Update on Post-Pandemic Church Plans (April 2021)

I’m just a few days from my second vaccine’s “full effect” date, and I can’t wait. I already have in-person get-togethers set for most of the following few days, not to mention a haircut. 

I know not everyone is as eager as I am to launch back into non-Zoom life, but in the last few weeks, things have started to shift significantly for a lot of us. Vaccines have become widely available for anyone over the age of 16, and we have a hunch that the Foothills community has a very high percentage of us already or almost fully vaccinated.  

Will you help us confirm (or refute) our hunch by filling out this totally anonymous survey about your vaccine status? It will help us better plan and understand how our plans will be received in the coming weeks and months.

So much has shifted recently, and also, a lot hasn’t. Specifically, the infection rates haven’t changed much. We’re holding steady in our County at rates just about where we were around Halloween. This means we’re nowhere near the extreme highs of December and January, but we’re also very far away from the lower numbers we saw a year ago in May 2020.  

The combination of high infection rates with high vaccine availability creates a public health conundrum, especially for places like churches that serve the general public or multi-generational communities given those under age 16 aren’t yet eligible for a vaccine.  

We don’t really know what this will mean, but we do know that getting more people vaccinated is imperative for all of us to return to a sense of normalcy. If you know anyone who is not vaccinated, please make sure they sign up with the County for a fast vaccine appointment here 

With all that said, we have been moving forward with our plans for in-person gatherings. To start, I’m happy to offer these updated Guidelines for Gatherings – geared especially to all of you who lead groups, circles, or teams and who are consider getting together in the next few months – but also to give you all a sense of how we as staff are thinking about get-togethers. Please review and let me know your questions! 

In the last few days, we’ve begun the process of returning to and opening back up our campus, a process that will culminate in full reopening by September.  

To start, in the last week, volunteers helped us to paint and clean the building and playground. On May 22nd and 23rd, families will move out of Foothills and into Christ United Methodist, launching Faith Family Hospitality (the program through which we house families experiencing homelessness) back into their normal rotation across churches.  

This move-out will give us 2 weeks before our first big event back on the campus – Day Camp! (An all outdoor event this year.) 

During these weeks, Family Housing Network has arranged for professional deep cleaning (including carpets), along with a few other investments in the look and feel of our campus.  

On June 5th, we will host a “work day” at the church to finalize any clean-up and to plant flowers around the campus. This will be open to anyone, so look out for the sign-up coming soon! 
 

Throughout the summer, our building will remain mostly closed since we won’t yet have the systems/staff ready to operate in the way we did pre-pandemic. We will have occasional outdoor events, however, including a second Day Camp later in the summer. Given the high infection rates, waiting a few more months before being indoors together seems like due diligence after everything we’ve gone through. Besides, if you remember the temperature of our building in the summer, you’ll also remember that returning to indoor activities in the fall is just fine 🙂 

Speaking of the fall, a few key decisions are starting to shape up for our return to in-person worship. First, we are aiming for our first in-person worship on September 19th, assuming infection rates continue to fall. 

Currently, we are planning on maintaining our 9 am online service, providing a 10:15 in-person service that requires reservations (due to our limited seating), and a rebroadcast of the 9 am service at 11. Because of our space limitations, we’re thinking about a rotation of different groups on different Sundays to ensure you can come in person at least twice a month if you want to.  

We are also tentatively planning on an all-church in-person REUNION Sunday, October 17th at a rented location TBD. This all-church Sunday gathering would then repeat every third Sunday through January. Somewhere in there, the choir will sing, and we’ll have coffee! Don’t forget that somewhere in October-ish we’ll also be breaking ground on our new construction! (Learn more about the building expansion here.)

We’re trying to balance a lot of things in this plan, including:

  • the limitations of our current sanctuary size
  • the potential inclination of people to want to stay online – while also recognizing the needs of those for whom online church doesn’t work (especially parents with younger kids at home)
  • the gifts we’ve discovered in the online format
  • the reality that we can’t do everything (unless we hire double our staff!)
  • the fact that in a year, we’ll have a whole new sanctuary so anything we do now is automatically temporary! …. and, as I said in the last update, there’s a lot we won’t know until we start trying it. 

Even what I’ve outlined here remains only loosely determined, with a lot still to be worked out. So take this in and then let me know your questions and reactions. We will learn our way to the next right thing, together. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing you all online, or outdoors at a gathering sometime soon! 

With love, and in partnership,

Gretchen  

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