"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" – John 4:23-24 (NRSV).
Saint Andrew will slowly return to public worship. This is a hopeful sign in the midst of a pandemic that seems to continue without an end in sight.
It is surely not a decision that is made lightly. We are acting on the basis of the best information available to our church through the CDC and health care providers, as well as through guidelines announced by the governor of Iowa and local public health officials.
We do not return “because we need the money.” The members of St. Andrew are amazingly generous in fulfilling their pledges – even giving beyond what they have pledged. As a result, we can continue our ministries, even though we do not meet in person. (Thank you for helping to keep the church in such a good financial position.)
It is neither the staff nor the Session who is pushing for a reopening. Many St. Andrew members have asked for us to return to public worship and to reopen our facilities for group meetings and get-togethers. We already have approved graduation celebrations and a baby shower during the month of July. Everything will be done in compliance with the best practices as put forward by the CDC, considered by our Worship Team, and approved by Session.
As we continue to worship, we will have some guidelines in place to lessen the risk of infection for people who choose to attend in-person. And yes, it will cause some discomfort for some – like wearing a mask, not hugging, not singing, sitting a distance from others, and using hand sanitizer frequently to cleanse your hands.
Of course, for many of our members, the risks involved with returning to the Sanctuary remain too great for them to consider joining us in-person – especially as Covid-19 spikes in many states. Therefore, we’ll continue to offer opportunities for people to join worship through our livestream and to meet one another through Zoom. And on the first Sunday of every month, the Lord’s Supper is going to be celebrated with many people at home.
For a time like this, we call on the maturity of every Christian who fellowships with us. We have a description of how we think we are returning to public worship, with a few prescriptions and rules. Our ideas are sure to change and adapt along the way.
For now, we remember that we are the Easter people, the people of the open and empty grave. Many signs of hope surround us as a congregation. And whether we worship as a group in public or at home, we bring hope.
This will be over. Soon, we’ll be together in public. We just don’t know when!
Rev. Dr. Daniel de Beer
Interim Senior Pastor
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Iowa City, IA 52245