Anticipating Our Return to Corporate Worship
Preface: Explaining the Considerations Taken.
Our decision to suspend our regular gatherings at Diamond Hill back in late March involved numerous considerations, the predominate one being that we should move forward with as much certainty as we could that we were acting within Biblical precepts. We are confident that our decision to temporarily suspend our regular services was consistent with the Biblical mandate to submit to the Governing Authorities as ordained of God (Romans 13:1-5) and with the mandate of our Lord Jesus to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:35-40). While these are not the only passages considered, they were foundational in our decision making process. As we considered our return, we were mindful of these two guiding Biblical precepts with equal seriousness as was exercised at the beginning. With that in mind, and as we are currently embarked upon Phase #1 of Governor Cooper’s reopening strategy, which among other requirements continues a limitation for public gatherings to not more than ten persons, we are sensitive to the obvious fact that our proposed date of return (May 24th) and the likelihood that more than ten persons will be present, will violate at least that provision of the Governor’s order. More importantly, it raises a question as to whether or not we will also found to be in violation of the Biblical mandates as stated above. That possibility and our accountability to our Lord and to you, the Church, demands that we give an explanation or Biblical justification for our decision to return to our regularly scheduled services despite the Governor’s prohibitive provision. While I cannot in this document provide an exhaustive explanation of every Biblical precept brought to bear in our considerations, I do want to provide a summary of several. First, is our understanding that the mandate of Romans 13 is not “absolute.” This understanding arises from that passage itself in which certain obligations of a right and just Government are delineated such as, it should not be a cause of fear for good behavior (Romans 13:3) and that it should be a minister of God to you for good.” as well as a Minster of God bearing a sword as an avenger against those who do wickedness. (Romans 13:4) This understanding was taken into consideration by asking if the Governor’s Order was a just order. Did it, and does it currently provoke fear in or present a threat to those who propose to do what is good? Did and does the Governor’s Order reflect a good as defined by God? Did and does the Order reflect an appropriate use of the sword allotted to Government....Does it threaten those who would do good or those who would do wickedness? While our initial submission in the suspension of our services was predicated upon the belief that the Governor’s Orders and their application were reasonable and within the scope of the authority granted him and his administration by Divine ordinance, we have come to believe by observation that the Order has not been applied with equity among those institutions categorized as “Essential.” Many of us, if we’ve gotten out at all, have witnessed the crowds significantly beyond the ten person limitation at retail outlets and grocery stores. While these outlets seem generally to be making efforts to assure social distancing as required by the Governor’s Order, we view it as a significant inequity that the same accommodation is not being provided for the gatherings of the Church. This we view to be an “injustice” and a clear demonstration that the Governing Authority, at least in the “ten person limitation” provision, has moved beyond its God-given authority and that its doing so has become for us the basis for a just civil disobedience in regards to that particular provision. One might ask, “does a recognition of God’s providence in the appointment of governing authorities, not require our submission even when those governing authorities govern in a less than ideal manner?” The answer generally is yes, but taking into account Biblical precedent, we respond “yes” but with certain conditions. See (Exodus 1:15-21) (Acts 5:27-29). With humility and with these considerations in mind, along with the equally weighty Biblical mandate that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves (Hebrews 10:25) your Elders have elected to resume our regular gatherings as the Church aware that we could be found in violation of the ten-person maximum provision and subject to possible prosecution. Even so, while we prayerfully accept these risks, we will endeavor to be found in compliance to every additional provision in the Governor’s Order regarding social distancing, best hygiene practices etc. In this endeavor, we are providing the following guidelines for our return which we believe will help us best comply with the Governor’s provisions and safeguard as much as possible the health of each individual member or attendee. We ask for the patience and diligence of each attending member in adhering to these guidelines as much as possible until the risk of transmitting the Covid-19 Virus subsides and we can come together in full again!
With gratitude to our Lord and for each of you!
Information Regarding Our Return
As a preface to the following guidelines, and in calling your attention to the apparent vulnerability of our more senior members and those with compromising health conditions to contracting Covid-19 and for experiencing more serious outcomes, we want to encourage every individual in our membership to consider their own personal risks for contracting the Corona Virus and the potential severity of their outcome should they do so. While we look forward to seeing everyone, your personal well being is a priority for us as we hope it will be for you. Again, you’re encouraged....even urged...to make your own determinations according to your own sense of vulnerability as to when you feel most secure in returning to be with us!
