Four steps to re-open Chapel Hill
Since COVID-19 made it impossible for all of us to meet together for worship, you have taken the words “beyond these walls” literally and embraced this moment by worshipping in your homes, gathering in LifeGroups over Zoom, praying for one another virtually, and even changing the way you give money to Chapel Hill so that we can continue to exalt Jesus, elevate others, and launch disciple-makers.
EVERYTHING is online right now. Yes, we know the church of Jesus is not a building but a people ...you people, my Sweetheart Church. But we miss being able to gather together in our building, don't we? I understand that yearning…and I share it.
While I am eager for us to worship together in person once again, we aren’t willing to do so in a way that leaves huge swaths of our congregation behind or that foolishly risks our health and safety. That’s why our plans for reopening will be guided both by biblical truth and scientific input.
Biblical truth because our church mission is grounded in the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39), in which Jesus tells us to love God…and love your neighbor as yourself. That love includes protecting one another from being infected by COVID-19, while still meeting people’s spiritual, emotional, and practical needs. We will do everything within reason to ensure that our facility and protocols provide the best possible safeguards for the time when we gather again.
Scientific input because we must listen carefully to what scientists and healthcare officials are learning about this disease and how it spreads. And, of course, we will consider carefully the guidelines of our state and federal authorities, as well.
With all that in mind, we are now planning for future gatherings. Naturally, these plans are contingent on the overall health of our local community and the surrounding areas as the statewide restrictions begin to lift.
Basically, we will follow a 4-step plan to re-open. Right now, we are in Step 1: everything is online and the building is closed to staff and visitors.
At Step 2, some staff who aren’t vulnerable to health risks will be able to work in the building, but we’ll insist they follow strict guidelines to ensure mutual safety.
When we get to Step 3, LifeGroups will be able to meet and worship together in one another’s homes, and gatherings of fewer than 50 will be possible.
Prayerfully, by God’s grace, by September we could find ourselves at Step 4. In-person church worship services and programming will resume, but we will still practice physical distancing. Many aspects of life in our building will be different in order to be as safe as possible. There are more details about these steps in an infographic we’ve prepared for you.
If you have any questions about our plan, please reach out to me or Pastor Larry through Kathy Berry. We want your mind to be put at ease as we navigate these uncharted waters.
It bears repeating that we simply don’t know what the future holds. We hope and pray that God will continue to protect us and our loved ones, we pledge to continue serving those in need, and we look forward to a time when we can gather together as one Body to worship our glorious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Pastor Mark Toone
PS—One of the disappointments of the COVID season is that we cannot celebrate milestones as we ought. One such milestone occurred just yesterday, May 15, when our own Julie Hawkins, Director of Next Steps, and Gunnar Tesdahl, Director of Worship, both graduated from Knox Theological Seminary with their Master of Divinity degrees.
A special shout-out to Julie who was awarded the Historical Studies Award. Woo-hoo!
This degree prepares Julie and Gunnar for ordination within our denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), two more spectacular candidates birthed out of this church. Well done, Chapel Hill. Again. And REALLY well done, Julie and Gunnar. We are very proud of you.
If you would like to see Julie and Gunnar's virtual graduation ceremony, you can watch it here.