As we all listen to, watch, and monitor the latest news about the current coronavirus pandemic—which seems to be everybody’s main job these days—we can detect a distinct shift in the conversations. For many, it is a scary shift towards potentially greater levels of infection and higher numbers of death than we’ve previously seen. For others, it signals a welcome and long-awaited relief from some of the restrictions that have kept us in our homes for what feels like seven months, even though in reality it’s only been seven weeks.
The shift in conversation I’m talking about is toward reopening our lives to at least some state of normalcy.
There are many leaders at every level of society who are meeting, discussing, debating, most likely arguing, about what reopening safely means and looks like. I will leave you to your own opinions about what should or should not happen.
Whatever reopening looks like in the world around us, I can tell you this with great certainty:
It will be messy. It will not be easy. It will carry some risks. It will not be the same as it was before.
When I think about what it means to reopening onsite, in-person worship gatherings, I think the same sentiments apply.
- It will be messy—not from a physical environment standpoint. In fact, I promise you that we will do everything we can to promote good hygiene and safe social practices when we reopen our buildings for worship. Messy refers more to the emotional and mental side of venturing back out into society at large. We all are doing things we’ve never done before—which, by the way, is the greatest gateway to accelerated growth—but whenever you’re doing things you’ve never done before, you rarely do everything right. You make mistakes and take missteps. For those who like everything buttoned up, nailed down, and sorted out before they commit to do anything, the coming days ahead are going to be a real struggle.
- It will not be easy. That’s pretty obvious isn’t it? I heard someone describe the last several weeks of sheltering at home edicts as willfully putting our economy in an induced coma. Sometimes such a drastic action is medically necessary. But trying to bring someone back out of a coma carries risks and is not as easy as it may sound. We have heard many leaders say, “This is not going to be like a switch that you turned off and then you turn it right back on.” Great damage has already been done to many people’s well-being. In fact, I believe it will be many weeks, months or perhaps years down the road before we understand the real costs and toll of what we’re living through right now. It will be hard for many people to regain any sense of normalcy for a long time.
- It will be risky. Asking people to get out and go anywhere and do anything around potential large numbers of people will be risky business—until there is a proven medical treatment or vaccine for this crafty virus. We can educate, advocate, and evaluate all we want, but the unknown factors related to this highly contagious and deeply mysterious virus will continue to make us uneasy as we seek to reenter the world beyond our doorstep. Some people have a much higher tolerance for risk than others. I would put myself in that category. That probably explains a lot to some of you! I don’t think I’m defiant—although some would argue differently—but I am curious, and curiosity can lead to risky behavior. The line between taking carefully considered risks and making foolhardy choices can sometimes get blurred. That’s why the writers of Scripture prize getting wise counsel so highly. The Proverbs writer says, “The way of a fool seems right in his own eyes.” That’s why he’s a fool—because he’s only considering things through his own eyes!
- It will not be the same as it was before. It is unhealthy and unrealistic to expect that things will pick up right where they left off. That won’t happen at any level of society. Things will eventually reopen, but it won’t look, feel or operate like it did before the shutdown. Same thing applies to our worship gatherings. We have a plan for reopening onsite worship gatherings. I previewed it with our staff yesterday. But I want to tell you upfront, it’s not going to be the same as where we left off in mid-March. Churches like Journey, like every other place that deal with large numbers of people, will operate differently going forward. There are some changes that we have already made that will be with us from now on. They are, I believe, good and needed changes. There are other shifts we will have to make for the common good, that will be a challenge for all of us who have come to know and love certain ways we have done church in the past.
I will share with you soon the dates and details of what reopening Journey for onsite, in-person worship gatherings looks like.
For now, what you can do to help us be as wisely prepared as we can be, is to complete this brief, 5-question survey. You can access it here. It will take you less time than it takes to say the Lord’s Prayer to complete this poll. We would really like to hear from you regarding this important topic of reopening.
I want you to know, whenever it happens and whatever it looks like when we reopen onsite gatherings, we take it seriously, lift it up prayerfully, and will proceed carefully. BUT, make no mistake about it, we must move toward assembling ourselves together again. That has been a consistent command among the community of Christ-followers that all believers have cherished, and some have even perished to practice through the centuries. In spite of the messy, risky, difficult, and different obstacles against public gathering for worship, we need to figure it out and your input can help us to do that.
Loving the messy-risky-difficult-different Journey,