Yes, it’s going to happen… or at least, that’s the plan. Our Church Council met with the Leadership Team of Christ United Methodist Church last Monday. Together, we discerned that we can move forward to safely open the building for worship. A date of May 9th has been set. We will meet in joint worship with CUMC at 9:30 am and share worship leadership for the three additional joint services in May. Beginning Memorial Day Sunday, we will move into our regular summer joint worship schedule.
At this point, the building will be open for Sunday worship only. We will continue to deliberate the opening for other purposes (meetings, outside groups, etc.).
Here’s what we know:
- The criteria to consider regathering has been met. Cascade County has maintained a < 4% test positivity rate for quite some time. Both of our congregations (based on self-reporting) are at least 50% fully vaccinated.
- We know that Cascade County is currently 24% fully vaccinated.
- We know that there are areas in the country and the world that are experiencing upticks in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
- We know that even those who are vaccinated can still contract and spread the virus. We know they may get sick but not critically.
- We know that a combination of safe practices will need to be in place in order to establish a safe atmosphere (hand sanitizing, properly worn face masks, distancing, effective ventilation).
- We know that re-gathering for worship will not be the same as returning. We will not be returning to how things were before. It will be very different (see the description below).
- We know there are many people who will choose to not to re-gather just yet.
- We know we will continue to offer virtual worship through Zoom and Facebook live streaming, YouTube, and the television broadcast.
- We know that, should conditions in Cascade County deteriorate, we may need to close again.
- We know none of us have done this before and we will be figuring things out as we go.
- We know we will continue to be the church in new ways.
- We know God is and will be with us.
A Re-Launch committee made up of representatives from both congregations has been meeting over the last couple of months to prepare this this event. They have consulted local health officials as well as multiple on-line resources to make sure we are working with the most up-to-date statistics and information about the virus. We’ve purchased the supplies and equipment we will need to create a welcoming yet safe environment. Rev. Dawn and I have been discussing the particulars about the worship services themselves.
Here’s what you can expect when we re-gather:
- Everyone will properly wear face masks, completely covering nose and mouth.
- Everyone will maintain 6-foot distancing by family groups.
- Everyone will be registered upon entering.
- Hand sanitizers will be available and expected to be used.
- We will continue to pre-record and present parts of the service on the screen.
- We will refrain from singing and unison reading.
- We will be dismissed by ushers and leave the building.
- We will keep the rest of the building closed.
- We will maintain a safe working atmosphere for all staff.
- We will limit our presence in the building to the narthex, sanctuary and rest rooms. The rest of the building, including the office will remain closed.
With all of these restrictions, it may feel as if we are setting ourselves up to exclude people. One of the reasons we have put off opening so long is so we could give enough time for enough people to be vaccinated in the community for a safe return. Any exclusions on the church’s side of things are about behavior, not the person. We hold that everyone is welcome. However, in this time, we will require behavior that will help us create a safe space for everyone.
We realize that not everyone will be with us when we re-gather. It’s important that we support everyone’s decisions, knowing that they are all personal and made for reasons we may not know.
I am both excited and worried about re-gathering. I still want to be able to say, when this is all over, that no one contracted the virus because they came to a church event. We are now at a point where we can dip our toes back into the pool of a gathered community and see how it goes.
Between now and May 9th, I hope still see you virtually in some manner.