“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news…” Isaiah 52:7a
Good news! Cautious good news. Using the guidelines established by the CDC, the federal and state governments, and my ad-hoc COVID committee, I have given the green light to some of the Christ Church staff to return to work in-person. However, there are many caveats and conditions. The first is that those staff members who can still accomplish their work from home are welcome and strongly encouraged to continue do so. The memo in its entirety is available here for your perusal. And while it only pertains to the staff and some select volunteers for now, it might give us some idea what our parish-wide reopening could look like, when the time comes.
For instance, only those staff members who are age 64 and younger, who do not have preexisting and/or underlying medical conditions will be able to come back in-person at this time. There will be extensive, daily self-checks and screenings, to include temperature checks. Additionally, the staff will have to wear masks at all times, apart from when they are working in their offices alone. When they are collaborating in-person, they must wear masks, maintain strict social distance (6 feet), and allow not more than 10 people in a room. As always, good hand hygiene will be a must. There is a lot more to say about those things, but it gives you a flavor of what re-opening might look like.
And while this is good news and might portend good things for our eventual re-opening the church to all, we all should know that there is real risk in re-opening too soon. Remember that the reason we moved to online worship and closed the parish was for health and safety, yes but more importantly, for love, love for neighbor, especially for those who are most vulnerable. And so, when the time comes for you to come back in-person to Christ Church, you will have a role to play as well by abiding by the guidelines for safe return.
Some of those guidelines will seem tiresome; I don’t want to wear a mask all day or submit to daily temperature checks, but I will because of love. I don’t want to get sick, but more importantly, I don’t want to give the virus to anyone else. We need to be vigilant, because when we are vigilant, we are also being loving.
Finally, saints, remember that when we are able to come back, it will be in phases, it will take time, and our experience will be transformed – much for the better. We will leverage what we have accomplished in the last few months to continue to strengthen the church and to provide opportunities for transforming lives in the love of Christ. Our dramatic shift to using more technology than ever before has been a great thing for us. It’s continued use will allow us to be nimble as this situation unfolds in the coming months. Our pivot to online live-streaming and the offering of Christian educational forums has allowed us to not only continue to worship together as Christ Church, but also to reach new followers all around the country – I’m so glad they have joined us! We have opened the door to more and imaginative ways to reach people with the Gospel – and we will keep that door open.
I am especially looking forward to using technology to increasingly focus on small groups. Small groups (and many of them) allow for deeper explorations of our faith and person-to-person connections. They will be the hallmark of the future, of churches that are built for the next century – more on that in future messages.
Our shared experiences as Christ Church have changed in response to COVID-19, and will continue to change, to be transformed. But that shouldn’t worry you, because we are Resurrection people! When parts of our life lie in death, Jesus is ever resurrecting us in new and more beautiful ways. We have the same mission as before, to imitate Jesus Christ in all things, to love God and all people, and in so doing, to transform lives. When it’s all said and done, if we had to walk through this, let us see in this awful virus an opportunity to love in new and imaginative ways.