We are taking all manner of precautions. We're limiting numbers to 25% of our capacity. We are marking off pews, and will practice social distancing. This morning two of our deacons cleared out all the hymnals, Bibles, and papers from the pew racks. We are opening up all the doors (one whole side of the sanctuary is sliding glass doors open to the elements) and all the windows. We will be sanitizing before and after each service. Our Parish Nurse will be standing at the entrance, checking everybody in and asking health questions. And perhaps most importantly, masks will be required. It is a big step.
I hope folks realize things will look different, and be different. I mean yes, we've shared all these protocols with the congregation--more than once! But still, things won't be the same as the last time folks were in the pews. They aren't coming back to the past, they are coming back to the future. Atr least the near-term future.
I never would have guessed we'd be out of the space for so long when all this began. And, of course, we aren't out of the woods yet and we will need to keep many of these precautions in place for weeks, perhaps months. For those still uncomfortable with being indoors, we are continuing to offer an outdoor service (with the same protocols) every Sunday. And we will also continue livestreaming one of our services. That, in fact, will be a permanent addition to our Sunday schedule. Something of a silver-lining in all of this.
But while our members and friends will just be returning this week, God has always been present. Present with the few worship leaders and technicians who have led online services from the space for the past year, and present with our congregation even though they have been scattered and not gathered. I suppose that is a considered by some to be a rather trite observation, yet it is a reality that has kept me and so many others afloat this year.