If you were able to join us for Sunday’s worship service on YouTube two Sunday's ago, you heard me present what I understand to be the clear teaching of Scripture when it comes to submission to government and some of the limits God’s word puts on that submission. If you didn’t hear that message, you can either find it on our YouTube link at www.mosaicspokane.com or, if you prefer the cliff notes version, just click the Latest Message title (at the bottom of the page) “Submission TO & Stewardship OF Government” (not the “Notes” tab next to it which are the PowerPoint slides).
While that message may not be the most inspirational I’ve ever preached, it may well be the most important. In all my years of ministry, nothing of the magnitude of what is unfolding in our State, nation and world today has ever happened. At sixty-three years of age, I’ve lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of JFK & MLK, the Vietnam War, the fall of the Soviet Union, 9-11, both Gulf Wars and not a few other national and international crises along the way.
None of those events have come even close to either the short or long-term impacts that the COVID-19 crisis has had and will continue to have on the life of the church whether that’s in China, Russia, Europe, Africa or, yes, Spokane in the U.S. of A. While I’m genuinely concerned about the immediate health risks the corona virus poses to our nation and State, I’m far more concerned with both the immediate and long-term spiritual health risks unfolding presently.
Many of our brothers and sisters at Mosaic live alone. Many do not have access to the internet so have not been able to participate with us in any of the dozens of Zoom prayer meetings, Bible studies and Worship Services we have had over the last two months. Many do not have cars. In effect, they have been isolated from contact with other believers for over two months now with no promise of an end in sight.
For those of us who live in families or have housemates, the isolation may not be so severe. But it is still having serious relational, emotional and spiritual consequences. Individuals, marriages, children and families are struggling as never before while not being allowed to meet in anything but electronic gatherings. Mental health issues of depression, anxiety, fear, anger, loneliness, panic attacks, suicidal tendencies and much more are definitely on the rise. The State is telling us that their concession of “drive-in services” and “Zoom small groups” to our “non-essential” church ministries should be sufficient for us. The leadership of Mosaic thinks otherwise.
Some of the questions we all need to wrestle with in this present crisis are things like, “What really does it mean to BE the church?” “Can we be the church in isolation from each other indefinitely?” “Can we obey Christ while continuing indefinitely to ‘forsake the assembling together of ourselves’ (c.f. Hebrew 10:24, 25)?” “How can we best love one another and our neighbors in a pandemic like this?” “What will failing to fellowship, minister to and with each other, pray for each other, worship together or study the Bible together for months on end do to people’s spiritual and mental health?” “What is being driven by fear of possible illness and death teaching our children and grandchildren about the nature of life, death, ministry, worship, wisdom, church, fellowship, faith and much more?”
These and many other reasons are why Mosaic will be opening for ministry again over the next couple of weeks.
Before you stop reading, let me tell you precisely what will be our health procedures going forward in order to protect everyone involved to the maximal level possible. And let me remind you that exercising both our God-given calling to be the church in real-time as well as our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms ensuring “the free exercise” of religion and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” (see the 1st Amendment to our Constitution) is not requiring anyone to participate. We are simply making church ministry available again to those who are able and want to engage in it.
As I mentioned Sunday, going to church now that the “curve has been flattened” and we have ample medical capacity for treating ongoing cases should not become a reason for division among God’s people. Yes, we can hold differing opinions and dialogue passionately about this. But, no, we should not allow this or any secondary-type issues divide our fellowship or quench our love for each other. Those who chose to stay home should not judge those who decide to attend… just as those who attend should not judge those who stay home for sound medical reasons. We will all answer to God for our individual choices and many of us may have to answer to government for those choices.
So, before I give you the health procedures we are instituting, let me remind you of two critical decisions you will need to make if you decide to participate in person in ministry at Mosaic prior to Phase 3 of the Governor’s plan.
First, we DO NOT ENCOURAGE you to attend if any of the following situations apply to you:
- You have underlying or ongoing medical conditions that could compromise you if you contacted COVID-19.
- You are in the senior age demographic (65+) and are concerned about contracting COVID-19.
- You are unwilling to expose yourself to a somewhat increased exposure risk to COVID-19 by being around non-family members.
Second, since our restarting prior to Phase 3 of the Governor’s plan could result in a fine or citation for us as a church or even possibly individuals, you probably should not come unless you are willing to submit to governmental penalties for disobeying the Governors Proclamation 20-25 and successive Stay Home-Stay Healthy Proclamations. While our Mayor and Sheriff have both stated they are “educating, not citing” any public violations of those proclamations, we can never predict all the possible consequences for civil disobedience. So as your Pastor I want you to know there are possible actions others might take in response to our reopening.
Now to the health procedures we will implement when we reopen. They are as follows:
- To stay under 50 people in the entire building at a time, we will offer 3 worship services on the hour Sunday mornings at 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. They will be 40-45 minute services with 15 minutes in between to reclean and reset the area used.
- We’ll use Eventbrite.com to take up to 40 reservations for each service in advance. We encourage you to obtain a free ‘ticket’ for the service of your choosing. Simply go to the following links depending on the service you wish to attend. Links will be good for 6 weeks at least.
- We will cap the sanctuary area seating at 50 people total in our newly expanded Worship area.
- Entrance will be through front double doors, propped open; Exit will be through both side doors (parking lot or Howard St.), also propped open and manned by staff.
- Bathroom and chair cleaning will take place after each individual use.
- Communion will be served individually to each household seating group on trays handled only by trained volunteers/staff.
- Offering boxes will be available at the exits.
- If people wish to fellowship before or after the services, that will have to be done on the street or in the parking lot outside the building.
NOTE: We will continue to offer live-feed of our first service (9:00 a.m. starting May 24th) on our website www.mosaicspokane.com for those who prefer that option. Out of respect for our local public officials, we will also be informing the Mayor’s Office and our County Sheriff the week prior to relaunching.
We welcome your questions and thoughts on all this and look forward to seeing you all in-person when you are led of the Lord to return to services and groups.