I have had many ask me, “When will we be gathering again as the church?”
The simple response is currently Pentecost Sunday, May 31st; but we have not stopped gathering as the church! Each of our ministries has continued, and many of them have increased their effectiveness in this season. I personally know that my meetings have become much more efficient, and I believe that this season has actually made our church more dynamic, flexible, and sensitive to those around us. HarvestDowntown continues to be the church, not in spite of the restrictions, but it some ways, because of them! I thought that the one ministry that had suffered the most in this season was HarvestKids – but I was reminded that parents should be the primary mentors of their children’s spirituality. So, I guess even that has increased as children are forced to spend more time with their spiritual mentors than either are comfortable with.
I think most of us were thrilled when we moved into the “Safer at Home” phase of social distancing as ordered by the governor. I, for one, am eagerly looking to the horizon for the next phase which he has called “Protect Your Neighbor;” which unlike the other titles, sounds like a Christian value. We expect this phase to be implemented at the end of May, (we are hoping for Pentecost Sunday, May 31).
Along the way, I have had personal issues with government overreach and whether any laws of the land can restrict the assembly of the church. However, it has been pointed out to me by experts in U.S. law, (NOT Facebook, Twitter, Google, or my newsfeed), that these orders are not in conflict with the U.S. Constitution or the constitution of the State of Colorado; furthermore they have been supported by various rulings and precedents throughout history by the Supreme Courts of both entities. In fact, I was prepared to take a stand until it was asked of me, “What will bring the most honor to Christ? Not, HarvestDowntown or Kurt, but what will honor His Name?” The main point is this, the government has not singled out the church from salons, tobacconists, or pet groomers, (we are all lumped into the same category – the irony is not lost on me).
I have spent a lifetime in the Word and living a life in the Spirit, and the conclusion of the matter is this, “Jesus loves me, and He wants to love others through me.” I will not let a government or culture tell me that I cannot love Jesus – but that is certainly not the case here. As I stated earlier, this season of social distancing has actually been very good for the health of the Church, including HarvestDowntown. I am hearing from pastors and church leaders from across our country how valuable this season has been for them and their churches. Many of us have been forced to ask difficult questions about our ministries and the role of the church in society.
One such question that I have been wrestling with is the church’s responsibility to those affected by plagues. It was recently brought to my attention the significant impact this virus has had on the elderly, abused, impoverished, and the immigrant – the church typically refers to them as “the least of these.” The housing projects of New York and New Jersey continue to be ravaged by this disease. Last night I heard of a man who has lost four family members to this virus in the last month and cannot mourn with the rest of his family since he lives and works here. This is to say nothing about how only the middle class and wealthy can truly practice social distancing without loss of income. The Church should always be concerned with anything that puts the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the alien at risk – it is our demonstration of true service to God.
I recognize that we are privileged to live in a place that most of the recommendations and restrictions are probably superfluous. Why? Because most of us live in single-family homes with yards, and very few of us use public transportation – those who do, are riding on nearly empty buses. You may be of the mind that a mask is a waste of time, money, or energy – and you may be right.
What if we viewed our participation in these recommendations as an exercise in submission to one another out of reverence for Christ? Then putting on a mask to go into a grocery store may look like compliance on the outside, but internally we could be worshiping Jesus with our love for others. What if we viewed our compliance as a church to these orders as a demonstration of our solidarity with the poor, the elderly, the sick, and the immigrant? It would look like we are just complying with rules and regulations, but we are truly aligning our hearts with the heart of Jesus for the least of these.
Throughout Church history we have seen believers submit outwardly to governments while inwardly aligning themselves to Christ. Let us demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in these days, for against such things there is no law! May the accusers of the Church be put to shame by the way the church cares for the least of these – particularly in a season of plague when the least of these are most affected.
Re-Entry to Proximity for HarvestDowntown:
Following is a skeletal structure of how we foresee our re-entry into proximity playing out for our church community, but they are subject to the El Paso County Health Department, so long as they do not restrict our mission and purpose as a church. A much more comprehensive outline and plan is in the hands of our staff and elders and is available upon request – but it is being revised as new information is made available.
Safer at Home (Started May 1)
All groups of fewer than 10 adults, including Compass Groups, are encouraged to re-enter into proximity so long as they include and don’t exclude those with convictions about social distancing - this CANNOT become a divisive issue and should respect department of health guidelines.
All team/board/committee meetings will be offered in person as well as on Zoom
VirtualHarvest at 10:40 will be the only option for Sunday Worship, but each home should consider how they can serve as a gathering point for engaging in VirtualHarvest (invite and welcome friends and family)
HarvestYouth will meet in two groups and offer an online option
HarvestKids will continue to empower parents as mentors
Protect Your Neighbor (Expected to begin May 29)
All groups under 100(possibly 150) individuals are welcome to gather so long as they consider those at risk as more important than themselves - this will likely be based on the building/room occupancy (50% is what we are hearing)
Compass Groups will maintain community principles as outlined in Kurt’s Virtual Office of April 28.
Two regular services will be offered with 10:40 being offered as VirtualHarvest via Facebook and YouTube
All meetings will continue to be offered in person – as well as virtually
HarvestYouth will gather in person as one group
HarvestKids will be offered at 10:40, 9:00 will be emphasized as an intergenerational service (greeters, gatekeepers, and teachers will wear a facemask in classrooms)
New Normal (TBD, but possibly in September)
Groups of 250+ will likely be able to gather with new health department guidelines concerning self-quarantine principles. These will be posted in our bathrooms, classrooms, and public gathering spaces. Please see the blog of March 10, 2020.
Compass Groups and other groups will continue meeting in person, while including those who are in isolation or self-quarantine with an online option
All meetings will continue to be creative about how to include those who cannot meet in person
HarvestKids will add classes to 9:00 service - this will allow for smaller class sizes and likely not require masks of teachers, gatekeepers, or greeters
HarvestYouth will offer 2 Compass Groups