March 15 was our last “in-person” worship and since, we’ve been apart but together in Christ’s Spirit and through the blessing of technology allowing us to see one another and even connect despite some being thousands of miles away. But it’s not the same, is it? When will we be able to open the sanctuary doors?
Governor Ducy’s order has expired and business is re-opening across the state, and you may legitimately ask, “Why aren’t we going back to “normal” in our church life?” There are several reasons we are delaying.
First, Bishop Hoshibata has said, because of the continuing rise in identified cases, “We will continue the suspension of in-person worship gatherings of any size.” This means that even though we want to, we cannot yet open. Because the people of Lakeview are in the most at-risk category for covid 19 effects, I am concerned. We have lost three of our Lakeview family to the disease and several others are recovering. After talking with them and listening to their struggle to survive, I want to make sure we minimize your risk.
This includes “popping into the church” there have been a few members with keys that just pop in to drop something off and bring a friend along. Please do not do this, if you must, call Jim and set up a time that you can stop by and it can only be you, you cannot bring a friend with you. This also includes if you are coming in to record for the Sunday service, we can only allow one person in at a time. This is for your safety and the safety of staff who must be on site from time-to-time and minimizes the additional cleaning and sanitizing.
Second, I believe we need to examine the daily operation of the church to see how, as we begin to reconnect, can do so safely and this may require some operational and physical changes at least for a time.
Third, our reconnecting will be gradual and allow us to monitor and adjust as circumstances require. We may find it necessary to back up in our process should there be a sudden increase in covid 19 cases. We also want to insure, so far as possible, that we are prepared for other medical challenges which may arise in the future.
I have been monitoring the AZ Department of Health (www.azdhs.gov) reports as well as speaking with various healthcare professionals. The hospitalization rate has declined since the beginning of May and it appears the death rates are dropping and the actual confirmed cases may be starting to decline. However, the vast majority of deaths from covid 19 in Arizona are in the 65+ (593 of 747) age bracket, so we will move carefully. (stats as of 05/20 as reported by AZ DHS)
We have formed a ReConnecting Team comprised of staff and lay members of Lakeview and are working through the re-opening – “ReConnecting” process for our church family. This has been a difficult time for all of us, a tragic time for those who have lost family members to the disease or natural causes. Many of you have experienced deep stress while a loved one was in the hospital and you could not visit and be present. Added loneliness and discouragement is natural. You are prayed for. Please know, we miss you too.
Despite the challenges, I have heard your witness of God’s presence and work. I have watched you encourage each other, and we have witnessed a wonderful massive expansion of our on-line presence and experience.
The sanctuary may be empty, but so was the tomb. We are the church wherever we are!
Know that as soon as possible, we will open our doors again. We will probably begin with the office opening (with protection for staff), then some small group activity, followed by worship, and eventually, we will share meals together at TNT and Amazing Greys.
Please pray for the “Re-Connecting” team, your staff who has been faithfully working from home, and for each other. Thank you for your faithfulness to God and to Lakeview. Thank you that you are remaining connected by calling, emailing, writing, and doing all that you can to stay in touch. Please be patient with us as we work through this process of reconnecting.