On the next page, you will find the plan for re-opening the Providence campus and resuming church-related activities. This plan was developed by our Covid-19 Task Force, which has been meeting regularly since late March to help make the decisions necessary to keep our ministries strong while we’ve been doing church remotely. I am grateful for the commitment, wisdom, and enthusiasm of this group.

Providence is extraordinarily blessed with good leaders who take seriously the trust that you have invested in them. A few comments, then, about the plan that this task force has developed.

The first thing you’ll notice is that it takes a conservative approach to re-opening our campus. That is intentional. We’re all eager to get out and about again—and that includes getting back to church. At the same time, we do not want to put one another in harm’s way. Philippians 2:4 tells us to look first not to our own interests, but rather to the interests of others. In these circumstances, looking out for the interests of our fellow church members means opening up slowly, safely, and in a way that is sustainable.

The second thing you’ll notice is that there is no set date for resuming congregational worship in the Sanctuary. Again, that’s intentional. The very idea of pinning a specific date down for anything these days seems a bit absurd. Instead, we will pay attention to recommendations from our public health officials concerning mass gatherings in indoor spaces. Once it’s safe for crowds of 150 or more to gather indoors, we can resume worshiping together in the Sanctuary.

That said, when we come back, we’re going to have to do things differently at the outset. There will be directions to follow about entering and exiting the Sanctuary, where we can sit while we’re in there, and what we can do while we’re in there. We will still be social distancing then, which means that the capacity of our worship space will be reduced. Our ultimate goal, of course, is to resume worshiping together as one congregation in one service—but before we get to that point, we will likely have to worship together for a time as several smaller congregations in more than one service each Sunday. In order to help us prepare for this interim period more effectively, you will soon be receiving a survey via email. Please participate. The more input we get from you, the better we can plan.

The third thing you’ll notice is that online worship is here to stay. Even after we can worship together again in the Sanctuary, we will continue to livestream our services each Sunday. This is a tremendous step forward for us, as it allows us to continue including people in our virtual congregation who, for whatever reason, cannot join us in person. Since mid-March, Providence members who are homebound, in assisted care facilities, and living in other parts of the country (and world!) have been letting us know what a gift online worship has been to them. I’m glad we can keep it going. I’m also hopeful that online worship will provide yet another way for us to introduce people to Jesus and welcome guests into our family of faith.

So, here we go. This pandemic has tested us. Some of us have suffered great losses; everyone has suffered some loss. Still, God has been faithful in the midst of it all. As we move ahead, slowly but surely, into what everyone seems to be calling the “new normal,” may we take with us the good things we’ve learned, gained, and experienced over the last few months that can make us better citizens, better church members, and better followers of the risen Christ. After all, asks the apostle Paul in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

May the peace of Christ be with you!