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Guidelines for Outdoor Worship Gatherings (6.5.20)

Our plan and guidelines for restarting worship gatherings outdoors.

Greetings church family,

Last week on Thursday, May 28, Governor Pritzker stepped back from the requirements and restrictions to which he was holding faith groups. Instead of requirements, his administration has come up with guidelines and recommendations for faith groups in a nine page document that follows CDC protocols, which I’ve found very helpful.

With that news comes the excitement of possibility but also the weight of responsibility. There’s excitement because we can meet for worship again! But we are responsible for making sure we do it safely since we are no longer under governmental restrictions.

As of now, we aren’t able to return to the Dorr Township building where we normally meet because they’d like to wait until at least Phase 4 of the Governor’s plan before letting groups back in. That’s ok because meeting outside is a safer option anyway.

So here’s our plan. Starting this Sunday, June 7th, we are going to start holding outdoor worship gatherings at Katie’s and my house. Woohoo! I’m so excited to be able to sing together, see your faces as we look at God’s Word together, and worship our Lord as the family of God.

If you have been camping with us for Memorial Day weekend, these services will be very similar to that, which means it's going to be a bit more laid back and casual. They are going to be shorter - about 45 minutes. The sermon will be about 25 minutes and we'll do 3 or 4 songs.

Come at 10:00 to get your stuff set up and we will start at 10:15am. Please bring your own lawn chair. We have some deck chairs for those who don’t have a lawn chair or who forget.

There is a good amount of shade in our yard but a canopy tent will also be available if you need to use it for some reason.

For these worship gatherings, we are going to be following all CDC guidelines and protocols. Let me run through some of the guidelines we’ll be following:

  • We’ll be practicing social distancing the whole time. Space your chairs a generous 6 feet apart.
  • We’ll be wearing a face covering over nose and mouth when social distancing isn't possible, including kids who are 2 years and older.
  • We’ll be wearing a face covering while singing. Singing projects a ton of air and face coverings are the safest way to engage in this activity.
  • Stay home if you have had any known exposure to COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • Stay home if you have had any COVID-19 like symptoms in the past 7 days (cough, fever, chills, muscle pain, shortness of breath, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell).

Here are some other details about the service:

  • We won’t be providing childcare or children’s ministry at this time. Families should stay together as a unit during the service and small children should be accompanied by an adult at all times.
    • Please bring your own entertainment for your kids (we won’t be providing any “worship bags” like usual or toys).
    • What I’d recommend is bringing a huge blanket to spread out as your “social distancing bubble” and use that as your play area for your family to stay within.
    • We do have a play set and I would be filled with so much joy to see a bunch of kids playing on it, but it’s just not going to work to have some kids playing on it during the service while others watch from their chairs so we are going to flip the swings up and ask that all kids stay off it.
  • For now, we won’t take communion to minimize contact. We are just going to figure out how to be together first.
  • We won’t pass the offering basket but will have an offering box set up to minimize contact.

I know we all long for things to just get back to normal. We are tired of stay at home orders, social distancing, masks, and talking about COVID-19. Returning to worship gatherings feels like a step back toward normalcy and I’d be relieved to say, “Let’s just not worry about coronavirus! Let’s hug! Let the kids play together! Take those masks off!”

But COVID-19 is still our reality. Just because we are allowed to gather doesn’t mean it is gone and it doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to the rest of the world or to each other. Social distancing and mask wearing is an act of dying to ourselves in order to love each other and our neighbor. We are doing something that is uncomfortable for us in order to potentially save the life of someone in a more vulnerable position than we are. This is putting our faith into action like James talked about. Do we really believe in a King who gave up heaven to save us? If that’s the gospel we believe, then this sacrifice only makes sense and we can do it with joy because we are showing the self-sacrificing love of our God to each other and the world.

You may be wondering, “What if it rains?” If it rains, we won’t meet in person but will do something else. Probably a worship at home guide. You may also be wondering, “What if I’m not comfortable meeting in person yet?” We are going to set up a video option for you to watch the service from home.

I’m excited about all of this and I hope you are too. I know it will look a little bit different with social distancing and masks, but those things can just be reminders that as Christ’s disciples, we love other people more than ourselves. They can be reminders that we aren’t defined by those particular practices. As God’s people, we aren’t defined by meeting in specific spots or in specific ways. We are defined by the God that we worship and now we can show that we worship a God who loves sacrificially and gave up all the things that he gave up in order to love us by being flexible ourselves in how we worship and giving up things ourselves to worship. We show what kind of God he is by how we worship him.

I look forward to worshiping with you all Sunday and seeing how this is all going to look moving forward.

In love,
Pastor Mitch