Hey LSCC, we wanted to make a short announcement about the most recent shutdown directive from the department of health and how we’re responding. We know this is a difficult time for many in our community and in our nation; COVID, politics, the media, among other things has led us to a place of turmoil and a lot of extreme thoughts and feelings. Meeting together onsite is one of those areas. Some talk about individual rights and church exemptions, while others talk about social and community responsibilities. This is not something we have been or are taking lightly.

We will be shifting to online only services this Sunday, November 22, at 10:30am. This will remain in place for the time being—perhaps just a few weeks—but, we’d like to give a brief rationale of how our approach is different this time around.

Since March and the initial shutdown, it’s been our intention to follow executive orders and, subsequently, health department guidance and directives. Because these orders and guidance said little specifically about church gatherings, we did our best determining which of the organization-types most closely resembled a church. We believed that to be where they listed performance venues, auditoriums, concert halls, and things of that sort. That gave us 25% of capacity attendance threshold we were working from. As well, the guidance allowed removal of face masks “when engaged in worship.” Those that have been attending in person know that the percentage of folks wearing masks has wavered from week-to-week. In that regard, our approach to masks has been more conservative than some churches, while also more liberal than others, but we believed we were operating within the guidance put forth.

This may end up being semantics for some, but our decision to meet online this time is less about following an executive order or a health department directive and is more strongly influenced by the status of our local hospitals and their capacity to provide adequate care for our community. As it stands, while we have the utmost respect and confidence in our healthcare workers, it’s our understanding that their ability to provide the care we’ve grown to expect is less than ideal right now. With COVID numbers rising, as well as flu and RSV season around the corner, gathering together in large groups seems to be fighting against those trying to provide medical care for our community; that is not something we wish to exacerbate.

While it’s more likely than not that our actions would coincide with the orders and directives, by following more closely what’s happening in our local community, that may or may not always be the case. For instance, if the local community and hospital gets to a place where things are better, then we may meet again in person prior to orders or directives being lifted. As well, if things worsened beyond what other areas of the state were facing (much like the trajectory we were on prior to the shutdown announcements earlier this week), we may remain online or go online even if it wasn’t an order or directive.

We think this is an important distinction to make and a different approach than we took with the first shutdown. We are in regular prayer about how best to lead and offer support during these difficult times. As well, we are in regular conversation with health officials, health care workers, and other leaders in the community. As is always the case, we’re making the best decisions we can with the best information we have at the time. We believe this is one of the many ways that we are to love God, love others, and be the church. Thank you for prayers, support, and encouragement during this time and we’ll see you online this Sunday at 10:30am.