We would love to have you join us as we begin to gather together indoors again at Jacob’s Well. But, there are a few things to know …
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
2 Timothy 1.7
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”
We find ourselves two weeks away from our return to indoor worship services. It’s been a wonderful summer enjoying the outdoors, and many thanks are due to those who have led us. Please see the addendum below* for those who worked to make it all possible.
I am writing to inform you about what necessary changes we are making to ensure returning to indoor worship is as safe as possible. But first I want to talk about why we are proceeding in the ways we are. I have seen the first Scripture above quoted or alluded to many times since the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives here in the US. And while I can certainly appreciate the sentiment I think many are trying to express when they quote it, I also think it’s quite possible to confuse the desire to live uncontrolled by fear with foolhardiness.
This is why we need wisdom, and thankfully fearlessness and wisdom are not mutually exclusive. When wisdom is applied to fearlessness it results in courage, which is what the present moment calls for. Taking the proper precautions, aided by the best available scientific knowledge, means we can reduce the risk of our congregational worship resulting in the spread of the coronavirus in our community. We will continue to listen to experts in their fields as new and evolving information becomes available and adjust our practices accordingly. This is what practicing courage looks like in the present moment, and the “power and love and self-control” courage carries within it will allow us to witness to the living God and love our neighbors as ourselves. This is our calling and it has not changed.
What will worship indoors look like now?
First, the basics:
We will continue to meet for worship at 9:30 am. Kids under the age of 4 will stay with their parents through the service. Everyone age two and older will be required to wear a mask while indoors, with the exception of those who are leading while they are leading.
Please stay home if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, especially a fever and/or a cough. We will have hand sanitizer readily available, and encourage everyone to wash their hands well and often. We ask everyone to continue refraining from greeting others with physical touch. We will ensure that high-touch surfaces are sanitized, and we will ask people to sanitize the toilet handle, the sink, and the door handles themselves after each restroom use.
We will adjust the seating in our sanctuary to provide more distance between households. However, we will not require that people only ever move in one direction (e.g., in one door, out another). Kids 4 and older will join us upstairs for the beginning of the service and then go downstairs for appropriately distanced kids’ church. Simply keep an appropriate distance between you and others when you’re walking in the aisles, in the stairwell, etc.
Next, some things that will be different…
We will livestream worship each week for those who are unable or uncomfortable attending in person. We have invested in some technology upgrades that will enhance the quality of the livestream.
We are following state guidelines that recommend indoor gatherings not exceed 49 people in attendance. We are including kids in this number. In order to accommodate this we have created an online registration system and ask that you plan on attending worship two Sundays a month in person and two Sundays a month virtually. Unfilled registrations below 49 on Sundays you had not planned to attend will be available on a first-come first-served basis at 12 noon on Saturdays. The actual number of registrations available will be lower than 49, because we will need to account for pastors, volunteers, and leave some space for visitors. If you already attend regularly, you should have already received an email with a custom link to register to attend services. If you have not yet received an email or do not regularly attend, you can sign up here to receive a link so you can begin registering to attend services.
We will begin by limiting the number of songs to one or two, and will have only the worship leader sing. I understand the difficulty this poses for many of us who so greatly enjoy singing and whose practices of worshiping God have leaned so heavily upon it. Even with masks, at this point, it seems worth waiting to see what the coming weeks and months will bring. Across the country we are again seeing a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, and cases are on the rise across Europe again as well. At least in Europe, it’s clear that the rise in the number of cases is because people are weary of guidelines and are starting to abandon them. I know we are weary too. However, I believe it will be easier to grow into congregational singing again when the time is right than it would be to stop singing together after having begun.
Other Worship Practices
The Church has always had a number of worship practices that go far beyond congregational singing alone. Even now, we incorporate Scripture readings, Psalms, responsive readings, prayers, confessions, and some more liturgical elements on occasion. The time has come for us to explore these practices—and others—further. Be prepared for it to look differently than it always has, and be open to the new ways in which God will speak to you, in you, and through you.
Finally, it needs to be said again, we will adapt as new and evolving information becomes available and our practices can and will adjust accordingly. We will return to full congregational singing when the time is right, we can add a worship service to accommodate more people on Sundays if need be, etc.
This is a different path than we’ve walked together before. It will be harder than normal, it will challenge us, it will change us. Our prayers should be it changes us for the better. The Church calls this kind of change sanctification. May God continue to form us to be a people growing into the likeness of Christ for the sake of our community and the world.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Pastor Jesse, or the elders.
*Thanks to John and Mary Jeckel for their work in the garden, Bill Matthews for his care of the church grounds, and Bruce Strum for the use of what is essentially his backyard. Also deserving of recognition and gratitude are Scott McCormick, Ben Matthews, Hailey Thomas, and Linda Kelley for leading us in worship in a new environment, as well as Tim Poffenbarger, Mike Erwin, Micah Stickling, and Andrew Hughes for working diligently to learn to make the audio and visual changes necessary for worshiping outside and online concurrently. And of course, thanks to Pastor Jesse and his volunteers, our children were able to return to kids’ church—your work is deeply appreciated.