Q+A: Regathering August 9

July 28, 2020  |  Luke Simmons

Beginning Sunday, August 9 we will host in-person worship gatherings at 9:00am and 10:45am, in addition to our online service. Below are answers to questions we anticipate from this decision.

Why are we resuming in-person services?

1. A growing number of people in our congregation really need in-person connection. We’ve seen in society and in our church an increase in anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, alcohol abuse, marital strife, and family tension. In-person worship services don’t solve these things, but they provide an outlet for connection and worship that many people need.

2. The health risks and related precautions are now well-known. When COVID-19 shut down much of society in March, nobody really knew how pervasive the virus was, who was most at risk, or how to fight it. But now we know the risks, are taking real precautions, and can make informed decisions.

3. We see value in providing a predictable approach. In addition to the health challenges of COVID-19, we have been disrupted by all the unpredictability. We no longer want to be beholden to the on/off, will-we/won’t-we dynamic related to meeting.

Up to this point, we’ve followed the state’s request to limit gatherings to 50 people. Are we now changing our approach?

Yes. Throughout the pandemic, churches have been deemed “essential services” by the Arizona government. Up to this point, we have voluntarily closed in-person services and not exercised our right to gather.

Now, however, we are planning to gather — with physical distancing and other recommended health measures — and are leaning into the legal provisions afforded us as a religious body.

Is this decision an act of civil disobedience?

No. As stated above, churches are free to gather in Arizona. Though the time may come when civil disobedience is necessary based on governmental demands, this is not such an occasion.

Why are we only having morning services?

As we regather, we are meeting at 9:00am and 10:45am and will not be having an evening service for a few reasons:

1. We believe we can safely accommodate all who desire to attend in two services. We have a large meeting space (under normal circumstances it holds 800 seats). Our previous regathering efforts demonstrated that many people prefer to stay home and participate online, which means that we can still spaciously host those who want to attend.

2. Two services allows us to provide consistent R/Kids ministry. Fewer volunteers are available and willing to serve than previously, so two services reduces the volunteer load.

3. We will be offering online ministry for Students on Sunday evening. We want as many students as possible to participate in relationships this fall. Freeing up Sunday evening allows us a wonderful time to host our online Student ministry (in-person Students will meet on Monday for Jr. High and Wednesday for High School).

Do I need to RSVP?

No. But please arrive a few minutes early, especially if you have kids to check-in.

I’m tired of online services, but I don’t feel comfortable coming in-person. What should I do?

Great question. Many people likely find themselves here, and we pray you have wisdom as you make the best decision you can. Our hope is that in whatever format, you invest in relationships as you head into the fall. Whether in-person or online, invest in relationships.

Another option is to organize a “Watch Party,” by inviting friends to watch the service with you online. This way you can experience a bit less isolation while not exposing yourself to the risk of a larger gathering. Click here to receive more information about hosting a Watch Party.

Isn’t it risky to have in-person services?

Yes. Everything we do has risks, and in-person services are no exception.

We need to all be honest with ourselves about the reality of risk. Each of us has a different level of risk tolerance. Our encouragement is for you to soberly assess which activities and relationships in your life are worth spending risk on, and which ones you should save risk on.

Additionally, we strongly encourage those who are in the most health-vulnerable categories — or in close proximity to those who are — to stay home. Worshipping in-person is not a mark of greater faith or holiness.

What health precautions is the church taking?

You can read about the extensive precautions we’re taking here.

Do I need to wear a mask if I attend in-person?

Yes. It’s not fun or enjoyable, but it’s a small way to serve the greater good. Not only is this currently required by Maricopa County, but we also expect mask-wearing for the following reasons:

1. Taking precautions allows you and others to keep meeting. We want to reduce “confirmed exposure” to COVID-19, which is being closer than 6 feet for longer than 15 minutes without a mask. Those with confirmed exposure are expected to quarantine — thus, wearing a mask prevents this exposure.

2. Wearing masks communicates love those who are more medically fragile but are gathering.

3. To be a good witness to a world that expects churches to honor public health basics.

4. To set aside our freedom for the sake of love — its not fun or enjoyable, but it’s a small way to serve the greater good.

What are we doing for Student ministry?

Ministry for students will be happening online on Sundays (Jr. High & High School) and in-person on Mondays (Jr. High) and Wednesdays (High School). Read the details here.