Ever since we suspended corporate worship in March, a lot of us have been asking the same question; “When will we be coming back?” I can tell you that, as of today, we do now have an answer that comes with a date. We do have an answer that comes with a condition. It is: “When we are confident that we can regather as safely as possible.” While some are ready to enter the doors right now, the vast majority of our people are telling us to go slow. There is too much we don’t know and cannot control. I have long known that the care of souls can be a matter of life and death. This has never been more true than in the making of this decision.
Let me give thanks to the team of eight professionals and church leaders that have been working on a regathering strategy. As you can imagine, it is more than a question of when, but why, how, and at what risk. As your shepherd, I am charged to love, lead, and feed you. But I also am called to protect us all. That’s why I have enlisted and listened to informed opinions, including our wonderful staff. To that end, let me say a few things we all need to know.
First, we are closely monitoring the Covid crisis, specifically as it affects our city and region. That has led us to be more cautious right now than we anticipated being just a few days ago. Things change on a dime, and as you know our state and region is in crisis mode. Please pray for an abatement of this trend, and do your part to bring that about. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. It’s the caring thing to do.
Secondly, we are preparing for when that day comes. We are accumulating supplies, establishing protocols, and working already to sanitize the parts of the building we will use. Things will be different when we do come back. We will make sure you are aware of as many of those changes as we can. The experiences of churches in safer regions have shown us that people have not flooded back. Instead, it’s more of a slow stream. We can talk later about why that is, and likely will be for us.
Every church is unique, and that influences the decision to return. Numbers of people and the size of the sanctuary come into play (that helps us). Numbers of senior adults, young families, and physically compromised congregants also come into play (that doesn’t). Worship styles and practice of sacraments and ordinances bear influence on reentry.
Lastly, we are trying hard to provide an exceptional online worship experience and other ways to virtually engage. Our success in this area takes some of the tension off, as does your shift to online and mail-in giving (don’t let up. If you haven’t yet, step up). We are purposefully not using the term reopen, because we never closed. The church is still being the church in every way we can. It is encouraging that some of our ministries have become more effective, new ones have emerged and our footprint has greatly expanded during a time when one could expect it to shrink.
So keep tuning in. Keep praying, giving, serving, and caring for one another. Stay encouraged and encouraging. There will be a “great getting up morning” soon enough. And it will be a sweet one.