Last Sunday, January 24th, we hosted a zoom meeting to talk about our Annual Meeting this Sunday, January 31st. The two items on the agenda for our Annual Meeting–Committee nominations and our 2021 Budget–were of less interest than questions about when and how we will return to worship
The question of “when” will be answered by the congregation’s response to the survey we recently sent you (if you did not receive a survey, please contact the office: firstname.lastname@example.org; 608-846-5731). This survey helps us answer two important questions. First, under what conditions will our members return to worship; second, who is willing to help us reopen our building for worship. Once we have answers to these questions, then our work really begins.
We will need to create a sustainable system to train and schedule our members to serve God by opening our building for worship. We will also need to create a system for people to sign up to join us in worship in safe numbers, making sure that everyone has a chance to attend once before anyone attends twice, and also reserving spaces for guests to join us. This process will also serve as contact tracing.
In addition, we will need to plan for how we will continue to reach members and friends online who will return on a longer timeline, and also continue to reach our shut-ins who have enjoyed the advent of online worship. I am committed to these members and to reaching out to others online. I hope the congregation will resolve to ensure that our return to in person will not come at the expense of those who are unable, for whatever reason, to join us for worship in our building.
One of the most often asked questions is why we are not yet open while other churches are already open. One answer is that we respect science and follow the advice of experts who have warned against gathering and say that singing is dangerous.
Another answer to the question is that we currently lack capacity and organization to open our building. It is hard to see from the perspective of this pandemic, but the congregation went through a significant transition in the process of calling me to serve as Pastor. We are getting our start in a hard time, and we do not yet have processes in place to make decisions, enlist help, and get moving. In truth, the informal and personal nature of the congregation, one of its greatest strengths and assets, leaves the congregation ill-prepared for the time we are living through. We now need to build a sustainable structure for today and tomorrow.
I hope we will all put our energy and passion into creating formal structures and organizations that will sustain us as we move forward together. When we open our doors, we will all be glad to be back in our church home, and I pray we will be ready to welcome the new people who will join us after this hard time.
God has given us so much, and we are coming through this pandemic with few losses compared to other congregations. I hope you will join me in asking how God is calling us to serve through the ministry of our congregation.