Reconvening for Worship
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”—Psalm 122:1
Public worship is both the great blessing and also the chief duty of the Christian church. It is the avenue through which our Lord Jesus Christ has promised to pour out covenant blessings. When the church gathers for worship we do so in order to offer to God a sacrifice of praise and to receive from Him grace upon grace. Our own Westminster Shorter Catechism speaks of the benefits of corporate worship in this way: “The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation” (WSC Q. 88). For the past two months a global health pandemic has meant that we have been unable to enjoy and participate in the means of grace as the Lord intended us to. However, it is with great joy and excitement that I get to write good news to you today. Your session, in consultation with the deacons, have agreed to reconvene for public worship beginning Sunday, May 24th. Below I’ll give a brief outline of our process in coming to a decision and then explain what this will look like in the weeks ahead.
From the moment we decided to suspend in-person worship services and ministries we’ve been thinking and planning for the day when we could reconvene for worship. In early April the session appointed a task force to take up the question of how we will come back together. They considered the advice and recommendations from our local, state, and national leaders regarding facility cleaning and social distancing and put together a fairly comprehensive plan. After hearing the report from the task force and adopting the recommended procedures, the next question was to decide when to reconvene for worship. After considerable discussion the session agreed to restart in-person worship services on Sunday, May 24. We will begin with one in-person service on that Sunday (AM only) and then move to two in-person services the following Sunday, May 31.
You’ll find details about this plan in the brochure that was emailed to you. In addition, we will have a Zoom meeting for you to attend that will go over the details and also provide an opportunity for Q&A. That meeting will take place on Thursday, May 14 at 6:00PM. If you are unable to meet at that time there will be recording of the meeting made available to you. You will find the Zoom link in your email. After some informal polling of the congregation the task force determined that there were about 100 people who expressed a desire to reconvene for public worship whenever we decide to restart. Given the recommended social distancing guidelines it was determined that we could accommodate approximately 60 people for a worship service. This means that not everyone will be able to attend on the first Sunday, but after the first Sunday we should be able to accommodate everyone between the two services. The Zoom meeting will explain the procedures for how to reserve a spot.
We will also continue our online ministry presence during this time. The worship services will continue to be broadcast via Zoom so that those unable to attend in-person will still have access. We will also use Zoom for the Sunday School classes. We recognize that this creates a potential challenge for those who live over 30 minutes away from the church. If Sunday School goes from 9:00-9:45AM and worship starts at 10:15AM then several families would not have enough time to make it to both. In order to solve this problem, we are going to move Sunday School to a start time of 8:30AM. We thought about keeping Sunday School at its stated time but in the end I think it is important to keep our worship service times consistent, particularly for the sake of any visitors we may have as we move forward.
It is our hope and prayer that as the social distancing guidelines are relaxed over the coming weeks that we will be able to return to our normal pattern of morning and evening worship being open to all. Will you continue to pray that this will be the case? Please do take time to read the attached brochure as it will answer many of your questions. I realize that none of this is ideal. The ideal is to have everyone back with no restrictions. However, wisdom dictates that for the time being we must proceed with some temporary adjustments. We acknowledge that we won’t get everything right. We have undoubtedly overlooked some details. Please know that it was not intentional. We thank you in advance for your patience, understanding, and forgiveness. As I encouraged us all in the latest newsletter article, please exhibit a spirit of charity and assume the best of your leaders and of others in our congregation who may have different views than you do on the matter. I look forward to seeing you in-person again soon.
Your pastor and friend,