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Regathering Process

Kitchen Table Conversation on Regathering and Re-entry

A Note from Peter

Many of you have asked, “Why hasn’t First Pres been meeting in-person to worship?  Other churches have been doing it, so why haven’t we?”  Throughout the last year, our church has attempted to balance two primary, and competing, values pertaining to the life of our church, and these two values continue to be the twin pillars that have guided the Session’s decision-making as it relates to in-person gathered worship...

  1. Pursuing our call to glorify God above anything else by valuing gathered worship as one of the most essential aspects in the life of faith, and valuing the connectivity of our congregation; and
  2. Demonstrating Christ-like sacrificial love for our congregation, our staff, and our community – especially the most vulnerable and at-risk – by honoring the medically-informed and government-issued guidelines that have limited our ability to gather to worship and connect.

In May 2020, the Session of our church voted that First Pres would wait until Gov. Cooper moved NC to Phase 3 of reopening before our church would consider regathering for worship in person.  This meant we were choosing to value caution and sacrificial love over gathered worship and connectivity.  Still, our staff worked diligently and tirelessly to create alternative ways for our congregation to worship and connect, both virtually and in-person outdoors.  Gathered worship and congregational fellowship have (we believe rightly) taken a backseat to safety, caution, and love of neighbor for the past year.

However, I’m pleased to report that last Monday night, the Session approved a multi-phase regathering proposal.  Since Covid numbers have been dropping significantly in recent weeks, and the vaccine is beginning to be distributed widely, in consultation with our Health Advisory Team, we believe that now is the right time for us to begin to regather for in-person worship on a limited basis and with strict safety protocols in place.

  • 1. The Sanctuary will be open for hour-long time blocks on Wednesday during Lent so folks can come and be in the sanctuary to read and pray. We know that space is important for many of you in your expression of worship and feeling near to God, and we want to make that available for you
  • 2. On 3/21 we will offer in person worship to the congregation at large at the 11 am worship service. A maximum of 100 people can come, and registration and masks will be required, along with other safety protocols. We will be doing a soft-opening of gathered worship in the Worship Center at 11 am on 3/14 for the sake of working out the wrinkles and getting feedback so we can troubleshoot any problems. Elders, staff, and volunteers will be the only ones invited to this soft opening.
  • 3. On Easter 4/4 we will offer two identical worship services at 8 and 11 in the worship center for 100 people at each service. Sorry for the early start of the first service, but we need to allow time in between the services to sanitize the space and make it ready for the second service.
  • 4. We will continue to live stream the services even after we begin to regather. We know this has become a meaningful opportunity for many of you to worship with us who would otherwise be unable to join us for health and other reasons.

Of course, all of this is contingent on the Covid trends continuing to decline and the numbers of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths going down or at least remaining stable.  The doctors in our church who serve on the Health Advisory Team remain positive and confident that we are heading in the right direction, but we all know we have to hold these plans loosely.  If there is a spike again in the numbers, we may need to alter our plans.  Let’s pray the good trends continue.

We know all of you are eager to get back together for fellowship and discipleship, and we are working hard to put plans in place for expanded opportunities for discipleship programming after Easter.  Stay tuned for those details.  We’ll let you know as plans develop.

There is one other matter I want to talk about.  As we re-enter, we all need to realize things won’t be like they were before.  Covid-19 has changed our world in profound ways, and we will need to adjust our lives and our expectations to accommodate the challenges we face going forward.  100 people in the worship center won’t feel like the Christmas Eve candlelight service when it’s packed.  Wearing masks and having your temperature taken before you enter the worship service will feel rather clinical.  And having to social distance and not being able to linger indoors to socialize will be hard on all of us.  But it’s what we need to do to keep everyone safe and love our neighbors well.  And I know you will rise to the challenge.

I’ve missed seeing all of you, and it has been a long journey through this pandemic.  But God is with us, and He will see us through.  You are a resilient congregation, and I have every confidence that God is going to bless this church’s worship and witness in the days ahead in wonderful ways.  Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfector of our faith.  He is able even when we’re not, and we can lean on Him and each other.  Amen.