The first thing you should know is that Barbara Mammano has put together a Re-Opening Task Force that has been meeting regularly to prayerfully consider an optimum plan for us as a church to begin to re-gather at our church campus. This week, Governor Baker released the Reopening Massachusetts Plan and the state is currently in Phase 1. While Phase 1 states that Places of Worship are permitted to open again, there are many social distancing requirements that our Task Force believes make a gathering at church as we know it unwise for now. (You can read the Congregational Standards and Checklist here.) Because of the current restrictions, Community Covenant Church we will remain closed for in-person gatherings at this time. While our doors may be closed, the CHURCH will remain very much open!
Our church is not the building, we a body of believers, and throughout the time of stay-at-home orders, we have worshiped together, grown in community, and served others in new and creative ways. We have continued to come together for Sunday Worship Gatherings, met with our friends in the Virtual Café after the Gatherings, and had great times of discussion and prayer in our Community Groups. We have served health care workers at Sturdy Hospital, helped feed the homeless through Just One Lunch, brought joy to our community with Easter Egg Hunt kits, honored moms with signs in the front yard, and shared many acts of love with our neighbors.
All of us eagerly await the day we can gather face to face, but until we can guarantee our gatherings will be a safe and positive experience for all, we will continue to gather online. Our leaders is working hard to plan for upcoming reopening phases. There are four major points we are considering as we continue to evaluate when to regather in our church building:
- Love for one another
We care deeply about human life because we believe every person has infinite worth and is created in the image of God. We have prayerfully considered, thoughtfully debated and carefully evaluated many options and at this time we are not confident that group gatherings involving the traditional elements of Christian worship (singing, prayer, communion, etc.) are safe for individuals or the communities in which we live. We are choosing to approach the next phases cautiously out of love for our church and community. Loving others often involves sacrifice and at this time we are setting aside our own desires to regather for the sake of our neighbors. (John 13.34-35, Ephesians 4.2)
- Being good witnesses
As we know from studying the Beatitudes, we are called to be Salt and Light in this world. People inside and outside “the Church” will be watching our decision-making process as we move towards gathering again at church. We pray our choices will be a reflection to the outside world of the thoughtfulness of our faith in Jesus. When people enter our church, we want to be able to welcome them with the warmth and love of Christ and the current physical safety restrictions do not allow us to express Christian love to one another in a way that represents who we are as a church. (Matthew 5.13-16, Deuteronomy 4.6)
- Upholding Biblical principles
We have been praying for our national, state, and local leaders as they navigate their way through this unprecedented season. In the New Testament, we are repeatedly instructed to submit ourselves to our governing authorities unless they order us to do something that violates or faith. Churches have not been singled out in the shutdown orders, and in fact, Massachusetts has recognized the importance of churches by including us in the first phase of the reopening plan. To honor the teachings of Jesus, we believe we should submit ourselves to the orders of the State of Massachusetts and when we gather again, we will follow recommended social distancing guidelines. (Matthew 22.21, 1 Peter 2.11-17, Titus 3.1-2)
- Experiencing community as a church
We truly miss physically gathering together!!! We miss the conversations, the hugs, and praising God together. We miss seeing our kids learning about Jesus together and playing on the playground. And we miss the coffee and donuts! These are some of the things that make CCC a special place for all who gather. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to offer an experience anything like these fond memories. We can’t have kids racing down to KidsChurch to join their friends, we can’t hug our friends in the Café, maintaining social distancing in the worship center, and singing with masks is just not the same. We look forward to the day when these things resume, but the Sunday Gathering we could offer at this point would not feel very much like what we all miss. (Acts 2.42-47)
For all of those reasons, based on the Phase 1 requirements, our church building remains closed for the time being. We will continually evaluate the status of our church and community as the State of Massachusetts moves to new phases and will plan on gathering again when we can ensure a safe and positive experience for all. And just so you know, we are considering some one-off outside gatherings – either in the parking lot or on our considerable lawn between the building and the street.
In addition, we are so thankful. So many of you have continued to give generously and even sacrificially through this unprecedented time. Not only have you supported our ongoing ministries, but you’ve also gone above and beyond to contribute to our benevolence fund and community missions. Thank you!
Now is the time to humbly seek God’s will for our church and our world. God is opening new opportunities to share the love of Jesus with others and we pray each of us will be looking for ways to be Salt & Light in the world as we continue to move through this season.
In conclusion, I’d like to thank Barbara and the Task Force for their diligent prayerful efforts to lead us in responding to this pandemic moment.
Hang in there CCC!
Grace & Peace,