June 25, 2020
It has been a week of milestones, with new and different traditions. Normally the last week of June is spent with school kids at picnics, and families celebrating with graduates. Although Covid has changed how we celebrate, it is good to see drive-by graduations and school good-byes as we embrace summer and time for teachers and students to rest and recharge. We are also thankful that our first week of faith walk summer camps went well; thanks to those volunteers and staff who worked diligently to make this happen!
Our plans to open our church services continue to proceed. This week we will celebrate the sacrament of baptism with three young families- a sign of God’s covenant faithfulness to us. We also rejoice that current guidelines allow for extended family to join in witnessing this celebration. Next week we will open the services up to members of the congregation. We will start with Fellowship groups, and then expand if numbers allow.
Thanks to those who have completed the survey for return to worship. We encourage everyone to answer the 9-question West End Relaunch Survey so that we may know where help is needed in the congregation as we return to in-person worship services. As we continue to work through current AHS guidelines, it is important to note what you can expect when you come to a worship service:
- Our church services are open to all. Some of our members are at increased risk of serious adverse effects from Covid-19, due to age (over 65) or pre-existing medical conditions. We are taking precautions to reduce the risk for those who attend, however we cannot eliminate that risk. Non-medical masks are strongly encouraged for all who come to worship. Disposable masks have been made available to churches; we are hoping to have received ours for the July 5 service.
- We are asking that people pre-register for the service as much as possible using the following website https://reopen.church/r/bnMJXneH This allows us to ensure we do not exceed safe limits, and will speed up entry to the building. If individuals are not able to pre-register, they will be able to sign in at the door.
- If you are ill, or someone that you live with is ill, we ask that you do not attend church. This is to ensure the safety of all members, and to comply with current public health orders. Don’t worry if you have registered, there is no need to cancel.
- You will be welcomed at the door by someone who will answer any questions you may have, and ask a couple of questions about your health. A health acknowledgement is a requirement from Alberta Health Services, and information collected is destroyed after two weeks. Contact tracing and health monitoring are a vital part of a successful relaunch of our church and society.
- There is hand sanitizer available throughout the building – we ask that you clean your hands upon entering or exiting the sanctuary.
- Once in the sanctuary you will notice that seating is available in every third row of pews. This is to ensure 2m of distance between congregants. We ask that you leave 2 m of distance between yourself and people who are not in your household or cohort. There is extra room (4.5 m) between the praise team singers and the congregation as well.
- Unfortunately, as we have noted before, one of the conditions of worship again is that there not be communal/congregational singing. We lament this, but also want to find ways in which to express ourselves during times of song. Please feel free to hum, tap your feet or mouth the words along with the praise team. Although this is difficult, it is necessary to protect the health of those around us as well as our own.
- Exiting the sanctuary will be by pew to ensure and allow for proper distancing.
- We welcome the opportunity to socialize safely after the service, either in the parking lot if the weather cooperates, or in the fellowship hall. We will be relying on members to keep a safe distance as we enjoy each other’s company.
As we open our services, we know that not everyone is comfortable with a return to in person worship just yet. For some, the inability to sing, or other limitations are too great a barrier, while for others the risk to themselves or those they live with and care for is too great. This is completely understandable, and we recognize that a significant part of our congregation will continue to worship via livestream.
I am also happy to report that our deacons have successfully applied for a grant to partner with the Christian Care Centre to provide a hot meal once a week for those in need. We have worked together with Alberta Health to ensure that proper safety measures are in place, once again I was impressed by their willingness to work with us. We will provide more details and information as plans are finalized. This is a wonderful opportunity to be a light in our community.
And so, I end this week’s update with notes of hope and joy; joy that we can celebrate baptism and gather together and hope that these steps we are taking will continue to return us to familiar ways of worship and being together. I am reminded of the words of Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” It is my prayer for all of you that this hope and joy will be a reality in your lives in the week ahead.