Sessions have begun to meet to faithfully discern the best timing and approach for in-person worship. The COVID Task Force has provided
for tackling the operational logistics. We urge all church leaders to continue to develop plans and gather supplies necessary for making sure worship is safe and welcoming for all, when we are cleared for in-person gathering.
But this week, we’re taking a step back from what can be overwhelming discussions of logistics, and remind ourselves that our goal is not “getting back into the building” but rather, how can we continue to be faithful to our mission in Jesus Christ, no matter where we are? Rather than starting with sanitizing and spacing, let’s start with purpose – the purpose to which your church is called in your community and among your congregation.
To this end, we offer some possible discussion questions for sessions as you consider the “why” of returning to in-person worship, before you get to the “when” and “how”:
- In what ways have we continued “being church” in this time that we can celebrate? How do we nurture the new life that is springing forth? What do we need to let go of that no longer serves our mission?
- What is driving our sense of urgency, or hesitancy, for returning to in-person worship? Are those drivers grounded in our call as disciples of Christ, or influenced by other factors such as fears, political agendas, and a deep sense of loss? If fear and loss, how might we address those needs?
- What guidance does the ministry of Jesus Christ and the life of the early church give us as we strive to serve in his name at this particular time?
Decisions may be difficult for some, especially if there is significant difference of opinion within the congregation and/or session. The following questions may be useful in guiding these conversations:
- How will we make these decisions? Do we agree to seek consensus, majority, or super-majority vote? And how will we make decisions if things change – whether in state/federal guidelines, or in local infection rates?
- What resources do we agree to rely on for guidance?
- What are the needs of our congregation and community related to in-person gathering? What choices before us ensure the greatest participation and inclusion of our members and community, including the elderly, shut-ins, and those whose immune systems are compromised? Are there other things we can be doing besides gathering that will meet needs?
- How will we prepare and equip our congregation for the many changes they will experience when we begin gathering in the building?
Throughout your discernment and discussion, we urge all sessions to:
- Work with local health officials and monitor your local infection rate (Illinois County Map of COVID-19 Positive Cases)
- Follow state guidelines, including masks and social distancing
- Strive to continue providing virtual worship options even after returning to your sanctuaries
- Collaborate with the churches in your area
- Have clear response plans in place in the event someone in your congregation becomes infected
- Honor and accommodate the limitations and concerns of your pastor(s) and church staff
- Pray for one another, your own congregation, and the Church universal, that we would all have the wisdom, courage and faith to follow where Christ is leading his Church in this time.