May 24, 2020
Dear Church Family,
Many thanks for your prayers for our elders and staff this last week as we’ve sought to discern a faithful way to begin re-gathering as a congregation.
As this thoughtful article about what it means for us to be disciples of Jesus right now suggests (please click here to read it), re-gathering as a church is filled with challenges not only of innovation and logistics, but also of navigating deeply held convictions. It is also, however, an opportunity to serve as a countercultural model of unity in Christ as we practice sacrifice for others, humility in the face of pandemic-size complexity, and patience with the perspectives of our brothers and sisters. Unity does not mean unanimity. Everything we do as persons and church (given our differences) is meant to reflect the sacrificial, humble, patient, care-full-and-courageous love of Jesus for one another and for the world God loves.
Wanting to be good stewards of the health of this congregation and the wider community, our elders and staff have consulted the Governor’s phased plan for Reopening the Big Sky, the guidance of our Missoula Health Department, and the number of current active cases of infection for Missoula and neighboring counties. We have also been glad to hear from you.
Many thanks for offering survey feedback on when and how you can imagine returning to in-person worship. It was helpful. We learned that 60% of those who responded are comfortable re-gathering by Montana’s Phase 2. Providentially, Montana announced just a few hours before our Session meeting that Phase Two will begin June 1. We also learned that 54% of those responding felt a requirement to wear masks would encourage them to participate in in-person worship, while 20% said that would discourage their participation. Finally, we heard strong preferences for refraining from singing or passing the peace for a season while continuing to provide recorded services and print options for worship.
While we understand that many of you will be more comfortable waiting longer to congregate, we’re very glad to announce that FPC will be regathering for shortened, in-person summer worship services at 9:30am in our Fellowship Hall starting June 7 (the first Sunday in Montana’s Phase Two Reopening).
FPC is now welcoming small groups and meetings of 10 or fewer in our church buildings. By next week (in June) we’ll welcome groups of up to 50. Please connect with church staff if you’d like to plan for a meeting (549-5144). The Church Office will open in June – Tuesdays to Fridays, 9-3pm. At that time, guests will be received at the office window.
By now you may be getting used to some of the safety protocols of our new normal. As we begin to reopen our church buildings, we encourage you to follow Christ’s way of washing feet – taking steps to exhibit his sacrificial care for one another by:
Staying home if you’re sick
Using hand sanitizer when you enter church buildings
Practicing 6-foot social distancing and non-touch greetings
Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue
Refraining from bringing food and drink to share, and
Helping sanitize your space after meeting
You will also be asked to wear a cloth face covering for worship services and when you are making your way to or from your seating for smaller gatherings. We ask this recognizing (with the Health Department) that for various reasons some may not be able to wear or tolerate wearing a cloth face covering. Please bring your own mask. At the doors you will also find disposable masks provided – but not judgment or need for explanation.
There will be more to share in the next two weeks as we prepare for in-person worship. We are in need of volunteers for a robust Welcome & Hosting team. Please contact Jo Ruby (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would be glad to help in this way.
Yours in Christ,