Hello Church Family,
You have likely heard the news this past week that churches are permitted to reopen in our city. While this is good news for us who value and miss our faith family, reopening our church campus is not without its challenges. Large group gatherings (particularly indoor) have been deemed as high-risk in these times and many in our beloved church community are considered part of the vulnerable category as defined by the CDC.
I preface this, because in uncertain times, it is only natural to want to return as quickly as possible to the way things were--as being in unfamiliar territory is not only daunting, it is exhausting. Rushing back, though, without thoughtful consideration, regardless of outside regulations and restrictions, undermines the work that God has been doing in our lives during this time--as God has most definitely been at work.
Our church—both as individuals and collectively--has learned that we have the capacity to adapt and do so quickly. We are overcoming! WE have ministered to people that would never walk on our campus. WE have become the face of the church, not our building. And WE have mastered new ways of being together which we have previously resisted. I want us to be mindful that these changes, and many more, are good changes. They are not just good because they make us more relevant, they are good because they align us more with God’s purposes.
As Rev. Tod Bolsinger says in his book, Canoeing the Mountains, “People don’t resist change, they resist loss” and I have found that to be true. As we step into a reopening of our church campus, and as we discover that our reopening is not returning to how things were before, I want to encourage us all to name our grief, recognize it, and give it to God, so we can be gracious to ourselves and one another.
These months ahead, in many ways, for some of us, may be more painful than the previous eleven weeks. In them, there is bound to be (more) loss—loss of ways of worship that we have become accustomed to, loss of our full intergenerational community meeting in-person, and loss of familiar structure. But, as our faith informs us, in death there is always new life. So, let us focus on the that—the exciting ways that God is working among us and through us in these times. With that in mind, the Session voted this week to take the first step in reopening the church campus.
1. Beginning Sunday, June 21 we are launching a new outdoor worship experience called Inside-Out Worship which will take place at 5:30 pm in the handicapped parking lot located next to the Sanctuary with overflow locations in our courtyards. Participants are invited to bring their own blankets, chairs, and picnic dinners to worship together in socially distanced family "pods." The worship will be simple consisting of contemporary songs from our Cafe band and/or Sanctuary musicians followed by a short message. Those interested in attending will be asked to sign-up in advance, as we are only allowed to gather a certain number of people in our space at that time. Participants will also be asked to abide by certain regulations. More details about signing up will begin next week.
2. Since the CDC continues to recommend that those in the vulnerable categories remain at home during this time, we plan to continue our Sunday morning online worship services at 9:30 and 11 am indefinitely. Our kids service will also continue to remain online at 9 am during this first reopening step. You will begin to see more people and different forms of worship in the weeks ahead in our morning services as we permit more people back on campus for recording.
3. In this first step, the indoor parts of our campus will continue to remain closed, with the exception of the preschool. Staff will be permitted back into their offices next week but, at present, will not be holding any in-person meetings. Volunteers may also be permitted back on campus to assist in worship or other necessary tasks after completion of a Covid-19 training and signing an assumption of risk waiver.
Let us remember this is only the first step in our reopening process and rest assured, through all the steps, no one will be left behind. I ask that you please continue to pray for our leadership as we re:imagine life together. And, even more so, pray that God would continue to transform us all into His image as we journey into deeper faith.