Dear Beech Grove Community,
When the church building was closed last year it was turning off a light switch everything seemed to stop all at once. One Sunday we had worship, fellowship, just about everything, and the next week we were worshipping from a computer or transition to find some sort of spiritual growth. Our spiritual and emotional health were tested in many different ways over this time. However, unlike the closing of our buildings, the reopening has been much slower. It is taking time and patience, along with grace and listening. As your pastor, I have tried to balance the desires of the community as best I could offer with guidelines from the CDC, VDH, and our own Annual Conference’s Bishop’s Workgroup. Some may feel we have moved too slow, and still, others may feel we have gone too fast in relaxing guidelines. I have learned it is hard to appease everyone in any situation. However, along with our Healthy Church Team, we have sought to create a space for us to express our faith to praise and worship God in a manner that is safe and as low risk as possible given the state of the global pandemic. In the church setting, that has meant masking, distancing, and no singing; it meant sacrificing time-honored traditions like Easter and Christmas services, and even the Easter Egg Factory.
As the vaccine becomes more widely available and we see more and more individuals getting vaccinated, as well as persons abiding by the necessary mitigation efforts we have seen numbers go down in our area and around the country. This has led to the announcement from the CDC on May 13, saying that vaccinated persons can feel safe being both indoors and outdoors without a mask. On May 14 our Governor, Ralph Northman, lifted the mask mandate for those who are vaccinated as well and named intentions to lift other restrictions at the end of May. In response to both of these decisions, we have received new guidance and recommendations from the Annual Conference and expect to have more info come out that we will consider in the coming weeks. We are beginning to move to the other side of this pandemic and as a church, we have set our sights on being a congregation post-COVID and what ministry will look like.
For now, we have some exciting announcements for worship:
- For our outdoor 9:30 am contemporary worship service we are making masking optional and will be opening up and adding singing (which may occur without masks as long as we are properly distanced). We will continue to hold this service outside, as that continues to be the safest place for both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
- For our indoor 11:00 am traditional worship service we are making masking optional for those who are vaccinated while they are seated and when we are not singing. Please still bring a mask as we will ask you to put a mask on while we are singing and while you are moving to and from your seat. This will be done on the honor system, and we will not be checking vaccination cards, nor do we desire to. However, we ask that if you are not fully vaccinated (that is 2 weeks post your final shot depending on vaccine) that you honor and respect this system, as this is how we create a safe and low-risk space.
Outside of worship, we are hoping to bring back children’s Sunday School during the 11 am worship hour, and hope to have more information coming out about that in the coming weeks. We are also looking to start a small group ministry that will help to re-establish this sense of community many of us feel has been lost. We are currently looking for persons to lead small groups. These small groups are groups of 6-12 persons who gather together in a common vision of growing spiritually, physically, or emotionally. These can be bible studies, topical studies, interest groups, or groups focused around a hobby or life experience. If you are interested in leading one please reach out to me. If you are interested in being a part of one we are hoping to have those going by this summer. We are also looking to bring back fellowship meals with safety provisions and I hope to have a fall kickoff with a communal meal. We are hoping that these ministries begin to create a new normal for what our post-COVID ministry at Beech Grove looks like.
For many in our community, these changes will be a welcomed relief, and for others, it may cause a bit of anxiety. However, we would like to invite you to participate at your personal comfort level. If you desire to still wear your mask you are more than welcome to do so. If you are vaccinated and you would like to forgo the mask in certain situations while joining us, you are welcome to do so. As your pastor I will admit that in many situations I will continue to wear a mask. I have seen the benefits wearing one has provided, even beyond the specific COVID-19 virus. I will probably preach and lead worship without it, but will most likely wear it at other including while out and about in the community. Beyond COVID-19, I feel comfortable and safe in a mask. I notice how it cares for others for a variety of viruses and it has helped a bit with some of my allergies. I also have two children that are yet to be vaccinated, nor are they eligible for vaccines, and I want to set a good example for them to continue wearing their masks properly. This is my understanding; you may be in a different place, and I respect that. If you are more comfortable in a mask, feel free to wear it. If you are vaccinated and would prefer to take it off when it is safe, we invite you to feel safe doing that. If you are unvaccinated however, we do ask that you continue to mask as a manner of keeping persons both vaccinated and non-vaccinated safe (per CDC and VDH guidelines). If you are hesitant about getting a vaccine I would encourage you to talk to your doctor about the benefits and cost of it. In all things, no matter your stance, know that you have a place to worship and feel safe and healthy at Beech Grove. As I said, this is on the honor system and we trust our community to care for one another in the way we are most able to, at this time in the pandemic.
As we continue to receive guidance on recommendations from the Annual Conference, our Healthy Church Team will discern what is best for the community at Beech Grove. As your pastor, I would like to thank this community for handling this pandemic with grace and patience as we have been making these decisions. I also want to thank our Healthy Church Team (Ken Sawyer, Cindy Eberwine, Jim MacCord, Joanne Derring, Yvonne Matson, Patty Yandle, and Todd Zirkle) for all the work they have done in assisting and creating our safe worship environment. We hope that you continue to feel part of the Beech Grove community and continue to be involved in ministry through this church.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Andrew Ware