We are starting to reopen! This past weekend the Archdiocese of Portland began holding public services. Many counties in Oregon and Washington will be entering Phase 1. In Oregon, gatherings under 25 will be allowed, which includes religious gatherings. In Washington, drive-in services are now permitted. So what does that mean for our churches in the Pacific Conference?
We can start at reopening, too. But we need to do it slowly! Yes, we want to be back together as soon as possible, but also as safe as possible. I don’t believe the church should be in a rush. We should not be the first to reopen for several reasons.
- We are doing okay. Unlike a business that has completely closed the doors, the church is still ministering with its online presence and connections through phone calls and practical help. Many churches have discovered new means of connection through social media, email, and even old-fashioned letter writing! By God’s grace, we haven’t had to lay off, or furlough staff, and the electricity is still on.
- We don’t want to be “that” church. Trust me, you don’t want to be a church that spreads the COVID virus. There are already churches that have made that mistake. It could take years of rebuilding community trust if we rush to reopen, and then someone becomes seriously sick or even dies.
- We want to be good neighbors. What we do as a church will be talked about in the community. Someone said it’s sad when the NBA looks like it cares more than the church. Ouch! We want our churches to be known as places of compassion and hope, where the lost can be found, and the despairing saved. That won’t happen if our neighbors are afraid to come in or are offended by our seeming rush to return.
- We must be prepared. Talking with some of our pastors, we may not be ready to reopen. We have just now got into the rhythm of our online ministry, and the work of reopening seems daunting. It’s okay! Ask for help. Work closely with your leadership. Find out what other churches in your community are doing. Think in stages, not all-or-nothing. Take the time to clearly create and communicate your plans for reopening.
BEFORE YOU GO
We all need God’s wisdom through this transition! Take it slow. Even as we can reopen thoughtfully and deliberately, be sure you have a means for those who are fearful or at risk to stay connected. We don’t want the relationships that have been strengthened during this time to be lost in our rush to return to the past.
What’s on your reopening list? Let’s pool our insights and help one another!