A Return to Worship in Person

Dear friends in Christ,

Since March, Good Shepherd’s worship has been ‘remote.’ It has been live, real, and Gospel-centered, but it has not happened in person. Like many of you, I sincerely miss the opportunity to worship in the same physical space as others. The technology that allows us to worship from the relative safety of our homes is a gift, but it cannot replace everything that happens when we gather as God’s people in worship. We have been exploring how to resume in person worship again safely. In a survey conducted this summer, about 1/3rd of the congregation was ready to return and I anticipate the number will rise as we continue to learn how to deal with the pandemic.

As we reintroduce in person worship, Good Shepherd will be one congregation with two distinct ways of worshiping in the same service: online (live or replayed) and in person. It is important to say that we intend to make both ways of worship as meaningful as possible. Our livestream worship will continue indefinitely for all those for whom in person worship is not possible — for any number of reasons.

But because we intend to care for the safety of those who do choose to worship in person, our assemblies will have to be different.

Registration and Gathering in person

To help us plan appropriately for each Sunday service, we will ask everyone to register for in person worship ahead of time each week at https://mygoodshepherd.churchcenter.com/registrations. If you do not have access to the internet, you may also register by calling the office phone number. We will leave spots open each week for visitors or those who may forget to register, but space will be limited.

Deciding whether to attend in person will depend on several factors. Our safety practices aim to reduce the risk of infection but cannot completely prevent it. Anyone experiencing new symptoms common to Covid-19 infection should not attend in person worship. These include: temperature of 100.4° or greater, fever/chills, cough, shortness of breath at rest, fatigue, aches, headache, no taste and/or smell, sore throat, congestion/runny nose, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea. Worship will always be available online. No one should feel pressure to worship in person if it unnecessarily risks health and safety.

While on campus we will practice physical distancing, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from those who are not part of our household. This includes our time in the parking lot, and while waiting to enter the building. A line will form from the easternmost doors only into the narthex (the ones closest to the Memorial Garden.) Please wait in a single line under the covered walkway outside and into the narthex until an usher can direct you to your seat. Spaces will be marked in tape on the pews.

Paper bulletins will not be distributed. The bulletin will be available on our website ahead of time, and you may choose to print and bring your own. If you do, please bring them back home with you. The words will be displayed on the projectors during worship.

Masks

We will all wear masks to protect ourselves and others from the risk of infection while together. If you do not have one, a mask will be provided. The CDC does not recommend masks for those who have trouble breathing; if you cannot wear a mask, please join us in worshiping from home.

We realize that stricter safety procedures present a challenge for families with young children. Per CDC guidelines, children under 2 should not wear masks but may still join in person worship. Otherwise, parents or guardians are responsible for children following all safety expectations.

Communion and Offering

Special consideration must be paid to our practice of the Lord’s Supper so that we receive the body and blood of Christ in full confidence of its goodness for our bodies as well as our souls.

The people in one section of pews will be invited at a time to move in a line towards the table. As each of us is invited forward, we’ll proceed in this way:

  • to receive the wafer of bread from the pastor, hold out at least one hand without contact, and a wafer will be dropped into your hand
  • then proceed to wine station where a single glass of wine will be ready
  • here, remove your mask to eat and drink
  • after, discard your glass in the separate bin as you depart for your seat

Offering plates will not be passed, but instead available in the rear of the church. You may place your offering in the trays or baskets as you enter or depart.

Drive Through Communion

Each Sunday during our celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we will consecrate bread and grape juice from the meal that will be available to pick up for those who will not be present during the in person worship. To receive communion in this way, please drive through the church’s parking lot between 11am and noon on Sunday and roll down your window. A kit of communion will be given to you. Please remain in your vehicle during the process!

We are working on a plan to safely distribute communion to those who cannot access the drive through service, and will let you know more soon.

Sent as Disciples

We will keep our worship as brief as we can while still gathering, hearing and proclaiming God’s Word, being fed in communion, and sent as disciples. There will not be the safe opportunity for extended fellowship while inside the building. I recognize this will be difficult for us; we are designed by God, after all, to be in relationship with one another. I encourage you to find other ways to safely share in fellowship with others. The CDC recommends being outdoors, physically distanced, wearing masks, and limiting time in contact. Remember also those who will not be able to worship in person, and perhaps not online either. Volunteer to call another member of the congregation or bring communion to those who cannot come to receive it.

In worship we are found, formed, fed, and freed. Ultimately, it is not ‘what we get out of it’ but how we are freed by God’s amazing grace to love and serve our neighbors. I am so grateful for the way that the disciples of Good Shepherd continue to answer God’s call to nurture lives for following Christ.

Worship in person and drive through communion will begin on November 29th – the first Sunday in Advent, and the beginning of the church year.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Keith