The governor has announced that parts of Virginia are entering into Phase 2 of opening back up. As I’ve mentioned during worship however, Wright’s Chapel, as a United Methodist Church in the Virginia Conference and as a part of the Rappahannock River District, takes our direction not only from the governor, but also from our Bishop Sharma Lewis and our District Superintendent Charles Bates. Safeguards and restrictions have been put in place by the conference officials for a United Methodist Church to reopen in a limited way. I and our Administrative Council members at the church have determined that it is best for us now to continue with online worship only. Among others, these restrictions include pre-registration, no singing, a limited number of people allowed to attend and no children under age 7. (If anyone is interested in reading through the entire handbook of safeguards and regulations we would need to follow in order to reopen for limited worship, you can find it by clicking here.) We are putting together our Healthy Church Team as required by the conference and we will be having discussions about how to best reopen for in-person worship in the future.
I also wanted to share with you the results of our church survey we completed last week. Thank you to all of you who filled out the survey. Between individuals and families we heard from around 200 people in our church, 90% of whom said that they normally worship regularly with us in person or online.
93% felt like our online worship format has exceeded or at least met their expectations. 7% had not yet engaged in our online worship. The thing people like best about online worship seems to be that it allows them to dress very casually, (I’m guessing pj’s) and to also worship at a time that is most convenient for them. The majority of people worship live with us at 9:45, but a good number also go back and engage in worship later on Sunday or sometime throughout the week. We received a number of requests that we include more traditional hymns as a part of worship and thus you may have noticed the change in the past couple of weeks. The other main challenge people seemed to face was their own internet issues. I feel your pain. If someone you know does not have internet access and they would like to participate with us, please let us know and we will work with them.
23% of those who responded said they would be comfortable coming to a service at church now. But by far it appears most people would prefer to wait until there is more assurance that we are through this. 31% said they’d only feel comfortable coming once there was a vaccine and 6% said they weren’t sure if they would ever feel comfortable attending a public gathering. Most people however, were still undecided about when they would be comfortable returning.
When we do return to some sense of normalcy, 71% said they would probably return to their previous pattern of worship. 15% have enjoyed the comforts of online worship so much that they would worship more in that way and about 8% have missed being with everyone so much they said they would worship in-person more than they did before.
It was helpful to hear that the email newsletter, Facebook posts and zoom groups have been helping many people to stay connected. Clay got a lot of love for his online concerts and people appreciate the devotional time on Wednesdays at noon. You shared that service opportunities also are a helpful way to stay connected. You’ll be hearing more about our Mission Week that is coming up June 29-July 3rd.
Again, thank you to all of you who took the time to respond to the survey. It is helpful to us as we look towards the summer. I can’t wait to be with you all in person to worship and to sing and pray and laugh in the spirit of Jesus. But until that time comes I hope our spirits will join as one in Christ and that we will continue to seek to do his work and to walk in his way each and every day. Whether it is through zoom groups or online worship or drive thru missions, we will continue to be the church and to make disciples Jesus in order to transform the world for God.