Why a Hybrid In-Person and Online Worship Schedule?
This plan is a faithful effort to move forward in a way that recognizes that members of our congregation have a variety of concerns and needs. To be a part of the body of Christ is to live in the reality that we are not isolated individuals, but are rather people joined together through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Some of us are able and perfectly willing to jump back in to in-person corporate worship today; others of us are still vulnerable to the worst of the health risks and so are unable to attend; and still others of us – while able to attend, health-wise – will take some time to get comfortable attending gatherings with others for a variety of reasons. All of these are appropriate responses.
Whichever category describes you, to be a part of the body of Christ means that the needs and concerns of those in other categories matters and must be taken into account – out of love for one another (eg, Philippians 2:4). This hybrid approach recognizes that there are faithful values and needs that arise within communities of faith that are sometimes in tension with one another. As a Christian community, we value and recognize the need for embodied corporate worship – worshiping in the same space together (in ways that do not harm ourselves, our neighbors, or our communities).
And also as a Christian community, we value and recognize the need for a unified – and unifying – worship experience that proclaims we are one body in faith.
Due to the circumstances of the pandemic, these values are often in tension with one another. It is in light of all of these considerations, and as we and our wider communities continue to learn more about how to best limit the spread of the virus, that we are led to provide in-person focused worship opportunities, and also provide online focused opportunities for unifying online worship. While it is true that we have the ability for a very limited number to attend the livestream services in-person, these services are focused and designed for all to experience them online (for example, fully and vocally participating in the liturgy and the singing of hymns, which is not currently possible in-person). In this way, the entire church body is invited to participate in the same way others are invited and able to participate.*
While this is not a perfect solution, and certainly does not solve all the issues and difficulties raised by this pandemic, it is our hope that as we continue to navigate these difficult circumstances, this hybrid schedule alternating between in-person focused and online focused worship services will help us maintain unity with one another and at the same time begin to explore and find our way forward. In all of this, may each of us "look not just look to our own interests, but also to the interest of others." And in so doing, may we each "bear one another's burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ."
Grace and Peace, Pastor Kevin August, 2020
*It is also important to note that we do have a small number in our congregation who do not have internet access. The same liturgy that is being used in our services is sent to them each week, along with a copy of the sermon or reflection questions about that week's passage (the same questions Pastor Kevin is reflecting on as he writes that week's sermon).