“Are we there yet?”
If you have ever embarked on a road trip, sooner or later, someone asks the question. And, usually, it is said with intensifying frequency, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?? Are we there yet?!”
As the disruptions of COVID-19 stretch out into months, we’ve passed significant milestones. Each passing sign stirs us. We see words like Phase Two and we think, “Are we there yet?” We see the sign Phase Three and we wonder if we are arriving closer to normal. We long to get to where we are going. We sense some reprieve along the way. But the answer is still, “No. We’re not there yet.”
If you’re feeling antsy, restless, or impatient—I want you to know it’s common and understandable. I feel all these things too. It is the effect of a long road trip, to a far flung place, with no clear sense on when we’ll arrive. We are living through a disruptive time. This unwelcome journey can tire us out. Please take care of yourself. If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out to someone you trust. You matter. It’s okay if this experience is hard for you.
In-Person Gatherings and Phase Three
I realize that as some of our regular stomping grounds start to open, and as some form of normalcy starts to return to our everyday lives, we want to know, “When will we start in-person gatherings as a church?”
The short answer is: not yet.
UBC Robson Square recently informed us that they will remain closed until January 1, 2021. Our provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, also announced that, until there is a vaccination, there will be no gatherings beyond 50 people. Even so, any gathering up to 50 people must maintain social distancing standards and do everything possible to create a safe environment that implements the very helpful and necessary health guidelines.
Our Leadership Team has met to pray and discuss these announcements. In light of them, we expect to continue meeting virtually on Sundays well beyond January 2021.
Because an online service is our new front door, we will invest more energy and finances into our service design and production. Although much of our regular lives have been put on pause, the church still exists for the sake of others. We want to be a place where people can discover the goodness of God. And so, we will be creative as we strengthen our online format to welcome people exploring faith and to empower people to grow spiritually through worship. Over the next few weeks and months, you can expect to see some changes.
We are now exploring how to begin an in-person Communion/Eucharist service on Sunday evenings. We are discerning how to implement the health guidelines provided by our Province, and evaluating whether we can achieve these requirements at Church of the Naz. We also want your input, which is why we are revamping our annual survey to explore your ideas, questions, and comfort or discomfort with this idea. This survey will be sent out at the beginning of August, and we look forward to hearing from you.
Our idea is to begin a weekly Communion/Eucharist service toward the end of the summer. Hypothetically, it would be less than 50 people each week and require advance registration; it would be less than an hour and be different from our online service; and we would seek to create a contemplative and liturgical space to be in the presence of God.
In summary, our long-term Sunday strategy could potentially look like this:
- An online service of the Word
- An in-person Communion service in the evening
While we are in the car
As we wait to return to normal, I want to remind you that our organization is not back to normal.
When it comes to our staff team, I am still working at reduced hours (80%) and much of my time goes to collaborating with our Leadership Team, supervising and serving our staff, and preaching. Sadly, this limits my availability to many of you. I miss you all very much and long for the day when we can meet face-to-face. I also want to let you know that I will be away from July 1 – 31. If you have any ministry related needs during this time, please email Heidi (firstname.lastname@example.org) and she will direct you to the right person. Please pray for my family as we rest and rejuvenate.
As for the rest of our team, Lloyd Lee remains on parental leave and generously volunteers a few hours per week. Derek Martin is still on furlough and also generously volunteers a few hours per week. Heidi Martin is serving in her regular capacity as our part-time ministry coordinator, Kate McGregor is serving part-time as our Family Ministries Leader, Preston Gordon remains full-time as one of our pastors, and Rob Collis is full-time as our pastoral resident. We want to connect with you during this season, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
Our team is trying to do the best we can to serve our community within these unprecedented circumstances. Please be patient with our team. I see the weight they carry and the earnestness with which they want to care for us all. If you want to serve in some capacity during this season, your time and energy would be appreciated now more than ever.
I also want to thank you for your financial generosity and faithfulness. Our giving has been strong through the first half of the year. We continue to adapt to the fluidity of COVID-19 by reviewing and revising our budget regularly, continuing to underspend, and availing ourselves to government programs. By God’s grace, we are in a financially healthy place. We will provide a more detailed financial update toward the end of the summer.
I know it’s hard to accept that COVID-19 is a long-haul reality, but I am grateful to be stuck in the car with all of you.
Grace and peace