Pastor John Hampton

John Hampton
Lead Pastor


Operation RESTART-May 30-31

Last week I announced that we will reopen our buildings—not the church, because the church never closed—for onsite worship on the weekend of May 30-31. We will meet at our previously scheduled worship gathering times of 5PM on Saturday at Apopka and 9:30 and 11:15AM on Sunday at both our Apopka and Lake County locations.

Announcing a date is one thing. Implementing a plan to safely and wisely gather a group of people together in our current state of affairs is another–but that is exactly what we are committed to do. If there is to be any return to normalcy, you have to start somewhere. So here is how Journey will restart Phase 1 of onsite worship gatherings.

  • All onsite worship gatherings will be family style services. No children’s or student programming will be offered in Phase 1.
  • Three different spaces for worship will be utilized at both our Apopka and Lake County campuses: the Worship Center; Adventureland Theater; and the Student Center.
  • Seating capacity will be reduced to 50% or less in every space used for worship.
  • Creating a “touchless environment” will be our goal. All elements of worship will be done in such a way as to eliminate or minimize touching others or handling items touched by others. Even our bathroom facilities will be outfitted with touchless plumbing fixtures where possible.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be abundant and placed throughout the buildings.
  • Staff and volunteers will wear masks and be temperature checked prior to worship gatherings.
  • Masks are not required for attenders but are recommended and will be available at both locations.
  • Anyone with underlying health issues or who would be considered a high risk should stay home and continue to worship with our online campus.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting will immediately be done after each worship gathering to prepare for the next group of worshippers.
  • No coffee or café services will be available.

This is just the summary of our Phase 1 restart plan. We will have a training and run-through for staff and volunteers on Sunday, May 24 at both our Apopka and Lake County locations at 10AM to review in more detail our plan for safely and wisely restarting onsite gatherings. That is not a soft-opening worship service. It is a training time to help us be as prepared as possible for May 30-31.

It would be easy to look at that list above and think “that doesn’t sound very much like the Journey we all know and love.” But guess what? Nothing sounds or operates or feels like it did before the pandemic and won’t for a long time. Have you been to Publix lately? Have you eaten out at a restaurant? Wait until Disney World or Sea World or Universal reopen and see what that will be like. Talk about a different experience!

Friends, that’s the world we now live in. This is our new normal, at least for this season, but the return to normalcy has to start somewhere. An old preacher friend of mine used to like to say, “If you wait for all the lights to turn green at once, you’ll never go anywhere.” The protocol outlined above is not ideal or without drawbacks, but I believe it is a safe and smart step toward returning to something that many of us consider to be essential: assembling ourselves together for corporate worship, and I am eagerly looking forward to that. Will we get everything right on May 30-31? Of course not! We will have to make adjustments to this plan in the coming weeks? Absolutely we will. Will we continue to learn and implement the best practices available for such a time as this? I can promise you that.

In the meantime, we will continue to invest and innovate with our online campus and I encourage you to continue to engage with us through that fast-growing platform. Our online campus is just that—a digital extension of Journey’s ministry that is just as real as our Apopka and Lake County campuses. If, for any reason, you are not ready or able to return to an onsite worship gathering, then thank God for our online campus and plan to join us there. And remember this…whether we’re online or onsite, we’re always on mission.

Loving the On Mission Journey,

Pastor John