As we look forward to the process of re-gathering, I wanted to write out a few steps for us to consider. (We have sent around a couple of videos which have a little more information on a few of these points; you can find them here and here.)
A Few Things to Consider
While re-gathering is our goal, it’s very important to remember that this is going to be a process. There’s no way to just flip a switch and go back to the way that things were a couple months ago. And there’s no way to long jump to the finish line. It will take time, and some of the steps in the process may feel less satisfying than we’d hope.
As we walk through this process, we need to prioritize wisdom, safety, and also unity. The issues related to re-gathering are complex and have the potential to pull people apart. I want to ask you to extend a lot of compassion, mercy, courtesy, and love to one another, so that instead of mirroring the divisions in our culture, we can demonstrate the love of Christ.
What First Steps Can We Take?
Currently, both state and national authorities are telling us that it is permissible and safe to allow gatherings of up to ten people for worship. That doesn’t mean that we should get together, or that you must—some may choose to remain in full quarantine mode for a while longer. With an eye to caring for those with health vulnerabilities, we do not plan to end our Sunday Video broadcast anytime soon—even after we add a few more options.
Here are a couple of suggestions to consider at this phase in the re-gathering process:
The first idea is what we call “Tiny House Church.” According to the most recent executive order in Illinois, you would be in alignment with the guidelines to gather with up to ten people for church. This might be especially helpful for singles or empty-nest couples who have been a little more isolated and may be ready to join with a family or a few other people every Sunday. You could watch the Sunday video, worship, and pray together in a Tiny House Church context. To get connected with a Tiny House Church, reach out to your community group, or contact the church office so we can help you get connected.
A second specific idea to consider is in-person gatherings within Smaller Small Groups. Again, gatherings of up to ten are permitted for religious purposes (although not yet for birthday parties, etc.). This may mean (for example) adding the option of an in-person women’s meeting or men’s meeting in someone’s backyard—so you can laugh and cry and open the Bible and pray together. Not everyone is ready to take this step in May; maybe it will just be 3 people from your group right now. Since no two groups are identical, we’re giving our small group leaders flexibility to evaluate what this could wisely look like for your group.
Health Guidelines for Small Gatherings
As we begin to take some small steps forward, there are a few specific ways we can prioritize health and safety. If you choose to do Tiny House Church or a backyard prayer gathering, please follow these CDC recommendations:
- Avoid touching your face.
- Cough/sneeze into elbow or tissue.
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Stay home if you or someone in your household is experiencing COVID symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell).
- Provide hand sanitizer.
- Provide cleaner in the bathroom as a courtesy.
- Clean high-traffic surfaces (door knobs, faucet handles, trash can, etc) before and after meeting.
- If you host a gathering, please keep track of who has been in your home over the past two weeks, so you can inform others if someone becomes sick. (This is not part of state guidelines, but a courtesy and commitment to serve one another.)
- Maintain a 6 ft. distance as much as able (estimate two arm lengths).
- When 6ft distance is not feasible, Illinois guidelines call for cloth face coverings (unless under 2 or having difficulty breathing).
- If you gather with others and later become sick (even up to two weeks later), please inform others so that they can be aware. (…And so they can pray for you!)
Let’s approach this process with wisdom and safety and unity—and also with the greater goals of building up one another and honoring Christ.