by: Philip Williams
Dear West Church Family,
As you have probably heard, this past Monday, Massachusetts began a phased reopening process. However, it needs to be said, that West Church has never been closed. We have continued to worship, serve, and grow in Christ, as the scattered church even though we have been temporarily unable to meet in our facility. We have been, and continue to be, open to the Spirit of God working in and through our lives on our respective frontlines and front lawns. You might be surprised to learn that our church has actually grown during this season! Our online viewership has far exceeded our average in-person attendance, our people have risen to the occasion, and found new and creative ways to serve and respond amidst this unexpected season in the life of our church. So, as we look ahead with great hope in God’s love, we will continue grow in, serve, and share Christ in new and creative ways.
As previously communicated, leadership is working on a transition plan for the summer months. Our priority continues to be the well-being of people both within and around our church. All life is a gift from God, and as an expression of love, we want to do all that we can to preserve the lives, health and well-being of both Christians and non-Christians in our community.
You may have also heard that churches were included in the first phase of the state’s reopening process. Now that new civil guidelines have been released, we have a better sense of what safety protocols we will need to have in place in order to resume in-person ministry gatherings. The current safety guidelines for churches require wearing face masks, social distancing of 6 feet, no food service, no social interaction when entering and exiting the building, no more than 40% of room occupancy, and no children’s programs. Given these new guidelines, even though we are allowed to meet, we would be unable to enjoy the benefits of being together that we all miss. We are about enjoying conversations over cups of coffee, and spending time together in the West Entry Hall. We are about big smiles, singing loud in worship, and hearing our kids shout, “Go God!” Therefore, we will not be opening our building for services this Sunday. Instead, we will continue to offer church online for the next three weeks.
We are choosing to proceed cautiously because we love our neighbors. As Jesus has shown us, real love involves sacrifice, and concern for the other at our own expense. We are aware that attending church online is not a perfect substitute for meeting in-person. Our faith is meant to be lived out in community. We are all looking forward to being back together again. However, we want to do it as well as we can under the present circumstances. Our staff and senior leadership team need some more time to process this new information, create strategies in alignment with these guidelines, and establish new systems, policies, and procedures. So, for right now, for us, that means waiting at least a few more weeks.
When we do resume in-person gatherings, they will be different from what we are used to experiencing. Although we are looking forward to offering creative in-person worship gatherings at some point in the future, for the time being, we will continue to gather for corporate worship online only.
Thank you for your continued understanding, patience, and forbearance with leadership as we discern the way forward. We ask you to pray for the senior leadership team and the staff as we navigate the complexities of our current situation. We are thinking creatively about new opportunities for ministry that exist in this unique season. We will let you know when we are prepared to offer in-person services in accordance with the civil guidelines.
On Sunday, May 24, please tune in for our online worship service at 10:30am. At that time, I will give you an update as to where we are in the re-entry process. Again, thank you for your continuing patience. In the coming weeks we will introduce a phased re-entry process moving toward a joyous reunion.
As we endure all things through our shared hope in Christ’s love, remember, we do not bear these burdens alone, but with the strong Son of God Himself. And He says to us today, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28). May we find our rest in God’s presence today—and every day.
Love in Christ,