We’re “reopening” this Sunday!
By God’s grace, the governor announced this week that we are now able to return to 100% capacity for our Sunday gatherings and all other church-related functions. Further, masks are no longer required for those who are fully vaccinated.
Therefore, beginning this Sunday, July 4th, we will gather for (mostly) unhindered worship for the first time in 483 days! Let's take a moment to thank our Lord for carrying us through this season.
What this means for us
In light of the state’s reopening, we are making the following changes beginning this Sunday, July 4th:
- No pre-registration will be required going forward. (This is already in place.)
- No social distancing will be required, therefore all seating will be open.
- Masks will no longer be required for those who are fully vaccinated.
- State law continues to require those who are unvaccinated to wear masks. However, this is an individual mandate so compliance will be left to the individual, not the church.
- We will continue to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together with individual communion cups, as we have through the majority of the pandemic, at least, through the summer.
- We are prioritizing the rebuilding of Cornerstone Kids in order to remove as many potential barriers as possible. Please let us know if you are able to serve. The rebuilding of other ministries will follow. More below.
- All smaller gatherings, whether inside or outside, are now permitted without restrictions (communities, discipleship groups, classes, Connects, informal meet-ups).
- Our last day of public livestream will be on Sunday, July 25th. More below.
“What if I don’t feel comfortable returning yet?”
This is understandable. It has been an incredibly difficult season and, to an extent, we’ve all become habituated toward isolation, caution, and the ease of at-home live-streaming. Yet, this is our state’s re-opening. There will not be another re-opening, even if some of the remaining restrictions are eased. Vaccines are readily available. Seattle was the first major US city to fully vaccinate 70% of its residents. Based on an April survey, our church is nearly 90% vaccinated, giving us our own ‘flock immunity’. Risks are involved anywhere in the public (whether grocery stores, restaurants, airports, etc). We have not had a single outbreak. In other words, this is probably about as safe as it is ever going to be. Therefore, we lovingly encourage you to return.
“Will we be enforcing a mask policy for those who are unvaccinated?”
Per the reopening guidance, our state no longer requires vaccinated individuals to wear masks. However, state law continues to require those who are unvaccinated, over five years old, to wear a mask in indoor public settings, which includes church gatherings. This is an individual, not an institutional, mandate. Therefore, while we encourage compliance, we will not be “enforcing” compliance any more than we “enforce” you driving the speed limit or paying your taxes. In other words, compliance will be left to the individual and his/her conscience before the Lord (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).
“Can I still wear a mask, even if I’m vaccinated?”
Yes, of course. In fact, we imagine quite a few people who are vaccinated will continue to wear masks, including families with young children who are unable to be vaccinated at this time, those with compromised immune systems, and/or those simply erring on the side of caution. Wearing a mask is not a sin nor evidence of a lack of faith. In fact, not wearing a mask will be an adjustment for us all after sixteen months of doing so.
“Won’t following these guidelines create division and partiality?”
As elders, we have been “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” throughout this tumultuous season (Eph. 4:3). We must keep in mind there are many factors that facilitate our unity and the primary one, apart from the Spirit, is our ability to physically gather for worship.
Therefore, from the beginning, we have sought to gather as Jesus’ people to the greatest extent possible given the government’s guidelines at the time. Amidst these ever-changing guidelines, we made it our aim to not be more restrictive than the government. For example, when we could gather at 25% with pre-registration, we did. When we could gather at 50%, we did. When we couldn’t sing at full volume, we lowered our volume to speaking levels. When we could only have two band members, we did. When we could sit in groups of 15, we did.
So, now that the vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks, we do not wish to be more restrictive than the government is calling us to be (e.g. if we were to continue to mandate masks for everyone for the sake of unity). While we understand there are a variety of perspectives on masks and vaccines within our church, we don’t see this greater freedom for corporate worship as facilitating division or partiality, but a matter in which we must bear with one another in love (Eph. 4:2; Rom. 14:22-23).
