Do not forsake wisdom and she will protect you. Love her, and she will watch over you. Proverbs 4:6

When will we start worshiping together again in the Sanctuary? March 8 was the last Sunday we gathered as a large congregation for worship in our Sanctuary. That’s a long time to be apart, a long time to be a scattered church.

We miss being together. We miss sharing that sacred space. We miss seeing one another. We miss the feeling of praising and singing and praying and listening in the company of our brothers and sisters in Christ. So, naturally, we want to know: When will we start worshiping together again in the Sanctuary?

I wish I could give you a date. What I can do, though, is tell you that we will start worshiping together again in the Sanctuary when North Carolina enters Phase 3 of the reopening process and the governor tells us that it’s safe for a crowd of 150 people to be indoors together. These are the two criteria for resuming in-person, indoor worship that our Covid-19 Task Force set as part of the Providence reopening plan that was first published in the June issue of Connections. Since then, the plan has appeared in the July, August, and September newsletters as well.

WHO?  The Covid-19 Task Force has been meeting regularly since mid-March to guide decisions and shape our ministry together during this time of doing church remotely. (The members of the task force are listed on the next page.) These leaders have relied on advice both from public health officials and from three physicians in our own congregation—Matt Blackwell, Hilary Canipe, and Ashley Honeycutt—to establish a way forward that balances our desire to be together with our commitment to loving our neighbors and promoting the common good. I am grateful for the good, prayerful, discerning work they’ve done.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to be patient while we wait to hear the happy news that North Carolina has entered Phase 3 and indoor gatherings of 150 people have been declared safe by our public health officials. We know it will happen—but we just don’t know when. And that’s hard. What makes this waiting even harder is knowing that other churches in Charlotte are already worshiping together, in-person and indoor. Some of them have been doing so for quite some time now. Religious organizations are not bound by the same kind of legal restrictions on indoor gatherings that apply to places like restaurants, sports arenas, theaters, and so forth. So, it’s a fair question: If other churches can worship together, in-person and indoor, during this pandemic, then why can’t we?

WHY?  A verse that I’ve often found helpful in these sorts of situations is 1 Corinthians 6:12, where Paul writes that “all things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial.” In other words, just because I can do something doesn’t mean that I should. I have consistently found that to be sound guidance. Indeed, as we discover throughout the book of Proverbs, wisdom is a gift from God, given to God’s people for their own good. We ignore it at our own risk—and, these days, at the risk of others as well. Still, even in a pandemic, it’s good for the body of Christ at Providence to come together from time to time in a way that is safe, sensible, and—yes—wise.

WHAT’S NEW?  Sunday, October 4, will be one of those occasions. That day is World Communion Sunday, when Christians around the world celebrate the good news that, through Jesus Christ, we are one people in the eyes of God. To mark this day, we will have an in-person, outdoor Service of Word and Table at 9:00am in the grassy space and parking lot outside the Rotunda entrance. This will be a very simple service—there will be no music—but we will pray, we will hear God’s word, I will preach, and we will share the Lord’s Supper in a safe, socially-distanced fashion. If you choose to come, please wear a mask and bring your own lawn chair. If you choose not to come, live-streamed worship in the Sanctuary will begin, as usual, at 10:30am.

WHEN?  When will we start worshiping together again in the Sanctuary? I hope it will be soon. Every Sunday that passes brings us one Sunday closer to being together again in our sacred space. In the meantime, let us continue to encourage one another to be faithful, patient, and willing to be guided by God’s wisdom.  May the peace of Christ be with you!    Lee Canipe