Pastor Chris: The Roadmap to Re-Gathering

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Friday Pastor’s Briefing: DCC’s Roadmap to Regathering
Pastor Chris Neufeld-Erdman

Dear Friends;

DCC is currently an open, functioning church, we’re just open and functioning in ways we’ve never done church before. Since we’re open and functioning, our top priority when it comes to the pandemic is public safety and personal vitality. Therefore we’re following the best protective measures to ensure the health and wellbeing of our people and the broader community. Currently, it’s clear that the CDC and WHO do not expect a vaccine for the Coronavirus until late spring or early summer 2021. As we await this important public health measure, the vaccine, we don’t wait alone: DCC’s pastors are working alongside other local clergy members so that a number of our Davis congregations (Jewish, Unitarian/Universalist, and Christian) walk in solidarity with each other, collaborating over plans for the best ways to regather for in-person activities. 

Despite certain allowances by state and local governments for houses of worship, it is clearly unwise for faith communities to engage faith practices and rituals in person. Singing, speaking, touching, and eating are all high-risk activities and yet are central to our faith traditions. Social distancing and face-masking would require uncomfortable and awkward in-person distances. This means that even if we did gather for worship the experience would be very different from what we want and need. Imagine about 25-30 people in the sanctuary, spread out: no singing, speaking, touching, etc. 

So, we are coming to realize the hard and unwelcome truth that it is unlikely that we can safely regather for larger in-person indoors worship services before May 2021 (around the time of a hoped for vaccine). This could change, of course. And so, between now and then, DCC’s COVID Information Management team* will meet each month to monitor scientific and policy developments. Our board (the Session) will re-evaluate our Roadmap to Regathering quarterly: in September 2020, January 2021, and April 2021, and will reassess our strategy and plans. We will regularly provide you with updates and explore the possibilities of regathering in-person earlier. But for now, we must call ourselves to patience and persistence. 

We suspect that at some point in the next four months we may be able to allow small groups (under 10 persons) of low-risk individuals to meet in person under strict social distancing and hygiene protections. We also are planning for ways we can gather for live, online “meet-ups” for informal, authentic connecting around shared interests, education, support, celebrations, and other things that can help mediate the social distancing required of us if we are to keep people safe and healthy as well as contribute to the larger wellbeing of the world around us. Small, outdoor, gatherings for simple worship without singing, sacraments, etc. may also be an option before spring next year. 

We know this will cause disappointment, even dismay, among us. That is natural and expected. We need each other, especially in these challenging times. For now, please be patient, stay extra-connected, pray with and for us, do what you can do to cooperate with the best practices that have to this point helped us manage the crisis well, and, please, continue to support your church. Faith communities like ours are proving to be vital societal partners in fostering the relationships that stimulate the kind of resolve and resiliency we need in these trying times.  

Be wise. Be kind. And remember, we can do hard things.

****

*DCC’s COVID19 Information Management (CIM) team is an advisory council comprised of elder Deborah Luthi (career risk management expert), Dr. Jeremiah Ray (physician and Medical Director, Intercollegiate Athletics Sports Medicine Program UC Davis), Dr. Anne Ray (Sutter Health Family Practice physician), Elisa Stone, Julie Herdt, Eunbee Ham, and Chris Neufeld-Erdman. 

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