On March 19 I released my very first video. In that video I announced to you what we were planning to do since we were prevented from worshiping together in our building. I also declared emphatically that I don’t know what I’m doing. Not much has changed since that video. Well, I know a lot more about editing videos! I had to learn how to edit them. I’ve published eleven mini-sermons for the website, which means I’ve recorded
about 78 mini-sermons, with 67 attempts featuring major mistakes and guffaws, a good 40 of them missing sound or lighting—or both. At least ten of them were recorded with something partially or fully blocking the lens. A couple of them were interrupted by sirens or the camera falling over (it was windy on the roof). I have enough material on my blooper reel to rival the extended versions of the “Lord of the Rings.”
When the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order was first issued it was in effect through April 5 so we were planning to assemble together again on April 12—Easter Sunday. Here we are on June 4 and we haven’t assembled together since before that first video. Our governor has begun lifting the restrictions. Beginning next week restaurants will be able to open at 50% capacity. Dog groomers have begun giving badly needed haircuts. Masks are no longer required, even as they are encouraged. The truth is the curve has been flattened. Hospitals are no longer in danger of being overwhelmed. We seem to be out of the greatest danger.
On behalf of your Council of Elders I’m very excited to announce that on Sunday, June 14, we will begin assembling together again. We will meet in our auditorium for worship at 10:30.
As Elders we recognize that opinions vary widely on when and even whether to begin meeting again. There are those who wonder why churches stopped assembling in the first place and there are those who think churches should wait until there’s a vaccine available. There is also a large group in the middle. As the governor has begun lifting restrictions and on the basis of sound medical advice, we believe it is time to come together again.
Let me say that if you do not feel comfortable attending a worship service yet or if you are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to health complications, please, stay home. We will record the sermon as always and we post song videos for you to sing along with, much like we’ve been doing on Sunday mornings during this quarantine. There is no judgment here. It is an individual choice that only you can make, so we ask that you make it prayerfully.
While we will begin meeting together again, we will take a number of precautions to keep our people safe. To begin with, we will block off every other pew. Family units should sit together and wherever possible, avoid sitting immediately in front of someone else. We will open the balcony so that we may spread out more, though if you have small children, we ask that you sit on the main level due to safety issues. If everyone who calls New City home shows up, we will be at far less than the 50% capacity limit that restaurants must adhere to. In fact, we’d be closer to 25% capacity.
We will also designate an entire section of pews for those who are older and or are immuno-compromised and are therefore at greater risk. We will not require masks but if you would feel safer wearing one, feel free.
We will not have Nursery available, nor will we send our children out during the sermon for a childrens’ lesson. All children are welcome to be in the service, including infants. Children are not an interruption in worship. They may be distracting at times, but Jesus himself scolded his disciples for trying to prevent children from coming into his presence. I personally love hearing our children in the service. So please do not let that be a reason for you to stay away. In order to maintain social distancing, we do ask that the kiddos not be allowed to wander all over.
Since they will be in the service without a break during the sermon, we will continue to provide activity packs with crayons and pipe cleaners and such. Given the difficulty of sanitizing crayons and pipe cleaners, we will have an activity box available for each of our children. Each kiddo will have his or her own activity box. These boxes will be their boxes so they can decorate them as they see fit. We ask that you put their crayons and such back into their boxes to be used again the following week. They will be refilled with activity stuff and they can reuse their crayons. This will help limit cross-exposure.
We will have a childrens’ story, but we will have the kiddos stay put in the pews. The story will be read to them from the front.
We will not have our normal greeting time. Greeting one another has been an important part of our worship from the beginning yet it is also very difficult to maintain social distancing in such a tight space so for the time being we will not do this.
We will, however, still have communion each week. One person will prepare the meal with a mask and gloves and rather than pass the trays as we normally do, an usher will hand the bread and juice to each participant. Having every other pew empty will make this much easier.
One great thing that has come about during our time away is online giving. While there is something special about giving as an act of worship in the gathered assembly, we’re thankful that we have been able to give from home. Instead of passing the plate during the offering time, we will have an usher in the back holding it. If you’d like to give via check or cash you may do so by taking it to that usher. We will also have a kiosk set up that is linked directly to our online giving page on our website. Or better yet, you can simply use your phone or tablet right in your pew and go to our website to give, without even getting up!
We will have hand sanitizer available and the pews and bathrooms will be
sanitized before and after the service.
We will tweak our shared prayer time during the service a bit by not passing a microphone. We ask that you speak up; the elder leading the prayer time will repeat the request so that everyone can hear what was requested.
We are still trying to figure out shared meals. Eating together regularly is an important activity for the church as it helps build community, but it is also a higher risk activity. Hopefully soon we will be able to have a meal, but that time is not yet here.
I’m excited. I’m excited to see what God is doing here at New City. I’m excited to be able to meet again. Throughout history churches of Jesus have meet regularly to worship Jesus and to mutually benefit one another. Times of war and disease and persecution have interrupted the regular gathering, but assembling together to worship is the primary activity of God’s church.
On June 14 at 10:30AM New City Church will assemble together for worship again. We are not re-opening, for we never closed. We’ve not stopped being the church of Jesus even as we’ve been unable to assemble together. The time to assemble again has come. Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome work well as my personal words to you, the people of New City Church:
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.Romans 1:11–12 ESV