Cascadia District Superintendent: Reimagining Life Together or “Where to from Here?”


Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and [Parent] of all, who is over all, through all, and in all. God has given [God’s] grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ. Ephesians 4: 1-7 (CEB)
My Fellow Disciples,
During the Zoom Conference on May 24th I answered the questions that folks submitted beforehand. I want to share those questions and answers with you. For some this will be a reminder and for others it will be your first opportunity to hear what I have to say about some of the common questions and issues we are finding as people drive more deeply into the work of Reimagining Life Together.

  • Are there any ways we can have fellowship time? Not currently or while in Phase 1 and Phase 2.
  • What are the things we need to do before we can open? I believe this is well covered in the Reimagine document if you need more specifics or clarification email me your specific issues and questions. (tim@umoi.org)
  • I'm wondering whether temperature will be taken at the door. Also, what happens if someone comes to the service but refuses to wear a mask. Will they be asked to leave? Will police be called if necessary?Taking temperatures and pre-screening are up to you and your church. If it is part of your re-launch plan, make sure and communicate this to your congregation and post signs so visitors know what to expect.
    • Refusing to wear a mask - If you encounter this tell the person that if they refuse to wear a mask your church will have to move back a phase and not be able to gather as masks are require for gathering. If they still refuse to wear a mask and will not cooperate have a reserved section to seat them in away from all others.
    • If this happens and the person stays for worship or whatever the gathering is you will then need to plan to move back a phase in your re-launch plans until you can get people to cooperate and follow the guidelines.
    • COMMUNICATION IS KEY. Share your plans, expectations, and requirements as widely and as often as you can with your congregation.
  • Since the virus lives only a few days on surfaces, we should not need to disinfect the Sanctuary from week to week nor is there a need to sanitize it after sitting vacant for 2 months. Is this OK?
    • Science is telling us that the virus lives on surfaces and recommends that if a space is occupied within the last 7 days it be both cleaned and disinfected.
    • There is no need to disinfect any space that has been unoccupied for more than 7 days. But this means no one has been in the space for over 7 days. It is our guidance that occupied spaces be cleaning and disinfected after each use if that space will be used again within 7 days. So yes, the sanctuary will need to be cleaned and disinfected each week.
  • Can you update us on how the future looks?
    • We will move slowly and carefully into relaunching. But when we get to Phase 3 and we are gathering it will be very different from what it was pre-pandemic and I don’t believe we will get back to anything close to what we would call normal – singing hymns, freely hugging each other, etc. for a year or maybe more.
    • My best guess, and this is only a guess and you cannot hold me to this, is that we will be allowed to move into Phase 2 of Reimagining Life Together before the end of June.
    • It is important to note that your congregation cannot move into Phase 2 or any other phase without an approved plan regardless of when the Bishop says we can move into that next phase.
  • We are in a pastoral transition period and will need to find ways of welcoming our new pastor on, or around, July 1. Since it does not appear that a large, normal worship service is an option, will small groups (under 25 people) be possible by then?
    • As things stand right now no groups will be allowed to gather until Phase 3 and then groups of 50 or less may gather.
    • You who are experiencing transitions in pastoral leadership should receive guidance and suggestions on how to do some of this saying good-bye and hello very soon. I can say that it will look nothing like these transitions have looked in the past. I encourage you to be creative in what you can do.
  • Our Church rents space within the church building for various "non church" sponsored 3rd party organizations. These are not currently "church sponsored ministries" but rather space rental arrangements. Does the Bishop's most recent statement on church closure address only worship and church sponsored use of the building, or does it also apply to income generating "commercial" arrangements for use of our building?
    • Church buildings are closed until they are not which means no groups, church, renters, community users can be in the space.
    • I recommend that you let your regular users know this. You should also advise them that when they are welcomed back, they will have to agree to the church’s protocols and follow them.
  • Looking for details beyond masks and social distance. How about communion, rest rooms, door handles (everywhere), choir (mask or no mask)? Looking for the wisdom of all.
    • I think this is well covered in Reimagining Life Together.
    • I do want to comment on the issue of singing and the playing of brass and wind instruments – scientific studies from before Covid-19 have shown that forceful projection of voice or breath can spread microscopic droplets over 20 feet and in some cases over 25 feet.
    • Someone asked about humming and after doing some research it is the recommendation of many in the scientific and choral communities that no humming be allowed for the same reasons.
    • The experiences of Covid-19 seem to be proving this out. Just one example of many that are being reported: Two people died from Covid-19 and 45 people became ill and 28 of those tested positive for Covid-19 after 60 members gathered on March 10 for a rehearsal of the Skagit Valley Chorale. A retired clergy woman in her early 60s of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference was among them, and was infected and she infected her husband and likely others. The sobering thing is that they all were in full compliance with state guideline at the time – no handshaking, no shared food, washing hands, etc.
    • The basic rule of thumb is that if it is touched disinfect it.
    • Communion is not to happen in person – it may be done virtually.
  • Our very small church has mostly older attendees.  Many have those dreaded underlying conditions and are reluctant to attend until all threat is gone.  Can we open in gradual steps? Gradual steps are the only way to relaunch. It is perfectly acceptable for a congregation to choose to wait until Phase 3 or later to relaunch. You know your people and what is best for them in this regard. No one is making you relaunch, that’s up to your congregation.
  • If we hold church outside with 8 ft spacing & masks is it safe to sing?
    • No singing not even outside as those droplets will travel in unpredictable ways and go up to 20 or more feet. Remember that masks do not keep all the droplets contained especially when projecting your voice and the mask will become saturated and then you are pushing droplets out of your mask. Sorry, but no singing even with mask and outside.
  • Would there be a difference in policies from using the property versus using the inside of the building itself? This possibility will need to be covered in your plan and approved. Some things to keep in mind:
    • Any surfaces would need to be cleaned and sanitized, physical distancing and masks would be required.
    • No touching of one another and no working closely together or even walking side by side.
    • You would have to have each person separated by 6 feet, front, back and sides and only people who reside in the same house can be close to one another.
    • When we get to the phase where gatherings can happen you will need to decide if it is worth it to gather in this way.
The unedited recording of the Zoom conference from Sunday May 24 can be found here. The meeting proper starts at about the 15 minute mark.

There have been a series of Webinars that have been focused on Reimagining Life Together and relaunching ministry. They can be found here and you might want to watch them if you have other questions as they cover a variety of issues and questions related to relaunching ministry. Also there are many great resources (which are updated regularly) at: https://greaternw.org/coronavirus/
I know that this is a lot to take in. I know that we are all feeling anxious and uncertain. I know that some of what we must do and how we must consider relaunching life together will mean change and challenges and that along with this comes grief at what we have lost. But we are people of the resurrection, of new life from death, of light from darkness, of hope from despair. We are resilient and innovative and can find a way. The Bishop has used the metaphor of walking in the fog to describe our present situation – we can see clearly for a few feet, we can see some shapes and outlines a little further off and beyond that it is just vague shadows of gray and white. We step forward into the fog trusting that we will find the path as we make the road together with God and Christ and the Spirit walking with us.
There is no going back to the way things were, there is only finding a way forward together into the next phase of being the church, of being the partners of God and Christ striving to transform lives and the world. Let yourself imagine this new reality and then do what you can to make it real. As the great visionary Walt Disney said, if you can dream, you can do it.