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Reopening a Church

April 22nd, 2020 No comments

Add this to the list of things they don’t teach in Seminary.

I’ve been thinking about how the end (or maybe the next phases?) of the Coronavirus lockdown will affect our congregation.

Government-supplied Guidance

First, if you haven’t done so, it’s worth looking at the CDC guidelines for a phased reopening of America.

Also, Governor Dunleavy has announced that businesses can begin to reopen starting this Friday, April 24, subject to “strict” health and safety standards. The “social distancing” Mandate 11, however, will continue to be in effect until it is rescinded.

Some key words are “Strict” vs. “moderate” vs. “limited” as applied to physical distancing protocols.  Strict means 10 or fewer people and six feet of spacing; moderate means 50 or fewer and six feet of spacing; limited appears to do away with limits on group size, but seems to envision continued extra cleaning and use of masks and/or gloves. See below.

An article at the Christianity Today website gives some ideas about how the reopening will roll out in churches across the different areas of the country.

I compared the CT piece with the CDC guidance and it seems pretty reasonable. I would summarize it for our purposes as follows:

Vulnerable populations (many of our congregation due to their age and/or serious underlying health conditions) will be encouraged to continue to shelter in place until Phase 3, when they will still be encouraged to practice social distancing.

Phase One permits large venues (including houses of worship) to operate “subject to strict physical distancing protocols”. That’s more or less what we have now, and difficult to implement in our facilities (see the implementation ideas below for the reason).

Phase Two permits houses of worship to operate under a moderate physical distancing protocol. This would entail:

  • sanitation – cleaning surfaces like doors, rails, countertops, bathrooms, and posting schedules listing when last cleaned. Also making hand sanitizer / disinfecting wipes readily available throughout the building. 
  • safety – providing masks and gloves for people coming to worship; family worship only (no children’s ministry); and spacing out the seating (possibly adding multiple worship services). 
  • size – the limit of 50 is actually more than our building will accommodate if we space out the seating. We’ve averaged 45 people in worship this year, but we probably can’t have more than 30 or so with proper spacing. Will we need multiple services?

Phase Three allows vulnerable individuals to resume public interactions, but with physical distancing. For their sakes (and maybe? — but I can’t find it mandated) we would continue to provide phase 2-level sanitation and safety features.

Reopening JLP

The Governor’s Mandate 11 lists several businesses that can reopen this Friday, but houses of worship aren’t on the list. (Perhaps by oversight?) As may be, the UMC Bishop said that all UMC churches in her area, including Alaska, are to remain closed through April 30.

It appears, however, that JLP could reopen as soon as May 3. To do so, we need to:

  • convince liturgists, musicians, technical arts, and any others involved in leading worship that we’re ready to worship together again.
  • but also to discourage vulnerable people (at least half the congregation, depending on the definition of “elderly”) from joining those who are worshiping together. In Christian charity, this would require at least a livestream of the service to be available online.
  • space out the pews appropriately
  • recruit volunteers to implement an enhanced cleaning regimen and provide them necessary supplies
  • obtain supplies of masks and gloves to supply to people who wish to use them.
  • figure out how to livestream a real worship service (one with parishioners present) including both the technical and volunteer-training requirements

That’s not a small amount of work. What else needs to be done?

We should firm this up into a real plan and begin implementing it.

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Newsboys at Fusion Alaska 2013

August 10th, 2013 No comments

On my other blog, I talk about last night’s Newsboys concert.

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Grace vs. Consequences

May 20th, 2013 No comments

From the infinitely-rich “God doesn’t give us what we deserve” department, the Anchorage Daily News brings us a cautionary tale:

A Sutton man is being treated for serious head injuries after he was found pinned under his ATV on the Glenn Highway, troopers said Sunday.

Some take-aways:

1. don’t drink and drive

2. not even ATV’s

3. maybe especially not ATV’s

4. and wear a helmet!

Also remember what Matt Groening said so long ago: “At night, the ice weasels come.”

Alaska

March 16th, 2012 No comments

We buttoned up our U-Pack trailer on Wednesday, March 7, expecting it to arrive in Anchorage around March 21, or perhaps a little later. Instead it was here a week later, on March 14. It went by road to Seattle, where it was then shipped to Alaska. The world is not only flat, it’s small.

Trailer Spotted (Anchorage)
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Children dying of exposure

March 4th, 2012 No comments

I read two terrible news stories today, and I can’t help but play connect-the-dots with them.

A 3-year-old girl from America’s northernmost community died and her younger sister suffered hypothermia after their mother and the mother’s boyfriend left them in a locked bedroom with a window open to a temperature of minus 30 degrees to air out the room because the girls wet their beds, authorities said. More here.

The mom and her boyfriend were just horribly neglectful, and they are facing 2nd-degree murder charges. (Locking kids in a bedroom?)

But are those parents just bad parents? Probably. I don’t think they meant to hurt anyone.

I do wonder, however, how much of their neglectful attitude is absorbed from their culture, which has become if not hostile then at least indifferent to the idea that the custody of children is a sacred trust. Death, increasingly, is seen as only one of several equally valid options.

Consider this article, from England. Experts are telling us that this sort of thing—the death of one’s children—should be a parent’s prerogative:

Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.

I find it grimly amusing that these “experts” are now willing to affirm what the right-to-life movement has been arguing for 40 years: that abortion is no different than killing babies.

Now, I know that slippery-slope arguments are weak. People can always say you’re taking something too far. But this is why the slippery-slope argument can’t be ruled out. If abortion becomes a legitimate form of family planning, then it can and eventually will be used to justify infanticide. In four decades, it has become safe, at least for these experts, to demand expanded abortion opportunities: not only in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, but, hey, why not the 4th and 5th as well!

“Politics is downstream of culture.” The culture is what allows people to argue in favor of infanticide. But if they are not resisted at this point, then, ultimately it will become a political issue. If history is any guide, then in about 40 years, the government will pass a law stating that people who work in hospitals will have to kill babies, regardless of their private ethical or religious convictions, in order to “safeguard the mother’s reproductive freedoms.”

New Call!

January 27th, 2012 No comments

I’ve accepted a new call. Assuming that all the denominational processes work themselves out, then effective March 12, 2012, I will become pastor of Jewel Lake Parish in Anchorage, Alaska.

You can’t photograph a church, but here’s the building they meet in:

Jewel Lake Parish (Church)

(Click to enlarge).

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Something Wonderful – Hallelujah

December 19th, 2011 No comments

Somebody on Facebook pointed this out to me. I love it:

I especially like the interpretation of “forever and ever” about 2:05 in.

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