June 10, 2020
Dear friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,
May God’s grace and peace be with you today and always!
I am writing this morning to alert you to about our life together at Holy Cross:
Reopening Strategy We learned (somewhat to our surprise) that churches are allowed to reopen as early as this weekend to a maximum of 30% of the normal seating capacity of their facility. This is great good news! We are deeply thankful that our provincial government has explicitly realised the importance of faith as we move through this pandemic time. Our congregational Board of Directors held an online meeting last evening and approved a 3 phase plan to guide us as we work toward reopening for the Divine Service. The three phases are as follows:
A.Developing the Plan -- While we have done some preliminary planning for reopening, we received no advance notice of the permission to reopen and have not yet received any additional guidelines from the government on what will be required of us. It will take some time to “read, mark. Learn and inwardly digest” all the information we will need to safely reopen the doors. We are reviewing material from other church bodies and from other congregations as well as consulting with those who work in occupational health and safety to develop the very best plan for our congregation at this time. Here are some factors we need to consider:
i. How many services will we have each week and when will they be?
ii. How will we ensure physical distancing?
iii. How will we ensure proper cleaning takes place between services?
iv. Given that we will only be able to have about 75 people in the church per service how do we ensure all people have equal access?
v. What about bathrooms and other common areas?
vi. What type of service will we be permitted to offer?
This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. We hope to have answers to these questions and many others within the next two weeks. The plan will be developed by our COVID-19 Committee and approved by the Board of Directors.
B. Communicating the Plan – Once the plan is developed, we will need to communicate that plan to you. This will happen in a variety of ways including a physical letter mailed to all member homes. We will also need to take time to train ushers, greeters and other volunteers who may be assisting. We anticipate another 2 week period for communication and training.
C. Implementing the Plan – After we have a plan and after we are assured we have done our very best to communicate and train, then and only then, will we be ready to reopen. The Board of Directors is hopeful that we will have this all in place by Sunday, July 12, 2020. We may have a “soft reopening” on July 5 with a very small number of worshipers to test the systems we have in place. However, all dates and timelines are tentative and we will keep you posted.
Please keep this in your prayers. Above all we seek to be faithful to our Lord’s Command to remember the Sabbath Day, but we must do all we can to make our reopening a safe, faith-building time.
Now, we know that for some of our members, returning to service is just not something you may be ready to do at this point in time. We understand and we will support you as you prayerfully consider when it is best to come back to church. Every situation is different and we do not want the reopening of the church to take a toll on your physical or mental wellbeing. We will continue to livestream our service so those who are not yet able or ready to come back to the building can participate remotely.
You also may be wondering about some of our other programs and ministries. For the time being we are focussing on the Divine Service. Determinations on other programs and a general reopening of the building will be made in due course. We anticipate that by the fall we will have a better understanding of what living with COVID-19 will look like.
Over the last few months we have learned to trust anew in our Lord to guide us and sustain us. Many of us long for the opportunity to gather together weekly around Word and Sacrament and yearn for the fellowship of other Christians. The same Lord who guided us at the time of closing down will guide us as we move toward reopening. A couple weeks ago I discovered a wonderful passage tucked away in Isaiah 32:14-18. It speaks of a time when buildings are deserted “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high.” Then God’s people will dwell in safe habitations and have quiet resting places. God the Holy Spirit as guided our governments (even if they don’t know it) to allow churches to reopen. We trust Him to continue to guide us as we make those churches to be safe habitations for His people that we may dwell in His peace and righteousness.
As always, if you have questions please feel free to ask me directly. Just send me an email or give me a call and I will do all I can to assist you.
May God bless us as we take these next steps together!
In Christ our Lord and Savior!
Pastor Nolan Astley