Plan for the Resumption of “In-Person” Gatherings

The following represents the text of an email which was sent to all members and regular attenders of Autumn Ridge Community Church. Should you have questions about any of the material contained below, simply send an email to INFO@AutumnRidgeCommunityChurch.com.

Dear Autumn Ridge Family,

As succinctly as I can, I want to outline our church’s plan to take steps towards resuming public (“In-Person”) worship gatherings. A quick update for the landscape of our region/nation as it relates to COVID-19:

  • Georgia’s “Shelter-in-Place” order expired for most Georgians on April 30. However, elderly Georgians (65+ – not my words, the Governor’s 😀 ), those with compromised auto-immune responses, those with pre-existing conditions, etc. are ordered to continue sheltering in place until June 12 (on which date Georgia’s Public Health State of Emergency is set to expire).
  • The CDC’s present recommendation to cancel/postpone gatherings of 50+ people continues into the week following Mother’s Day (May 10). 
  • At the time of writing (Saturday), Gilmer County’s COVID-19 incidence rate is climbing more steeply than surrounding counties (73 total cases at the time of writing). 

In accordance with these realities, we do not have a firm date upon which we are planning to resume public, “in-person” worship gatherings. We are praying that we will be able to do so as soon as possible, but I am hesitant to plan for an exact date because:

  • We want to honor our nation’s civil authorities as they seek to do good for our nation’s population (the very purpose of civil authority – Romans 13). This includes honoring future CDC recommendations which may be enacted/extended, as well as following social-distancing protocols when we do resume gatherings. More clarity is needed as to the “WHEN” and the “WHAT (additional measures will be required of us)” before knowing our timeline.
  • Owing to the fact that we want to resume public gatherings just as soon as possible, there will likely be segments of our church family that will be unable or uncomfortable gathering with us “in the flesh” when we do resume assembling together on Sunday mornings. We think we have purchased all of the equipment necessary to not only pre-record worship gatherings (our current MO), but also to livestream (i.e. during a public, Sunday morning gathering for those shut-in at home). However, we need time to test, work out the kinks, etc. so as to best serve our entire body.

BUT – even with an ongoing delay to the resumption of our corporate, Sunday morning worship gatherings, we are taking steps NOW to begin providing opportunities for our portions of our body to BE TOGETHER in health-conscious, socially-distant ways. The attached graphic illustrates a four-phase process we plan to adopt moving forward. While we are unsure of the exact pace/timing with which these phases will be adopted, I am happy to report that PHASE 1 (small gatherings) is officially underway!

PHASE #1: We have plans to facilitate bite-sized gatherings within our church family (~10 people or less) beginning immediately. These small gatherings will take place in two-forms:

  • Beginning THIS THURSDAY (May 7), we will welcome a limited number of people/households to join us for our taping of the Sunday AM Worship Gathering. You won’t be able to hug one another or sit closer than 6ft. to one another, but you will be able to sing along with hymns, hear God’s Word proclaimed (LIVE, and likely in multiple takes ), and smile at brothers and sisters in Christ. Email Me or Text Me if you’re interested in joining!
  • Our Missional Community leaders are also working to facilitate multiple 2-3 household “watch parties” within each MC. Reach out to your MC leader if a) you’d like to host one, or b) if you want to be sure to be included in one! And if you’re not yet part of an MC, be sure to reach out to me so that I can help you connect!

Future phases, which we will resume as we are able, include:

  • PHASE #2: Missional Communities will resume their in-person gatherings at various times/places throughout the community.
  • PHASE #3: Missional Communities will participate in MC-Wide “Watch Parties” on Sunday Ams (as their people are able). These gatherings will provide great opportunities to connect with un-churched folks in our respective neighborhoods.
  • PHASE #4: We will resume Sunday AM gatherings under whatever “new normal” social-distancing protocols are recommended at that time. 

I believe that our Missional Communities – and with them, our church’s ability to know and serve the lost and un-churched people in our neighborhoods – will grow stronger than ever as a result of this four-phase plan. I am grateful for God’s sovereignty in redeeming all sorts of circumstances for his glory!

Call, text, or email if you have questions for me. And please be sure to reach out to your MC leaders for your MC’s specific plans moving forward!

In great anticipation of our future together 🙂

-Davis Lacey

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