This blog entry is a letter that was emailed to members and regular attenders regarding the next steps that the Church is taking as we wait for the time when we can gather together in-person.
On March 13, the leadership of the Church had to make a tough decision. On that day, we decided to cancel in-person worship for the near future as a way to show love and care to our neighbors and community. This has been a difficult time for all of us. Many are feeling isolated and anxious. We have had to adapt quickly to a new lifestyle. We haven’t been able to come together as a family to encourage and support each other face-to-face. And yet, during this time, God has shown his faithfulness.
- Our online worship services are reaching a wide audience.
- We have maintained unity and connection in our body through virtual worship, lifeGroups, children and youth ministries, 2*22sdays, game nights, caregiving meetings, and connection calls.
- Our staff, musicians, and elders were able to very quickly embrace the switch to online platforms with creativity and trust.
As the current Safer-at-Home order prepares to expire, we have had to make some more difficult decisions. The staff has been discussing and praying about when and how to resume in-person worship and other activities at the Church. We have been looking closely at the Forward Dane phased approach (through the Dane County Public Health Department), as well as feedback we received from our church-wide survey and the logistics involved in resuming in-person gatherings.
We have decided that we will continue virtual-only gatherings during Phase 1 of the Forward Dane plan. (Phase 1 is scheduled to begin on May 26 and allows religious gatherings of up to 25% capacity) We do not know how long this will last. We are keeping the health of members and our community as a priority in our decision making. At this time, we believe our online gatherings are valuable and effective, and we will continue to focus our efforts on those offerings as we prepare for in-person gatherings.
Many of the decisions related to gathering together again will be based on the current Covid-19 situation in our community and recommendations from the local health officials. In the meantime, the staff is doing all we can to prepare for that day. Our goal is to have processes in place over the next few weeks so that we are ready to go when the day comes.
- Setting up hand sanitizer stations.
- Setting up a registration/prayer request station that does not require filling out cards.
- Training worship assistants in new methods of Communion distribution.
- Creating traffic flow that reduces physical contact.
- Rearranging seating to allow for social distancing.
- Creating systems and schedules for regular disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces.
It is possible that we will not return to regular, in-person worship gatherings until Phase 3 of the Forward Dane plan (allowing religious gatherings of up to 75% capacity). We will regularly re-evaluate this decision after we’ve reached Phase 2 of the Forward Dane plan (allowing religious gatherings of up to 50% capacity). We do realize the importance of worshipping in the same place, and also recognize the need we all have to receive the Lord’s Supper. To help meet those needs and to begin to bridge the virtual and face-to-face gap, we will be offering occasional, sign-up based Communion services in June and July, with the first one happening on June 28th. (Details and sign-up information will come soon.)
While the return date is unknown, there are some things that are definite for the summer months:
- Kids Connection/Building Faith will not meet as an in-person group this summer. We will continue to offer virtual options for children and families.
- Higher Ground will not gather together until social distancing requirements are loosened. This summer we will continue to offer virtual gatherings, game nights, and a virtual mission trip.
- the Church will begin offering limited Communion Services during the summer months. These will be sign-up based offerings and the number of people allowed to sign-up will be determined by the mass gathering recommendations laid out in the Forward Dane plan.
- Each week the staff will be re-evaluating our readiness for returning to worship in our building. We will communicate our plans with you in a timely way as decisions are made.
- The church building will continue to be closed to groups of any kind, with the only exceptions being Communion services and LCFS counseling. This is due to the increased need for cleaning and sanitation after use, as well as a responsibility to know how many people are in the building. We will revisit this topic every two weeks and make changes as appropriate.
- The staff will continue to work primarily from their homes while continuing to check the mail on a regular basis. We will inform you as we increase office hours. In the meantime, all staff are available via email and phone as needed.
While we wait to re-enter our facility and re-engage the public gatherings that are such a vital part of our life in Jesus, we encourage you to live lives of active witness. Jesus is alive. He has ascended. He reigns. And, He is still calling us to follow Him. “Open your eyes,” He says. “The fields are ripe for harvest.” Now more than ever, Jesus is pleading with us to believe AND confess in word and deed, that He is the answer. Because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
This past week, Amy shared in a video greeting with Pastor Jeff that the Lord alone knows. (Ezekiel 37:3) So, we keep following, keep listening, keep responding. He is our leader.
With deep love and appreciation for you,
Staff, Leadership Board, and Elders, 5/22/2020