When COVID-19 began to spread across the Los Angeles area, we responded with an abundance of caution - closing the church building, suspending in-person meetings, and turning to gatherings over Zoom. Little did we know how long this “new normal” would last.
For a time, we had hoped that improving conditions regarding COVID-19 would allow us to gather in the sanctuary again, albeit in smaller numbers and with significant safeguards. We ordered A/V equipment to allow us to livestream worship, recruited a crew of younger people to do sign-ins and temperature checks, and distributed a congregation-wide survey to assess readiness to gather. But now, coronavirus cases have surged in the Los Angeles area, and our optimism about gathering in person soon for worship has faded.
Our new, more cautious plan is based on the recommendations of health officials, and confirmed by your survey responses. We are grateful to all of you who completed the survey. Even before the recent surge, out of 135 households responding, the average comfort level for returning to in-person worship was 3 out of 10. In addition, 90% shared their appreciation for access to sermons, music, and seeing people in our on-line worship. We were also glad to learn that, among those who answered, nearly 60% shared an interest in small, in-person social gatherings.
With all of this in mind, the Session has prayerfully considered and approved the plan of our Reopening Task Force: We hope to return to in-person worship for Advent (which begins November 29). It is fitting that Advent -- the season of hope -- is our target for gathering together again. While we recognize that unfolding realities may change this date, we hope that our family of faith may be safely present by then. Once we are able to gather for worship in person, we will begin livestreaming worship – insuring accessibility for everyone who will still be worshiping at home.
In the meantime, our new A/V equipment will allow us to start recording worship in the sanctuary, so that we can “return” to this sacred space - even if from afar.
We will continue to experiment with smaller, outdoor gatherings, which our survey indicates would be very welcome. We have had extraordinary turn-outs for monthly Food Pantry drop-off, which will continue the last Sunday of the month. We enjoyed the “Chalk the Church” gathering for children and family ministry earlier this month. We are exploring smaller, more informal outdoor worship, prayer gatherings, outdoor fellowship, Black Lives Matter book/film conversations, and more.
We will also continue to grow our online gatherings -- including Adult Bible Forum, Women’s Meditation, Bridge young adult fellowship, choir fellowship, Women Reading, Spiritual Gifts sessions, Story-telling, and other impromptu groups.
And, as always, we commit to caring for one another. Members have stepped up to call those who are alone, run errands for those who are house-bound, or connect people in need with community resources. It is always a joy to see the love of God embodied in our church - but it is all the more so in this tender season.
We plan to use this time for creative community, spiritual growth, and commitment to mission. We welcome your input. Please let us know what ideas you have, what needs you see, and how God is calling us to be the church, even when we cannot be together in person.