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Updated February 4th, 2021
Buckle up…this is a long one! But please take the time to read all of it (thanks in advance!).
It’s almost been a year since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been a year full of struggle and a year full of the Lord’s faithfulness. We have an amazing God who has good and perfect purposes for all things, and we’ve seen that over and over again.
Now that the Covid numbers in LA are finally going down, and the most stringent stay at home orders are being lifted, it’s a good time to update you on our plans for regathering. Below is our “regathering roadmap” that will (Lord willing) guide our decisions over the coming months.
We continue to be so thankful for the technological ability to worship together remotely with you via our live stream during this unique season. It has also been a true joy to be able to gather together in-person with those of you who have been able to join our outdoor worship services.
As we look forward to the coming months, we plan to both continue our weekly live-stream as well as continue to use our outdoor sanctuary as the primary place for in-person services for the time being. While we are eager to return to worshipping together indoors, our priority is holding services where the maximum amount of people can worship together, despite different vulnerabilities or comfort levels.
As the numbers in LA county continue to (hopefully) decrease, we will increasingly encourage you to rejoin us in person if you have not already done so. We have not had a single transmission traced to our outdoor services since we started them six months ago (even through the most recent county-wide spike), and we believe our protocols make the service a safe place for the vast majority of our church family to gather and worship together. We also look forward to utilizing this space for unity services as well as we seek to reconnect across our various language groups.
For the time being we plan to keep all of the current protocols in place: masks, distancing, etc. These are relatively small sacrifices we can all make to keep our services both safe and welcoming to the most people possible. And for those who won’t be able to rejoin us in person due to disability or illness, we haven’t forgotten you! We will continue to do our best to serve, care for, and connect with you based on your specific needs.
We also know that this season of isolation has been uniquely difficult for kids, and we’ve been so blessed by the success of our Jr. Church program for elementary-aged kids (both over Zoom and in person). We will continue to hold outdoor, distanced Jr. Church gatherings for elementary aged children, and look forward to more and more of your kids regathering in this way over the coming months. In the meantime, we will also continue to offer Jr. Church over Zoom at least through the end of the school year.
While I do not have any preschoolers myself any longer, it is not lost on me that much of this season (and many of our church gathering logistics) are toughest on those of you with toddlers and preschoolers. While we will continue to provide a “family area” in our outdoor sanctuary, we are also preparing to offer preschool childcare (indoors) in dedicated “pods” in the coming months. We hope that some combination of the family area and these pods will help bridge the gap for some of our littlest ones to return to services with their families.
Community Groups / Life Groups
For years we have repeated over and over that Community Groups are the heartbeat of our church family, and this season has only served to confirm that fact. Our groups have been through quite a lot, and we are as convinced as ever that they are the best place to enjoy and engage in the kind of relationships that Christians are meant to have.
If you are not yet connected to a community group, now is the time to do so! You need other Christians in your life now more than ever. Please email email@example.com to get connected with a group.
We know it has been easy to drift away over the past few months, and we are all tired of Zoom meetings. But, as Matt mentioned last Sunday, now is the time to reconnect and recommit to loving others in your group—and to extend grace and mercy to one another after a really hard year. While not everyone will be able to participate, and electronic connections will inevitably be an important part of the coming months, we also strongly encourage you to creatively connect in-person with other members of your community group, either as a whole group or individually. We are built to be together as whole people, not just pixels on a screen (Heb 3:12-13, 10:24-25). It’s worth the effort to safely see others as you are able.
This is just as true for our Jr. and High school students, which is why our youth life groups will be looking for ways to connect in-person in the coming months as well. We’d encourage you to talk with your teens and pre-teens about the importance of fellowship, wise decision making, and the local church. And if there are other youth in your life who would want to connect and open up the Bible together, I know that our life group leaders would welcome them in with open arms.
This leads me to the last aspect of “regathering” I want to mention. I’ve filled this long letter with all sorts of logistics regarding our regathering as a church family. But the church doesn’t just exist for us.
God called us to LA for a reason. We are his ambassadors in a city filled with people who desperately need him. And we have had the incredible privilege of enduring the past year with the Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts, continually providing comfort, peace, and hope. Can you imagine what the last year would have been like without knowing him?
