Return to In-Person Worship // M-Note 2.19.2021

March will mark one year since we have been able to worship together in person at The Gathering. It is perhaps fitting then that as we approach March, The Gathering is announcing the return of in-person worship. On April 11, 2021 (the Sunday after Easter), The Gathering will relaunch an option for in-person worship at each of our three sites.  We have been anticipating this news for some time, and our leadership has spent months preparing to come back in as safe a way as possible. Many of you will immediately have questions, so I want to answer some of those most frequently asked.
What safety protocols will be in place?
When we return to in-person worship, we will require masks while in our building, ensure social distancing, limit the capacity of our spaces, clean the facilities thoroughly after each use, and change some worship practices and habits. We will have a registration system for worship to ensure that our buildings are not overcrowded. All of our safety protocols are available on our website and more specifics, including a registration site, will be added as we get closer to the opening.  
What times will worship be offered?
We will start with one service at each site at 9am. We will ask people to register for worship, and if we have more people register than we can accommodate in one service, we will open up additional worship times. Registration will happen through our website and app. We will be sharing those links as we get closer to the opening.
Will there be Kids Ministry?
Yes. We will begin on April 11th by offering kids ministry for ages K-5th grade. In early May, we plan to make kids ministry available for our preschool-age children. Kids ministry will also require registration, and we will open up additional space or services as needed. Kids Ministry rooms will be cleaned after each use, we will adhere to social distancing in all classes, and masks will be required for all children 3 and up.
What if I am not ready to come back?
We recognize that many people at The Gathering can’t or aren’t yet ready to return to in-person worship. That is why our online site including online worship will continue permanently. In fact, we intend to grow our online ministry in the months and years to come. Dave Merrill is now our Online Site Pastor and you will be able to continue to be a part of The Gathering Online.
What are we doing for Easter?
We are working on something but not quite yet ready to announce it. Read next week’s note where we will share Easter 2021 plans!
Why are we making this decision now?
This is perhaps the hardest question to answer. While it was clear when we needed to stop weekly worship, when to restart in-person worship has not been as clear. There are churches that are still planning to worship online only through the summer, and there are those that came back to in-person worship months ago. From the beginning, The Gathering has used a clear set of criteria and factors to make decisions about when to come back to in-person worship. These factors include public health numbers and statistics, availability of the vaccine, stewardship of resources, readiness of people in our congregation, and an internal ability to have a quality worship experience in a safe way. We believe that we are now able to have worship in a safe way. We recognize that many of you are desperate for in-person worship and connection. The past year has been isolating for so many. There are mental, emotional, and spiritual costs to the restrictions. We want to provide a safe in-person worship option for all those for whom worship is an essential lifeline to God and others.
Each week, I will be sharing more details about the plan to relaunch in-person worship, including details about Easter Sunday. Please continue to read your mNote, participate in online worship, and download the app to stay connected. Stay warm, and I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday!
P.S. This week, I am concluding our series Essential: Why Work Matters. I hope you will be there but also share these messages with someone that may be struggling with their job. The whole series can be found online. If you haven’t already done it, sign up for The Gathering Lenten devotional here. Lastly, this weekend on my podcast The F Word: Conversations on Faith, I am talking all about forgiveness. You can find the latest episode Sunday afternoon by subscribing to the podcast or listen live at 3 on The Big 550 KTRS.

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