UNTIL WE OPEN
Please believe me when I say nobody is more eager to return to gathered worship than I am. The conference has been working with the state government officials to assure that we can come together safely, protecting the health of all our people. The conference has assembled a team of clergy and laity including people from healthcare and the legal profession to provide the best advice on when and how to open safely. Learning from others’ experiences and from actions and their consequences from around the nation, they have listed several required protocols that must be followed as we engage in the orderly sequence of opening.
There is a three-stage order of opening for gathered worship with requirements being relaxed somewhat at each stage. For the first two stages there is a maximum number who can attend, social distancing must be observed, face coverings must be worn, there are to be no bulletins and hymnals must be removed from the sanctuary, there can be no singing, no Sunday School, no coffee fellowship among other strict requirements. During that time, if anyone should refuse to comply with these requirements, I am required to end the worship service and require people to leave.
Many have argued that these types of requirements are violating our rights. These requirements whether ordered by the government or the church are not about rights, but about loving our neighbors as Christ loves us. We cannot say we love our neighbors if we don’t do everything we can to protect their health and safety. And if we as Christians are to be Christlike, it is worthy to note that Jesus never spoke about rights, but did command us to “Love our neighbors as ourselves,” and to “Love one another as he loved us.”
At the direction of the conference’s leading, each church is to assemble a “Healthy Church Team.” The purpose of the team is to propose the best way forward for our church to consider our own values and propose how we can best comply with conference requirements. Our team consists largely of our Church Council and a few others responsible for worship, communications, and health. The team has met twice reviewing the requirements and best practices. If we wait until Stage 3, most of the requirements become options, and worship would resume much closer to what we are used to. Our team has concluded that is our best strategy. If the first two stages last “unreasonably” long, or if there are changes to the requirements, the team will come back to reconsider our options. IF YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS, OR IDEAS, PLEASE TALK TO A MEMBER OF THE TEAM OR TO MYSELF.
I and the whole team thank you for your patience and understanding. I remember as a child my mother quoted (often) her mother saying, “Patience is a virtue.” May this be a virtue that we can all strive for. Until we can all come back together, please participate in our on-line worship service, answer our Robocall each Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and PLEASE, PLEASE call me if you have a need for pastoral care or if I can do anything for you.
[It should be noted that we are investigating ways that our on-line worship service can be accessed by a regular telephone if one doesn’t have a computer. Also, if you are not receiving our 9:00 telephone call on Sunday mornings and would like to, please call me at the parsonage. (540) 625-2539.]
God bless you all in this difficult and frustrating time.