The season ahead isn’t just about reconnecting with one another. It’s also about connecting with our neighbors, co-workers, and friends to tell them about the grace of God—and that his grace is for them too. Don’t miss the opportunities to share the gospel over the coming months. We’ve all had to come to grips with our mortality and lack of control this last year, and we pray this will embolden us to pursue others with compassion and urgency. There’s nothing “safe” about isolating ourselves from those around us who need Jesus.
We’ve seen miracles of lives transformed through God’s grace over the last twelve months, and we are eager for what he has in store in the months ahead.
It’s been a long year full of challenges and sacrifices. Even though many of us have been physically separated from one another, we’ve weathered this season together as a family. And whatever twists and turns come next, that won’t change.
God has been faithful to us, as he always is. We can’t even begin to thank you for the love, support, prayer, and encouragement you have given to us, as your pastors, and to one another.
As always, if there are any ways we can help you physically, emotionally, or spiritually, please don’t hesitate to let us know. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or just reply to me directly.
We love you. And, for those we have not yet recently seen in person, we can’t wait to see you again!
For the Pastors/Elders
Published: October 16th, 2020
Words can’t express how grateful we are for you. We are continually, as Paul put it, “remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 1:3). It’s that work, labor, and steadfastness that is such a constant encouragement to us, even as we have been forced apart in so many ways during this incredibly trying time.
Being the Church
We are so thankful for all the ways you continue to support and minister to one another through community groups and in other settings. God has called us to “not neglect meeting together” but to continue to “encourage one another” (Heb 10:25), and we’re so thankful for how so many of you are striving to do exactly that, even when we have been unable to gather together regularly as a large group.
We encourage you to continue “considering how to stir up one another to love and good works,” (Heb 10:24) especially as this season drags on and the toll it takes gets heavier and heavier. We all need each other, and we encourage you to consider who could use to hear from you this week. We pray and long that through all of this each and every one of you would “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23). Because he who has given us his promises surely is faithful!
Gathering as the Church
When I updated you last month on our plans for regathering corporately I told you that we intended to begin allowing regular in-person worship (indoors) as soon as LA County moved out of the “purple/widespread” risk level. Since that time, there are a number of factors that have influenced us to make a (hopefully welcome and exciting) change to our plans. Most significant among these factors is that we recognize how exhausting it is (for both you and for us) to not know when, how, or for how long we will be able to gather corporately again, as the county’s status remains in flux.
Over the past couple of months our outdoor communion services have been such an enjoyable and sweet time that we have decided to set aside the stress of navigating the unknown and fully embrace the opportunity that we know is in front of us. Therefore, since we know that it is both advisable (health-wise) and legally permitted to gather, worship, and sing together outdoors, we intend to begin gathering in-person again for weekly outdoor worship services November 1st (Lord willing)! And we intend for these outdoor services to be our primary context for corporate worship for the coming months until meeting indoors is clearly and consistently advisable and permitted.
Over the next couple weeks we will be working out a number of logistics including installing the necessary shade for us to gather in this way during our normal morning worship service times. The most helpful thing you can do for us is to please fill out this survey to better help us plan for regathering. This will help us plan both the services themselves and the development of children’s ministry options in the coming weeks and months.
We anticipate beginning programs for school-aged children in the coming weeks, once volunteers and appropriate protocols can be put in place. We are also working on developing appropriate childcare options for preschoolers and toddlers in the coming months. In the meantime, an area will be provided for those with small children to have additional flexibility and self-serve activities during the service.
Of course, as promised, we will also continue to offer our weekly live-stream for those of you that are particularly at-risk or unable to join us. In addition, the live-stream will be our backup for any weeks that weather prohibits our ability to meet together outdoors.
We can’t tell you how excited we are to turn this corner and to begin worshipping in-person together again on a weekly basis! We are counting down the days!
Again, please take some time now to fill out the questionnaire. (Please refer to your email as this form is for our church family) And, as always, let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or if there is anything we can do to love and care for you better.
For the Pastors/Elders
Published: September 3rd, 2020
We are quickly approaching 6 months since we last physically gathered all together for worship on a Sunday morning. We grieve the difficulty of that reality and all the different ways your lives have been turned upside down since then. However, we continue to see God’s faithful presence in big and small ways, and are excited about how he continues to work in all of our lives, spread his gospel, and redeem this season as only he can.
