Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I recently heard a story from a friend of mine. After moving and starting to go to a new church, he was excited to be a part of this new group. His mother told him that their Sunday night meeting was a costume party, so she bought him a brand-new Elvis Pressley outfit. Complete with cape and rhinestones; gelled his hair in that pipeline hairstyle of The King’s; and dropped him off. When he got there, he entered a room filled with kids in t-shirts, polos, and khaki shorts. His mother, somehow, had gotten the date wrong for the party.
While I know that not all of us will be able to come, I am overjoyed to be able to gather again! I want to encourage you, however, to be careful not to show up in the wrong clothing.
What should you wear? The Apostle Paul tells us, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). As we reopen our public worship services, there may be some difficult adjustments to a “new normal” that I want to prepare you for:
- As you come, we will not be seating until 10 minutes before the service.
- An usher will take you to your seat, and we will ask that you stay there unless you need to move (i.e. going to the bathroom, taking a crying child out of the room, etc.).
- Seating will be physically separated by 6 feet between non-household members.
- Although they are not required, we strongly urge that you do wear a mask. If you don’t have one, one will be available for you.
- Our worship service will be kept to under an hour, singing will be limited, and we will not be able to pass around a microphone for prayer requests.
- At the end of the service, we will ask that the building is cleared and any fellowship is taken out to the parking lot or elsewhere.
Each of these precautions is taken under the guidelines given by Lewis and Clark County Health, and in consultation with them. In addition to this, we know that many of you will need to decide whether you will stay home. In fact, these same guidelines state that “vulnerable individuals… should continue to stay at home to protect their health.”
Many of these changes are going to be difficult and irritating, and some of the losses will be sad to experience. It is okay to grieve these losses. But, if God is still on His throne, we must receive these as from His hand and for our good. Enduring these changes will require “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Some of us will find these restrictions more burdensome than others, and others of us will find the risks of gathering more frightening than others. It is, in fact, through how we bear patiently with each other as brothers and sisters in Jesus, and not through all the external trappings of religion, that God is truly glorified. So please think carefully what you’ll wear to church, but no matter what, I look forward to worshiping together with each of you whether it’s this Sunday or another Sunday when it is safer.
 Of course, not all of us will be able to come, and those of us in the ‘at risk’ category must take seriously the decision of whether or not to come. The Lewis and Clark County guidelines to churches says that “vulnerable individuals… should continue to stay at home to protect their health.” The guidelines define vulnerable individuals as “anyone who is over 65 years of age, has a serious underlying health condition (such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, or asthma), or has a compromised immune system.” Of course, we respect the rights of each person to make their own decisions. As your pastor, I must ask that if you are in this bracket you take the decision to come very seriously.