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June 17, 2020 at 1:13 pm #4391officeKeymaster
Noticings…June 17, 2020
As of yesterday the church building of Faith United has been closed to in-person gatherings for 3 months due to the protections and precautions we must take to lower our risk of infection and illness during our current global pandemic. I composed that sentence very carefully. I hope you noticed that I did not say our church was closed – just the building. There is a significant difference! Faith United is NOT closed. The church is not closed – because the church is you and me. Our mission and ministry continue in myriad different ways – like livestreamed worship on YouTube, and coffee hour via online ‘Zoom’ meetings, and interpersonal connections – but they definitely continue.
However, since the threat of the pandemic remains so too must our building remain closed to in-person contact for the time being – in the interest of safety – in the interest of love! The Ontario government has recently made the announcement that some Covid-19 restrictions are being loosened. Great! Fantastic! Yet…it is imperative for us to remember that this does not mean this season of pandemic is over.
Along with businesses being allowed to open on a modified basis churches are now allowed to return to worship at 30% capacity, provided physical distancing of 2 metres is maintained. At Faith United we estimate that would mean we could accommodate around 40-50 people in the sanctuary. However, the protocols required are daunting. It would be worship with each person wearing a mask, with no handshakes, no hugs, no bulletins, no singing (!), no kid’s program, no choir, no communion, no passing the plate, no coffee and tea, and no standing around and visiting. There would be controlled entry and exit, with wellness and contact screening required, and significant cleaning protocols to adhere to. In other words, it would feel very little like the church we know and love. It would be good to see one another, but with only 40 allowed to attend it would be challenging to decide who could/should come.
With all that in mind, and even though there has been some loosening of restrictions in our day-to-day life, Council has unanimously decided that our Faith United building will remain closed to in-person worship until at least September. Our online worship experience is pretty good. Until our in-person worship can be at least as enjoyable as the online version we’ll just stay online. It’s simply not worth the health risk.
Council has established a “Re-opening Task Group” that is carefully looking at all the information available, following the guidance of Health Authorities, and will make recommendations to the Faith United Council who will make the decisions as when it might be safe to re-open for in-person groups or meetings and under what conditions.
Even though the province has allowed groups of up to 10 to gather our Re-opening Task Group has discerned that the risks currently outweigh the benefits of gathering even in small numbers, and that we need time to develop appropriate protocols for the protection of our church community. The rules seem to change every few days so that task group will be working all summer to try to get us ready for the autumn.
We anticipate some sort of return to gathering in some manner this fall. Small groups are far more likely to begin long before in-person Sunday worship returns. I know we all want to return to ‘normal’. That is simply not possible yet. Please be patient, and let’s continue to love one another by staying safe!
In the meantime, it’s summer! This is a natural time for us to have fewer activities at the church anyway. Sunday Worship (livestreamed on YouTube – see link below) will continue all summer. When I am on holidays we will offer links to other churches’ worship services for you to consider tuning into. Our Thursday morning ‘Zoom’ online Coffee Hour (9:30-10:30 am) will also continue all summer (see link below). And as I’ve been saying each week in worship, we encourage you to reach out to one another and stay in touch, perhaps even visiting in-person provided you can maintain appropriate distances of 2 metres.
We’re also finding creative ways to continue our outreach activities. Yesterday, and for the next 2 Tuesdays, we are holding a ‘food drive’ for contributions to the food bank. A black pickup truck will be parked at the church on these Tuesdays to receive the donations. There are also several knitting projects underway supporting the hospitals.
It has been a long 3 months in some ways. I know you miss being together with your friends in Faith. I miss you too. But the caring and compassionate thing to do in this season is to take these precautions and keep one another safe, because we love one another. I wish I could say when this season will end. It’s gone on longer than we may have imagined, and it will likely continue for months to come. Without a vaccine or an effective treatment protocol we cannot safely gather in large groups. Hopefully those medical options will emerge sooner than later! Until then we continue to be the church, together.
Is there anything else we can say? I don’t think so. We continue to be church – Sunday morning online, and far, far beyond.
But the beyond is entirely up to you!
Where are you hearing God’s call in the midst of this season?
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