Dearest Hope Family,
Thank you for your sincere encouragement and earnest prayers for the Session and leadership as we have labored to discern the best course forward for regathering in worship as Hope Church. Your words of caution, your patience, your trust, and your timely good humor have blessed us richly. Never would I have imagined that something as seemingly simple as convening a worship service would be so fraught with controversy and threaten the peace of the Church and our church. But, then again, I have never lived or led in a global pandemic. Add into the mix the recent unrest and upheaval we are all witnesses to and many of us simply long, more than ever before, to gather – together – in worship, in lament, and in humble crying out to our Lord for peace and healing and righteousness. I assure you that the pastors and leaders long for – desperately – the exact same thing! It is wearing on us all. We need more courage than we can muster, more wisdom than we possess, and more grace than we think!
As you can imagine, regathering demands attention to details (loads and loads of them), discernment of a wide range of competing factors and unique interests, consideration of real risk, and acknowledging certain disappointment for everyone involved (usually for opposite reasons!). In conceiving the following plan for regathering in worship, your elders have prayed, listened, brainstormed, compared notes, fussed, engaged the opinions and experience of an Advisory Team from all walks of life at Hope, and prayed some more. When I say “pray,” I mean not simply, “Lord, baptize our good plans!”; rather, “Lord, overrule, redirect, or thwart our plans if this course of action is not what you want from us!” In the end, we unanimously agreed to follow the paths outlined below!
Preliminary Plan for Regathering in Corporate Worship
Because worship – gathered, corporate, and in-the-flesh – is the lifeblood of the church and the most formative thing we do and because we believe that we can now create an environment that is both worshipful and safe, we will convene in-person worship services at Hope in two phases.
- Phase One: Vespers Service Outdoors
- In addition to our customary morning worship service livestreamed at 10:30am each Sunday morning, on June 14th, we will begin to offer an evening “Vespers” service outdoors on the Hope campus.
- The Vespers service will be distinct from the morning service and begin at 7:00pm.
- Initially we will aim for four weeks of these Vespers services and then evaluate how best to proceed.
- The service will be conducted outside on the church lawn with an aim of lasting at most 45 minutes.
- The liturgy will be scaled down significantly with a few songs, a brief homily, and a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
- We are not putting a cap on the number of participants but will encourage folks to reserve a spot so that we can prepare for the Lord’s Supper adequately.
- In terms of seating, we ask folks to bring their own chairs, blankets, etc.
- We ask that participants practice physical distancing.
- This service will not be livestreamed.
- Of course, much more detailed instructions, FAQs, and a registration access will be communicated this coming week.
- Phase Two: In-person Morning Worship Service
- Beginning June 28th, we intend to open our morning worship service for in-person worship in the Worship Center for a limited number of participants.
- We will proceed for four Sundays with this plan, and then we will reassess for another season after the trial run.
- This service will continue to be livestreamed for those who are unable or uncomfortable with gathering.
- We will assign each of our four Shepherding Groups one designated Sunday to join the service, and we will also make room for guests and for others who are unable to join on their designated Sunday.
- We will ask folks to register their attendance in advance so that we can adequately prepare for the recommended physical distancing.
- We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper each of these Sundays.
- As with the outdoor service, much more detailed instructions will follow.
Other Concerns for Regathering in Corporate Worship
- We are pastorally sensitive to the chance for division and disagreement about every aspect of what I have briefly described. There will be limitless opportunities for discord and judgment over how we regather for worship. Our great hope is that our church will be a model of Christ’s love and grace, with everyone “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3). Please pray with us for Spirit-enabled love and forbearance and forgiveness
- We fully acknowledge that there are many vulnerable, compromised, and just-not-ready-to-return folks in our midst. You are vital members of the church community and we want you to be included and cared for as best we can. If you would like a pastoral call, visit, or for us to bring the Lord’s Supper to you one Sunday, we would love to accommodate as best we can.
- We encourage folks to leverage existing relationships through Life Groups and other connection points at the church to gather as you are comfortable.
I look forward to sharing the more detailed plans as they become available and certainly welcome your patience and input as we communicate those to you.
Please do continue to join us in praying for wisdom, love, discernment, and joy as we live out of calling to be God’s people in this place at this time.
Grace and peace,