With Great Desire to See You Face-to-Face
Hey Bethel Family,
I want to share a verse with you that really captures how I am personally feeling about where we find ourselves in this continued distancing phase. Paul wrote these words to the church in Thessalonica while he was distanced from them. He says in 1 Thess. 2:17, “But since we were torn away from you, brothers for a short time, in person but not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face-to-face.”
We feel like Paul knowing that the best expression of a local church is face-to-face and we are eager to make that happen as soon as possible. There’s momentum in our country right now to move toward reopening but news of this pandemic is constantly shifting so our leadership team has been focused much more on preparations than predictions.
As we prepare to regather, we want to highlight a few values that are guiding our decision-making. This pandemic has unfortunately become a polarizing event in our nation and even in the church. We recognize that there are people on all sides of this pandemic; from those who are unwilling to meet until a vaccine is found to those are arguing that we begin meeting right now.
While our desire is to regather as soon as safety allows, we want to continue to show proper respect to governing authorities and demonstrate intentionality about loving our neighbors. We know that some of you are at greater risk than others. We intend to comply with government and CDC guidelines the best that we can when we do reopen. The Bethel leadership team is monitoring national, state, and local updates as well as staying in touch with all relevant authorities and organizations. We are also learning from other large, multisite churches across the country.
So, based upon what we know at this point, here is how we are preparing to regather.
How We Are Preparing to Regather
First, while we are still under Phase One of our state’s order for two more weeks, we will continue to worship at home on the weekends, meet in small groups via Zoom, and stay connected through Facebook and other social media platforms. In addition to this, during the week of May 25th we will have drive-in prayer opportunities on all three campuses.
Based on the state’s current plan, when the state moves into Phase Two we will be able to gather in groups of 5. Now that might not seem like many but it’s encouraging compared to where we’ve been. During this phase, we are going to encourage small groups that can gather in groups up to of 5 to begin meeting, preferably outdoors. In-person counseling, prayer, and other meetings will resume with a limit of 5 people in each meeting. Again, social distancing and safety measures will always be met.
Under the current state plan, Phase Three will allow us to gather in groups up to 50. This will be an exciting time where all in-home and on-campus small groups can resume. In addition, we are going to encourage small groups to gather to watch the weekend service together and discuss the message using sermon-based resources we will provide. Church facilities will open for limited use. Again, social distancing and safety measures will always be met.
When Washington State moves into Phase Four we will be able to gather in large groups again. For many of us, this phase will be as close to a full return to normal worship services since the shutdown. During this phase, we will open up our campuses for weekly worship gatherings. Social distancing and safety measures will be maintained so we anticipate making some changes with this in mind.
Online Worship Experiences
We realize that people in our faith family will have varying levels of comfort in returning to gatherings, so online worship services will continue throughout all four phases and for the forseeable future.
We'll See You Soon
We hope this helps to paint a picture of how we are preparing to regather. We will keep you updated in the coming weeks as this situation is changing quickly and constantly. We have decided to engage our governing authorities about special exceptions that could be made for faith-oriented gatherings ahead of the proposed schedule. If we can safely move through these phases quicker than we’ve laid out, we will.
We know for many of you this time has not just been difficult, it has been devastating. I want you to know that we love you and are here for you so please reach out if there’s any way we can serve you.
And just as Paul said to the beloved church in Thessalonica, we are endeavoring all the more eagerly because we have a great desire to see each and every one of you face-to-face. Lord willing, we will see you all soon!