In light of the announcements made on Friday, May 22, regarding reopening churches by President Trump and Deborah Birx of the CDC, we want to take a moment and bring you up to speed with regard to our current thinking when it comes to reopening CrossWalk for large worship gatherings.
To preview in summary what you will find below, here's a brief of this update:
We're planning not to reopen CrossWalk to large public worship gatherings through June because we want to…
- Strongly encourage group engagement, both online via Zoom and via in-person group gatherings.
- Give ourselves more time to envision and plan what our services will look like at Arizona Lutheran Academy (ALA).
- Figure out live-streaming.
- Purchase supplies and additional equipment.
- Reactivate and recruit volunteers.
- Identify a possible Midtown worship location.
- Give our two schools, Cesar Chavez and Camelview, a little more time to give us the OK to come back there, potentially allowing us to skip the ALA version of CrossWalk.
First of all, we want to acknowledge yesterday’s announcement as good news! We’re happy to hear that things are beginning to open up again. We're moving in the right direction!
Of course, that celebration does not mean we don’t still have some careful thinking to do. To demonstrate this, I am linking you to two documents, one with the shorter Arizona State Guidance for Reopening Places of Worship, the other with the longer, more detailed, Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith from the CDC in regard to reopening. I encourage you to look at both of these and see what's involved in opening up in a way that satisfies guidance from both our State and Federal governments.
Second, we are communicating with and waiting to see how Cesar Chavez High School and Camelview Elementary School (our worship venues) respond. So far, we have had no indication that the schools where we regularly meet are ready to give us access again. We will continue to correspond with officials, but it seems that access to the schools is still a distance in the future.
Third, because of social distancing, the probable lack of a children's and youth ministry, and the lower attendance created because many people would still choose to remain at home, the quality of the worship experience we are producing online will for a time exceed the quality of what we will be able to create in-person.
Fourth, we feel it's important to put our focused effort on serving the greater number of people. For understandable reasons, many are not going to come back to a large public worship gathering right away. So, for the present and near future, we believe that's going to be the people who are worshipping with us online.
Finally, a normal church setting that has any type of singing and praise remains one of the most likely places to transmit Covid-19. We need to make sure we open in a responsible and well-thought-out manner.
So, right now our key focus is on getting our members gathering in groups. We know for sure we can meet relatively safely in homes! Church is done in circles (Acts 5:42, 20:20), so we want to make sure first all our "circles" are getting together "house-to-house" and feel safe doing so. That will provide us with a good "gauge" on starting to get together again in even larger gatherings on Sundays. In a positive sense our goal is to flip the importance traditionally assigned to Sunday worship and ask people to consider attaching that level of importance to growth group meetings and Sunday morning viewing parties.
It's also an opportunity for us to continue to work on the quality of our online, streaming experience because we're getting new people to attend via that platform, and they are excited to be part of CrossWalk.
So, having said all that, when we do gather again for large, public Sunday worship we want it to be a great experience for as many as possible! Of course, that means giving thought to sub-groups such as the medically vulnerable, those beyond 65, children, and youth—including in this thought process not only members and attenders, but volunteers and staff as well.
Also, it's clearly going to require a lot of extra work to pull off a large, public gathering, even if fewer do attend. First of all, we’ll most likely be on somewhat unfamiliar territory at ALA, so we have to figure out what that looks like, including worship, youth and children’s ministry, parking, greeting, cafe, etc. Then also, we’re going to need additional volunteers and time to ramp up into the new reality. There will not be Children’s or Youth Ministry until we can figure out how to do those safely. So the Sunday experience needs to be reimagined a bit and the appropriate supplies ordered.
To come to what we believe is the best course of action, we've determined that our plan for June is to:
Strongly encourage growth group engagement and Sunday viewing parties.
Move worship production to ALA and begin the process of figuring out what live-streaming worship will eventually take to pull off.
Plan several smaller, shorter, devotional, communion services at ALA in June.
Plan, prepare and position ourselves for a post-June high-quality reopening of large, public worship, as the circumstances at the time allow.