September 1, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Arcadia church,
After six months of shutdowns, facemasks, and restrictions while we have been seeking to be as wise as we can and keep our families and our loved ones and our neighbors safe, we are all no doubt weary and impatient and frustrated with this seemingly endless pandemic. Nowhere has this been felt any more keenly than in our church communities. We miss seeing each other, singing, being together, greeting, and giving hugs.
Your Elders have been praying and struggling mightily about what our most faithful and responsible responses should be. We have listened carefully to the reports and protocols issued by the various health and governmental agencies, and we have sought the counsel of other faith communities including our regional presbytery.
A “Re-opening Task Force” of Arcadia church members has been meeting and considering for more than a month, and along with your staff team has made their recommendations to the Session, the board of ruling elders of this congregation. In a decision made prayerfully at our Session meeting on Tuesday, August 25, it was decided:
That we should NOT consider re-opening indoor worship until after Christmas, or until a COVID vaccine is widely available;
It is felt by your leadership that
• Both online worship and online gatherings are working very well, and even seeing some increase in participation;
• Even personal and pastoral crises are being handled well online... in some instances better;
• It would be a bad witness to open up in defiance of government regulations;
• It would divide the church to have some people who can come to worship while others are uncomfortable doing so because of compromised medical circumstances.
This is a very disappointing turn of events for all of us. This step is not taken lightly by your elders and staff. We had all hoped that we might be able to re-open the church campus by September and begin having worship together and provide facilities for all of the church family and for our nesting churches and those ministries which rent our property. But we feel that this is the most responsible and godly decision.
(Just to clarify, our Arcadia Church Preschool has been open and running since mid-June. This is because of the essential nature of childcare to families of the community, and because preschool protocols are regulated by a separate agency of the County. The facilities are cleaned scrupulously, and class size and participation has been severely regulated by county and state mandates.)
We are all devastated and shaken by the effects of this deadly COVID-19 pandemic. But like all the rest of the world, we are learning a new normal way to live in complicated and uncertain times. Our trust is in the God of the ages, Who has created all things and knows our needs before we can even express them. Jesus is Lord, even of these inconveniences and unexpected developments. Thanks for standing with us.
Sincerely in Christ,
Pastor Larry Ballenger and the Elders and Staff Team