Rector's Blog: Regathering Ready
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I am pleased to be able to tell you that the Church of the Redeemer will resume worship indoors on May 16th. I want to devote the rest of this week’s blog, and likely next week’s as well, describing to you how we came to that decision and what it will look like for us to be able to do this. But before we do that, I just want to pause and sit in the realization that, after 14 months of worship that has been either remote or outdoors, we will once again have the opportunity to gather in our sanctuary and worship God together in person.
This is an overwhelming and joyous reality.
Over the last year, we have become accustomed to a livestream service at 9am. We will continue this practice, and it’s this 9am service that will be opened up to in-person attendance. Due to distancing requirements, we will ask you to register ahead of time. We will be limiting seating, so if you are not able to attend in person one Sunday, or if you’re not ready to resume meeting in person yet, please know that you can still watch the service online. We will also continue the Pop-Up Church at 11:15am at Ault Park through the month of May as we finalize our summer schedule. I know you will have a lot of questions about how this will work. I will be devoting my blog next week to how the service will look, and what your part will be in making it happen.
Now is a perfect time for us to revisit our Community Covenant – an agreement we all make to one another as we gather together again. This Covenant rightly orients our decision-making in Christ’s command to love our neighbor and reminds us that the strength of this church is in the relationships we build and foster together in Jesus’ name. We will adhere to this Covenant as a very practical way to show respect for one another. We will be required to sacrifice some of our comfort, some of our opinions, and some of our preferences in order to share life in this community. This is a basic part of Christian life: obedience to God through the act of loving your neighbor in clear, practical ways.
I understand that for many of us, “coming back indoors” means coming back to “normal”. I have mentioned before my dreams of hugs and handshakes, singing loudly in a crowded sanctuary. We are not there yet, and it will feel disappointing to you. Let me say that again: You will experience some disappointment and frustration as you participate in this regathering. Because the pandemic isn’t over. The virus is still dangerous, people are still getting sick, people are still dying, and we will regather in a way that is safe and careful. And that will feel odd and slightly disappointing to you. But here’s the beauty of real life: something can be disappointing and amazing at the same time. Something can frustrate our expectations and still be deeply nourishing and joyful. So, I promise you that being together in our beloved sanctuary will be worth the extra burdens we bear in order to keep each other safe during this time.
Now, a word about how we came to this decision. Throughout this pandemic, we have sought to be guided by data, numbers, and the best expert interpretation of them. We created our regathering plan based on the Ohio State Public Advisory System. Under this system, Hamilton County is still currently at a level of public emergency which indicates we cannot meet indoors. However, in close consultation with our CARE Team, we have made the decision to rely more on the CDC’s method of data analysis. We believe this is a more accurate representation of the true incidence in our community. By CDC measures, we believe that, with appropriate distancing and masking, we can safely return to indoor worship.
It is essential to me that you understand, we did not make this decision arbitrarily or just because we were tired of not being indoors. Your safety is our main concern. And we believe that we can gather safely at this time. I want to be clear that this means that if the impact of the virus worsens again, we will cease indoor gathering again and move back to solely remote and/or outdoor worship. I also want to be clear that during this next period of time, masking and distancing will be mandatory and strictly observed while we are together on the church campus. We do this, again, for your safety. We also do this because it is our responsibility as a church community to do whatever we can to end this pandemic. This is how we love our neighbor.
Today is a good day. Today we have a date to which we can look forward, we can begin not only to picture ourselves reunited, but plan for that moment of connection. Today we take one step closer to our goal of being through this pandemic. I want to thank you all for your continued patience as we move through this time together. Thank you. It is an honor and a privilege to this work with you, to be in this community with you. I’m so grateful for you and the part you play in all of this. Friends, we are really and truly in this together. God has given us one another, and we will continue to honor that gift in the days to come.