Reopening Update Summary – June 5, 2020
Hello Grace Family,
When is Grace Fellowship reopening? Well… we are never reopening because we’ve never closed. This isn’t semantics; it’s Biblical truth. The church is the people of God, not a physical structure (1 Corinthians 3:16, Acts 17:24). Grace Fellowship is alive and well, letting our lives be our ministry wherever we go – our ministry never limited to physical structures we call “church buildings.”
Yet, we miss seeing our Grace family in person and look forward to the day we see one another again. So, while we will never “reopen,” when will we regather in our buildings?
Regathering in Grace Fellowship Buildings
During Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing on Wednesday, May 20, he announced that beginning Thursday, May 21, religious organizations can have gatherings of up to 10 people while following social distancing guidelines.
As of Thursday, June 4, we do not have any additional information from our governing authorities regarding when gathering restrictions with lift, social distancing guidelines will ease, or if and how New York State’s phased reopening plan will impact religious organizations.
So, where does this leave us? With the limited information available to us, Grace Fellowship must exercise patience and wisdom and has opted, at least as of June 4, to not set a physical regathering date or open our buildings for gatherings of 10 or less throughout the week. We don’t believe it wise to make a bold declaration about a date we’ll regather in our facilities again, when we simply do not have the data to guarantee that promise.
Even as gathering allowances increase, it is unlikely we will reopen hastily. We’re learning from churches who’ve reassembled across the country that a speedy regathering doesn’t result in the enthusiastic and joy-filled services congregants may expect. Rather, churches have found themselves relatively empty, as their people prefer to only engage in large-group experiences slowly and after an abundance of caution. We hope to learn from other’s experiences, rather than repeat them. To open our doors before we’re permitted to meet close to or at full capacity, we would need to severely limit our activity to abide by social distancing guidelines and keep our congregation healthy. Imagine no hugs or conversations in the lobby, only holy waves. Four chairs between individuals and families. Voices muffled behind masks during worship. No children’s ministry. Limited capacity in each of our services, meaning we’d have to turn people away. Can you imagine rejecting someone who doesn’t know Jesus Christ at our door? We can’t.
Our team is evaluating updated New York State guidelines daily; and when we do get the information we need to set a regathering date, we will move forward prudently and decisively.
Regathering in Grace Family Homes
While we cannot regather in our buildings at this time, we strongly encourage the Grace family to gather in homes. Watch Grace at Home services online. Discuss it over lunch. Engage fully in meaningful relationships. Acts chapter 2 says the early Christians met in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Since the early church did this, let’s model that same kind of fellowship during this time of uncertainty and transition.
Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
We can imagine readers will have a variety of responses to this announcement depending on your life experiences. The topic of “reopening church” has very quickly become an emotional and politicized issue on a national scale. On Friday, May 22, President Trump ordered states to reopen churches. Amongst some of the brightest political minds in our country, this has sparked a heated debate on the Constitutional power of the Executive branch of our government and the power of individual states. On the basest, most practical level, this debate has not resulted in clear, unilateral legislation regarding whether it is safe and reasonable for churches to regather in every state.
This debate has also caused division, and in some cases, animosity, between followers of Jesus Christ who hold different convictions regarding how churches should interact with local and national governments, the importance of brick and mortar buildings, and how intimately churches should align themselves with social movements.
Grace Fellowship family, there is absolutely a place for healthy debate. But, we implore you, please, do not allow the intensity of public debate to cause you to hate or resent fellow believers who may believe differently from you. Keep the main thing the main thing.
Grace Fellowship is the church home of Democrats, Republicans, and a host of other political affiliations. We have doctors and nurses who are, as we speak, working one-on-one with COVID-19 patients. We have immunocompromised and vulnerable populations whom we deeply desire to protect. We have business owners who are doing everything they can to keep their employees employed. We are a beautiful and diverse community jam-packed with a variety of convictions, backgrounds, and opinions…and we LOVE this Grace family.
Let’s extend grace and compassion to one another during these unprecedented times and trust that God is truly sovereign and has a plan that will prevail despite COVID-19.
More Information to Come
Please regularly check in to gracefellowship.com, our social media pages, and our weekly email. We will continue to post updates as we have them over the coming weeks and months.
And in the meantime, since God lives in YOU rather than in buildings made by human hands, let’s keep on BEING THE CHURCH. Our mission is as relevant as it ever has been. MORE AND BETTER DISCIPLES. Grace Fellowship is alive and well. The church is still the church. COVID-19 hasn’t stopped God from working in and through the Grace family and in our world.
Grace Fellowship Staff