For nearly seven months, the refrain of the old hymn “Shall We Gather” has been replaced with the ongoing question of “When shall we gather?” Along with the Regathering Team, Executive Leadership Team, and Staff, I can share with you the answer to that question.
God willing, we shall gather again on the glad morning of November 1st.
It has been a long time since that first March sabbath when we first found it prudent to worship from home. None of us then thought the road to regathering would be measured in months. But then we never thought patients would be counted in millions and passings in hundreds of thousands either. But, sadly, they have. Some of those have been our own; our friends and family, people we know and know of. COVID-19 has cost a lot and changed so much. Our routines. Our sense of security and schedule. Our wardrobe. Our jobs and the way we do them. Perhaps the hardest, short of diagnosis and dying, has been our inability to freely be with people. I’ve missed that the most. Lack of discretion born of that longing has unfortunately made things all the worse.
So, absent a more substantial outbreak, we will once again open the doors at 1900 Gandy Boulevard in four weeks. In our E-Letter and website you will find a document with all the details, but here’s the skinny. At first, worship will be our only gathering. We will have limited entrances and exits, temperature checks at the door, no choir or congregational singing. We will practice social distancing and masks will be required. Those at high risk are encouraged to continue worshiping from home as we provide an online experience just as we are now.
We make this decision realizing that COVID is very much still with us and will be. Yesterday we learned that the one person in America with the most incentive and capacity to avoid the virus has not. This speaks to the vulnerability and responsibility we all share. To that end, I join you in prayers for the President and those around him; prayers for their protection, recovery, and the stability of our nation in an uncertain time. Those are prayers that should be uttered between and beyond all personal opinions and political allegiances.
Even with these reasonable and responsible limitations, it will be good to once again gather to worship. It will not be a return to normal, but it will be a return. And that is good news that finally, I am delighted to share.