Dear JW Family,
We know you are all wondering what is going to happen next. Are we going to open the church building? What will worship, fellowship, and small groups look like this summer? The honest answer is that we are constantly evaluating the best course of action. Below are some basics on where we are now and how we plan to move forward.
We have created a phased approach to reopening represented by the colors “Red,” “Yellow,” “Blue,” and “Green.” This phased approach can be found at the link below where you will find the details on the types of activities and restrictions that will be in place during each phase. We have now passed the “Red” phase and are currently in the “Yellow” phase of reopening. We plan to remain in the “Yellow” phase through the month of June. This means that we will not gather for in-person worship in the Sanctuary or for in-person groups on campus. As we move through June, we will continually evaluate when it is appropriate to move to the “Blue” phase.
Click here to download the phase chart which provides more information on the worship approach for kids, youth, and adults. There will be more information on acceptable activities during each phase directly from the various ministry leads.
As most are already aware, social distancing and being in the “Yellow” phase sadly means that we have had to cancel many events like mission trips, VBS, youth trips, and others. We are hopeful and confident that as we slowly reopen and proceed to the next phase, that we will be able to add meaningful events back to the calendar.
Why “Yellow” Now?
The Pastoral Team and Core Leadership Team have been extensively discussing current and new information. While we cannot foretell the future, we agree we should be thoughtful about our actual circumstances and prepare to the best of our ability. The reality is that a large percentage of our congregation fits within a high-risk category. With that in mind, it makes sense for us to take a measured approach to reopening. The greatest of all commandments is to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot love our neighbors if we make decisions based on individual desires. While all of us want to be back to an in-person environment, individual desires cannot fully drive the decision-making process. Being thoughtful and prepared does not equal fear.
Recently, we conducted a church survey about reopening in-person worship and in-person gatherings on campus. The majority said they were not in a hurry to reopen or attend in-person worship in the building.
Lastly, the Sunday morning experience is vitally important. The fact is that our campus is not constructed with social distancing in mind. Following current guidance, we are required to seat families six feet apart in every other pew, which will only allow us to seat 100 people in the sanctuary at one time. We are not able to have a choir, singing will be limited, and masks are highly recommended. With this picture in mind, we believe that our online experience is a better and safer alternative for the time being.
As we move into June, the pastors and Leadership Team will continue to evaluate the situation. We will continue to review provided guidance and the response of other churches. We will also continue to pray for God’s guidance in making wise decisions for His church. We ask for you to do the same.
The “Yellow” Phase
Here is some additional background on the phase we are in now. The “Yellow” phase is intended to be a reestablishment phase. It is still primarily a virtual experience, but we are opening the church for the staff to begin fully working onsite. This phase will also reestablish some smaller groups, including youth and adults, meeting off-campus for fellowship, studies, and worship gatherings. This reestablishment in smaller gatherings eliminates the chance of infecting a large number of people all at once. Ministry leads will be making invites as they plan small group gatherings. We will provide additional information on the “Blue” phase as we get closer to making that move.
Drive-In Worship & Conclusion
We are excited to announce two more drive-in worship services coming in June – one on Sunday, June 7, and one on Sunday, June 28. Be on the lookout for more information on these worship gatherings on our website soon.
How long will the “Yellow” or “soft opening” phase last? For now, the month of June. However, the church leadership will always be evaluating the option of moving more quickly or slowly to the next phase.
We are blessed to serve the Lord Jesus with every one of you – in person or virtually. Thank you to our staff and volunteers who have adapted in this unprecedented time. We continue to lift up all in the fight against COVID-19. May God’s peace be on all those who are sick, those who have lost loved ones, and those who are facing financial hardship during this time.
We want to close with the words from the hymn, “The Blessing.”
The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
Your family and your children
And their children, and their children
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you
Amen and Amen.
Dr. Marty Dunbar, Rev. Todd Cooper, Rev. Cheryl Smith,
and the JW Core Leadership Team