Weekly Moment with Pastor Susan

praying hands

Dear ones,

Pastor Susan

I have become aware that there are some among you who are becoming more dissatisfied with online worship and anxious to begin worshiping together again. None of us thought that this pandemic would last this long, or we thought there’d be a break in the summer when we could more freely enjoy worship and fellowship together. But that didn’t happen, and we are all sad and frustrated.

I think it’s probably true for most of us that throughout this long time of “in-between” it has been more and more difficult to cope with being away from our church family. I have had many conversations with our folks about how hard it has been and how much we want to return to gathering in the same space for worship. I feel it too, believe me! Our Covid Response team has been diligent in reviewing guidelines and recommendations from scientists and public health officials, and brainstorming creative ways we might increase our capacity, but again and again the news and numbers just got worse. We have been following the Phased Reopening Plan the council approved in July after our first town hall meeting. According to that plan we would move into phase 2 when that trend was continuous for at least 2 weeks. And we have invited people to contact us to “reserve” a spot to fill out our ten-person limit in the meantime.

Until just the last few weeks there was no downward trend of new and active cases in Knox County and Tennessee. The Covid team began considering increasing our limit to 50 people in worship (including the worship and AV teams) and have been preparing for that. We have ordered supplies and called for volunteers, but still don’t have nearly enough to prepare the worship space, be trained as ushers for a very different kind of set up, or help with the cleaning that will be required after worship.

When I became aware that the angst of some of our people was becoming intolerable, I was surprised because until that point I had not heard of the dissatisfaction from anyone to that degree. I want each of you to know that I want to hear your thoughts and feelings about this. The entire Covid team is open to conversations and will listen and take your concerns seriously. We want to do the best thing for our congregation, balancing concerns about contagion with the need for fellowship and meaningful worship and service. We want no one to be left out or left behind. And we want to work to unify the congregation as we return to worship. It’s a delicate balancing act, to be sure.

I am looking forward to seeing your responses to the survey and at the town hall meeting. We on the Covid team think it is very important to hear from the whole congregation in one way or another before we make a decision about how to move along. If you can’t be present and want to submit a statement to be read to the gathered people, we can do that. Now, may the peace of Christ be with you all!

With love and joy–

Pastor Susan

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