Dear Church Family,
As you are aware, the courts have ordered that the State cannot restrict worship. In addition, North Carolina is now moving into Phase Two in dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic.
We all desperately want to worship live together. No one wants to resume live worship more than I do. Worship is a part of my being and my calling. I miss you all so very much. Being a shepherd separated from the sheep has been painful.
The challenge now is moving from “Can we?” to “Should we?” And if we “should,” then “how.” With privilege comes responsibility.
We know that churches across the country have been hot spots for the spread of the virus. We worship in close proximity, we sing together, and we love to greet one another.
Please know that your church leadership and I are in constant conversation, consultation, discernment, and prayer. We are in conversations with medical professionals, other large church pastors, our denominational leaders, our ministry team, and our lay leadership.
One challenge is that we do not have church leaders that we can call and ask how they handled things the last time this happened. We are all learning together. Our medical knowledge is changing daily. Thus, our reactions are changing daily. This is a very fluid situation and we ask for your grace and your patience as we navigate it together.
We are also aware that some churches in other states have opened, experienced the spread of infection, and had to close again. We do not want to start without being prepared and then be forced to suspend worship again. In addition, the thought of causing harm, or worse, to someone who has come to worship because we moved with emotion rather than prudence would be devastating. It is often easy to state what we should do or criticize what is being done when we are not the ones who shoulder the burden and responsibility for the consequences of the decisions that are made. This responsibility weighs heavily upon us.
The two great commandments are to “Love God” and “Love One Another.” Normally, these two commandments complement each other beautifully. In this case, they feel as if they are in tension with each other.
We know we will never mitigate all risk. We do want to do our due diligence. We need to make sure there is hand sanitizer, appropriate cleaning of restrooms, the wearing of face masks, the spacing of seating, how we will handle people arriving after we have reached capacity, how we will respond if someone disregards the CDC protocols, etc. We have to discern how we will minister to our children who do not understand social distancing and why they cannot play with their friend or hug their teacher. There are children, youth, and adults in our congregation whose health makes them very vulnerable. How will we protect them without excluding them? These decisions are more complex than simply unlocking the doors and turning on the lights. There are potential life-threatening consequences if we get it wrong.
We are also trying to discern if the experience of live worship with all the restrictions of social distancing, wearing masks, not singing together, etc. is a better experience than being able to worship online with our families or with our small groups. Some of our classes, studies, and groups are beginning to join together in person for study and to participate in our online worship in a smaller more controlled environment. It is a taste of community without the full exposure. Our Youth Ministry is moving toward live gatherings with considerations for safety protocols.
We also know that other churches may start sooner or later than we do. Every parent knows the challenge when their child’s friend’s family does things differently. Every physical campus is different.
Our hope is to be in live worship as soon as possible. We are working toward that goal in consideration of using every other pew, one-way traffic going to the balcony, securing masks for those who may not have them, live-streaming for those who cannot attend, etc. We invite you to be in fervent prayer with us so that we may discern what is right. God wants His people joined together in worship.
And we confess in advance that there is a good chance we are going to get some of this wrong. We thus ask now for your love, forgiveness, and for your grace.
We are a family. Sometimes the whole family changes its plans or approach out of love for another family member. That’s what families do. We are the family of God trying our best to love God with every part of our being and to love and care for one another.
We will get there. We will be together in worship and the sooner the better. We do not have a set start date but are working to set one. In the meantime, small groups, Bible studies, classes, etc., can meet together with respect to the CDC guidelines to experience community again. Worshipping together in our small groups can be a powerful experience.
God is still God and we are leaning into God to guide us through this. God wants his children to join together to worship. We trust that God will make it happen and bring us together again.
We will do our best to communicate as things develop and as decisions are made.
We love you, we miss you, and we will see you again soon.
In ministry together,
Rev. Dr. Terry Moore