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Greetings Gravel Hill family and friends,

With our county being officially in the “green” phase of reopening, the staff and lead team has been working diligently through numerous zoom meetings to determine what the best path forward for our church will be. We are excited to announce to you that we plan on returning to in-person worship starting September 6th with two weekly services. We will have a traditional service at 8am with live organ music and a more contemporary service at 10:30. For the time being, we will not be offering a 9:15 service so that we can make sure the sanctuary is cleaned and we limit contact between services. We do plan on resuming the 9:15 service and Sunday school opportunities as we go but initially we wanted to exercise an abundance of caution to make sure we are doing our best to keep you safe and give you piece of mind during this difficult time. Online worship opportunities will continue to be available as well.

I know some of you may be asking, “if our county has gone green, why are we waiting to until August to resume in-person worship?” As we have seen in other parts of the country there has been increased cases of COVID-19 in places where they reopened more quickly. Simply put, we love you too much to do that to you. Being indoors with other people for extended periods of time, like during a church service, is one of the higher risk activities for spreading COVID-19. There have been numerous cases of churches becoming hot spots for COVID-19 outbreaks. We feel like there is enough information from the scientific and health communities that it warrants us to be cautious and diligent in our plan for a phased reopening.  The decision to wait a few more weeks gives us time to see how things react as people resume normal activities and responsibly venture out under the guidelines of the green phase.

Our desire is to be a part of the solution not a part of the problem. Our hope is that the more cautious we are and the better we adhere to social distancing practices, the sooner we will be able to return to a sense of normalcy. Even as we prepare to gather in person on August 2nd, I want to be clear that things may look and feel different for a while. We will be asking anyone interested in attending to RSVP with what service they plan on attending because we will have limited seating. Some pews and seats will be mark off so that worshipers can sit and worship 6 feet apart from each other. We will not be encouraging singing during the music that is offered but rather that you allow the music to move you in different ways to worship. We will also be requiring that face masks be worn when you are inside the building. We will have extra masks available should you forget yours at home. If you are uncomfortable wearing a mask, we will ask you to worship from home that day.  I know that this is a hot button issue particular in our local community. In many cases, it has become a political statement. I want to reassure you that none of us on staff or as part of the leadership of this church think this is the time to be making political statements and the intention of requiring masks is anything but political. We are guided by our faith not out of fear and certainly not out of partisan politics. And our faith is clear. We are called to love one another. To protect the vulnerable. In the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 2, we are called to, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

It is with concern for each other, humility, and the mindset of Christ, that we plan on implementing these measures to reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19 as we regather for in-person worship. If wearing a mask, sitting in a different seat, or singing to myself instead of out loud can limit the possibility of even one person who may vulnerable to serious complications from the coronavirus then I believe that it is an important act of love and care for us to abide by these guidelines knowing that it will not be forever. This is a temporary hardship or inconvenience that we are being asked to abide by for the good of those in the pews next to us and our community at large.

I am excited to worship with you soon and I know that even though things might look different for a while, I am confident that our worship services will be meaningful, impactful, and inspiring because God’s spirit will be present as we worship and honor God in all that we do.

So for now, Stay safe. Stay hopeful. Stay faithful and I look forward to seeing you in this sanctuary soon.

God Bless,

Pastor Dan Lebo

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