Dear Emmanuel Faith Family, It’s hard to believe that we are over 60 days into this COVID season. When we were asked to suspend gatherings, we never would have imagined that it would last over two months. We know there are those in our church family who have been affected by this pandemic both financially, through the illness itself, and emotionally.
We want you to know that we are here for you and want to walk with you as we navigate these tumultuous times. We are available to help both financially and through prayer; don’t hesitate to reach out if you are in need or if we can be of service to you.
In the last few days, we’ve been contacted by a number of people in our congregation who have shared their thoughts on the timing of when we should start to reopen. There are many factors and variables that are going into this process and our leadership team has been hard at work creating a pathway forward. We are blessed to have access to and guidance from professionals in the medical field who are making decisions for both the county and the military. Additionally, we are thankful for many of you who have reached out to us and shared your views; we can assure you that we are taking them into account.
There are many asking what the next steps are for us as a church. When this all began, we said we wanted to choose to operate with wisdom and faith. That has not changed. We have been and will continue to proceed using the same lens. Let me explain how that is currently playing out and how we plan on proceeding.
First, as we read scripture, we see clearly that we are commanded to obey our governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7). As mentioned above, we have been blessed with the support of professionals in the medical field to help guide us through these uncertain times and have chosen to obey the government’s mandate to cease in-person gatherings. Our current approach is to follow their plan for reopening and we are strategizing within the currently prescribed guidelines. If there comes a time when we as a church body determine that we need to challenge the government mandates as instructed to “obey God over men” (Acts 5:29), then our course of action may change.
Secondly, we have been active in meeting with our governing officials, and are part of a group from North County that will have a proposal on the governor’s desk this week that calls for moving churches into Phase 2 of the reopening plan. We are hopeful that he will be amicable to the proposal. We should have a response within a week.
Currently, we are envisioning our reopening in stages. Stage 1 is to continue to have church online. We’re grateful for the positive feedback and the way people have been encouraged through our online services. Stage 2 will be to mobilize and organize in-home watch parties. We will do this as soon as we’re able to start meeting in small groups. Stage 3 will be groups of limited size meeting on our church campus. We are currently working on the structure and logistics of those gatherings. Stage 4 will be large scale gatherings back on campus. Believe me, our staff and elders are ready to be back worshipping together. We know that this has been hard on you and assure you that it has been a very difficult season for us as well. We see gathering for worship as one of our main functions as a church; one that we are commanded to practice (Hebrews 10:24-25).
One of the challenges we face is that even when we are able to meet in person, it’s going to be different for a time. We are going to have to maintain social distance, we’ll have to wear masks at certain points, and there will be a limited number of people who can be together in the same space. For a time, it’s going to be a far cry from what we left. I tell you that so your expectations are set for us not getting “back to normal” right when we’re able to meet on campus. However, please keep in mind that you are the church. We are the church. Our facility is a great tool for the gospel, but you carry the Spirit and bring the Good News wherever you go!
Finally, and I think this is heaviest on my heart today, I want to call us to unity. There are a number of differing opinions on how this pandemic should be handled, and I can see validity on all sides of the argument. There are two different ways as a church family that we could pursue unity. The first is to all agree on how we proceed. Having talked to many of you who have very differing opinions, that’s most likely not going to happen. The other way we can unify is around love. We can choose to stick together even though we have differing opinions. We can choose to love one another even though we don’t agree. We can choose to let love (the settled intention to will the good of others) be the virtue and ethos that binds us together (Colossians 3:14). I pray that we, that you, will choose to unify around the way of love.
Please continue to pray for our elders and leadership team as we seek to navigate and lead through a very difficult situation. Thank you for your continued support and partnership in the Gospel. If you feel like there is something we’re missing, or if you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Grace + Peace,
Lead Pastor Ryan Paulson and Elder Board Chairman Rich Bell