Returning to In-Person Gatherings

Dear ones,

It is with joy, and a healthy dose of fear, that I write to invite you into the next phase of gathering ourselves back together again.  With fear, because the risks of COVID-19 are still real and it will take time to heal and reshape our community.  With joy, because the thought of being among you and hearing the noises of people in the building causes my heart to leap!

Effective immediately, we are happy to welcome visitors and guests back to the property in what we’re calling a “soft re-opening”.  Our staff look forward to greeting you, hosting small meetings or chatting over a summer beverage on the new back patio. In time we hope to invite back many of our regular users, both SJU groups and our community partners.  If you or someone you know wants to host a group or gathering, please contact the church office for more information.

To make this possible and free from too much confusion, we are still requiring the use of masks and distancing in common areas.  This will make it possible to invite people back into social life, amidst our varied circumstances and concerns.  There are some exceptions explained in our Property Use & Gathering Guidelines, such allowance for small casual outdoor hang outs, and limited use of Vaccinated-Only Sections where masking won’t be required. 

There will be multiple opportunities to gather this summer, including worship in the parking lot on the last Sunday of each month and weekly Thursday evening Table Talks at 6:30pm on zoom.  We’re even working on an adapted Summer Concert Series!  See our Summer Worship & Events Schedule for more information. 

On the last Sunday of each summer month, we will worship outside in the parking lot. On all other Sundays, beginning June 6th, we will invite small numbers of people into the sanctuary, stream worship to our YouTube channel and host Fellowship Time outside starting at 11:30am.  We hope to open for all who wish to worship in the sanctuary in July.  Pro tip: you don’t have to attend worship before Fellowship Hour, which makes this a great time to invite guests!

As we ease into re-gathering, I invite you to take a playful and curious approach to finding your place again.  You can also help us by indicating your interest in participating by taking this poll. We’re not asking for commitments, but rather preferences that will help our planning. Nathan, Victoria and I are happy to answer questions and accompany you in discerning how you want to engage.

When in doubt:

Foster inclusion, not exclusion.

Extend grace and some extra space.

Move at your own pace.

For some, this new phase will feel like a sudden jarring change and for others it may seem too restrictive. One of the beautiful things to me about “the church” is that we not only recognize that diversity, but we celebrate it.  In Acts 2:44 we hear that the early believers “held all things in common….“ I’ve always heard both challenge and promise in these words. They speak of both my deepest longings for Beloved Community, where everyone’s needs are provided for and no one is left behind, and the complexity struggle of actually living in such a communal way. 

These days, sharing common air still comes with some risk, but the Spirit is also still stirring us to live deeply into the promise made known in these words. We are ready to gather again, and be in common space again, in part because we have practices the safe protocols that we now know work to slow the spread of disease.  . Let’s continue to greet each other with a kind word, rather than a handshake. In doing so, we can begin to enjoy some of the other practices in-person that we have so missed.  We can sing, break bread and simply be in each other’s presence. 

God is working among us at St. John United to create a more just and inclusive world. Let us hold in common our mutual concern for one another. It may be slow work, requiring simultaneous restraint and generosity, but it is also sacred work. The good news is that while we may still be called to practice some restraint, for now we can also do it with a precious laugh and a song. 

Your sibling in Christ,

Pastor Anna

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