A Holy Longing
For believers in Christ the question of when church gatherings will resume is one of longing and expectation because our faith is not a private faith. God created us for community and He grows us and encourages us in community. In this season of isolation, the longing in each of us to gather again with God’s people is right, holy, and good. When the time comes for gathering again, we shall be like the psalmist who declared: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Psa 122:1).
The Need for Caution
Yet this holy longing does not mean that we should rush to resume gatherings the moment that we are able to do so. We understand why some among us would hope for an immediate resumption of our public gatherings. As businesses across our state “open up” in the coming weeks, we’ll feel this desire increasingly. Yet our elders and staff agree that caution is necessary still, for several reasons:
Unlike many businesses, churches hold large, indoor gatherings in which people are often in close proximity with one another, sitting and standing in one place for an extended period of time. Public officials have acknowledged that gatherings like these increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 significantly.
In our worship gatherings, we sing! Many health officials have acknowledged that singing potentially increases the likelihood of spreading infection even over extended distances. This means that even the “six-feet rule” of social distancing is not as effective in a worship gathering.
In our worship gatherings, we provide children’s ministry for children ages fifth-grade and younger. We have a uniquely large population of children at our church, and, correspondingly, we require a large group of adult volunteers to operate this ministry. Moreover, the younger children are, the more difficult it is for them to comply with social distancing guidelines.
The Road Forward
In light of these factors, we have prayerfully developed a roadmap for gathering again. Lord willing, we will proceed through several stages of gatherings over the coming weeks and months. We respect every individual and every family’s preferences and convictions regarding when they will join us in this process. We also encourage everyone to show charity toward one another, as a wide range of views and perspectives exist within our Body regarding how and when we should begin to gather again.
These are the stages of gathering we will proceed through:
1. Life Church at Home
2. Medium-sized Gatherings at the Church Building
3. Large Gatherings at the Church Building
Life Church at Home
As we have for the past two months, we will continue to provide a live stream of our worship gathering so that people can worship in their homes. In addition, we will continue to provide abbreviated LifeKids curriculum and discussion questions for families and groups related to the weekly sermon. These things will not change for the medium-term future, even as we progress through the other stages of re-gathering. We want to respect the desires of some, especially those who are high-risk, to remain at home as much as possible. Eventually, because of our convictions about the significance of gathering together for worship (see Hebrews 10:24-25), we will stop streaming our weekly services. But we will not do that until the ongoing risk of outbreak is significantly diminished.
Medium-sized Gatherings at the Church Building
Beginning Sunday, June 7, we will begin to hold multiple, medium-sized worship gatherings in our church building every weekend. We will limit the size of these gatherings per the state’s recommendations, and we will arrange our facility so that social distancing and other preventive measures can remain in force. We will ask families to worship together during this stage, and LifeKids will remain closed.
Large Gatherings at the Church Building
When the state’s transition plan ends and restrictions on gatherings are lifted, we will resume large gatherings at our church building. We will open LifeKids gradually and in stages, continuing to ask families with older children to worship together at first. Only when we are confident that we can staff LifeKids safely - with minimal risk of exposure and with a full complement of healthy DiscipleMakers - will we resume all regular ministry in LifeKids.
Other Safety Measures
During this season of pandemic, we will also encourage several other safety measures and protocols. Out of love and courtesy for our neighbors, we want to encourage our congregants to check your temperature before you come. Please do not come to any type of church gathering if you have any of the following symptoms: a temperature above 100° Fahrenheit, if you have felt sick in the last 72-hours including headache, nausea, sore throat, or have any other COVID-like symptoms.
When gatherings are again occuring in our building, we will be taking extra precautions to clean the building before, between, and after gatherings to help fight the spread of COVID-19. We will also ask for people to wear masks and maintain social distancing practices while there are still active COVID-19 cases in our community. Most data shows mask-wearing and social-distancing are the most-effective methods we observe as a society to help pacify this pandemic. While these measures may seem somewhat cumbersome to our normal routine of worship, we feel strongly that such measures reflect God-honoring wisdom as well as a love for our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Finally, we also encourage our congregants who are part of our at-risk population to participate in our ministries through our online platforms only, and avoid gatherings during this pandemic.
We do not claim our plan is perfect. But we realize our plan is also not permanent. We have the freedom to adjust and modify our plan according to the needs of our church, our community, and our understanding of COVID-19.
Nevertheless, we believe even a tentative plan is helpful, as now we know what might change as this situation unfolds.
We cannot see the future. But we serve a sovereign God who holds the future in his hands. He is powerful, he is gracious, and he is working all things to his glory and our good.
He is working in and through even COVID-19 for his glory and our good. I trust that in the days, months, and years ahead we will come to see, savor, and testify to the myriad ways in which he worked in this season.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor of Teaching & Vision