Update on Opening and Closing
In Response to the Governor’s Recent Decision
Dear people of God:
Recently Governor Ricketts announced that communities of faith could resume common worship, under certain restrictions, after May 3. The emergency response team your Session appointed met April 29 to consider our actions and I want to tell you about our decisions.
First, we will continue to hold worship only online for now. We have been recording services on Saturdays so they are ready to be webcast on Sunday morning; hundreds of persons have participated with us in this experience of worship. It is not ideal; it does not replace the gathered community, as God intends us to gather. But it is faithful to the Word of God and it is attentive to the strong need to protect public health.
Why this decision? The CDC and the White House released a set of guidelines under the title “Opening Up America Again.” These are reasonable and responsible guidelines. To move to Phase 1 – which is what Governor Ricketts has done – the standard is “Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period” or “Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests).” Douglas County has not had such a downward trajectory for a 14-day period; rather, the trajectory has continued to be upward. The Governor has stated that his decision is based on the availability of sufficient hospital beds to care for the seriously ill; your Church’s leaders believe it is more responsible to safeguard public health and thus try to prevent serious illness, within reason.
We will meet again in about two weeks to review the data. When the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports that Douglas County has had a downward trajectory for 14 days, expect plans to begin to reopen the Church for worship. Even then, things will not be “normal.” We will still be concerned about public health, not to mention the health of you, our family of faith, and so will not be doing what we consider “normal.”
Also, for now, the current restrictions on meetings and other gatherings at the Church building continue. No more than ten people in a room, separated by at least six feet from one another. Our AA groups have continued to meet, observing these restrictions.
I wish, perhaps even more than most of you, to resume worship together. I’ve continue to put on my preacher clothes and unlock the front doors of the Church on Sunday mornings, and to sit and miss you. But your health is more important than my wishes, and the health of the people of Omaha is more important than our desires. Remember: the Church is not absent; we are deployed.
During the COVID-19 restrictions, I am posting special messages from time to time. This one is from April 30, 2020.