I’ve been trying to write this update for well over a week now. But every time I sit down at the keyboard, I find another article to read, which leads to another video to watch, which reminds me there’s another press conference later today or tomorrow that I really should absorb, and then there’s the update from the bishop and the next staff meeting and, and, and…
As much as I’m learning while listening to all these other voices, all the experts and all the other pastors trying to lead their churches through “unprecedented times” (boy, I’m tired of that phrase), I realize that I’ve taken in so much, but there is still so much more that I just don’t know. And maybe it’s starting to irk me more than it should that this whole thing has evolved into a limitless metaphor for the life of faith. Contrary to our hymnal, part of me wants to pray for some well-trodden paths and a venture that was better known.***
Still, here we are. Ten weeks later and wondering where we go from here. As for the official guidelines, here is what we know:
- Under the “Stay Safe MN – Phase II” order by the Governor, communities of faith like Prince of Peace are limited to in-person gatherings of no more than 25% of our gathering space capacity. The guidelines stress that if gatherings can be done remotely, they should be.
- “Phase III” would see indoor limits rise to 20 and outdoor limits rise to 100 (with strict social distancing and safety protocols in place). There is no projected date for the shift to “Phase III.”
As for the church, here is what else we know:
- The church can function remotely. And, we’re doing it pretty well. We’re certainly getting better at it as the days wear on. Most importantly, we’re being the church, safely.
- Video-based worship, while certainly not ideal, is working well for us, even better than any of us might have guessed, really. We’re also enjoying the process of refining it to make it better every week.
- Our community knows how to care for one another. The amount of phone calls, emails, cards and letters being exchanged every day are a testimony to how connected we remain.
- Caterpillar Learning Center, which calls our building home Mondays through Fridays, has also kept their students, families and staff safe for the past ten weeks. This is due, in no small part, to our support through limited building access and usage, and the work of our custodian Steve Andert.
Keeping what we do know in mind, here is how we’re planning to proceed during “Phase II of the Stay Safe MN Order:”
- The church building will remain closed to any in-person ministry and staff will continue to work remotely as much as possible.
- Weekly worship will continue to be produced on video and shared in as many ways as possible. To assist our planning and production team, we will commit to this formula through the summer, at least through Labor Day weekend.
- We will continue to find ways for the ministries of the church to operate remotely and virtually whenever and however this makes sense.
- We will look for creative opportunities to potentially offer outdoor gatherings that still allow for safety to be our central value.
- Supporting the new operating protocols for the Caterpillar Learning Center (effective 5/20), the building will remain locked at all times and entry is restricted to the southwest door (near office) which is now monitored M-F, 6am-6pm, by Caterpillar staff. All those wishing to enter the building during these times must wear a face mask, have their temperature taken, and contact information recorded (for state-mandated contact tracing).
- In person visitation is suspended until it is safe to do so. Phone and virtual visits are available by contacting the church office.
At this time, we don’t expect these protocols to change all that much once the Stay Safe MN order shifts to Phase III. Though once this shift has occurred, we hope to incorporate some form of outdoor gathering(s). We will need the help of the whole community to make these transitions go as smoothly and safely as possible. If you are interested in serving on our Smart Team, planning for this time and the eventual return to in-person ministry, please contact the church office.
***In the meantime, let’s continue to hold this church, our community and our world in prayer.
you have called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I continue to give thanks for all of your support and the truly inspired work of all our staff. We can be proud of the church we are and even more hopeful for the church we will be.