How Long? How Long, O Lord?
There is much discussion about when and how to reopen our church building. Our session has taken this very seriously and we are doing our best to be faithful shepherds of our congregation entrusted to us. We recognize that many churches have reopened and many more have not. Most in our presbytery have not yet reopened.
From the beginning in Genesis we read, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” (Genesis 2:18). This was a statement about how we are created by God to be in community. The author of Hebrews implores us, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, let us not give up meeting together…” (Hebrews 10:24 & 25). As Christians we are called into community for love and support, and also for correction and sharpening. And yet, we are in the midst of a pandemic, and haven’t been able to meet in our sanctuary since March 8th!
When this whole pandemic hit we all thought we would be closed for a couple of weeks, perhaps a couple of months. When in June the governor released his 4 phase plan on reopening, the Session expected to move through the phases rather quickly and agreed that phase 3 would be the time we would reopen; but that didn’t happen. Our session continued to meet to discuss how we might continue to minister to our congregation. By August we were barely into Phase 2, and we began doing parking lot worship. Our county is still in phase 2.
As of the writing of this letter both King and Pierce Counties are experiencing a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases. In Pierce county the current case rate is 122.3 per 100,000. Our target to reopen is 75 per 100,000.
“The Governor still strongly encourages religious leaders and communities to conduct services remotely.” This is a great idea, yet there are those in our congregation who do not have internet, and virtual meetings still feel very distant. With ingenuity and the purchase of a radio antenna broadcast system, we have been able to conduct services in our church parking lot minimizing the infection risk to our congregation and allowing us to hold live worship and see each other!
We are so thankful to all those it takes to pull off our worship time together: Lisa (pianist), Cami (Worship lead), Katie, and Kari for their leadership in music and prayer. And none of this would happen without Scott and Lance working on our sound and the antenna setup so that the broadcast works each Sunday. And there are a host of others that have worked to make our parking lot worship as possible: Jennifer joyfully greets and hands out bulletins; Darrell plays host in the parking lot assuring that people are tuned to our radio station for the morning; Ruth makes sure that our bulletins have the extra items that may be needed since we don’t have the screen to look at and then assists handing them out with Jennifer; Natalie makes sure that the offering is collected, counted and deposited. And the whole team waves greetings under the portico afterwards.
So What's The Plan?
- For the foreseeable future we will continue to do Parking Lot Worship.
- We will continue to watch the infection rate in the Pierce County/King County Region.
- When the infection case rate drops to 75 per 100,000 in Pierce County, our session will implement a plan to reopen worship services on Sunday mornings inside our building with social distancing protocols still in place. (This is the guideline adopted by several school districts in the area.)
- Once we open, we plan on continuing the radio broadcast for those still not comfortable entering the church building. We will have a host in the parking lot.
- Sermons will continue to be posted online and printed copies are available upon request.
- Small groups may meet in the building if and only if they wear a mask at all times, follow social distancing and follow cleaning protocols by the state health department.
- Small groups are able to meet virtually through ZOOM. Contact Pastor John and he is able to set up your meetings for you.
- Our Session continues to seek to EQUIP our members. We have purchased Faithlife EQUIP for the entire church, giving all of our members access to LOGOS Bible Software with Bible studies, devotions, and more. You also get FaithlifeTV, and an interactive Faithlife page where you can learn more about what’s going on in our church.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How is the church doing financially?
Our church family is incredibly faithful. We have continued to be able to meet all of our financial obligations and even to be able to build up some reserves during this time. Thank you for your ongoing faithful support of the ministries of Mission Woods Church.
On Sunday morning we see people going in and out of the building, why can't we?
As stated above it takes a lot of people to set up, conduct, and take down our worship service each Sunday. These people are practicing social distancing and mask wearing inside the building. All cleaning procedures are done before and after each service.
The restrooms are always available to you during the service, we are asking that no more than 2 people be in a restroom at a given time.
How come our worship leaders take off their masks while singing/speaking?
Mainly to aid in singing/speaking clearly. Outside we are able to do this; inside we would have to keep the masks on at all times.
Can I still meet with the pastor?
Yes! Pastor John is happy to meet with people in person, by phone, or in a video conference which he can set up. You can call him directly using the number in the directory.
This whole experience has been a learning one for all of us. Thank you for your patience. Our session recognizes the need to keep you informed. We are pledging to update you regularly through our website and mailings like this one. We truly are blessed to be the family of God.
On behalf of the entire Session:
Clerk of Session - Kari
Pastor - John
Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 Religious and Faith-based Organization COVID-19 Requirements – from Guidelines for Religious and Faith Organizations, Governor.wa.gov.