Dear Redeemer family and friends,
As I said before the summer, I was expecting to be able to write to you in the autumn with some good news. I have some! On the 14 of September the Dutch Government announced its plans for the relaxation of some of the measures in place to contain the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These new relaxations have direct and positive consequences for how we will gather and meet for the coming months both in-person and online.
These changes will come into effect from 25 September and therefore, on Sunday 26 September we will have our first Sunday meeting with the new rules. The main change is the relaxation of the 1.5 m distancing rule.
This means we should have the seating capacity for everyone who wants to come to church physically (we don’t expect this to be everyone right away) and therefore, you can sign-up every week if you desire to come.
We will continue to evaluate the situation as we go forward into the winter. The changes are listed in short below:
From September 26, we will be able hold our public meetings on a Sunday without social distancing and without asking for any evidence of vaccination, testing or recovery being required. We will still be registering people in case of any positive cases.
There will remain sections in the church for any people who want to socially distance themselves.
This added freedom comes with some extra personal responsibilities to protect vulnerable others in our community.
The live-stream will be only available publicly on YouTube and website during service times (11.00 – 12.30 on Sunday). Recordings will be available later to people with a MyChurchSuite account.
These steps means we require many extra helping hands, extra volunteers, to fully serve the community from young to old. Until we have rebuilt our teams to sustainable levels, some aspects of our meetings from pre-Covid times will remain unavailable as a result.
The longer version for those of you with more time and a preference for extended explanations can be found below.
We will no longer have social distancing everywhere in our church meetings from 26 September.
The mandatory 1.5m distance between people comes to an end on the 25 September and allows us to increase our in-person capacity on a Sunday from the current 75 people. As a church, we are exempt from asking people to provide evidence that they are vaccinated against, tested for or recovered from Covid-19 for entry into our church. We believe on balance this is the right choice, we recognize, however, that without this check, we will have greater responsibility towards the health and wellbeing of our members, teams and guests and not less. We trust ultimately in God and have seen so far His hand of protection over our meetings having experienced no outbreaks despite people coming to church in the pre-symptomatic phase of Covid-19. We will remain careful and vigilant during this next phase.
We will keep some socially distanced seated sections.
We recognize that for many these changes are good news, yet we also recognize that for others there will still be some reservations about returning to physical meetings. We believe that meeting in-person is the biblical vision for church and that everything we do (including online) should be pulling people towards Jesus-centred day-to-day community life. To help those who may still be concerned, feel a greater responsibility towards others or need to keep themselves safe; we will for the coming months continue to provide sections of the seating that remains socially distanced at 1.5m. We will never make an assumption or judgement about why anyone is sitting in this section, please get in touch if you have any questions about this provision.
We will have added responsibilities towards one another.
We believe as followers of Jesus we have a duty and spiritual call to love one another (John 13:34). Jesus showed us that true love is not something we can define ourselves, but it is defined in the giving of ourselves for the sake of others (John 15:13). Putting their rights above our rights, being kind and warm-hearted whether the stakes are high or not.
How does this apply in our case? What does love look like? To get a little esoteric for a minute, we see back in the Mosaic law given to the Israelities that those who got an infectious disease were by law removed from the wider community to prevent others being infected (Leviticus 13:46). This law as many others in the Old Testament was designed to enforce what love naturally looks like for people who do not naturally love, i.e. they should have naturally take measures to prevent passing on of infectious diseases to others but they did not and therefore, they needed the hand of the law to help them in this. It is for the same reasons why we now have government restrictions and do not rely solely on the natural responsibility of people.
The removal of social distancing in church does create bigger risks for a minority and so increases our responsibility to love them. This coming season will require further responsibility and forethought from everyone, but we believe that the benefits of physical gatherings vastly outweigh the new responsibilities.
Here are some things to consider:
- Please be careful if you have no immunity to Covid-19 – if for whatever reason you will not or cannot be vaccinated* and have not already had a SARS-CoV-2 infection, we advise you to be extra careful in this season for your own health and those around you. We have seen from our own experience as a community that Covid-19 can be a nasty disease for some and even those who experience a mild version of it can be left with long-lasting health issues.
- Please think about taking extra precautions to protect others – for those of us who have an active social life and are regularly through work or pleasure are in situations where the chance of picking up an infection is somewhat greater (i.e. your idea of fun is a nightclub rather than a cross-country run), we would ask that you take measures in your own life to ensure that you do not bring this to church. For example, this could mean taking a self-test before coming on a Sunday, wearing a mask, or sitting in the social-distanced section.
- Please respect others’ personal space – When we are not seated, assume that people still want you to keep your distance from them (it is not your breath). It is not necessarily going to be easy, fast or comfortable to go back to “normal” personal boundaries. Please respect one another in this one and please have the permission to speak your mind. If you want people to keep away, say it, if you want them to come closer, say it.
(* We believe, on balance, getting vaccinated is the best choice for most people, but we recognize that it is a personal choice, which we must have faith for by being convinced in our own minds one way or another.)
If we do these things I believe we will be able to continue our reopening safely and in a God-honouring way loving one another.
We believe that the biblical picture of church is one where people are participants in church, not just spectators; contributors, not consumers. We recognize that this season of online church has not helped promote this vision and in many cases our spiritual muscles of service have atrophied and decayed. With the reopening of physical meetings our focus will be shifting more and more towards the in-person gathering.
Our live-stream will continue, but we want to increasingly make it a tool that invites and pulls people towards joining our day-to-day community in Delft and its surrounding areas and not a standalone thing floating in cyberspace. We are a local church and we believe that the local church is God’s Plan A for the world. In ‘local’ there is a primacy of geography and physical space that remains central to God’s design even in our age of globalism and online connectivity. We believe that the pandemic has reoriented many people to the importance of the local and we want to reaffirm its importance in our life together.
From 26 September, the live-stream will be only available as a live-stream via the website or YouTube from 11.00. It will no longer be possible to watch it at a later point in time without being part of the community and having a MyChurchSuite account, where it can be accessed via the MyPodcasts section. If you do not yet have a MyChurchSuite account, make sure that you have filled in a Connect Form in-person at the Welcome Zone or on the website. If you have any access issues please contact our Operations Assistant, Priscilla (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Getting Up To Speed
Fully reopening our meetings is a big deal. We are very thankful to God for this privilege. We have lots of faith that this season is going to be one where God moves among us in a new way. We are, however, weakened in certain areas after the pandemic. We still need to fill many volunteer positions before we can serve our community as we did before. For example, we need more volunteers to serve our children and teach them about Jesus in a fun and interactive way. We need more people to help serve coffee and tea to give everyone a warm welcome among other things.
We also believe that we should treat our volunteers well and we do not want people to have to serve in an unsustainable way, especially, since all of us are still carrying some exhaustion from extra pandemic stress. This means we want people to serve once a month (roughly every four weeks). Since it took around 35 volunteers to make Sunday meetings happen before the pandemic, some simple maths tells us that we need 140 people volunteering per month. We are getting there, but are not there yet. Could you make the difference? If you want to see how you could make a contribution on a Sunday, please contact our Operations Assistant, Priscilla (email@example.com).
Well done for reading this far. That is all from me for now, may God bless you in this season!
On behalf of the elders,