Resuming In-Person Worship

Plans for Resuming Cornerstone’s In-Person Worship 

Dear Cornerstone family,

For the past three months we have not met in person for worship in order to do three things: 1) love our neighbor by flattening the curve 2) obey the civil authorities God has placed over us and 3) protect and care for our own church members. It’s important to understand that from the beginning it was never about just one of these issues but about all three. This was done to honor God while being a good witness to the watching world. We also need to recognize that the worship of God was always essential, whether it was acknowledged or not by any governing leader. This is why worship was never “canceled” when we stopped meeting physically. It was just moved to an online format.

Now when we began this, we had no idea what the end of this would look like. But now we do. I’m excited to announce that beginning June 14 we will begin resuming our in-person worship. In order to be as safe as possible, we will begin by implementing a specific action plan. This plan will be modified as time goes on and our state restrictions continue to change. I do want to say from the beginning that our action plan was self-consciously formulated with the belief that it is wiser to err on the side of “too cautious” than “not cautious enough.”

Here is how things will work beginning June 14:

  • In-person worship will be done on a rotational basis according to community groups. All of our members and most of our attendees are assigned to a CG. If you are new and not in a CG or you are unsure if you’re in a CG, please send me an email to make sure you are included.
  • If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html) please refrain from attending service. Please exercise discretion. If you are unsure whether you should or shouldn’t attend, please contact Pastor Andrew.
  • We will limit each Sunday in-person gathering to less than 25 people while we also continue to live-stream our worship.
  • Each week a specific group will be identified and designated as meeting in-person. On that week an email will go out only to the members of that particular group asking to let me know if you are attending that Sunday’s in person service.
  • If a particular group’s attendance is significantly low, we will open it up to the next group but never exceed 25 people.
  • There will be designated pews in order to practice a proper and safe six feet distance.
  • We ask that you wear a mask in the church building and during service. If you do not have a mask or forget one, we will have masks available for you.
  • Our singing will be reduced to minimize possible exposure. We will have one song of approach, one song of grace and either only a chorus or one stanza for our song of response.
  • Bulletins will not be passed out but rather sent through email.
  • Offering will not be collected during service. You can continue to give online or collection baskets will be placed in the back of the sanctuary.
  • We will refrain from handshakes and hugs during the passing the peace.
  • Fellowship after service will be canceled.
  • The pew Bibles will be temporarily removed from the sanctuary and you are encouraged to bring your own.
  • Hand sanitizer will be placed in stations for use.
  • It is recommended you use the restroom before arriving at church. The restrooms will have posted signs with instructions on wiping down all surfaces touched.

Friends, I understand that many of us are on different sides of the spectrum when it comes to how comfortable we are resuming in-person worship. As your pastor I do not expect full agreement on this issue in the church. The reality is that there are some who are ready to come back to in-person worship as soon as possible and there are some who are still very hesitant, even with the restrictions lifted and guidelines in place. This also means that some will think our policies and procedures moving forward are too much and totally unnecessary while others will think these policies are still not enough and not meeting is still the best option. Of course many will be somewhere in the middle of this.

With this being the case, here is what I ask from our church. I ask that we move forward in unity and humility. There will be a temptation to be self-righteous as we move forward and possibly even villainizing others whose opinion differ from your own.  You may be tempted to think, “Why are people so afraid of coming to church? Don’t they know the media has just scared them with false data?” Or you may be tempted to think, “Why are people so eager to come to church? Don’t they know the statistics and the latest studies?” Whichever side you may lean toward, let us put on the humility of Christ and refrain from judging one another and each others’ motives

I also ask that you move forward considering the interests of others above your own. I appreciate the words of Brett McCracken who helpfully wrote, “You might think these precautions are a needless overreaction. But here’s the thing: even if it turns out you’re right, can you not sacrifice your ideal for a season, out of love for others who believe the precautions are necessary? Even if you personally think it is silly, or even cowardly, for someone to stay home even after the church is open again on Sundays, can you not heed Paul’s wisdom in Romans 14: ‘Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother’? Or 1 Corinthians 8:9: ‘Be careful, however, that your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.’” Let us exhibit great Christlikeness in this moment.

Let me conclude on this last matter. We have intentionally tried to keep everything about our Sunday worship as “normal” as possible. From the same formatting of our slides to the same stage background! In a season where nothing has been normal, we wanted the Lord’s Day worship to be the one thing that remained familiar. This is why we didn’t switch to pre-recorded services even though this would have allowed our service to “look better.” Although we couldn’t be united physically, we wanted to at least be united chronologically at the same hour. And so worshipping together through live-stream has been a blessing. I am grateful to the Lord for the technology to do this and the servants who have made this so seamless for us. However, this is no way to live the Christian life. Online worship is a crutch for a broken ankle. We are hobbling on by. We are not running and jumping as we should. This does not mean our Sunday worship is less than true worship. But it does mean that we are missing out on the fullness of worship because we are not gathered as God’s people. Live-stream service is a temporary compromise and not a permanent replacement. I hope we are all eagerly longing to worship together soon and may the Lord make it possible!

Thanks for your patience and your perseverance in this season. If you have other questions, comments or concerns please feel free to let me know.

Looking forward to worshipping in person soon,

Pastor Andrew

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