundreds of congregants the previous Sunday. So not only are they unable to attend while others are, but they could be excluded from personal ministry.
As a church family, we’ve faced a difficult situation with grace and Holy-Spirit guidance, balancing faith and wisdom. The above are still matters of concern, but we also recognize that isolation is painful and even harmful and that the church is called to meet together for mutual encouragement and edification. Keeping all these factors in mind, here are some important principles about meeting together, with specific details to come out in the coming weeks:
– We will have two services on Sunday morning the 26th, with 75 participants in each. Sign-ups will be available ahead of time. If we find that more people want to worship in person, then we’ll either increase the size or the number of services in future weeks.
– We will implement special social-distancing and sanitary practices, to provide as much protection as we are able.
– There will be no Sunday School or children’s ministries. Families will be sit together, and we are considering child-friendly worship elements.
– We fully expect that many will be unable or will choose not to attend in person, and we will continue to live-stream the service. This is why we’ve moved our services back into the MPR – so that we can practice with the new system and be prepared for simultaneous in-person and live-stream worship.
– We will make efforts to protect pastoral staff from exposure, preserving their ability to carry out in-person ministry as needed.
What can you do now?
1) Continue to pray.
2) A survey will come out early next week about re-opening. Please fill it out to let us know your perspective.
3) When we re-open, extra volunteers will be needed to welcome and usher, provide assistance, and clean between services. Please consider how you can help.
4) Continue to practice grace towards those who view things differently than you. Remember Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Grateful for you,
The Pastors and Elders