This morning we announced that Gravel Hill Church will be moving to virtual worship only starting next week with the intention of starting in-person worship again on January 17th (As long as it is responsible to do so). With the increase in cases of COVID-19 and the expectation that cases will continue to rise over the next few weeks, we believe it is best to prioritize the health and safety of our worshipping community and to do our part to limit indoor gatherings of larger groups of people so we do not add to the increasingly heavy burden being placed on our health care community. This will include our Christmas eve worship. We will plan on having a fantastic virtual service at 7pm on Christmas Eve that will include aspects of all the services we would typically do. More information will be coming regarding Christmas Eve worship soon.
This is not a decision that we take lightly. We know how important being able to gather for worship is in the life of the church. We know that virtual worship is less than ideal, especially as we enter this most holy time on the church calendar. We have loved the ability to see your faces (masks and all) and feel a sense of community over the past 3 ½ months that we have been able to be physically present together.
Unfortunately, we are increasingly concerned that, despite our extensive guidelines of physical distancing, mandatory mask wearing, and capacity limitations, if we continue to meet in-person we will be putting worshipers at an unnecessary risk. With public health officials, in addition to church leaders, at local, state, and national levels indicating the seriousness of the moment with increased travel and gatherings during this holiday season, we believe it is in the best interest of our community and an act of Christian love to suspend in-person gatherings temporarily in an effort to love our neighbor and protect the vulnerable among us.
We know this is as difficult to hear as it is for us to say. We do this with reluctance and sadness but with confidence that it is the right decision to make. We also make this decision in the spirit of the Advent season we are in; with a sure and certain hope that a brighter day is on the horizon. A day when we will be able to once again throw open the doors of the church and gather without restriction.
Friends, although this is a difficult moment, we know that we can do difficult things. The people of God are a resilient people and God is faithful. In the Gospel of John chapter 4, when Jesus was meeting with the woman at the well, he made it clear that the location of worship is not what is important but that we worship God “in spirit and in truth.”
We can worship in spirit and truth in our homes, connected through technology. We can lift our voices and sing praise to God knowing that He hears us even when we can’t hear each other. We can light candles and remind ourselves to be a light in these uncertain times. We can continue to be an Advent people. A people of hope. A people of peace. A people of love. A people of joy.
We encourage you to bring the church into your homes once again and commit to worshipping with us online over the next few weeks. We are working on offering additional ways for members of our worshipping community to connect virtually with one another as we enter the new year. This is a difficult and uncertain time for all of us, but we are confident that if we continue to support each other and put our trust in God we will get through this together.
Continue to be blessed and be a blessing. Amen.