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Restoring a "New Normal"

Restoring a "New Normal"

What have we learned?
I think it would be nearly impossible for us to have our lives so dramatically disrupted and not learn some things about this world, ourselves, and what God calls us to as his people.  We’ve learned about epidemiology (even if you don’t know what that word means, trust me, you’ve learned something about it).  We’ve learned about how difficult some of the decisions our governing leaders have made and how important it is to be praying for them.  We’ve gotten a glimpse into some of the risks that our front-line workers face every day, and hopefully we’ve learned something about ourselves.  We’ve learned how God has created us for community. We’ve learned the value of corporate worship.  We’ve had idols and sins exposed, and I trust that you’ve learned something about the love and grace and mercy of God through it all.
As we seek to guide the church through this, we are learning and trying to figure this all out along with you.  Thank you for your grace and patience in it with us.
What does the road ahead look like? 
There have been numerous challenges that COVID-19 and the social distancing have brought upon us.  One of the more unsettling ones is the sense of ambiguity of what the days ahead may look like.  On Friday, April 17th, President Trump and the CDC unveiled their Opening Up America plan that provides guidelines for States to implement a phased comeback.  At this point, Governor Brown is drafting a plan that seems to generally follow President Trump’s guidelines.  Her plan has two proposed changes that will impact us.  First, Oregon will likely “re-open” on a county by county basis with the lowest risk counties opening first.  Second, Governor Brown has greater restrictions on “large venue” gatherings (such as corporate church services) that will likely delay any possible large-church gathering until “Phase 2”.  In both plans those that are considered “vulnerable” will have the time of “sheltering in place” extended longer than others (until Phase 3).  Additionally, Oregon, Washington and California have formed a Coalition to open their states together, and at this point I’m not clear how much impact the other States will have on Governor Brown’s plan.
There are specific criteria that must be met before moving into a phased “re-opening.”  Those are well-articulated in the articles, so I won’t speak to those here, but will try to summarize them as they impact what we are able to do here at Creekside.
As you know, things are changing all the time.  We have based our predictions going forward on Governor Brown’s more restrictive proposals, but at this point they are all simply informed guesses!  This is what we are thinking now:
Possibly Mid-May or June: 
Phase I:  To begin phasing in a re-opening of a county two main things need to be in place.  There needs to be a reduction in cases for a 14 day period and our hospitals need to be able to treat all patient and provide “robust testing” to front line workers.  Once those benchmarks are met Phase I can be begun.   The following guidelines have been proposed:

  • Social Gatherings of up to 10 people may be resumed
  • “Vulnerable Individuals” are asked to continue to “Shelter in Place.”
  • “Large Venue” gatherings like our corporate worship service will likely remained closed. (Oregon is proposing a greater restriction than the Federal Guidelines.)

Creekside’s Proposal in Phase 1: 

  • Continue to minister to the church through our MC’s, regularly evaluating the effectiveness of what we are doing.
  • Encourage MC’s to add an additional meeting with groups of less than 10 (perhaps gender-specific group meetings to minimize child impact).
  • Begin to prepare for the potential of a larger gathering.
    • Put in place the necessary sanitation procedures and precautions
    • Create and place the necessary signage
    • Brainstorm ways to accommodate children in the service
    • Plan for “social distancing” seating
    • Discuss issues surrounding group size limitations and multiple services
    • Establish live-streaming option for the “vulnerable individuals”

Phase II (at a minimum of 14 days after Phase 1, likely longer):  If a region doesn’t show any signs of a rebound, and meets the initial criteria again (reduction in cases for 14 days and hospital testing  and treatment capacity) they can move into Phase 2.

  • Social Gatherings may increase to 50 people
  • Vulnerable Individuals are asked to continue to “shelter in place”.
  • Federal guidelines allow for larger venue gatherings like churches can operate under “moderate” physical distancing protocols. “Moderate” has not yet been defined, but likely will included increased sanitation and precautions.
  • Provide “Live streaming” for those still sheltering in place.

Creekside’s Proposal

  • Resume normal Missional Community gatherings for groups that are able.
  • Continue zoom meetings with groups that have vulnerable populations in them (or a hybrid).
  • Re-establish Sunday corporate worship in some way (possibly with multiple and shortened services to accommodate children and social distancing requirements).

What Posture should we have in the days to come? 
We are faced with an unprecedented time where we need to prayerfully, wisely, and boldly think through how we posture ourselves to advance the gospel, not retreat into self-protection.  The Apostle Paul tells us this in Ephesians:

Ephesians 5:15–17 (NASB95)
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Hannah Nation recently wrote this good and thought-provoking article about the call on the church in these days.  In it she said:

“…when I read the ancient words of bishop Dionysius describing how the church responded during the plague of his day—“Heedless of danger . . . they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need”—something burns inside me to move beyond sharing links to church services on Instagram. What are the next actions we can take?”

That’s a great question.  What are the next actions you can take

…in your own obedience to him?

…in serving and loving those around you both inside and outside the church?

…in making the gospel clear through your words and actions?

…in trusting God’s strength to work in your weakness?

Let us make the most of the time, for the days are evil.