Phasing Forward into the Fall

Phasing Forward into the Fall

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When the pandemic first began your Bridge Conference ministers recommended the suspension of In Person inside worship for two weeks.  As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, that went from two weeks to two months to spring and then to summer.  At this point, five months into the pandemic and part way through the summer season, we are seeing a resurgence of the spread of COVID across the country.  New hot spots are developing and new milestones are happening.  While the spread is more contained and controlled within our region it is difficult to predict trends over the next few weeks and months.
 
We know that this has been an exhausting, extraordinary and innovative time to try to adapt to online forms of worship, justice and mission work, community building, governance planning, and faith formation. Some are weary to the soul.  Some are energized with creativity.  Most of us fluctuate between both extremes.
 
Meanwhile, churches are beginning to look at their plans for the fall and coming year and wondering about the impact of COVID. Late this spring we researched and developed some Phasing Forward guidelines (you can find them here) to help guide our churches.  We have also offered some webinars (Phasing Forward into In Person Worship) and resources.  And there have been many discussions and resource sharing on social media.  Fundamental to this is the question of what church life, worship and ministry will look like in the coming months. 

As your Bridge Conference Ministers looked at this information and watched the conversations in our churches and within our region we had the following observations:
  • We know that there is no risk-free way to gather again in person in a building until there is a proven, tested and effective vaccine along with adequate testing for infection and antibodies and a robust contact tracing program.
  • We know that the greatest risk of exposure and spread happens when large groups of people gather in a building for an extended time.  In person church worship has been recognized as a ‘superspreader’ event. 
  • Churches need to be able to plan programming and worship for the coming year and giving a date regarding in-person in-building worship that keeps changing can complicate the ability and capacity to form plans.
  • We know that the incidence and response to the spread of COVID varies substantially across our Conference making it difficult to give a one size fits all date. 
Given this, your Bridge Conference Ministers are not offering a target date.  Instead we are strongly urging our churches to look at the Phasing Forward guidance and engage in leadership conversations that take local conditions, at risk members, long range planning and emerging COVID trends into consideration.  As part of this we ask you to talk with your local board of health to determine if there are particular local or state insights or concerns for your community.  And, in particular, we encourage you to begin with a conversation about the essential needs and core values that shape your thinking, positions and opinions.  If you need help with that conversation please contact your Conference staff.

We are also strongly urging compassion for the clergy, staff and volunteer leadership of churches who are trying to navigate ministry in this pandemic world and beyond.  Your decisions regarding gathering in person in buildings should never compel anyone to have to choose between safety (for themselves and their families) and service to the church. 

Philippians 4: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.


Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Author

don-remick-2018.jpg
Don Remick

The Rev. Don Remick is Bridge Conference Minister

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