It’s finally time. 🙂
Our annual WellCome Back Sunday service on September 12th will be like no other… truly welcoming our whole congregation back into our gathering space for the very first time since March 8th, 2020. The room will finally be alive again with our energy and noise, our care and love for this community radiating with a new, impossibly hard-won kind of preciousness. For so long, we have not had access to this experience – and now, we will be able to be with each other, in body and in spirit, once again.
Throughout the pandemic, the Board and I shared a common goal: to return to in-person worship only when we can do so in a way that preserves what we love most about Sunday mornings: gathering with all ages, enjoying live music from our band, and keeping our doors open with unqualified welcome, to anyone who is seeking a community like this one.
For these reasons, we chose not to implement safety restrictions some other communities adopted, that allowed them to re-gather earlier in the pandemic (e.g. adults- or vaccinated-only gatherings; no music/singing; pre-registration required; etc.). Our June concert was a way to test another option: outdoor services. Unfortunately, we discovered that holding an outdoor event for our entire congregation required the rental and labor-intensive setup and tear-down of new sound equipment – very worth it, for one day! – but not a cost we can absorb on a weekly basis.
As we look towards re-gathering now, we’re considering how best to create a welcoming space for as many members of our community as possible. While many WellSpringers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, vaccination is not universal among us – especially while children under 12 are ineligible. Pandemic conditions also continue to shift from week to week. I get nervous even writing down plans for August, in late July… maybe you can relate.
So while I share the exciting news of our re-gathering plans today, I also want to share one of our intentions for re-gathering, at least in these early stages: we will ask every person over the age of 2 to wear a mask, as we gather indoors for Sunday services.
Masking up is one of the simplest and most effective practices to prevent the spread of Covid-19, especially in indoor spaces. Singing with masks is much safer than singing without. We can see each other wearing our masks clearly… and not have to worry so much whether someone across the room is vaccinated or not. It’s not forever – but it’s a simple way, for now, to ease ourselves gradually into re-gathering in person. Personally, if this guideline makes anyone who has longed to return to their spiritual home more comfortable walking through our doors, then – yes, recycled coffee breath and all – it will be worth it for me.
Aside from children under 2, the only exception to universal masking will be for our musicians, preachers, and worship leaders, who may remove their masks when leading worship from the stage. As a refresher, you can view our current Covid-19 guidelines for small groups or events beyond Sunday morning, here. We will also make a more detailed FAQ available prior to September 12th, to offer more insight into what precautions we are taking, and what our in-person services will look like, this Fall.
Finally, if you just can’t wait til September, you’re invited to join us for two “sneak preview” in-person services before WellCome Back Sunday! We will hold a single service in Bell Hall at 10am on Sunday, August 15th and again on Sunday, September 5th. These services will serve as a sort of “trial run” as we test out the live-stream of our service to YouTube, and a few other changes we’re implementing in the Fall. We hope some of you will join us on one or both days, so it’s not just our Band and Worship Leaders talking to the cameras… believe me, we’re excited for that to be over too. 😉
I wish you all good health in the weeks and months ahead, good rest for your bodies and spirits this summer, and a joyful return to the open arms of our community in just a few more weeks’ time.