Like other churches around the world, our leadership teams have been in prayer and discussion regarding our return to in-person weekend services. Back in May, we made the commitment to hold off on gathering in the building until at least this fall. Since then, both the pastoral team and the church board have been regularly processing this decision. These two leadership teams have come to a consensus that we should wait until 2021 before returning to in-person weekend services. There are a number of reasons for this; here are some of the key ones:
- One of the most important reasons is that, by doing so, we are actively choosing to prioritize the health and well-being of our most vulnerable congregation members. The virus continues to impact the lives of older people and those with underlying health conditions at increased rates. We want to do everything we can to self-sacrificially love and care for this most vulnerable portion of our church family.
- If we were to begin re-gathering for weekend services while abiding by all of the current health guidelines and gathering size restrictions, this would allow only a small portion of our congregation to attend our services each week. With this realization in mind, other large churches (including our friends at the Meeting House) have come to the same decision about waiting to restart services until next year.
- Andy Stanley, the pastor of a large church in Atlanta recently brought up a point that we resonated with. We don’t want to focus only on the smaller slice of our people who would be able to attend our services each week. Instead, we want to focus on improving and expanding the many ways in which we minister online and in smaller in-person contexts. By doing so, we will be able to serve a much larger portion of our congregation.
As you can imagine, this was not an easy decision for us to make. When, exactly, in 2021 we will begin to re-gather on weekends is still an open question. Much has to do with the pattern of the virus this fall and winter, and when an effective vaccine is developed. Until then, we’re carrying on! In addition to the online ministry opportunities we’ve rolled out, some of our groups have started hosting smaller in-person gatherings, which is in line with the COVID Safety Plan that we’ve developed:
We are looking forward to the day when we can once again safely gather together for weekend services. But in the meantime, we will continue to make sure that Woodland Hills is serving our community and “being the body” during the pandemic. We hope you take advantage of our online and smaller in-person gatherings; additional ministry plans are coming together and we’ll be sharing a fall event calendar soon that includes all these opportunities. The formats may have changed, but church is still happening. We hope you join us!