I wanted to provide you with an update on where things stand, and how we plan to proceed throughout the fall. As your pastors, we believe that the wisest course of action during this time is to humbly and respectfully heed the guidelines provided by the state and county, and the experts that are informing them. Whether they are correct in their assessments and wise in their determinations only time will tell, but we see no biblical justification for flouting their authority at this point in time. And so we intend to submit to their guidance, entrusting ourselves ultimately to the God who, alone, establishes leaders and removes them (Rom 13:1-7).
However, we are also thankful that the current situation still provides us with ample opportunity to worship, fellowship, and care for one another, even if it is in context that are, obviously, less than ideal.
For over a decade now, community groups have been the heartbeat of our church and the primary context for ministry and discipleship among our family. And not even a pandemic can change that. While you have all had to get creative with how you minister to and care for one another, we still depend heavily on our community groups to be the source of community and care for our entire church family.
This is why we continue to strongly encourage you to find ways to connect in-person with other members of your community group. Embodied connection is exceedingly important, and we need these regular relationships to continue to remind us of the gospel, the hope we have in Christ, and the radical lives we are called to live in every season (Heb 3:12-13, 10:24-25). And if you are not yet connected to a community group, email Pastor Matt to get connected (email@example.com).
Outdoor Communion and Baptism Services
Our first two communion services last month were an incredible blessing for everyone that was able to attend. We intend to continue these Sunday evening services, allowing everyone the option of attending at least once a month, until we can begin gathering in-person for our Sunday morning services again.
This month these services will be offered on September 13th and September 27th and they will have a new start time of 5pm to adjust to the shorter days. If you attended one of the services in August you are already pre-registered for one of the September services, and will receive a confirmation email the week before. If you have not yet attended a communion service but would like to, please register here.
Indoor Sunday Services
Under the newly created state guidelines we will be able to implement our Sunday morning regathering plan as soon as Los Angeles County moves from the “widespread” risk level (7+ new Covid cases/day/100k people) to the “substantial” risk level (4-7 new Covid cases/day/100k people). We intend to begin allowing in-person worship on Sunday mornings as soon as this threshold is reached.
These services will follow all of our previously published protocols (link) and will be limited to 25% of our building capacity, so (even though we intend to have multiple services) we anticipate those who are able to only be able to gather in-person every other week for a period of time. As I’ve said before, our live-stream will continue indefinitely for those that are unable to gather in-person.
In addition, we are currently working on developing protocols and a plan to allow for childcare and children’s ministry as soon as it is prudent to do so, as we are well aware of how uniquely difficult this transition will be for those of you with young children. We will keep you updated as those plans and protocols develop.
As I come to the end of this update, it continues to grieve me that so much detail is required for what seems like it should be simple activities. However, that is the nature of this season in our lives. And I choose to be thankful to God for all that he has provided, for the technology to continue to worship remotely, for the expertise he has given to so much of our staff, and for the church family that continues to thrive even when everything in life seems to be made more difficult. God truly is continuing to do mighty works among us.
It makes me think of Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5–7)
In the midst of a season that is wrought with anxiety, fear, and the unknown, God calls us to turn to him both with our requests and with thanksgiving. Because it is in gazing again at his glory and his goodness that we find his peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding. Our prayer is that that peace may continue to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Published: July 15th, 2020
Like many of you, I seem to feel a lot like Charlie Brown these days: approaching to kick the football again and again only to have it pulled away at the last minute…again and again.
However, my own personal frustrations and disappointments aside, we continue to seek to respect the governing authorities God has placed over us. Therefore, in light of the state’s new restrictions (as of July 13th) no longer allowing indoor worship services in our county, we have placed our current plans to begin regathering in person on hold.
That being said, our staff and leadership are still preparing diligently so that we are prepared to have people present during our weekly live-streamed service as soon as it is both allowed and wise to do so.
In addition, our staff and leadership are also now pivoting to explore outdoor options that would allow us to potentially gather and celebrate communion together in the coming months. We will keep you posted on those efforts or any updates on the current restrictions as they develop.
Thanks again for your patience, grace, and continued prayers for wisdom.
And, as we continue to say, please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any needs, questions, or concerns. We are always here for you.