For those who are unvaccinated, please keep in mind, as noted above, that there will continue to be people who are vaccinated that will wear masks across our church life. It is simply not true that mask wearing will become a ‘scarlet letter’ identifying the ‘unvaccinated outcasts’. Let’s remember that our righteousness isn’t found in our mask or vaccination status, but in Jesus.
Additionally, masks will continue to be required for everyone regardless of vaccination status in hospitals, schools, child care centers, long term care facilities, and public transit (buses, light rail and planes). Masks are not going away anytime soon for anyone. Let’s pray for unity, love, and lots of grace.
“Why is the livestream ending in four weeks?”
From the beginning of the pandemic our livestream has been a concession “in light of the present distress” (1 Cor. 7:26) and was never meant to be a long-term replacement for physically gathering; an IV drip, not a permanent crutch. The church is not a commodity to be consumed, it is a people to whom we belong. The church is not a flat one-dimensional pixelated reality, but a multi-dimensional spiritual reality experienced as individuals knit together by the Spirit of God in a local place.
The regular gathering of Jesus’ people to sing, pray, and preeminently sit under God’s Word is the most important means of grace in a Christian’s life (Heb. 10:24-25). The word for church in Greek literally means “assembly” or “congregation.” In Christ, we now belong to Jesus’ people, universal and local. That means Sunday is the one time during the week where we get to physically live out this shared identity. Therefore, gathering on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, has been integral to Jesus’ people from the very beginning.
However, we recognize that it may take some time for everyone to reboot their Sunday rhythms. Therefore, we are allowing four weeks to begin making those adjustments.
Additionally, we know there are a few among us who cannot participate in our gatherings due to ongoing chronic health issues. In these cases, the pastor overseeing their care will be able to provide a link to a non-public livestream or recording (TBD).
“What do I do with my children?”
We understand that it can be difficult for young children to sit through an entire gathering with their parents. Therefore, Cornerstone Kids is currently offered at the 9am gathering for 1-3 year olds. We’re aiming to expand this to both gatherings starting Sunday, August 1st, and then grow the ministry, and ages served, from there. Our goal is that by October, we'd be able to resume CKids for all ages (6mo to 8yrs). However, this entirely depends on volunteer recruitment. If you’ve served in this capacity previously, or are willing to serve now, please sign up today.
In the meantime, pre-registration for CKids will continue to be required as space is limited.
Another option is the MPR (multi-purpose room) downstairs that will continue to have a live feed of the gathering and more space for families with young children.
Additionally, ‘Parenting in the Pew’ is a great resource for ideas on how you can disciple your children into the joy of worshipping with Jesus’ people, from the youngest of ages.
“When will all of our ministries get back to normal?”
Due to the pandemic, many of our ministries have ceased to exist for over a year. During that time many previous volunteers have moved, transitioned, and/or experienced life-stage changes. This means that we’re currently in the process of rebuilding almost everything from the ground up. As you’d suspect, this doesn't happen overnight. We need all hands on deck. Therefore, if you call DCC your church, but have yet to sign up to serve, we invite you to do that in some capacity today.
Our most immediate needs are in Cornerstone Kids and Operations (see below). However, there are needs across the board. Below is a list of our current minimum volunteer needs in order to ensure our Sunday gatherings run smoothly:
- Operations: Greeting, Support & Security, Connect (23)
- Cornerstone Kids – 9:00am (19)
- Cornerstone Kids – 11:00am (27)
- Operations: Post-Gathering, Cleanup (11)
To learn more and sign up, visit downtowncornerstone.org/serve.
Let’s keep Jesus at the forefront
This has been long, and difficult, 16 months. As we lament the challenges of this past year, let’s also celebrate God’s grace, kindness, and mercy to us. Let’s remember his faithfulness to us as a church. Let’s continue to pursue unity. Let’s keep looking for ways to love one another. Let’s ask the Lord to grow our hearts for the lost all around us. And most importantly, let’s remember, that amidst our diversity, we are unified around Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is an incomparable city awaiting us, just around the bend. Until we arrive, let’s continue to make him known, for the glory of God and the joy of all people. We hope to see you on Sunday!
Warmly, in hope.
The DCC Elders