May 27, 2020
Dear Chapel Hill Family,
I want you to know that we have felt your engagement in our online worship and prayer services over these past weeks and all the other social media content we have been able to post. We know the online service will be a part of our worship experience now going forward and our communications and worship teams have made tremendous strides and continue to improve those worship experiences so they are meaningful ways to connect with our community and more importantly with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The BIG question that we began to address with our leadership teams a couple of weeks ago is - when will we reopen for in-person worship and programs? Our staff and lay leaders will be meeting further in the next couple of weeks, and I would love your input in advance of those meetings. Would you please take a couple of minutes to answer a brief survey, after reading the body of this letter, related to when and how you would rejoin us for in-person worship? Please complete the survey by Sunday evening, May 31st, so we have time to compile the results for our leadership teams.
Two things that have guided the discussion of our leadership teams are: What will allow us to connect best with all our church family, both those who have traditionally attended in-person and our new online congregation in the most meaningful ways, and what is the most caring way we can engage with the congregation -which includes major consideration for the safety of the most at risk by age and health issues? We have outlined a number of possible measures that will need to be in place as we move beyond Phase 1, which was closure, toward Phase 2 which is partial re-opening of the facility for worship. The implementation of Phase 2 will determine how and when we will move into other phases throughout the summer.
As the shepherd of this body, I would encourage us to remember our Wesleyan heritage and the General Rules which John Wesley gave to the early frontier Methodists: Do No Harm, Do Good, and attend to the ordinances. The first rule “Do No Harm” is key to how we move into this next phase. A colleague of mine said something that is very important to me as I think about my role in all of this process, “I would rather open a few weeks later than to open a day too early.” I care deeply about each one of you and want us to do nothing that would endanger any or all of you by putting you in a high-risk situation.
We are very aware of what our state and federal government officials have said about green lighting churches to open, and our Bishop has given us guidance about how to open and encouraged us not to open until at least June 7th. We will adhere to the Bishop’s guidelines as we start to reopen in Phase 2. A great article, from the Florida Annual Conference, about the unique nature of reopening churches will be in the Friday enews, and I hope it will offer you insight into this process.
I will share with you the results of the survey and the decision of our leaders regarding reopening in-person worship and programs in our building within the next couple of weeks.
I want to thank you again for your amazing faithfulness and remind you we serve an awesome God who is greater than all of this – and some days we all struggle to remember that most important belief. See you in worship (online!) this weekend!
Grace and Peace,
An "apprentice shepherd" to The Shepherd