August 12, 2020
On behalf of the Elders, I want to lay out for you our plans for this fall. They do include some changes, and I want you to know what is behind our thinking and these plans.
1. The church family needs to meet all together, if possible.
2. The church family needs to meet together safely and considerately.
3. Our meeting together needs to be helpful to parents with younger children.
4. We need to get back to living as a church as much as we can.
5. We are fully aware of the present and ongoing threat of Covid, and will continue to take responsible precautions.
6. We are under no illusions that we will make decisions that will be perfect for everyone, but we do live with the hope that you will know that we consistently seek to do what is best for the church family, or as Paul says, we "strive to excel in building up the church." - 1 Corinthians 14:12b
7. About 1/3 of our congregation has not yet returned to our gathering. Some have pre-existing conditions that give them reason for concern. We are mindful of them. Others have a variety of concerns that probably sound a bit like your own family's concerns.
8. We would like to be able to sing together, but recognize that some are concerned about the possibility of spreading the virus from singing.
Therefore, we have come up with a ministry schedule that seeks to accomplish as much of this as possible. Our plan is to go back to one Sunday AM service beginning on September 6, 2020. We plan to have the ABFs go back to meeting weekly. We want to provide some children's ministries during the ABF hour and some during the AM service and adjust the timing of the day to do what is helpful to most.
In other words, since we simply cannot provide the same amount of children's ministries as before, we want to help younger families be able to participate as much as possible. Therefore...
Beginning Sunday, September 6:
- ABFs will meet weekly from 9:00-10:00 AM.
- Pre-service congregational singing from 10:20- 10:30 AM
- Service in the Worship Center (live-streamed in the gym for overflow and other needs) from 10:30- 11:30 AM
The 10:30-11:30 AM service will include congregational singing, prayer, a sermon, and a children's message. The sermon time will be reduced for the time being. For the record, this was my idea, not because I want to preach shorter, but because I want everyone to be able to gather together. If the event goes too long, some kids tend to go bananas, and then no one hears or remembers anything. Also, the gym will be open and live-streamed so if a kid is getting too squirrely, a parent can take their child into the gym and lay out a blanket for them to sit on. There will also be chairs available for those who want to use them.
We are consistently averaging 600 people on Sunday morning. We can easily seat 700-750 in our Worship Center and be physically distanced (every other pew). Our ceilings are high (in the Worship Center, gym, and Gathering Space), our ventilation and outside air exchange is very strong. Because of all of these factors, we can safely meet together. If we need overflow room, we can do that in the gym and then in the Gathering Space, if needed. We need to get back to being a church, observing the Lord's Table, watching baptisms, and sharing in the same singing, praying, and preaching. The children's message will become part of the AM service and will most likely be a video that we record earlier and will set up the AM sermon. The choir and orchestra will not be able to start up again until possibly January, if then.
We also are planning on offering some of our elective classes as well as some limited children's ministries on Wednesday nights. Here are those details:
1. Children's ministries (newborn through 5th grade) will be available only for workers' children (e.g. those serving in student ministries, music ministry).
2. Electives will be available, but class size will be capped. Therefore, you will need to register online.
3. There will be an elective offered through live-stream.
This is not ideal, but it is way better than what we went through this spring. We are all done with Covid, but apparently Covid is not all done with us. So, we want to faithfully do what we must do and what we can do. We look forward to when we are able to do more.
Grace and peace,