UPDATE 5/29 – CHURCH LEADERSHIP RESPONSE TO REOPENING OF PLACES OF WORSHIP IN MASSACHUSETTS
Dear Dunstable Church,
Let me begin by both apologizing for the length of this communication and encouraging you to read it in its entirety.
Both Council and Deacon boards met last night to discuss the topic of reopening and we want to keep you all updated on the process moving forward. We’re all in uncharted territory and each church is tasked with discerning the best way forward for them. There is no blueprint that each church can easily replicate and follow, making this process uniquely challenging. We continue to ask for your prayers, patience, and trust as we faithfully navigate the facts before us and seek God’s wisdom as to how best to move forward. It’s important to remember that, though the building has been closed, the church has remained open, and we have continued to be the church. Covid has not stopped God’s work in us or through us.
We acknowledge that there are a variety of opinions on what should be done and how we should move forward. Whether you agree or disagree with what’s been said, or what’s being done, we must not allow this issue to divide us. Regardless of where you stand on reopening, we all stand united in a love for Jesus, one another, and a desire to see Him glorified through this. May that be our perspective each day, binding us together as the Body of Christ in Dunstable.
As you all know, Governor Baker began the process of reopening the state on May 18th in phases. Churches were included in phase one. The state has provided guidelines that must be followed, and recommendations for best practices to maintain the safest environments possible and to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
We’ve reviewed the states requirements and recommendations. We’ve studied in detail what other churches are doing. There truly is a spectrum of possible responses to the challenge of reopening. On one end of the spectrum is the perspective that churches should wait months until reopening and see what happens as the phased process works through its ups and downs. On the other end of the spectrum is the perspective that churches should do everything possible to meet ASAP. The question is where are we going to place ourselves between these two poles?
We don’t believe we are in a rush to meet in person. First, our bathroom project has begun and there’s no water coming to the building. We can’t meet until that’s been re-established. Second, while Zoom has its imperfections, it has provided us a way to pray, sing, and fellowship together, with no masks, in community, even if it is virtually.
Best practices for re-opening churches were reviewed. All were agreed that steps required to accomplish the goal of opening right away would make worship more of a task than a joy. This includes:
- Attendance must be limited to 40% of the building capacity. To ensure that this requirement is met, those planning to attend would have to pre-register in advance of the service
- Social distancing of at least 6 feet must be observed
- Those 65 or older, or those with a pre-existing health condition, are recommended to remain at home, attending via live-stream only
- Masks must be worn by those attending in person
- No singing would be allowed, as singing is one of the highest risk factors for spreading the virus
- No Sunday School or childcare is allowed
There are many other mandates and guidelines, but this gives an idea of the extent of the limitations required. We believe this option to meet ASAP doesn’t improve, but rather worsens, our worship experience.
That said, we also don’t feel the need to declare we won’t meet for many months as some churches have. Using the spectrum analogy, we’re right in the middle. In the next month, we’re improving our church’s streaming capability to accommodate the contingent who will want to continue to worship from home. We may try to stream services from the church, with only me present in the sanctuary once that system is up and running. We are looking into worshiping once a month outdoors, weather permitting. We will create ways to meet together in small groups again. Council and Deacons will meet again next month and reassess the situation. If all the churches that have been open for a month are moving along smoothly and the statewide cases continue to decline, perhaps we’ll begin plans to meet. If churches that began opening run into more challenges than benefits, or the state’s case numbers spike, then we’ll learn from these weeks of observation and patiently wait.
Once again, we cherish your patience, prayers, and trust. But we also value your thoughts. While we can’t make a decision which makes everyone happy, we’d love your feedback. Feel free to email me. Over the next weeks, the Deacons will be reaching out to each of you for your input. Primarily among the feedback we’re asking for is if we were to begin meeting in the next months, would you be willing to attend? Having an understanding of who would attend under the current mandates and guidelines helps us plan potential future options. If things begin to improve rapidly, that may change the requirements and we’ll continue to reassess.
Thank you all for being a faithful part of the Body of Christ in Dunstable. On behalf of Council and the Deacon board, it’s our honor to love, serve, and lead us all through this challenging time.
Love, Grace, and Peace,
Pastor Bobby Ross, Council, and Deacons
UPDATE 5/20 Regarding Governor Baker’s announcement on Monday and the phased plan of reopening the state. As many of you may already know, churches have been allowed to reopen as part of phase 1. This is not a decision we’re taking lightly and there is much we have to consider and have in place before we can open. The church leadership has a scheduled meeting next Thursday where this will be the primary point of discussion. An email communication will be sent on 5/29 to keep you posted on the progress of that discussion and what we hope to have in place before we can open. In the meantime we will continue to gather online for worship Sunday mornings at 10:30 AM on Zoom.
UPDATE 4/16 The Dunstable Church is currently using Zoom to gather online for worship on Sunday morning at 10:30 AM and for prayer on Wednesday night at 8:00 PM. If you would like to join us for either, please email Pastor Bobby at email@example.com to receive information about joining the Zoom meeting.
The worship service is recorded and posted on our YouTube channel at The Dunstable Church YouTube channel.
Also on the YouTube channel you will find recordings of Children’s Moments from the Jesus Storybook Bible and recordings of Krafting with Kelsey, fun and relaxing video demonstrations of crafts you can make from things around your house!
UPDATE 3/23 From Pastor Bobby: I set up an account with free conference call that has all the essential features for meeting up virtually. If anyone wants to “meet with me”, let me know and I’ll send you the video conference call link. If you just want to touch base or pray, or whatever, let me know. We’re only just over a week into this and the days can be getting longer and more difficult as the news continues to deteriorate. You’re not alone. Reach out and we can schedule a time to meet. Click here to email.
UPDATE 3/14 Subscribe to the Dunstable Church YouTube channel for live streaming or recorded messages. Click on the link below and then click on Subscribe. Then click on the little bell icon and select All so that you get notified when there is something on the channel.
After consulting with medical professionals and many of my pastoral peers, it’s with an abundance of care that we have decided to suspend all public gatherings for 2 weeks. This Sunday’s service (3/15), as well as next Sunday’s (3/22) are cancelled. In 2 weeks time, if the situation shows signs of improvement, we’ll make efforts to re-enter our “normal” church life. If in 2 weeks things have worsened, then we’ll be thankful we were ahead of the pack in making this decision and extend our public gathering hiatus as needed. As I’m sure we all are, we’ll be evaluating the situation closely and reassess our next steps on 3/26. At that time, we will reevaluate the status of the outbreak under the guidance of health authorities to see if further suspension is required. I want to make abundantly clear that as far as we know, we have not had any cases within the church. Please notify me if you know otherwise. We are also closing the church building to outside groups for the next 30 days.
What will the next weeks look like? We will continue to be the church! We’re the church gathered, and the church scattered. For now, our “gathering” will look different. We’re working on virtual solutions for Sunday worship. There will be further communication with specifics as we know more but one avenue we’re looking into is a Dunstable Church YouTube page to both live stream and store content. Stay tuned on that. Peggy will continue providing digital media for Sunday School. She too is considering live stream option for the class. Our Wednesday services will more than likely be downloadable content that you can do from your homes to practice the spiritual disciplines. We’re working on virtual social options for you to be able to stay in touch with your church family in groups, remotely. Again, as that becomes available and we know more, we’ll communicate it. If you are accustomed to giving in person, please consider giving your regular offering online (https://dunstablechurch.org/Giving/) so the ministry of the church can continue as planned during this time. We have offered our services to the town as well. If anyone has a need we can help with, we will be contacted.