The staff and council are working on a plan that will provide clarity about how we will resume in-person gatherings, including worship and other activities.
The State of Minnesota continues to set guidelines that allow churches to gather when limits and precautions are in place. Our hope is to get back to a time when we can gather together again responsibly and safely. We continue to track guidelines and recommendations from government agencies, health experts and our ELCA leadership. Many churches are still choosing to proceed slowly.
There are many factors to consider as we look at resuming in-person worship including:
- Many of our members are in high-risk categories.
- Many of the traditions and activities that are part of our worship create higher risk (singing, speaking, proximity required for distributing communion even with gloves and precautions, desire to greet others even without handshakes, etc.)
- Distancing indoors (6-12 feet) and sanitizing surfaces does not eliminate the spread of aerosols throughout the space that cause infection. The longer inside, the greater the risk.
- Many of the churches around the country that have resumed worship in recent weeks have closed again after significant spread of the virus.
- Infection rates in the Twin Cities continue to fluctuate but appear to be rising again and intensive care units in hospitals are at or near capacity.
- Long-term effects of infection, even for those who recover and are younger and healthy, are still unknown. Early studies are showing side effects such as lasting damage to organs and very long recovery times.
- During its May meeting, the church council discussed this and made it clear that a more deliberate and cautious approach was preferred rather than making decisions that may be changed within a few weeks should conditions and recommendations change again.
We are working on a process over the next couple of weeks that will outline how we come back to in-person worship so that we are ready when that time comes. This includes the possibility of some outdoor opportunities and will include a way to gather online even when in-person worship fully resumes so that those who are high risk or simply not ready to return will have a comfortable option. To be clear, the full timeline for resuming in-person gatherings has not yet been determined. This plan will include incremental steps or phases that build toward fuller and more “normal” services with dates to be determined later as we move forward. From a wider vantage point and what we know about the virus, our expectation is that getting to a point when we have sustained, fuller in-person worship may be longer than many expect.
Our continuing desire is to make decisions about gathering that are based on love for our neighbor. We will consider how we will care for those who are most vulnerable, follow the best scientific and medical advice, and avoid unnecessary risk. We know that the longer this pandemic continues, the more all of us are eager to return. We know that in-person services will be very different than what we experienced before the pandemic and will require adjustments for all of us. We also believe the approach summarized above will provide the most faithful and caring path forward.
The inability to gather physically does not mean our mission and ministry are on hold. I am impressed and grateful for the work our staff has been doing to provide online worship and ministry across the generations. It is in uncertain times that we learn to rely on the guidance of God’s Spirit and love all the more. It is our faith in Christ and what God has done for us through Christ that binds us together as members of All Saints and all of the saints across time and place.
Thank you for your continued prayers and commitment to ministry at All Saints!
Pastor Jon Pederson