Published July 8th, 2020
It’s been a month since we last updated you on the status of our plans to gather together in person for worship. We miss worshipping in person with you horribly, and we know that you feel the same way. Gathering together virtually via our live-stream just isn’t the same, and we are eager to be able to do so physically with you again.
Our staff, pastors, and multiple construction crews have been working hard over the past few months so that we may be able to meet together in a way that is both safe and wise. Last month I told you of some of the unique factors impacting our ability to gather together physically, and I wanted to update you on those areas:
The State of the Pandemic in LA County
As we all know, LA County has been hit especially hard by Covid-19, and that has not gotten any better in the last month. However, we also believe that we understand the risks involved and the necessary precautions required better than ever, and we are optimistic that we can move toward gathering again in person in a safe and wise way.
That being said, the state of California currently prohibits singing in worship services (as of July 1st), yet we are hoping that this ban will be lifted (allowing singing while wearing a mask) ahead of our anticipated date of regathering. We believe that, with the aid of masks, many of us can gather and sing safely together.
Our Multi-Lingual Church Family
Over the past month our live-stream team has been working hard to train volunteers to run both our Spanish and Farsi live-stream services. Those teams are just now beginning to take over the facilitation of their respective live-streams and we are incredibly encouraged by the progress they have made over the past few weeks.
Our Multi-Generational Church Family
The ways in which this virus disproportionately affects older people and those with preexisting conditions is, obviously, a major concern for all of us. We recognize that even when some of us gather together physically, it will still not be wise for all of us to do so.
In addition, given current physical distancing requirements, when we do gather again physically we will still be unable to offer any form of childcare or Sunday school for children. We also recognize that this will prohibit numerous families with young children from attending services at this point.
For these reasons, as well as taking into consideration the diverse comfort levels different people have regarding the situation, we plan to continue to offer the live-stream of our service indefinitely, regardless of whether a portion of the church family is gathering physically.
We have been excited to see all of the incredible work that has been able to be done to the Sanctuary building during this time, and we can’t wait for you to see it too. Our construction crews have been working incredibly hard running wires, installing A/V equipment, repairing ceilings and walls, painting, installing carpet, and so much more. We are excited to inform you that they are currently scheduled to complete their work to a point where the Sanctuary will be useable again in just a few short weeks! We are tentatively planning on live-streaming our English service from the newly remodeled sanctuary for the first time on July 26th.
Our Current Plan
When we move our English live-stream into the Sanctuary our volunteer crews will be learning a whole new audio/video system. In addition, our Spanish and Farsi volunteer crews will be producing those live-streams unaccompanied for the first time. In order to allow these crews to familiarize themselves with their respective systems, as well as the added complications of producing audio feeds for both a live-stream and an in-person service simultaneously, we have decided to give these crews at least two Sundays to try to work out any kinks without the added complication of having service attendees in the room.
Therefore, we are tentatively planning on holding our first services with congregants in attendance (in all three languages) on Sunday, August 9th.
That being said, we also believe that singing together is a fundamental part of our corporate worship, and so, while we are continuing to prepare with August 9th in mind, we will only begin meeting physically if we believe both gathering and at least some form of singing together are wise and appropriately respectful of our governing authorities.
We ask for your patience with us, as we recognize that there are many variables at play that could still alter this plan.
In the coming weeks we will be sending out a more detailed explanation of the protocols we are putting in place for these gatherings, but just to give you a general idea of what to expect:
In the next couple of weeks you can expect to receive:
Once you are able to review our detailed plan, we understand that some of you will feel like it is still not safe for you to return to gather for worship in-person, and we completely understand and respect your decision. We will continue to strive to serve and love you as integral parts of our family, whether you are able to gather in person or not.
We also recognize that, having reviewed our protocols, some of you may feel like we are being overly cautious or needlessly restrictive. However, we want to remind you that, in addition to our desire to honor the governing authorities from whom we have received many of these guidelines, we are, even more fundamentally, seeking to give deference to the vulnerable and anxious among us, striving to love one another by doing what we can to limit the spread of this virus among our community.
We’re so thankful for your continued grace, prayer, and support through this crazy time. Your love and your constant encouragement continue to make it such a joy to be your pastors, and more specifically, your brothers in Christ.
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