On March 12th of this year, the Province of British Columbia issued a public health order prohibiting public gatherings of more than 250 people, and on March 16th a further order was issued prohibiting public gatherings of over 50. We suspended holding in-person public worship services at that time, and pivoted to the production of a “virtual worship service” that could be made available to worshippers for viewing online. Although the 50-person limit is likely to stay in place for some time to come, we have now entered the third phase of BC’s Reopening Plan, and you have told us that now is the right time for us to resume holding in-person worship gatherings at our church building. We will be doing so effective Sunday July 26.
The New Normal
The worship gatherings to which we will be returning will be very different from the worship gatherings that we are used to. For now at least, the “new normal” will look like this:
- Our worship gatherings will have only 40-50 people present for each.
- Because of this, we will be putting on multiple worship gatherings every week. We will start out by scheduling four different gatherings every Sunday, but by fall we could be putting on as many as nine or ten different worship gatherings every week, and some of these will be scheduled to take place on days other than Sunday.
Anyone who wishes to attend any of our worship gatherings will be required to pre-register in advance. At first, the only way to register will be by calling the church office during the week. But by fall we anticipate also having an online registration system available. Registering in advance will be the only way to ensure being given admission to a worship service on the day that it is held.
- We will be taking a number of measures to reduce the possibility of transmission of the Covid-19 virus during one of our worship gatherings. A detailed description of those measures can be found in the separate document entitled “Health and Safety Guidelines for Worship Gatherings.” These measures will have a significant effect on what our worship gatherings are going to look and feel like now that we are gathering again.
- We have three spaces in our building that are large enough for us to hold worship gatherings of up to 50 people, while still permitting for physical distancing between the seats: the Chapel, the Main Auditorium, and the Gym. Although we can hold worship gatherings in any of these three spaces, our plan is to hold as many of them as possible (if not all of them) in the Chapel, which is the space best suited to holding gatherings of this size and nature.
- Because of how limited our technological capabilities are in the older parts of our nearly 50-year-old building, and because of the complexity of the logistics involved in putting on a worship service under the minimal health and safety guidelines that we have committed ourselves to following, it is not practical for us to set up a schedule under which we run multiple 50-person worship services in different parts of the building at the same time. Our approach will be rather to run multiple worship gatherings at different times of day and on different days of the week.
- Because there are so many members of our church family who have said that they are unable to attend in-person worship gatherings, or who are (at least) still uncomfortable with attending public gatherings, we intend to continue to produce a pre-recorded “virtual church service” which can be made available online every week.
- As we switch from our long-established practice of putting on only one or two worship services every week, and adjust to a new reality under which we will be putting on up to eight or even ten different worship gatherings every week, it will not be practical for us to imagine that every worship gathering that we hold will involve a full “live” worship service. Part of our “new normal” will be that for many of our worship gatherings some of the components – such as the worship music or and/or the sermon – will be experienced as the gathered worshippers watch a video recording together.
Phase 1 – Summer Gatherings
The first phase of our plan for regathering - which will commence on Sunday July 26th and run through until Sunday September 6th - will give us a chance to try out running worship gatherings according to this new model, and get a sense of how it is all going to work. This is an enormous change in the way we do things, and it is a model for organizing worship gatherings that we have never tried before, so we fully anticipate making some mistakes and encountering some unforeseen difficulties along the way.
During Phase 1, we will not be doing any “live” worship services. Each service will be led by a Pastor who will open up our time of worship together, make announcements, and lead in prayer. But the worship music and the sermon will be pre-recorded. There are two primary reasons for this:
- We have placed an order for, but not yet received shipment of, the new and much higher quality camera equipment that we will need to have in order to be able to both (a) put on a live service in front of a live group of worshippers AND at the same time (b) record that service at a high enough level of quality to use it on the internet.
- Organizing a “live” service is that much more complicated than organizing a service in which people are going to watch a recording, and given how different and difficult these new worship gatherings are already going to be because of the health and safety measures that we will be implementing, we fully expect have our hands full as we learn how to iron out the bugs over the first three or four weekends.
Phase 2 – Fall Gatherings
Phase 2 of our Regathering Plan will commence in September, and by that time most if not all of the following additional things will have come into play.
- We will almost certainly have expanded our weekly schedule from 4 gatherings per week to 6 or 8 or even 10.
- At least one of our worship gatherings each week, and probably more, will be “live” services.
- One of our live services each week will be the service during which we will record the main components that we put into that week’s online service recording.
- During at least two or three of our regularly scheduled worship gatherings each week, we will be offering a program for children during the service.
- As mentioned above, we will have online registration available.
- We may be in a position to resume making food and/or beverages available to worshippers.
If you have any questions or concerns that have not been fully answered or addressed by the information set out here, please contact the church office and we will be happy to respond. You can phone us during our regular office hours, which are from 8:30 until 4:00 Monday through Thursday, or you can e-mail our Lead Associate Pastor, Brian Robertson, at firstname.lastname@example.org .