Dear Friends and Members of Elmhurst CRC,
As we turn toward the home stretch of 2020 and the temperatures begin to cool, many of us are rightly wondering how our worship life is going to proceed into fall and winter. I want to share five thoughts with you, including the first date when we’ll be back indoors for worship!
First, we are trying to take advantage of the lovely fall weather and gather outdoors for worship while we can. Including last week, we’ll meet (Lord willing) in the East parking lot 4-out-of-5 Sundays. Outside offers maximum safety, and therefore inclusion, for some of our older and more vulnerable populations. Outside worship also offers maximum participation: we had more than 300 people present last Sunday. The maximum we can have indoors in our Sanctuary is 100. We are committed to having our first indoor worship gathering on Sunday, October 18. Stay tuned for information on the registration process in the next few weeks.
Second, church size makes a big difference in negotiating the transition back to indoors. As with schools, smaller is simpler. Several large churches around Chicagoland (e.g. Willow Creek’s campuses) are already on record as having no indoor gatherings through the remainder of 2020. A church of a hundred has an easier time regathering because a majority of their congregation could possibly regather indoors. As a larger congregation, I’m pastorally concerned that we might unintentionally create a dynamic of privilege over who gets to come in the building for Sunday worship. It would be prudent to welcome the young, healthy, and large family groups who have been around each other. While that makes sense, it inevitably shunts the old, sick, single and folks from small families to the margin. Our registration process for live worship will need to factor that in.
Third, Elmhurst CRC — unlike most other churches in the area — is committed to re-gathering all of our regular ministries, albeit many in modified fashion. This commitment means that we are now using our building for gathering space every day of the week and, given the cleaning/sanitizing protocols that are now in place, will put an extra burden on our staff — especially our operations folks. In short, we’re a three dimensional Up-In-Out church and continuing with “In” and “Out” ministries is a factor in the timing of Sunday morning regathering.
Fourth, no matter what we do outdoors or indoors for worship, the majority of ECRC worshippers will be participating via LiveStream through the end of the year, at least. Without ignoring the good gift of being together, we must necessarily keep our emphasis on the LiveSteam experience as our primary audience for the foreseeable future.
Finally, we’ve gone the last few months with a “COVID Response Team” in place which consists of the SLT and augmented with a handful of staff members. This team has been invaluable in adding wise counsel to the uncertainties. We have added a new task force, called the “Regathering Group” which is specifically tasked with best practices as we look to regather.
There is a deep longing in our community to be together for worship. That is healthy and good. It feels so overdue. Know that leadership and staff feel the same and are working hard to be bold, flexible, creative, and inclusive as possible for the healthy and vulnerable alike.
I hope to see many of you in a couple days in the East parking lot. Forecast is for a beautiful day of worship.
Grace and Peace to you,