Hope Lutheran’s Guiding Principles for Reopening
Four Guiding Principles were developed to inform our planning as we begin reopening Hope in the coming weeks and months. Many written articles, recommendations from our Synod, conversations with pastoral colleagues, and prayer informed the development of these principles. The goal of these guidelines is to offer us a roadmap moving forward while allowing us to remain responsive during the reopening process.
1. Our plan is rooted in our shared faith in Jesus Christ, understanding that God has not freed us from sin and death just for our sake, but so that we may love and serve our neighbors.
Christ has called and equipped the Church to be God’s visible representation in the world through the gifting of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. When God’s Spirit was breathed into us in baptism, we became a member of the Church, the Body of Christ! A pandemic and ensuing ‘stay home’ orders have not changed that truth. While we have most certainly missed gathering in person for worship, fellowship, learning, and meals, God’s Spirit still unites us. This understanding of faith informs us of how we have and will continue to respond in the coming weeks and months. We have refrained from gathering in-person, because of God's calling to love our neighbors and each other. Not gathering together was the most faithful step to care for our neighbors and each other.
2.Our plan recognizes that gathering at church will be far different from what it was prior to COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.
However, we will not be fully closed much longer! Our plan to reopen will begin with the simple step of offering outdoor fellowship opportunities at the church. Now that outdoor religious gathering of up to 100 people have been approved, these gathering will begin soon.
After the logistics of gathering for worship are determined, we will begin worshiping outside. As much as I would like to be back in the sanctuary, being outside will be the safest first step. Knowing that many will remain uncomfortable gathering in-person, I will continue to offer an online worship option.
Life has changed all around us. We must also be prepared that worship will also be radically different when we gather again. These changes will include the distribution of communion, our ability to sing together, passing the peace, holding hands, etc. I am not sure what all of these changes will look like initially and in the coming months. I ask for grace and patience as we navigate in these unfamiliar waters together!
3. Our plan will adhere to our Governor's Four Phases of Reopening the State, along with the guidelines and recommendations from King County.
This should go without saying, but we will be following our Governor’s and county’s guidelines when we congregate again. These guidelines will include physical distancing, cleaning procedures, and maximum group numbers. I know many people struggle with these orders. I hear you! The overall impact to the economy and individual lives may never be accurately accounted for. I, too, long for a day when we think of these orders and say, “Remember when…” As a Church, we follow State and county guidelines because we are not experts on these matters. We will also follow them because they are designed with our safety and health in mind. And love for our neighbor is at the heart of the Gospel!
4. Our plan is designed, so once a step is taken forward, we will not have to take a step back due to a lack of planning, preparation, or by a decision being made out of haste and impatience.
As we begin reopening Hope Lutheran Church in the coming weeks and months, we will be taking patient and deliberate steps to do so. While there is no guarantee reopening the church will not cause the spread of COVID-19, these guiding principles hope to mitigate that possibility while also providing our church with the much needed opportunities to interact face to face once again. Rather than being in a position of having to close the church down again because we were unprepared, I would instead look back in hindsight and apologize that we could have safely reopened two weeks or even a month sooner than we did. I can live with that inconvenience. What I could not live with would be the possibility that our decisions as a church put you and our community at unnecessary risk.
Again, these guidelines were developed after much reading and research, recommendations from the Synod, discussions with other pastors, and being in prayer. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns. People of God, I look forward to the day we can gather again around Word and Sacrament in fellowship with you all, my dear sisters and brothers in Christ.
Pastor Keith Marshall