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Resuming Public Worship

April 24, 2020

Beloved,

On Monday, Governor Kemp issued an executive order that allows churches to reopen their sanctuaries for public worship. Upon receiving the news, my first reaction was expressed with the praise of the psalmist, I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord!” (Ps. 122:1). At this moment in the life of David, he is exiled from the sanctuary and sorely misses the experience of public worship. The very thought of it gladdens his heart. His wilderness experience, during which he is excluded from the sanctuary, serves to remind of the benefit of public worship. For the congregation itself is an encouragement to him. His faith is strengthened when gathered with others who take pleasure in the presence of God. The thought of it all gladdens him as he goes to publicly meet with God. At this moment in our exile from the sanctuary due to the coronavirus quarantine, I think we all can relate to the psalmist. Every one of us is eager to return to the sanctuary for public worship. Members are wearied of watching the live stream of the worship service. Though modern technology provides the tremendous blessing of online connection, the virtual is still but a shadow of the real. On the other end of the internet, for the worship leaders, the empty sanctuary lacks the energy of personal interaction. The faceless camera cannot substitute for the human. Indeed, the emptiness is quite depressing. Yet our exile from the sanctuary has served a good purpose, that is, to teach of the essential nature and vitality of public worship. Each has learned to exclaim with the psalmist, I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord!”

To this end, the Session and Diaconate met jointly Wednesday night to consider how to wisely and safely reopen the sanctuary. We have no desire at all to rush into a situation which might jeopardize the health of anyone by providing contact with the coronavirus. So we will not resume public worship either this Sunday or the next, instead hope to do so beginning Sunday, May 10. Meanwhile, the Session has formed a Task Force to design a roadmap to reopen the sanctuary prudently and cautiously. For there are many factors to consider, some yet unknown, in order to provide a healthy worship space. There will be quite a transition to normalcy. We don’t know what this will look like, but it will take some while to phase in a full gathering of the congregation. Still we realize that there are members more vulnerable to the virus who will choose not to gather anytime soon. So the live stream shall continue to be provided until the pandemic has past.

With the above said, however, we shall no longer lock the doors of the sanctuary so that those few who wish to gather may do so. To be clear, we will not resume public worship before May 10th and therefore strongly encourage the congregation to remain home and participate in the live stream. Yet there is also a great concern for the singles and others—who alternatively would remain isolated and lonely—that could sit safely socially distanced in our spacious sanctuary.

We hope to provide forthcoming information and instruction about the restart of public worship. 
Until then, let us be glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord!”

 

Blessings,

Jeff