May 23, 2020
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Who would have thought that when we closed the doors after March 15, that we would be sitting here now, waiting and hoping that we would see the end of this lockdown? It was over two months ago now, but it seems like an eternity. I know that you are all every bit as anxious and impatient as I am to re-join together at the Altar of our Lord, to hear His Word in person, and to see one another, even if it is in a socially distant way.
I believe we are getting close.
Most of you probably heard about President Trump’s speech on Friday, where he declared churches “essential,” and indicated that he will override any governor who says otherwise. It is not our place here to enter into the politics of all of it. But it is clear that even California will be reopening for churches sooner rather than later. Some of you have probably even read about the 1200 pastors and 3000 congregations who are planning on reopening on May 31, whether the governor allows it or not. If President Trump’s mandate doesn’t push things, this probably will.
I want to write to you all and let you know what all is happening in terms of reopening the church and the academy. They are on different tracks and schedules, but there are many people who are working hard on both parts of this so that we can reopen our doors safely, legally, and responsibly. Here is what we know right now:
As of today, nothing has officially happened in terms of churches reopening in California. However, Governor Newsom announced on Friday that there will be guidelines going out on Monday (May 25) for churches and reopening. Here is our current best thinking on what will be happening with Holy Cross having in-person services:
- The earliest we would do these in person services is the weekend of June 7. I am planning on doing our service live-streamed on the morning of May 31.
I am thinking that we will need to have at least 3 services a weekend. My current thought is that we retain the 8 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. times for Sunday morning, but that we add a Saturday evening service at either 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Depending on numbers and social distancing etc., we may need something different. More on that in a bit.
- No matter how this plays out, the minimum we will be required to do is practice social distancing, and wear masks.
- That means every other pew will be roped off and that we will need to have six feet between each family for the service.
- ’We will offer the Lord’s Supper at these services. They will be full, “normal” services. We will offer the Sacrament with the regular hosts, as well as individual cups and the chalice. The Altar Guild and the Elders will prepare things and will be extremely careful and judicious in preparations to mitigate any risk. It will be up to each person to determine WHEN they want to begin receiving.
- The sanctuary is starting to be prepped for services this week. This includes things like taking out the pew pads (can’t be cleaned), the hymnals, and anything else that is unnecessary from a disinfectant point of view. All of the toys, etc., from the children’s room will also be removed.
- There will be so, so much hand sanitizer.
- We will use some kind of online signup system to determine who is going to what service. It may be we will have to assign what services people attend. Because our occupancy will be limited, things will certainly be a bit messy, especially at the beginning. But rest assured, we will do whatever we have to do to make sure everyone gets to church to receive the gifts who desires to receive them. If that means adding a 4th service, we will.
- Our short term goal is to care for all of our people. We will then move out to figure out how to make room for visitors, etc.
My first priority is restoring regular services with the Lord’s Supper. After that comes Bible classes. The main challenge is Sunday morning Bible class, which has upwards of 75 people in attendance. I think we can figure out the smaller classes easily. But my plan is to first figure out worship services, then turn toward Bible classes, as they are all going well online right now.
With all of that being said, I can imagine our Sunday Bible class being a combination of in-person and online. We might even try to do something like have people in Meyer Hall, next door in Room 201, and even in some of the other classrooms or in the Conference Room by the kitchen. It depends partly on if people would rather be in church and watching a video screen, or just be at home. All of this has big implications in terms of cleaning and disinfecting rooms, figuring out the timing of all of this, the technical skills to have all of these things working, and more.
Our Academy board and staff have been working tirelessly to navigate through the legal, liability, licensing, and safety issues involved with reopening for students. The Academy has been given permission to reopen by the Placer County Office of Education. If everything continues to work as planned, their goal is to reopen on Monday, June 15. This has the full support of the Planning Council and the Elders, and we will continue to support them in whatever way is helpful to make this happen. I’m not including as much detail about this here, because it impacts individual congregation members less directly in the short term. Thank God for Kim Lunsford, Octavia Williams, and all of our staff for the amazing work they are continuing to do in keeping our children safe and cared for!
There will be implications for reopening in terms of staffing and finances, both short-term and long-term. These go beyond the scope of this letter, but rest assured that there are many people working on these things as well. Please feel free to speak with Kim Lunsford our director, or Jerry Matranga, our academy board coordinator, if you have specific questions.
In order to learn about your preferences for services, times, and other matters, we have prepared another survey. Please, please take the time to fill this out. It is very important that we get as complete a picture as possible on when you would prefer coming to services and Bible classes, and in whatever other ways you are willing and/or able to help. The link is below:
Online Survey About Returning to In-Person Church and Bible Classes
God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. I cannot WAIT to see all of you again in person. It will be better than Christmas. I hope to see you all very, very soon.