Update from Pastor Mark – Mission || Safety || Stages
June 7, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thank you to all who submitted surveys communicating your perspectives as we discern our steps and pace toward re-opening our church building and returning to in-person worship services and gatherings. With about 200 surveys submitted, the results were much like other surveys seen in our state with around 70% saying they are cautious about returning to in-person gatherings and that they expect Salem to be. About 8% desired an immediate return and others were somewhere in between. As we move forward, of course, we are not only considering the survey, but also the ongoing guidance of the CDC, the MN Department of Health, and the Governor’s changing orders regarding Faith Community gatherings.
Looking ahead, three words continue to be central to our decision-making:
- Mission – We are committed to fulfilling Salem’s mission of leading people to Connect with God, God’s people, and God’s purpose, to Grow as faithful, fruitful disciples of Jesus Christ, and to Go into life and ministry sharing the grace of God with the world.
- Safety – We are committed to the safety and well-being of our congregation and neighbors.
- Stages – We are committed to moving forward in stages to the re-opening of our church building and to in-person worship services and other ministry activities.
We are currently in Stage 1 of moving toward the re-opening of our church building and of in-person worship services and other ministry activities. As previously noted, June will be a time of beginning to allow small in-person gatherings (10 or less people) on a case-by-case basis.
- Policies and procedures are being developed by our Covid-19 management team and these are being tested and tweaked as groups meet.
- Livestreaming our worship services when we return to in-person worship in our church building is a high priority. We are committed to making our services available for all who want to be a part of them even if they are unable or do not think it wise to be physically present. We are making a significant investment in equipment and staffing so that we can livestream our worship services well, in a way that enhances and does not diminish our worship experience. Any who feel led to contribute to this project are, of course, invited to do so.
- Stage 2 may be possible for us to begin this July. This would include inviting larger in-person gatherings. While this potentially might include offering in-person worship services in our building, our next step in July may be offering an outdoor in-person acoustical worship gathering first, before we begin celebrating indoor services together. If so, these outdoor gatherings would not replace our Traditional and Contemporary services but would offer an additional opportunity for those who would like to gather in-person with others.
We are planning for in-person worship yet want to be clear that even with the lessening of the Governor’s restrictions, we are not quite ready to take that step. Thank you for your patience. We are aware that legal restrictions are being lessened and, at the same time, are mindful that most of the cautions and guidelines of the CDC and medical experts have not changed much. The wave of infections has flattened to some degree and the number of ICU beds and related equipment available has increased, yet it is far from evident that the contagious and dangerous nature of the virus has decreased. It is hard not to simply dive in more quickly. We struggle with the fact that there will be many who will disagree with the pace of Salem’s return to in-person worship no matter what pace we choose, fast or slower.
Our thanks to our Covid-19 Management Team for their ongoing guidance and work. This team is led by Pastor Alice Johnson and includes medical experts like Dr. Mark Klein. With their assistance, our Leadership Team is working to discern when and how we can return to being together in our church building. Though we can’t possibly get the timing of all this just right, you can be sure these decisions are being made prayerfully, carefully, and courageously by people who are deeply committed to God, our mission, and our congregation.
Thank you for your willingness to tolerate the discomfort of being a part of a community of people who, though we share a deep common commitment, also inevitably have varying perspectives on the steps ahead. We celebrate all we have been able to do in this difficult time and the way Salem has expanded the reach of our ministry beyond those of us who already enjoy it so much. We have moved forward in our mission in new ways and embraced new folks into fellowship with God and our ministry. Yet, we also grieve not sharing the joy of in-person fellowship and worship. We will again gather in-person before too long and we look forward to that with great anticipation. In the meantime, thank you for your patience, prayers, and support. We venture forward with confidence in God who is leading and will continue to lead us through this time in good and fruitful ways, to the glory of his name and the good of our congregation and our neighbors.
With you in gratitude and faith,
Mark Pattie, Senior Pastor
Karla Walker, Church Chairperson