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— REGATHERING UPDATE: May 21, 2020 —
Dear Colonial Family,
Thank you for your ongoing support and flexibility during this pandemic.
As you may be aware, Governor Cooper has announced that Phase 2 of North Carolina’s reopening plan will begin at 5 pm on Friday, May 22. The most recent Executive Order (No. 141) states the following with regards to exemptions from the order:
“Worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights are exempt from all the requirements of this Executive Order and Executive Order Nos. 121 and 138. The undersigned (Governor Cooper and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall) strongly urges that entities and individuals engaging in these exempted activities follow the Recommendations to Promote Social Distancing and Reduce Transmission, avoid exceeding Emergency Maximum Occupancy in the places where they meet, and avoid holding Mass Gatherings.”
The Colonial Reopen Task Force has been meeting on a regular basis for several weeks now to discuss plans for reopening the church for staff and regathering the congregation for corporate worship. In addition, a team of elders has been engaged in our regathering discussions. At this time, we do not anticipate conducting Sunday morning in-person worship services until mid- to late-July at the earliest. We will keep you informed of our plans to move forward in the coming weeks.
You likely may have questions about our decision to wait on regathering, such as:
- Is it worth the risk to regather now as long as people wear masks and practice social distancing?
- If we were to regather at reduced capacity, how would we decide who gets to participate and who does not?
- If we were to set a limit of 500 people per service, what would we do if 1,000 people show up?
- How does our church plan to sanitize the worship center after a service, and will that affect service times?
We will be taking into consideration all of these questions and more, as we evaluate the appropriate time to regather.
There are many factors that must be considered with regards to regathering. While religious gatherings are exempted from Phase 2 restrictions that does not necessarily mean that it is prudent for our church to gather for worship. Just because we can, does not mean that we should. While stores, businesses, restaurants, and smaller churches may be opening now, that’s a lot different than packing several thousand people into our campus on a Sunday for an hour or two. The most recent Executive Order still requires social distancing even for those organizations that do reopen, along with other protective measures. This makes gathering at Colonial more complex than these other entities (thus delaying our reopening until social distancing becomes less restrictive, hopefully in Phase 3). There is no “one-size-fits-all” method for churches to regather. Each church has to evaluate the unique needs of their congregation, relative to its size and demographics. We are choosing to take a cautious, measured approach for Colonial.
The most important aspects of this situation that are near and dear to the hearts of our church leaders are the responsibility of the church to be a positive witness for Christ and the call to love our neighbors. This mindset is at the forefront of each decision we make in the process toward regathering.
As we continue to wait for the Sunday when we can regather, let’s maintain our unity in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-3), let’s consider everyone’s best interests (Philippians 2:3-4), and let’s be full of peace and grace (Hebrews 12:14-15) as we draw upon the sufficient grace of our Lord.
“Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”