It seems like every decision these days is a weighty decision, especially when it comes to gathering in numbers larger than two! I know you’ve experienced this in your personal life but consider all that goes into deciding when it is a safe and right time to meet in person as a church. It used to be so simple. All we had to think about was the date, time, location, logistics, and safety, in the broad sense. Nowadays, we have to think about the date, time, location, logistics, appropriate social distancing, mask-wearing, the number of attendees allowable according to the CDC, reserved seating, and yes, safety, all the while watching the county’s COVID numbers tick upward. No matter what we plan, there is always a thought in the back of our minds that at any point in time the event could be canceled.
And of course, once you have made up your mind, it’s unlikely that everyone else involved will agree with you. Considering the opinions of others adds another complex layer to the decision about when we can safely meet in person. I must confess I have a hard enough time trying to make these decisions with my own family, let alone trying to walk the church through this difficult time.
I share this with you because I want you to know that every decision about the church during this pandemic has been a weighty decision. Every decision has been difficult but we have approached it through prayer and out of a desire to be faithful to our calling to love God and love our neighbors. When it comes to deciding if we should meet in person as a church, my primary concern is safety and then our many other commitments as a community follow.
A couple of weeks ago, we asked the people of Restoration to fill out a survey to share their thoughts about the conditions in which they would feel safe meeting in person. Those results helped us to choose the direction of what we feel is the right, safe, and faithful way to navigate through this time.
And even though we want a clear linear timeline with exact dates for when we will start back to meeting in person, making those decisions have been more of a “Jeremy Bearimy” timeline. (If you don’t know the Jeremy Bearimy reference I want to plug Kolby’s sermon from the first Sunday of Advent.) All that to say, our timeline has been a little fluid as we do our best to be safe and faithful.
As difficult as it is for me to admit, let alone announce, I believe we should continue with what we are currently doing online and hold off on meeting in person until 2021. This allows us to plan, prepare, and pray for that moment when we will all be worshiping in person. It is also is a way of caring for the needs our our community and stewarding our resources carefully. The good news is that we want to meet safely outdoors whenever we are able. We plan to have an outdoor Christmas Eve service and I will continue to host Fireside Chats during the Advent season.
What I am asking from each of you is to give each other the grace we all need during this time. It has been a more difficult time than we could have imagined at the beginning and everyone is bearing the weight of making significant decisions.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message), “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” May those words from Jesus in the Message translation, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace,” be an encouragement to you during this time of Advent.
Blessings and may this Advent be an Advent we will always remember.