Updated: May 21, 2020 at 4 p.m.
Beginning Friday, May 22, Cumberland county and many neighboring counties are moving from the Red stage to the Yellow stage under the State’s Reopening Plan. We’re thankful for this development as it recommends groups of 25 or less people may gather safely with social distancing recommendations in place. We are also grateful to have received so much participation in the survey on restarting in-person ministry. As your pastor, it brought me particular joy to see wise, measured prudence, and your desire to be together again to worship and serve the Lord in your responses.
In light of both your input and developments at a state level, we wanted to make you all aware of our next step toward restarting in-person ministries church-wide. Beginning Friday, we are encouraging friends, family, and LifeGroups to consider worshiping or meeting together at some point in the week as you are comfortable. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” While we can stay connected digitally, we know that God has designed us so that we grow best in one another’s presence.
We recognize that everyone has a different place of readiness, so love each other well through these conversations as you offer different perspectives on coming together. In the survey, many of you responded with a willingness to live out our value of sacrificing your time, preferences, and gifts to help others feel comfortable. These conversations are an opportunity to display this value and show Jesus’ love for one another. I trust God will guide each of your groups as you begin to gather at the right time and in a way that strengthens the relational fabric of your group and our church as a whole.
The primary way you can get connected to others in our church family, in all seasons, is through joining a LifeGroup. These groups help people experience Jesus and grow together in Christ because transformation happens while in relationship with each other. If you are interested in joining one, please fill out the form on westshorefree.org/lifegroups, and our team will be able to connect you with others. If you have two friends in mind already, that’s great! It only takes at least 3 people to get a LifeGroup going.
In addition to LifeGroups beginning to meet, we will continue to communicate with you about different ministry activities as they start to resume meeting in-person.
I look forward to hearing stories in the days ahead of how God is encouraging and ministering through you as we begin to gather again. I also trust that He will use this time to guide us in understanding when we may wisely gather as a whole church for worship. Your church leaders are praying for you as we know you are praying for us, and we look forward to being together again.
Seeking the good for the glory of Christ,
First, have a conversation!
Their individual experiences shape everyone’s perspective, so remember that not everyone is in the same place as you. If you are the leader of your LifeGroup, we hope that you facilitate this conversation by establishing an environment for everyone to share and be heard. If you are in a LifeGroup and this conversation hasn’t started, bring it up with your group and get this conversation going. Help start that discussion and begin listening to each other.
Second, practice what Jesus calls us to – unity and brotherly love.
Let these conversations be covered with grace, love, peace, and unity. It should help draw you closer together, seeing where each other is coming from rather than driving you apart. Establish an environment where people can share without shame or fear. Remember, it took us several weeks to get to the point where we are right now; it will take some time before we are all back as we were before.
Some Starting Questions:
Here are some questions you can use to start the conversation and ask follow-up questions as well! Sometimes we need our friends to help us process too:
- What are your thoughts on meeting in-person?
- How does the idea of meeting in person make you feel?
- If you had to rate your comfort level on meeting together in person from 1 to 10, with 10 being totally comfortable, where would you rate yourself?
- What would make you feel the most comfortable in the meeting?
- Is there anything that makes you feel anxious or uneasy about meeting in-person or a specific reason you would not want to?
- What safety precautions would you like us to consider as we meet?
- If we were to meet, what precautions do we put in place so that EVERYONE is comfortable?
These are just meant to get the conversation started; to start to bring people together even more closely in relationship with each other.
Suggested Adjustments on Meeting:
Once your LifeGroup has had a conversation and considers taking that next step to meet in-person, here are some thoughts on how to start meeting together again when you are ready to:
- Meet outside in someone’s yard, a park, or even on the church grounds somewhere.
- Start with safeguards in place and talk through what is acceptable for everyone in the group, practicing the highest standard expressed.
- Keep your first meeting or two short – 60 minutes or less.
- Forgo sharing or having food
- Consider meeting together for a Sunday morning worship service.
- And before you meet – be sure to address the bathroom question. Some people might not be ready to have you in their home yet.
Our lower-level main entrance (west) is open Monday through Friday, 9 to 4 p.m., for delivery and scheduled meetings. It is not open to the general public at this point in time.