“Returning to the Building…”
Good gracious! How the time has flown by! We are already six months into the COVID season of restrictions and precautions. Infections and deaths have been less here in Canada than most countries, and while I don’t know the exact numbers about that, I do know our neighbor to the South is not faring well in this regard.
Meanwhile our daily life continues. And yes, we are seeking to reopen the building and allow many of us to return to a semblance of our previous in-person worship experience. We are also planning to continue to give you a Live-streamed service that will connect you to worship at Grace, as we have been since March of this year.
So whether you are planning to register to come back soon to the Sanctuary, or whether you are planning to continue worshipping with us from home, we want you to know how welcome you are and that we do not negatively evaluate anyone who chooses to stay home or those who are planning to come back to the building.
We are more than the building. I do hope this last six months has proved this to you.
You know the Scriptures:
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
All those who have confessed their sins and turned to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are a part of the Church, His Body. We know we are the Church, the body of Christ, the way Jesus accomplishes his mission on the earth. Right now, we are in a public health crisis, and we are trying to love and protect our neighbours, with distance and masks. So how can we continue to be the body of Christ, even if we cannot meet with one another in person as we used to do? We know we can meet through videoconferencing, phones, computers, recorded services and live services broadcast over the Internet. We have also been given the opportunity to return to the building in a reduced way, which then gives each of us a chance to decide on whether it is the right time or not to return to the building.
We are trusting you to make the right individual choices for yourself and for us as a congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ. You know your health condition in general, and whether you should return to public gatherings where people are masked, distanced and taking other precautions such as plexiglass shielding and limited talking/singing.
We don’t know how long it will take to get through this season to “the other side” or “back to normal.” There may be no normal to go back to. So, we trust the Lord together. I continue to encourage you to take in the Live-stream, whether live or recorded. I continue to encourage you to join online a small group, with several bible studies and prayer groups, men’s and women’s groups happening every week.
We continue to thank the Lord for your financially supporting Grace congregation with your tithes and offerings.
How do you know if you should come back to the building or stay at home? It is good to pray, and ask the Lord, first of all. It is also good to consider the health of others, thereby caring for them in this basic way.
We have a number of questions that can help you decide. You need to be able to abide by these guidelines in order to return to the building.
These will be repeated in the invitation to register to attend a worship service in the building, should you wish to do so:
(1) People who are immune compromised, are unable to wear a mask, or have any current symptoms of illness, should not attend in person at this time. Instead please watch the livestream of the service on our website.
(2) Currently we are not able to offer any program for children, so they must remain with their parents in their assigned seats. No other people can assist in the care of these children, other than the parents. Please consider the ability of your children to manage through a worship service before deciding to register to attend in person.
(3) The Sunday morning entry process will include a number of steps, including an assessment for health issues, a fever check, and confirmation of registration for seating. An usher will escort you to your assigned seats. Please remain in your seats at all times.
(4) The coat room is not open at this time, so you must keep everything you bring with you in the sanctuary, including any outdoor clothing.
(5) You will be assigned a staggered arrival time (10:00-10:05; 10:10-10:15 or 10:20-10:25) to enable a gradual arrival process for proper distancing. Please respect others by arriving at the time you have been assigned. If you are in the sanctuary early, use that time to quietly greet others seated nearby, read your bible or pray.
(6) While in the building, you will be required to wear a mask at all times.
(7) Singing by anyone other than the worship leaders is not currently allowed. However, you may quietly hum to the music and follow the words during the hymns. We recognize that this may be difficult, but it is the clear advice of medical officers that singing is a major cause of COVID transmission. Please help us all stay safe by respecting the “hum only” requirement.
(8) Envelope givings and offerings may be placed in one of the plastic? boxes between the double entry doors of the sanctuary. The collection plate will not be passed.
(9) If you need to use the bathroom, or are feeling ill during the service, please look for an usher near the back of the sanctuary, and they will assist you.
(10) Following the service, everyone must remain seated until your row is asked to leave by an usher. This is necessary to ensure proper distancing. Please be patient.
(11) When you exit outside, please continue to move towards the parking area to allow space for other people exiting after you. Greeting your friends can be done with safe distancing from the parking lot. The Pastor will be by the car exit to distance greet you as you leave.
(12) If more people register for the service than can currently fit in the sanctuary, overflow seating will be available in St. Andrews Hall. Seating will be assigned on a “first come first served basis”.
(13) If you would be willing to give up your assigned seats so that visitors may sit in the sanctuary, please indicate this on the registration form. Special directions will be sent to you to explain how this will work.
We know this is a lot of detail to take in, and we encourage to read these points again so that you will have the facts as you make your decision to continue worshipping with us at home, or choose to return to the building. I believe this is your decision before God.
God loves you deeply and we are attempting to love you the best we can in these days. Whether you make a decision to stay home for health or other reasons, we support you. If you make a decision to come back to the building, we support you and will seek to provide as safe an environment as we can, before God.
Thank you for caring for one another, for praying for leadership, and many servants on the Board of Managers, the Session and others who have put tons of time into making this work well for us all. May I simply say, if you have questions, the Elders and the Pastor are at your service to answer them as best we can. Arlene will be handling the registrations for coming back into the building, so that we can track people and keep numbers within the legal guidelines for the building (30% of the maximum capacity, minus social distancing requirements).
We look forward to the next season together, trusting God to help us love one another and love the larger community with the Gospel that we all need so desperately. We trust God for your decision to come back into the building or not.
We trust God for one another’s relationship to Jesus Christ. We trust God for visitors who may come, seeking spiritual answers to ultimate questions. We thank God for what we have together, even in this challenging environment.