Siblings in Christ, it has been a LONG three months! That's how long it has been since we have worshipped together in person. Actually it seems simultaneously long and sort of like a blur, as if it really has gone by quickly and I can't hardly believe it's been three months. When we made our first decision to cancel services through the end of March, this seemed like just a precautionary thing, but as April and May moved forward, we could definitely see why the decision was made by our state leadership to guide churches to keep doing remote worship.
Although the restrictions are beginning to lift, little by little, I wouldn't say we're in the clear in regards to taking the appropriate steps to love our neighbors and be as safe as possible as we begin to gather in person again. Our church councils have made the decision to return to worship in person, and I'm very thankful to the multiple folks at both congregations who have stepped up to help prepare for us to do so. It's not as easy as simply opening the doors and going back to worship as normal. Just like other businesses in the state, our churches had to construct a preparedness plan and implement the items in that plan, such as setting up our sanctuaries for social distancing, and finding creative ways to do communion.
A lot of work has gone into this process, and I'll be the first to admit that I hope all the precautions we are taking end up feeling "over the top" in the end, and that we don't have any outbreaks within our community. and I pray that you understand and respect the way we have to do church differently for a while, and see that it is a continuation of that initial belief of loving our neighbors by doing what we can to protect them. Research has been noted to say that gathering for worship is ranked 8 out of 10 on the risk factor list, but I don't want to be fearful of those stats.
Instead I want to be optimistic that we as our two church communities can come back together safely. What that will mean is everyone coming to worship takes it upon themselves to follow guidelines and be cautious of their interactions. It will be SUPER difficult to restrain yourselves from physically greeting folks you haven't seen in months. It will feel awkward being in the pews and not singing. But every action we take within the walls of our churches can make a difference in limiting the spread of the virus in our communities. That also means staying home if you are not feeling well on a Sunday--it's not worth risking the safety of others just to come to worship. We will continue to offer Facebook Live worship on each church's page at their particular worship time (so tune into those at home!)
It will be so great to see people again, even if you're wearing a mask and sitting in different pews due to social distancing. I'm excited to provide communion to folks again. These are the positives I'm looking forward to despite all my worries about how this new way of church will be. I thank God that I'm a part of this partnership of congregations--and thank you in advance for your support as we move into the future together.