As you know, in cooperation with God-given government, and out of love for neighbor, we as a church have been meeting online since March 22 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Last week, Governor Stitt, referencing guidelines given by our federal government, announced that the first phase of the “re-opening” for Oklahoma begins May 1st. This includes the lifting of the restriction for the gathering of ten or more people in settings such as a church provided certain rules are followed. The federal government summarizes these rules as “strict social distancing” for the first phase of re-opening (lessened restrictions). The hope is that the next phase of lessened restrictions can proceed after observing the first phase successfully for two weeks. (And we are praying for that!) In the second phase of re-opening, the guidelines for the gathering of people in “houses of worship” is even less restrictive, specifying “moderate social distancing.”
We as a church now face the same questions that we are all facing as individuals and as families. In consideration of these governmental guidelines, of our contexts, and of our needs, how and when do we begin to resume some of our normal practices? A significant question for us as a church is, how and when do we begin to resume gathering physically again? There is a lot of uncertainty in these times. It’s impossible to know if all that we have been doing (not only as a church body but as a society) has been successful or even necessary. It’s impossible to know if the timing of the “re-opening” is wise or hasty. It’s impossible to know if phases and the timing of those phases is good, and it’s impossible to know if people will follow the governmental guidance whether or not it’s good. There are times when all of the things we do know, and all of the things that we do not know can be paralyzing and frustrating. We cannot reason our way through the fog because we don’t know enough to know that we’re making the right decisions, and all that we do know can seem contradictory and unclear. It is at times like these that we must allow faith to inform our reason. This is a faith that affirms God’s sovereignty over all situations, His ability to speak clearly to us, and His provision for us—including His provision of wisdom in decision making. This is a faith that gives us the courage to know that, lacking either clear reasoning or explicit Divine communication, we don’t have to be either reckless or paralyzed. We can manifest the fruit of the Spirit in gentleness, patience, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). We can “be submissive to rulers and authorities…be ready for every good work…avoid quarreling…be gentle…and show perfect courtesy to all people” (Titus 3:1-2).
Accordingly, the Council of Elders has decided to wait a little while longer before resuming in-person meetings. Our tentative plan is to be prepared to re-gather when Oklahoma successfully transitions to phase 2 of the governmental re-opening plan. Again, this is tentative, but we feel we can adequately satisfy the “moderate social distancing” described by the federal government with the protocols we agreed upon as a congregation on March 15th. It is our hope that this tentative plan proceeds rapidly and that we can resume meeting on May 17th. When we do resume meeting, we will continue streaming our services online for those who are not able to attend in person. We’ll give more details about the opening and the “moderate social distancing” protocols when there is a firmer date for our re-gathering.