What we are hoping for

Pandemic protocols put in place to protect are slowly, and precariously, lifting.  In solid faith that at some point we will be able to start gathering in person, Immanuel staff has begun planning for what that might look like.  I am going to try to outline what we are hoping to do. 

Our assumption is that opening will happen in stages.  We will not suddenly be allowed to meet with 200 people for a worship service.  Let’s say the first number is 10.  With 10 we can start live-streaming the service with a larger worship leadership group.  Live-streaming is something we want to work toward because it takes what we have learned about online services and puts it in a format most useful even when many or most of us are gathered in the building.  And we continue to hope for that reality. 

10 is also a number of people that fit in your home or in your backyard.  When we start moving out of isolation we really want to capitalize on two things: 1) many of us kinda like the comfort of home thing at least sometimes, and 2) many of us are pretty excited to get together with somebody, anybody even.  So phase one will include 10 people leading a live-stream service from 2626 Mayfield and 10 people gathered at a home in your neighbourhood.  You know how much it helps to have other people around to raise your awareness, hold you accountable for putting pants on, and maybe even singing and praying and reading along?  We want to help you get used to that again.  Yes, we are really that nice. 

Phase 2.  Let’s assume phase two is the gatherings of 50.  At this stage, we will, of course, start auctioning off seats to the top 50 bidders.  And yes, the seats at the back go to the highest bidders.  Seats will be in family groups appropriately distanced, doors will be propped open, communion will be BYOB (bread), and the offering (and seat payment) will be online (maybe forever).  Okay, kidding about the seat payments.  A more likely method is to have everyone divided into groups of 50 with a schedule of when people come.  Those not in attendance will be able to live-stream the service from home.  We sense from what we are reading that there may be restrictions for seniors at the start, and things like nursery and Sunday School will be restricted as well.  So, the service from home will be pretty important for a while. 

Phase three will likely be about 100 people.  This will function similarly to phase two just with more people.  However, what we are hoping for is that the house-church part of this experiment will keep going. The plan is to try this because we will likely have to, but phase 4 will be considering how best can we keep the house-church experience going.  Perhaps, once a month we can have House-Church Sunday where the pastors send out a video teaching that you watch with your mini-community from someone’s home.  Or perhaps we will alternate house church and a communal gathering at 2626 Mayfield Road.  Possibly there will be activities for you to do in your community that are acts of service to bless your neighbours.  The exact plan is still in process, but just like many people will continue to work from home, we think there is some level at which we should maintain “worship” and “service” in your home or neighbourhood as well. 

A visioning day was held on February 22.  And last week a broader follow-up survey was done.  Some of what came out consistently included participation beyond Sunday, an emphasis on growing younger, and a desire to connect in our community.  That vision process was started with no expectation of what we are presently living through.  However, God has an amazing way of taking what we are thinking and translating it and using it for his plans and purposes.  Could it be that in such a time as this we are being prepared for the next phase of Immanuel’s ministry?  We have shown resilience and adaptability these last couple of months; let’s consider how some of what we have learned can be used to help us move forward on our mission. 

One concrete plan.  As staff and executive council continue to think about the broader vision, we have already decided to do a series for the month of June called “The Art of Neighbouring”.  This series is designed to get us all thinking about what it means to actually love our actual neighbours.  Allow the teaching and the conversations that arise around it to guide you as you consider what the next new normal will be for us as the Immanuel community. 

~Pastor Erick Schuringa