A few days ago, I ran into Katie Brinson as we were walking into Harris Teeter. She may have been trying to dart in and out quickly for something, but I brought her errand to a standstill. I peppered her with questions – how are you? . . . how is your family? . . . are you working at home? . . . and so forth. At one point, she looked at me and said, I see you every Sunday; I guess I forget that you haven’t seen me.
Well, I guess that is right.
So, it was wonderful to sit on the church lawn this past Monday and see folks I have come to love over the past nine years. To be close . . . as close as experts advise we should be. To hear their voices. We talked for 45 minutes or so about what these months have been like for each of us. A little irritation got shared . . . and a little frustration . . . and a little fear. All of that, I expected. Whatever church has been in this past half-year, it has not been what any of us want it to be. And there was a yearning to come together again . . . kind of. And we are moving in that direction, with Monday’s gathering as a good start. It was a manageable size – 19 people – and it was outdoors, and we maintained our distance. But it encouraged me that perhaps we can do more of the same in the next few weeks.
Staff is looking at getting together again soon to talk and listen . . . to share a devotion or some vespers . . . to begin again. Towards that end, let me update you on our progress toward resuming worship. (It seems that this is my only topic for Wanderings of late.) With delays in getting the equipment we have ordered delivered, along with the shifts in how community behavior is evolving, we have shifted our efforts from creating worship in the fellowship hall to resuming our worship in the sanctuary. Our first attempts to record worship in one take (over against our current piecemeal recording/editing approach) is scheduled to begin next week. When we feel confident that we can conduct and record a service in one continuous session and make in available on the Internet after minimal editing, we will move those recordings back to Sunday morning, hopefully by the middle of this month.
At that time, we can begin to consider having small groups of worshippers participate, as the state of the virus allows. Our target-date for resuming worship as usual (though no such “normal” will exist for some time, of course) is currently Nov 29th, the First Sunday of Advent. This timeline is built on using the equipment that we are currently using, which is essentially Charles Cauley’s cameras, tripods, and lights. When we begin running worship straight through, of course, we will have to stop moving cameras around the sanctuary.
Plus, when we shift back to Sundays, we will have to be able to turn around an edited version much faster than we can do that now so it can be made available almost immediately for those who will continue to view the service at home. When the equipment we have ordered does arrive, it will have to be tested, installed and integrated into our sanctuary worship structure. This is to say that the timeline I am laying out is flexible as it depends both upon elements we can control and elements we cannot control. I expect that we will begin to be able to worship soon, at least in small gatherings.
A whole other checklist of procedures will be instituted to keep us safe – cleaning, what will replace those items that require multiple touches (bulletins, communion trays, offering plates and such), flow and movement, marking pews to ensure distancing, and much more. I do know this: there is a hunger in me and in our staff and in the people who are sharing with me for that day when we will be together again – the church in body as we have been in spirit.
Let that day come, O Lord. Let that day come soon.
Blessings and Peace, Gary
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.