Important Safety Updates Starting Sunday, February 21st
As we described two weeks ago our two Sunday services will begin to look different, starting this Sunday and as the year progresses. As we head into this I want to first remind us all about what is driving our decisions as a church in this area.
- First, we carry the conviction that church is essential for Christian life. Scripture calls us to gather as the clear pattern of Christian life (Heb 10:25). We want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to gather even in this season.
- Second, we want to meet as many people where they are practically and spiritually. We have a wide variety of thoughts and opinions in our church on these matters -- and that’s a good thing because it testifies to our identity as a diverse body united by Jesus. People are comfortable with different things right now, so our hope is to seek ways for as many as possible to participate.
In addition to this, you can read the biblical principles used by our Safety Team to guide them as they make decisions.
Why make a change now? In this current phase of the pandemic people can have very different practical and wisdom considerations as they think through appropriate risk and attending church. We all understand the virus much better than we did a year ago and are better able to determine risk factors for ourselves and what we believe is wise or unwise. Additionally, there are practical considerations rapidly changing for some, such as health workers or at-risk members who have received the vaccine. We anticipate that as the months go by there will be two significant groups: those needing or desiring a service with very high safety restrictions, and those desiring a lessening of safety restrictions in church as restrictions are lessened in the community.
The Change for 9am and 11am
So here’s the plan we’re pursuing: The 9am and 11am services will have differences in restriction levels in the short term and in trajectory over the year.
- 9am Service -- This service will freeze safety restrictions as they are (at a very high level) and it will continue to be a mask required at all times service. Additionally, the trajectory of this service will be that it’ll stay at this safety level for quite some time to serve those desiring or needing higher restriction levels.
- 11am Service -- Starting Sunday this service will allow masks to be removed for the seated portion of the service (announcements and sermon). They’ll still be required when entering and exiting, singing, bathrooms, etc. The trajectory of this service will be that it will loosen restrictions on pace with the rest of our community and faster than the other service. Our safety committee will try to take into account safety protocols implemented in our community as well as the clearest available research and data about safety as we lift restrictions. (For example, the fact that our city allows indoor dining was a factor we took into consideration here.) Additionally, for those that would like to sit in a mask-required area in the Connect Room, that will be available for this service as well.
You can read more about the details on our FAQ page, which we will keep updated.
We know that there will be people who don’t perfectly fit into one service or the other or may struggle with these choices. We’re always happy to have a conversation and see if there is a way we can help.
What to Hold As We Move Forward
What we hope to do over the next few months is create the best possible opportunities for our members to attend services. We want to encourage each church member to balance two biblical principles as they consider church attendance:
The Principle of Stewardship
Our first impulse on these matters can’t be “What do I want to see in terms of safety?” but rather, “How would God have me steward my life for his glory?” God has created us and redeemed us and now all we have is his (1 Cor 6:20). That means we should shy away from taking unwise risks as a function of stewardship. However, it also means that since life is inherently risky we must ensure that we’re taking the right risks God would have us take. In a pandemic like this there are risks here for our souls as well as our bodies. For one Christian stewardship might mean being bold enough to come back to church for the sake of their soul, for another Christian (perhaps immune compromised) it might mean doing all they can to stay in fellowship until they can return to church attendance.
The Principle of Membership
One of the greatest challenges we face as Christians navigating this pandemic situation is the attack on how we think of ourselves in relationship to the church. The Bible uses the metaphor of “membership” to define our relationships to one another (see 1 Cor 12). We aren’t simply free agents on our own spiritual journeys, we are a body of spiritual arms or hands or lungs connected to one another with Jesus as the head. In the last year we have been practically separated from each other for long periods and it’s easy for the hand to begin to think it doesn’t need the arm, or the arm that it doesn’t need the lungs. Or more pointedly, the legs and the lungs begin to disagree and the legs decide to leave and find more legs. Even in our differences we must fight to value each other and to value what Jesus has done in making us his body. Over the long haul the leg will be much healthier connected to the lungs than in a pile of other legs.
As we continue to update restrictions I’m sure some will think our moves too fast and others too slow, and that a year or two from now we’ll see what we did wrong (because we will make mistakes) and what we did right. But as I think about that day I think the Lord will be far more concerned with our hearts and our relationships than whether we perfectly threaded the safety needle.
I believe our best days as a church are ahead of us. I believe God has given us some wonderful and specific ways he wants to reshape us as a church, and I can’t wait to share more about that soon. Until then let’s commit to trust the Lord, love one another, and press forward together.
-Ricky, on behalf of the elders