During these strange days, Kentucky has become united over its shared viewing of Governor Beshear’s 5:00 p.m. press conferences. Our imagination expanded this past week as the governor’s office unveiled Kentucky’s new “Healthy at Work” initiative that seeks to reopen the economy through a phased approach. Many of us had begun to wonder about what it would look like to return to some measure of public life but had not anticipated that it would start as early as this month.
Governor Beshear’s “Healthy at Work” initiative includes houses of worship as being able to open (as long as they meet the guidelines) beginning May 20. We expect that many of you heard this news with mixed feelings—excitement to anticipate a return to Highland and some trepidation about how you might return safely in a way that maintains your health and the health of others.
Your staff joins you in this tension! We yearn to be together again in our sanctuary, but we are concerned about how this contagious virus might impact the health and well-being of our people. While we have begun to formulate some plans for how people can re-enter our pews for worship, we feel that the May 20 date does not allow us enough time to adequately prepare nor to feel the confidence required to gather together again.
For May, we will continue our “tele-ministry” of “Healthy at Home” worship to prioritize the health and safety of all our people. Through much prayerful discernment as staff, we are not ready to announce a date when we will begin our first phase of filling our pews for worship. We are going to wait two weeks before returning to address this question so that we might best observe the virus’ trend of infection. We hope to share an update with you by May 26 of when staff and our leadership bodies best feel we can move forward safely, ever mindful that circumstances may call for changes in even the best plans that we can formulate.
We covet your prayers as we consider how best to lead us through these uncertain days. As we wait, we encourage you to begin imagining re-entry into our space, whenever we do proceed, as something that will happen in phases. When the time comes, we will do all that we can to keep one another safe and healthy. We will wear masks, we will take temperatures, we will not congregate in the Commons nor the Lobby, and we will seek to worship with physical distance from one another.
Highland, fear not: worship is open online. Our plans are not about “reopening” worship as if worship was ever closed. When the Holy Spirit leads us to take the next step, we will share with you how we will move through a phased approach of opening our pews even as our worship remains open online. We continue to value all people, no matter their age or risk factors, being able to participate in our broad and deep worship that invites us into the mystery of a loving God.
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