Greetings Taber E-Free Church,
Thank you for continuing to engage in life at the church during the pandemic. The past weeks have been challenging to our faith and discipleship, but we have been working to help you continue walking with Christ.
The Elders and Executive Board have been closely watching updates from the government so that we can can make informed and wise choices as we look to resume gathering together. Recently, the Alberta government issued their guidelines for churches to gather in groups of less than 50. You can see these guidelines HERE. After meeting respectively, the Elders and Executive Board have unanimously agreed that the government’s parameters for meeting remain too restrictive to resume gathering for worship services.
This is a difficult decision to arrive to, but one that the leadership believes is the best for the following reasons:
1. The current guidelines provide little benefit as a congregation
Gatherings of 50 people remain subject to a number of restrictions:
• physical distancing practices are in effect at all times
• zero contact between congregants (handshaking, etc.)
• no singing
• separate entrances and exits for all attending
• total cleaning and sanitation of the building after each use
• no Communion or food service of any kind
A worship gathering under these conditions does not fulfill what we believe to be a suitable service of worship. These kinds of gatherings would amount to guiding people into the building (while maintaining physical distancing), sitting in a physically distant place to hear one or two people speak from the front, then be directed out of a different door. Singing or other interactive participation is not permitted in any way.
When the Elders and Executive Board looked at these requirements, they came to the conclusion that there is little difference between this sort of gathering and what we are already offering online. While we cannot meet in the building, we remain delivering the regular sermon along with other readings and worship cues. This is the extent to which these Phase One guidelines allow for and provide little benefit other than some people being in the same building at the same time, which leads to the next reason.
2. Singing and interacting are important when we gather to worship
Church at Home has filled an important role in this time. We have been able to continue hearing the sermon from our own church and proceed in worship in our homes. Hearing the Word preached is crucial and important, but does not complete the experience of worship as gathered people; worship that involves singing praise to God and encouraging each other in as we gather. The Elders and Executive Board agree together that our gatherings for worship must involve singing and the ability to meaningfully interact with each other.
3. Faithful compliance remains a challenge to accomplish
The Phase One requirements also create a logistical challenge. Since our Sunday morning attendance is regularly over 200, we would need to facilitate gatherings four or five times to ensure that all of the congregation has the chance to participate. This also means that the whole building requires cleaning and sanitation between each service. The Elders and Executive Board have agreed that this requirement on volunteers and staff is too great for such a small benefit (see #1 above).
We hope that this helps you understand why we have not resumed regular worship services in this current phase of re-opening. The Elders and Executive Board continue to explore ways that we can keep ministering to the congregation. We will evaluate how our services could resume as further details are given by the province. As followers of Jesus, we remain in a position of trust in God and as examples of faith and obedience in this time. Please continue to pray for the congregation and leadership as we proceed together.
On behalf of the Elders and Executive Board,
Hal Reed (Chair of Executive Board)
Vic Klassen (Chair of Elders Board)