As the Coronavirus situation evolves, we want to keep you informed about how we are making decisions to move forward, and how we hope to work our way back to a more normal church experience. Our church leadership has been having regular discussions about next steps, and we want to react out of wisdom not pressure, self-sacrifice not self-interest, and faith not fear.
One major decision we want to let you know about is that we plan to wait to hold in-person weekend services until at least this fall.
This feels like a significant loss, but we feel it’s the best choice given the state of our community. Below are some more details that will hopefully help explain this difficult decision:
Best for Woodland
Our current context is brand new for churches and there are a number of well-thought out, good-intentioned, but different perspectives about the best way forward. It’s also the unfortunate reality that we live in an extremely polarized society, but this decision should not be seen as a political statement. We have been looking at other churches and organizations to learn from their experiences and we have sought counsel to help us make informed choices. This decision seems best for Woodland Hills, but we don’t presume to know what’s best for other churches.
On a practical level we’ve needed to consider how we would potentially re-open our building safely. As nearly everyone knows, the standard recommendation is for a six foot “bubble” around each person or family unit in public spaces. This would have to be in effect not only in our Worship Center but also in restrooms and entry/exit points. Even with these precautions and others like cleaning surfaces, wearing masks and handwashing, we would only be able to fill roughly 20% of our Worship Center for a weekend service. Logistically this means we would have to create some sort of reservation system across an increased number of services, which would also require extra volunteers. Under these restrictions it would be difficult to create a meaningful experience for the majority of people who normally attend Woodland Hills.
This is a loss
We recognize that waiting months to come to “regular” church will be very hard on many levels: spiritual, relational and emotional. Many of us are longing to see our friends, sing together, exchange hugs and bring our kids to Heroes Gate. We may be growing tired and frustrated. So we encourage you to lament these losses, and then to persevere in patience and hope. Continue to be creative in the ways you connect and serve.
For this summer, we are exploring how we might begin hosting smaller and/or outdoor events, and in that way, slowly turn up the volume and increase our capacity as we follow evolving recommendations from health officials.
Church online = living out love
We’re encouraged at how our streamed services have been working relatively well as a placeholder for gathering in person. The good news is that we will continue offering our services online even after we begin the process of inviting people back into the building, so that both those who are uncomfortable attending in person as well as our podrishioners in other parts of the world can continue to join us! We hope you’ve been taking advantage of the online services and the other ways our ministries have moved online.
Our first priority is to express the love of the Kingdom, and right now it seems the best way to do that is by making these sacrifices for the sake of each other and our community. Our goal is to put our neighbors above ourselves, caring for the vulnerable and the “least of these.” Because we believe every life has unsurpassable worth, we are striving to protect others, even at a cost to ourselves.
The Church has never been here before, but the Church has faced obstacles to meeting together before, and each time we have found a way to love. The Church has met underground when under persecution. The Church has met under trees when there were no buildings. And now the Church is still finding a way to meet. No virus will defeat the reality of our unity in Christ, through the Holy Spirit! So take heart: we are simply the latest in a long tradition of people following Jesus in all sorts of strange and difficult circumstances. Let us be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Please contact us with any questions or concerns you have. We are here for you and want to come alongside you in any way possible.
The leadership boards and staff of Woodland Hills Church