Last Friday and Saturday, our Conference Deans and synod council met for several hours to do worship, bible study, and do the vital business of the church. During this time, we were able to get some updates about what their congregations are doing regarding worship and that of their conferences. As always, the results varied extensively based on their location, the level of Covid-19 spread in their communities, and also the demographics of their community. Below are some highlights and general practices…
- Demand for in-person worship tends to be lower than anticipated. Attendance in most places has not exceeded capacity.
- Outside Metroplex: Depends entirely on context and congregation size. Some have been in-person for several months as facility and people permit. Some went back to in-person but have had to pull back due to spikes of cases in the area. All are taking precautions and limiting attendance, seating areas.
- Metroplex specific: Although a couple have been doing very limited in-person worship during the summer, more have been experimenting with what in-person worship in September and October might look like. Strict capacity limits, often taking reservations and having assigned seating.
General Best Practices:
- Online streaming or live broadcasts continue, regardless of in-person options.
- Masks are not optional and should be worn by everyone, including worship leaders at all times.
- Outdoors is seen as preferable to indoors, particularly as our weather is better for that.
- For communion, folks either bring their own bread and wine or use individualized communion kits.
Obviously, this is intensely over simplified for the variety of contexts we serve and the demographics of our communities. Once again, each community needs to examine their capacity to fulfill the expectations for cleaning, physical distancing, and also carrying on delivering worship content to those who cannot be present. A reality of our divisive times is that every decision carries with it significant weight. As such, please take time prayerfully to discern together what is best for the community and how best we can witness. And to see these choices as opportunities to give witness.
In September, I had the opportunity to worship with Emanuel, Dallas, outdoors as we baptized and gave first communion. Critical rites in the life of our young people and especially in our Conferencia Latina communities. We worshipped outside in the parking lot in the shadow of the skyscrapers of downtown Dallas. City buses, cars, and pedestrians passed by us on the street, with planes flying overhead and lining up to land at Love Field. To all we gave witness that the church is active and at work. This outdoor liturgy would never had been necessary except for Covid-19. The griefs and sorrows of this pandemic are real and palpable. And there are also opportunities for new things and new ways of being. We can never go back to “what was.” We are instead called to move forward into what is, trusting that God is always with us.