If you call Southeast your church home, you know you belong here. But where is here? Here is where we explore the way of Jesus, learning to love God, love others, and bring life to our community.
In our present time, we are living out that mission and vision online, as we gather each week to worship and learn together. But before the pandemic, which drove every church online, we had already begun dreaming about the permanent home of Southeast in our community. It’s time to begin building on that vision as we plan for our future.
While our state and local leaders are making the right decisions to slow the virus, it’s up to all of us to participate and do what we can. Balancing what it would take to mitigate spread, maintaining protocols, looking at the responses to our most recent survey, and knowing that we want to continue our online worship with excellence, it’s best to stay online for the foreseeable future while at the same time putting every effort and dollar as possible towards a permanent home for our church from which we can worship, learn, and serve together.
Rather than being double-minded, always second-guessing the realities of gathering, we will be singularly focused on this goal. We’re in a great position to find a permanent space where we can gather, worship, learn, and serve together, and we should do everything possible to find the silver lining in our situation and pray for God to open doors. We don’t know what the next few months will look like. Many are concerned it’s going to be a very difficult season. We will not fret but will look to our future with trust, hope, and planning.
The reality is that gathering physically while maintaining the protocols to secure our rental agreement and stick to health guidelines, would create a less-than-desirable scenario for worship. As I described in our most recent survey, physical worship would look like this: From the moment you arrive, masks would be required. Doors would open 5 minutes before the service. You would immediately enter and proceed to your seat (physical contact in terms of hugs and handshakes would not be allowed). Families would sit together, six feet apart from other family units. There would be no kid’s ministry or nursery. Corporate singing and communion would not be allowed. After the service, we would dismiss family units one at a time, asking each family unit to exit promptly. Fellowship would not be allowed in the building before or after service.
This scenario would not be very uplifting and would not translate to an enjoyable online experience either. Churches are meeting together while not following these health and safety guidelines. Some of these churches are in our community. We will not make these same choices. We will keep an emphasis on safety and social solidarity. This attitude is echoed by our most recent congregational survey response.
Our most recent survey showed that over 90% of our congregation would not join in person worship for the foreseeable future, with nearly half stating that they will not worship corporately until the pandemic is over. That’s not fear, it’s smart and loving. I couldn’t be more proud of our church.
The same survey shows a high level of engagement with online worship in the current format, and I think we can continue to improve and develop it as I put a significant focus on that area. As we also find ways to keep to help our church connected in safe ways, I think we can continue to build a sense of community focused on making good decisions for our community while looking toward the future for Southeast.
Mike Martin, a governance board member here at Southeast, is working hard with his new committee in beginning the process of finding space. We need to cover this process in prayer and have realistic expectations as we look to our short term and long term space solutions, but I do believe this is the time to move toward this. Giving coupled with responsible stewardship of resources will set us on course for an amazing future for Southeast that we could hardly dream of less than six months ago. We will update the congregation regularly to keep you informed.
I’ve always believed that God works through difficult situations. If we continue to follow His direction and trust our future to God, Southeast will be able to make a more significant impact than we could have ever imagined. Now is the time to lean into our future, preparing our church for the future and the ministry before us today, and as we look to a permanent home from which we will worship, learn, and serve together.
Ryan Scott Carrell