With the state of Idaho moving into Phase 4 of their reopening plan, the Council has received questions about why we have not resumed in-person gatherings. Especially, since we are a church and many other congregations have resumed worshiping inside their buildings. We are hoping you will go to the following links and read the attached documents, so you have a better idea of what the Council is weighing, as we discuss and plan the best next steps for being the church together.
We received the following resources from the Northwest Intermountain Synod, ELCA in mid-May: https://nwimsynod.org/reopen-guidelines. There is a lot here, so start with “Appendix A: Self -Assessment Tool" and then the “Guidelines for Reopening”, which is based upon the CDC guidelines. The Council and a sub-committee of the Council are researching options for how we can implement these recommendations for our building and people.
As you can see it is a lot to process and plan. We hope to have it broken down into chunks soon, with volunteer job descriptions. We will need your help in order to faithfully resume using the building for worship and supporting community groups, who share our space. But, we also are hearing people need a form of gathering sooner, rather than later. We are not willing to rush the process, but do recognize other, less risky gatherings can and should take place. So, Pastor Lori is working on an outdoor worship option for Wednesdays, late afternoon or early evening (when the cross side of our sanctuary is shaded). Details will be in the monthly newsletter coming out next week.
In order for the outdoor worship to happen, we do need help with sound and volunteers to run it. Pastor Steve is working on this, so please call him if you have equipment you are willing to share and/or if you are willing to be trained to run the equipment. We also need cooperation with physical distancing and ushers to help people do this. The expectations will be spelled out next week.
Complicating the Council’s work is the fact that the community of Sandpoint is not universally practicing physical distancing nor choosing to take steps to support a successful reopening. As a result, there is active, community spread of the virus in Sandpoint. We would like to move away from an all or nothing approach to living with Covid-19 because, we recognize isolation is just as deadly as the virus can be for some people.
So, we encourage healthy eating, sleep, play, time with God, exercise, and minimizing time on social media and/or 24/7 news. We also want you to develop ways to socialize (preferably outside or with physical distancing), so we minimize the risk of spreading the virus, as we resume time together.
And, our insurance company requires us to do our due diligence, as far as implementing physical distancing practices for those who gather for church activities. But know, liability is not what is driving our decisions. What is really important for us, is we believe putting these safety precautions in place is our calling as the church. It is stated in the mission we share in Christ’s name: to Praise God, Nurture Faith, and Serve All. And, as Martin Luther wrote in his response to how Christians should respond to the Plague:
As we continue to figure out how to live with Covid-19 and each other, there will be some days and some decisions we do well and some we won’t do well. There is much we don’t know. Each day brings something new we need to consider. There are big challenges we collectively are experiencing, and each household is also facing joys and additional sorrows we cannot see or understand. It is easy to become myopic in our experience of the world, unless we keep looking beyond ourselves to God and the needs of others.
We are committed to doing what we can to support all of us, as we seek to live into this new way of life. And, create resources for the diverse ways the community of First Lutheran Church is able to connect during this time: online, through printed resources, and in new forms of in-person gatherings. You can help us do this by pondering the documents attached, and spending time with God reflecting upon how you will support these efforts.