When Will We Return - The New Normal

    08.03.20 | Articles by Rob Vaughn

    When Will We Return to In-Person Worship

    Our church is open! Only our building is closed.  While you’ve been adjusting to a new normal at home, we’ve made a few adjustments as well at Community of Faith

    • Our building is currently closed except for food distribution ministry work. Worship services are available exclusively online and archived at Vimeo. Our office manager, Di Hannum has been working from home
    • Opportunities for learning are continuing with adult church school and other opportunities are in the planning stages.
    • We are working on opportunities for faith education for children with parents as their primary religious educators.
    • Email and video communication occur Tuesday evening, Friday, and Sunday morning.
    • Pastoral care is continuing via phone, email, text, facetime and Zoom
    • When it’s safe and healthy, in-person gatherings will return.

     When we do open back to in-person worship and gathering, we will be guides by John Wesley’s three simple rules:

    • Do no harm
    • Do good
    • Stay in love with God

    While Governor Northam’s protocol in Forward Virginia allows for religious communities to resume worship (with appropriate restrictions) – just because we can meet again does not mean we should!  When we do resume “normal” activities, we will be guided by Wesley three rules: do no harm, do good, stay in love with God.

    What are our metrics for returning?

    When we return, we’ll insure, inasmuch as possible, that everyone is safe, and the church is a safe place.  When we return, the quality of our in-person worship experience should be as good as it was in early March and as good as it is at home now (you are singing along at home, right?). Music is an essential element in our worship, and a safe way to sing together and/or be blessed with singing is one of the determinants of our reentry. We also have a wide range of needs and health contexts among our people – folks who have compromising health histories and conditions, age, and tolerances.

     How will we plan at CoF?

    We have named a “Healthy Church Team” to shepherd our plans for when we can offer in-person worship and gather again.  The HCT is composed of MaryAnn East, Carol Larsen, Jeff Mowery, Beth Carter, Hannah Godfrey, and Kelli Timanus.

     What’s occurring elsewhere?

    In some parts of Virginia, churches are re-opening but only a limited few in Northern Virginia. Some of my NoVA United Methodist colleagues were thinking we may resume in September however with new date prompting all NoVA public schools to movie to an online format we are reevaluating.   In May, (seems a long time ago now) I participated in a webinar with over 3,500 other United Methodists and a panel including some of our largest churches. Rev. Adam Hamilton of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas (which has a weekend attendance of over 13,000) was thinking it may be 12 months before everyone returns as their congregation has many folks who will wait until a vaccine is available before they are comfortable returning.  Highland Park UMC in Dallas (a membership of 16,000) doesn’t plan to resume until everyone can sing again and (in May) was hoping for a fall resumption.  An Oklahoma church with almost no incidence of Covid19 was expecting to resume in early summer.  Almost all my colleagues around the country expressed concern about the quality of the returning worship experience.

     What’s our best guess at CoF?

    In early June I thought we would be back by late August. Then 3-4 weeks after school started. Now (August) it is very possible we will now return until early 2021 for in-person Sunday morning worship.  There will be opportunities before then for smaller gatherings, especially outside.  As new information becomes available, our HCT will evaluate it and make appropriate decisions. 

     We are still making a great witness to the community

    Our food distribution ministry usually serves between 74-85 families each week during the late spring/ early summer season. In early May, we served 201 families one week which represents 940 individuals. Because many of our usual volunteers are socially isolating, our core of helpers has been reduced and the programs that pick-up food at our groceries have been suspended.  Thanks to Brad Fries and several other volunteers, we are still able to pickup food at our two main grocery suppliers every weekday – Giant and Food Lion. Our Saturday volunteers have continued their work as well. Cathy Spaine and Terri Metcalf have been coordinating our efforts aided by many community volunteers. With half of Fairfax Counties food banks closed, Community of Faith has offered a powerful witness during this time of unprecedented need.  And you have responded as well – donations from both the community and church to the food bank have never been higher. A good thing as we have been supplementing our stocks by purchasing food from the Capital Area Food Bank.

     You have been bold to try new ways of learning

    Learning continues even when the front door is closed.  Through Zoom, our adult church school class has continued to meet with record attendance and several small groups have found ways to connect virtually. For families with young children, Kelli Timanus has made available many ways of learning to their parents. The summer has found several book studies and soon will begin a depth study on the Gospel of Luke.