This has been a very long week. I have spent a great deal of time praying and consulting with our leadership team, other area pastors, and our denominational leaders in an effort to determine how to best navigate the latest COVID-19 restrictions here in Washington State.
I would like to ask you to read the entire email because there is a lot of information (and a few opinions) along with our plan for at least the next four weeks.
Before I dive into all of that, I have some extremely important and urgent prayer requests that require immediate attention:
As a church and a church family, we must take careful precautions to protect ourselves, our families, and our community from the spread of COVID-19. COVID is very real and very serious. Each and every life is important, and if there is a chance that my actions may save a life I will absolutely do everything I can to protect that life, even if it means preaching in a mask. I fear though that it isn’t just the lives of those infected with COVID-19 that are at risk. The extreme damage that lockdowns are having on our community, our churches, our businesses, our families, and our neighbors is widespread and in some areas irreversible. According to the Wall Street Journal, over 100 million people are now in extreme poverty across the globe directly related to COVID-19 shutdowns. In our local community, there are people suffering in numerous ways. For some, their struggles may be financial in nature, others are struggling emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and in many other ways. Our community needs Jesus now more than ever and we can’t take our foot off the gas.
I say all of this because people matter. Relationships matter. I could go line by line through scripture and explain to you why relationships matter. We need to take safety procedures seriously, but we also need to take into consideration the mental, emotional and spiritual needs of those around us. Smartphones, social media, and entertainment will never replace real in-person relationships. They will never call you when you are standing on the edge of no return. They will never sit with you when a loved one is suffering. They will never check in on you. Going into the holidays we have to get serious about reaching out and loving our neighbor like never before.
So what are we going to do as a church moving forward? How do we navigate this complex scenario and be a light for our church and our community within the restrictions that have been placed on us? How do we keep people safe from the virus but still be present for those in need? These are not easy questions. I have spent countless hours pondering the answer to these questions over the past few months and they have consumed most of my waking thoughts this week. After careful consideration and consultation, we’re going to take the following steps to ensure that we can continue to meet in-person and do it as safely and responsibly as possible:
For the next four weeks:
It is important to note that we will still have both online and drive-in service experiences for those who are not comfortable attending service in-person for any reason.
According to the new state guidance, life groups are considered to be spiritual rather than social. This designation will allow life groups to continue meeting in-person at 25% capacity if desired. If your group needs a larger location space, the Boathouse can be made available. Please reach out to discuss scheduling.
I believe that carefully following these steps will allow us to comply with the Governor’s orders which is important. It will also allow us to continue our ministry which is even more important. Please know that these decisions have not been made lightly. We have arrived at this plan through prayerful consideration.
Our vision has always been to transform Airway Heights and the West Plains both physically and spiritually. We are deeply involved in our community and we love the people in it. We believe this is not a time to sit back, but a time to engage and find our hope in Jesus. It is a time to do everything we can to support and love our neighbors and our church members. Meeting together is an essential part of our faith. We will continue to create a welcoming environment where people can hear the hope of Jesus.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention again, if you are not feeling well, or have potentially been exposed to someone who has or could have COVID-19, please do not attend in-person services. If you are in a vulnerable category, please do not feel compelled to attend services. Caring for our neighbors starts with us. We need to make wise and responsible choices and ensure that our church and our community are protected.
With love in Christ,
Below I have included the updated advisory from the Governor we have based these adjustments on: