COVID Protocol Update // M-Note 5.18.21

Last week, the CDC released updated guidelines for fully-vaccinated people which no longer require masks or social distancing (except in certain situations). This was prompted by evolving scientific evidence that fully-vaccinated people are at minimal risk of infection or transmission of the virus. In response to this news, St. Louis City and County also dropped local mask and social distancing requirements. While certain precautions are still needed, this is good news and another milestone in the fight against COVID19.
In light of these new guidelines, I have met with our site pastors and ministry leaders to determine new protocols for Sunday worship and other ministries at The Gathering. Along with advice from leaders and health experts in the congregation, we are going to make changes effective this Sunday:
1.     Registration is no longer required for worship or kids ministry.
2.     Sanctuary capacity will return to 100% with all chairs set up and available.
3.     Masks and social distancing will no longer be required for fully-vaccinated people.
4.     All kids ministry volunteers will continue to wear masks when serving.
People not yet fully-vaccinated (including kids 2 and older) will still be required to wear a mask. More details about our new safety protocols are also on our website. We will update our own practices as the CDC guidelines evolve. We will also monitor sanctuary capacity and be prepared to start more worship services as they are needed at each site. We will still have robust and meaningful online worship for any of you that are not yet ready to be back.
I know that for many of you this news is met with great enthusiasm. I feel that way. Our mission is to invite new people to become deeply committed followers of Christ, so limiting worship was in tension with this mission. Now we can invite our friends, and our church can welcome all who are ready to worship. I also know that for some of you, this news raises anxiety and questions. I get that as well! This past week has been a scramble of working through all the implications and concerns this news raises. I also know that this is a step but not the final word in the fight against COVID. As always, we are committed to following the science and advice of health experts, so that we can offer ministry to as many people as possible in ways that are safe.  
Ultimately, I am hopeful today because my passion is not just to “go to church”, but to invite people who are searching or curious to come check out Jesus. I want to make space, not restrict it! Now more than ever there are people looking for something to connect with, looking for community with others, and curious about God’s role in their life. I am excited that we can now invite people without restrictions, and I hope you will do just that. This is a new beginning for The Gathering, and a great time to offer the invitation to a friend or family member to be a part of it.
Have a great week, and please continue to pray for our church and world during this time.
P.S. Last week, I started a new series Heretic: Understanding Misguided Beliefs talking about the belief that Jesus is a good moral teacher, but not divine. If you missed it, you can listen to it here. This weekend, I will be talking about reincarnation, how Christians understand the afterlife, and why it should matter to us! I hope you will be there and invite someone that might be interested.
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