With Governor Northam allowing churches to meet again, albeit with some new restrictions, many people are wondering when Vineyard will begin meeting in our physical facility. I read recently that if the pandemic was a baseball game, we’re just in the second inning of a nine-inning game! I thought that was a helpful analogy. While all of us want this pandemic to be over and to return to the way things used to be, we are unfortunately in the early innings of the game. Like other churches and large gathering venues throughout our commonwealth, Vineyard Church is grappling with still many unknowns. - Will we experience an even larger wave of illnesses once people begin to regather? - What is the unique role of the church in regard to being a witness for both faith and health within our community? - What practices do we need to have in place in order to provide a safe and yet transforming service experience for both adults and children? - And as Sharon and I have been preaching on for the past eight weekends, how can we protect the most vulnerable among us? It is good to remember that the church is not a building. We are the people of God whether we gather in buildings or are forced to meet each other online. When Sharon and I started this church, we began meeting in our two-car garage in a rented home. We then spent the next seven years in school auditoriums and a movie theater. In those early days, all of us were acutely aware that the church was not a building, but the church was the people! Throughout those years our church ministry has continued whether or not we have met together in a building even up to this very day. Despite our church buildings’ recent closure, we have not stopped ministry to our church, our community, or to our world. Dozens of families in need in our church and our community have been served because of our incredibly generous COVID offerings we have collected over the past two months. We continue to reach out to the most needy in our community through our food pantry. As we mentioned this past weekend, that week we were able serve 177 people. If you didn’t get to see the video, I encourage you to watch it. It’s very inspiring. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lIllgIlOUg&t=5s The truth is that our church has always done ministry in many different forms whether we meet in a church building or not. I would like you to also to know that along with all Vineyard Church members, Sharon and I long for the day when we can meet together! This enforced isolation has been incredibly hard on all of us, and especially for those in our church who live alone or are on the front lines or are out of work. We long to see one another face to face. To encourage one another. We want to hear each other sing and to take communion together. We want to watch loved ones get baptized. We want to physically gather with our friends again. But our eagerness to be together must be seasoned with patience! So, when will Vineyard Church reopen? We believe that we can be ready to re-open Vineyard the weekend of June 13-14. Between now and then, not only are we preparing our Dream Teamers to implement new cleaning and safety protocols, but we also want to be prepared to be able to maintain those new procedures for as long as may be needed. Some things we have been looking into include:
Social Distancing Policies
Safe Kid Ministry practices
Hands Free service experiences (doors being opened for you, digital outlines, digital giving options, etc.)
Between now and the second weekend of June, Vineyard Church will continue to offer our online weekend services, the mid-week devotions on Social Media, and kids online programs and student hangouts. Also, our small groups will continue to meet online. If you are not meeting in one of our midweek small groups, I encourage you to do so.
Go to https://www.vineyardchurch.com/vineyardnetwork to learn more.
As you can imagine this new season will require modifications to our normal patterns of gathering.
As we return, please prepare yourself for changes in our worship experience. It may be necessary for all of us to wear facial coverings when we regather, to practice social distancing, to change the way we greet each other, sit together, and so on. Jesus instructs us to “love your neighbor as yourself!” The church must not just show love for the young and healthy or those with strong immune systems. An expression of God’s love is when we choose to give up some of our preferences for the sake of others. When we gather together again, it will be a glorious family celebration – just without the high-fives and hugs and kisses.
We ask you to please continue to pray that the Lord would give us His wisdom as we move forward, that He would direct us as we serve the most vulnerable among us, and that He would continue to build us into the community that He's called us to be!
Andy and Sharon