The Transitions Task Force appointed by session has been meeting and continues to meet to make their recommendations to session about when we return to in-person worship. At this point in time the Task Force is looking to recommend a return to in-person worship sometime this summer. The Task Force is fully cognizant that any recommendation to session is dependent on updated infection and vaccination rates from the CDC. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact a member of the Task Force (Micah Rayner, Eden Pearson, Paul Volker, Pastor Alex)
The Task Force is using certain pastoral and theological affirmatios to guide their discernment. Here is a link to these affirmations:
Theological And Pastoral Affirmations As We Return To In-Person Worship
We have been struck by the reality that the discernment to return to in-person worship is even harder than our decision a year ago to stop in-person worship. There was a clarity in the midst of rising infections and deaths about the necessity to protect ourselves and our neighbors by not meeting in person. Now as we stand at the precipice of returning to live worship on Sunday mornings, we struggle to find the right path forward that honors our deep need to be together physically as well as not prematurely gathering together resulting in spikes of Covid in our communities. All of us have endured much the past year and yearn for a return to “normalcy.”
And while our tasks in the coming months include the nuts and bolts of safeguarding the safety of our community when we come back in-person, it is also important to acknowledge the pastoral and emotional toll the past year has had in our lives and in our community. Beyond the metrics of when and how we return, there are more challenging questions facing us as a church.
How do we as a church speak to the pain of over half a million deaths in our country? How do we come to terms with our grief over the small losses of Covid? We lost opportunities to celebrate graduations and weddings; we could not physically visit grandchildren or parents in nursing homes; and we could not grieve as a community the loss of a number of members who died this past year. We all lost a year of our lives. It is generally accepted among most mental health professionals that unacknowledged grief leads to depression and anger.
It is important to recognize this reality not only for ourselves but for the communities we serve as a church. When we return to in-person activities, I suspect we will welcome a number of people who are hungry for community and the life-giving gospel of Jesus the Christ after this year of Covid 19. Maybe the essential question for us moving forward is not simply how we return to our “normal” as it is how we meet the pain of our world with the joy of a Christ-filled community.
Some Theological and Pastoral Affirmations as we move forward:
“Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
This has been the guiding principle of our church as we have made decisions about our in-person worship. We have defined loving God and our neighbor in the midst of Covid 19 as not meeting in-person, social distancing, and wearing masks. This means we have been and are willing to continue to sacrifice our personal desires for the good of the community.
All Are Welcome In Our Church
Heartland has always been a welcoming and inclusive church and this guiding principle means we strive to be sure everyone has access to the worship service both in-person and online. Both options will be available as we move forward as a hybrid church in the future.
This also means that we do not want to restart until it is safe enough for everyone to feel welcome. We do not want to limit the number of people able to come to worship (luckily, we have lots of flexibility in our worship space to make room for lots of people). We also want to return to in-person worship when everyone has access to vaccinations so no one is left out.
Our Faith is Not Incompatible With Science
From the beginning of the pandemic, we have strived to follow the CDC guidelines as the best metrics for decisions concerning in-person activities. This means even with a return to in-person worship, there will be an adjustment period in which we will still be unable to engage in normal ways of worshipping. We will likely not sing, continue to wear masks, and social distance for as long as the science indicates we need to engage these practices.
Heartland Return To In-Person Survey Results
Thank you to all those who filled out the survey (58 persons). Close to 50% of respondents were comfortable with a summer return with another 22% identifying September as a preference with the rest open to when vaccines are available, and it is clearly safe to do so. Over 41% have received both of their vaccination shots and another 17% had received their first shot. Over 39% were not eligible yet planned on getting their shot. No one did not plan to get a vaccination.