Looking Ahead // M-Note 10.9.2020

We continue to forge ahead in a year where nothing has been predictable. Since March, The Gathering has been worshiping online due to coronavirus. This summer, I updated the congregation, letting you know that we would worship online through September. I ended that note promising that I would update you this fall! Well, fall is here! I owe you an update.
Recently, I’ve had conversations with The Gathering’s Executive Leadership Team as well as the advisory team from our church. I have studied the results of the latest congregational survey, talked with other large church leaders, and looked at the best metrics we have for coronavirus both locally and nationally. I have prayed over what is best for our mission of reaching new people and inviting them to be deeply devoted followers of Christ and have thought deeply about what is in the best interest of the people we serve. With all of this, we have made the decision to continue worshiping online through the end of the year. Within that decision, let me share some specifics that I know you are wondering about.
First, the Advent and Christmas season is a very special one to many of us. It is also a time when we invite a lot of new people to try out church. This December, in addition to Sunday morning online worship, we will have a weekly opportunity for indoor, in-person worship. This service will likely happen in the evening and be a time to experience Christmas music, pray together, and hear a short message. It will also be an opportunity for us to practice and refine our safety protocols and prepare for a return to in-person Sunday morning worship. In addition to worship, we will offer various in-person activities and ministries throughout Advent for adults, students, and kids to participate in. We want to make sure that we can connect you to God, the church, and one another this Christmas season.
Second, Christmas Eve worship will be online. While I will miss being with you in person, we do not believe there is a way we can safely and confidently serve the thousands of people that typically come to Christmas Eve at The Gathering. I can promise this – the online Christmas Eve service will be something truly special for you and your family. We are already working hard on this, and it will be available for you to participate in during the days leading up to and on Christmas Eve.
Finally, we are planning to begin indoor, in-person worship in early to mid-January of the new year. We know that many of you are beyond ready to be back worshiping with other people. We understand that and share many of those feelings. We will likely begin with one worship service per site, and add services as we need them throughout the year. We will require masks, practice social distancing, and will modify worship practices to be sanitary and safe. We also understand many of you will not be ready to come back. Rest assured that we will continue to provide an excellent online worship experience.Our goal is to give you several excellent ways to participate in ministry according to your own needs. Online worship will remain a permanent feature of our church moving forward and we will continue to improve and grow our online outreach.  
As I share this with you, I hold it loosely. This is what we are preparing and planning for, but as we know, we cannot predict the future. We will be watching closely what happens with coronavirus this winter and will be learning from other churches and institutions (like schools and businesses) that begin their own reopening process. If the situation makes our plans unwise or unsafe, we will adjust our plans and adapt.
Gathering, I miss seeing you. I know many of you miss tangible worship with other people. But, I also believe God is giving us an opportunity to rebuild our life, our faith, and our church. That is work. It requires something more of us. You’ll have to exercise different spiritual muscles and maybe put more energy into your faith life than you have in the past. Yes, it is hard right now. But this is also an incredible opportunity that will make us stronger and better, as people and as a church. I am confident that in the words of Jeremiah, God is giving us a “future with hope”.
P.S. Throughout the week of October 19, The Gathering is hosting an online Resilience Speaker Series. Each night of the week, we will have an opportunity for you to learn resiliency skills from experts and folks in the trenches dealing with various life circumstances in this season. Topics include Anxiety and Depression, Singles and Self-Care, Couples and Communication, Parenting in the Pandemic, and Families on the Frontline. You can attend as many nights as you choose. To register or to get more information go here or go to our app and click on events at the bottom of your screen. Following the series there will be an invitation to join a short term group with others to explore these topics more in depth. This is a great opportunity to share with friends and family. I hope you’ll check it out.

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