September, 11, 2020

Worship in Phase 2 of Covid-19

In late July, you received an invitation to complete a survey, asking about ways to make worship more meaningful in Phase 2 of COVID-19. In total, we had 21 participants in the survey. While that is a small percentage of our worshipping community, we will share the results with you all, and share some steps we are going to take based on the results.

Finding the Spirit outside our Building

We were struck by the breadth of responses to “What empowers you to be the presence for family, friends and neighbors that God calls you to be?” From phone calls, visiting shut-ins, talking with neighbors, finding folks online via Zoom or Facebook – our congregation has found connection to the Holy Spirit outside our walls. And yet, a number have also felt exhausted and worn down. I know that I have felt all of those things, and it seems to vary by the day! We are grateful for you all, and yearn for ways to feel refreshed, which makes our decision to not return to worship in our building harder.

Return to Worship

Of the survey respondents, 16 said they would not be participating in worship in-person, while 5 said they would be interested. That low number of people, coupled with the newer information from the CDC that links prolonged exposure to aerosolized virus as a primary way of spreading infection, led our team to conclude that we should not start in-person worship at this time. This is especially hard considering all the responses we had about people longing to be back together in order to participate in communion, singing, participating in the liturgy and seeing each other.

For perspective, this is in line with all ELCA churches (that we know of) in King County. We have heard that some churches in our Synod, usually in more rural locations, have done church in cars in the parking lot.

Alternative Worshipping Options

We had 11 people express interest in “In-person backyard conversations on faith, up to 5 people”, with 9 expressing interest in “In-person outdoor alternative worship service, up to 5 people”. That generated an idea that we would like to implement – where geographically similar groups of up to 5 people can regularly meet together to participate in a simple contemplative worship and a simple reflection inspired by the bible or other faith-filled guide. Think of it as a modified “Dinners for Eight”, where instead of Dinner we meet outside, and instead of Eight we meet as up to five people. Something we can call “Parks for 5” or “Backyards for 5”. And we’d love to get started in mid-September, such that we can meet for a while before it gets too cold, wet and wintry.

What would “Outside for 5” be like?

Karin Holt, in addition to any other volunteers, will create a contemplative service that every group can use. It will also include a bible study/reflection section. We will have the goal of linking people in geographically similar areas, so that people can meet in parks or yards close to where you live. For this, we need your help:

  • If you would like to participate in a “Parks/Backyards for 5” experience, please email Karin, Kevin or Lori to be joined together with a group in your area. Kevin’s email is president@immanuelseattle.org
  • If you would like to help design the simple contemplative worship format and/or bible study/reflection component, please contact Karin Holt

Finally, please let us know if you didn’t get a chance to participate in the survey and you have other ideas! We would love to hear them and try to incorporate them in the future! Send responses to Kevin via president@immanuelseattle.org.

Thank you,

Kevin Johnsen, Karin Holt, Lori Roehl

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