Partial Schedule Return Date: Sunday morning, May 24th
The first two Sundays of our return (May 24, 31) we will meet only for our 11:00 AM worship service....there will be no Sunday School Classes, Sunday evening, or Wednesday evening services in the month of May. We will also not be providing nursery or toddler care immediately, however the nursery will be available for parents to care for their children as the needs may arise. We will also provide disinfectant wipes and would ask that each parent wipe down any objects they or their child may have come into contact with before exiting the nursery.
Full Schedule Return Date: Sunday, June 7
We are planning to resume our full schedule of services on Sunday, June 7. Sunday School, Sunday & Wednesday evening services will resume at their regular times. We do however urge classes to continue social distancing and the recommended personal hygiene measures while gathering in their individual classes. If social distancing measures cannot be met in any classroom, please notify Pastor Larry or Pastor Jeff, and we will make arrangements that will accommodate that need.
General Precautionary Measures
Social Distancing: Social Distancing - Maintaining approximately six feet between persons. (We expect that these accommodations will be temporary, but we ask for your help so that through these we can provide a sense of security to many who may come but who are yet uneasy about the potential risks.) While we do not believe it is necessary to require masks, you are completely welcome to wear one and should not be reluctant at all to do so if you are more comfortable with that added protection.
Greeters: If we continue to utilize Greeters, we ask that those assigned to this ministry would avoid handshakes and hugging, being mindful to maintain an appropriate distance between themselves and those whom they are greeting.
Worship Services: We ask that families maintain an appropriate distance between themselves and fellow member families as we take our seats in the sanctuary for worship. As always, you are encouraged to move around and speak to your fellow members and visitors alike, however we ask that in doing so, you maintain that distance. As for our offering time, we will provide a receptacle for that at the entrance to the sanctuary, or we will continue to provide an offering plate up front near the altar and invite the congregation by sections to come forward and leave their offerings there. If we opt for the latter, as you are invited forward, and as you return to your seat, please keep your distance between the person ahead of and behind you.
At the conclusion of our services, we ask that you remain standing while we dismiss the congregation by sections so as to avoid bottlenecks or overcrowding in the church foyer. As your section is dismissed, again we ask that you keep your distance from others and that you exit the building in a timely manner. If you would like to speak with others at more length, please confine that to outdoors and the parking lot where you can enjoy an extended fellowship while maintaining your distance and while also allowing others to exit the church safely. We also recognize that the children will be excited to see their friends when we gather again and as much as we all enjoy watching them run and play together, we do ask that parents temporarily restrain their children from playing together as usual inside the building. According to each parents discretion, they are welcome to run and play once they’ve exited the building, however we do ask that parents would be mindful of social distancing generally as well as the possible concerns of other parents for their children.
Children: We are tentatively planning to resume our Children’s Sunday School and Nursery & Toddler care ministries on June 7th. Our Nursery workers may be asked to wear masks and we ask that only the parents of the children in their care would enter the Nursery to drop off and pick up their children. All other adults and children are asked not to be in the Nursery or Toddler rooms. There will be an enhanced emphasis in the Nursery and Toddler rooms on cleanliness, so we ask that you help us maintain this!
General Fellowship of Members: We’ve missed seeing one another and are excited about being able to fellowship again, but we do ask that everyone in general, be mindful of the above efforts as you greet and interact with one another. As mentioned above, we want to encourage warm welcomes among our fellowship, but for the next number of weeks, we ask that you limit your extended fellowship to the areas outside of the building so that we can maintain the necessary social distancing inside the church building and especially in the foyer area where we are most likely to become crowded.
Communion: We are planning to observe the Lord’s Supper on May 31st and circumstances will require that we do that a little differently than we are accustomed to. We will be sharing at the conclusion of the May 24th service some details about those changes, but for now, we want everyone to know that if partaking of the elements is in any way uncomfortable to you regarding your own personal health concerns, please don’t hesitate to forego your participation for the present. We will understand!
As we’ve all learned, times like we’ve experienced recently require many adjustments, the determination of and the carrying out of which, do not come easy for us. The guidelines above represent our best efforts to make the necessary adjustments to insure both your health and security, while also providing for our much awaited reunion as a church family. We thank you so much for your patience through everything up until now, and ask for that continued patience as we reevaluate almost continuously to provide for the safest, and most encouraging return to our fellowship as is possible under the changing circumstances!
Lord willing, we’ll see you on the 24th of May!