“When the dove returned in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then those on the ark knew that the water had receded from the earth. They waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return.” –Genesis 8:11-12, NIV (adapted)
In the story of the great flood from Genesis, Noah and his family and all the animals stayed safe in the ark while it rained for 40 days. Then, the rain stopped, and they floated on an endless ocean for 150 days while the water slowly receded. The story tells us that the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat in mid-July, and by the first of October the tops of the other mountains were visible. After forty more days of waiting, the folks on the ark started sending out birds to see what they could find— one bird each week, and after the third week the dove returned with an olive leaf. A week later, when the dove was released again, it flew away and didn’t return.
But here’s the part of the story that we sometimes forget: After the dove flew away, all the people and all those animals stayed on the ark for another two months before they came down from the mountains.
Beloveds, the rain has stopped. The waters are receding. This news from this week feels like a long-awaited olive branch. We are filled with a renewed hopefulness that has felt out of reach at times, during the long and rainy flood of this pandemic.
As we celebrate this moment in our journey of emergence, we wanted to name some truths and observations:
— Our decisions to gather as a church community are informed by science, and also grounded in our values. National and state-wide policy decisions are informed by science but also based on economic factors that value property and profits over lives and livelihoods. We are called to a kin-dom culture of belonging and connection.
— The financial and health burden of this pandemic has fallen hardest on Black and brown-skinned bodies, historically under-resourced communities, and folks without a financial or community safety net. We must ensure that we do not rush back to an imagined “normal” that never was, at the expense of folks who are already vulnerable and hurting.
— Our younger children are not yet vaccinated, and we must care for them and support their families.
— Those in our community who are immunocompromised may be less protected by the vaccine, and we must care for each other by being careful and respectful of their boundaries.
— The early data around ‘breakthrough infections’ (people who are vaccinated but who still get sick with Covid-19, or who can still carry it and infect others after vaccination) is incredibly promising. We celebrate this good news! And, we know that just over 50% of King County residents over age 16 are fully vaccinated, so there are still unknowns, especially about new variants that could emerge.
— We are not going to create events that exclude people who are not vaccinated. To do so feels antithetical to the radical inclusion of Jesus and the kin-dom culture we are building.
Most importantly, we want to return to church that feels like church… and this may mean a slower emergence for us. Right now, we could worship in person in the sanctuary, but it would mean creating a registration system where not everyone could attend and a limited number of “seats” would be available. It would mean the discomfort of strict enforcement of distance, sections of the pews taped off, no passing of the peace, masked singing.
We miss being together, but we also don’t feel excited about returning to worship like this. Instead, faithfully:
— We are beginning to open our church building to small groups.
— As small groups return to the space, we will learn and adapt and adjust in ways that can support medium-sized groups to gather in the church.
— We are watching carefully to see what lessons we can learn as we follow the path that is opening before us.
— We have upgraded our church air filtration system and are working to increase the ventilation in the building, to help keep the air clean and reduce the danger of Covid-19 transmission for those in our community who are still at risk.
— We are planning outdoor worship opportunities and other events in our parking lot for this summer.
— And we are looking ahead to the fall, with the hope and prayer that we can gather in larger numbers soon.
You can help us along this journey by considering if your small group would like to try meeting in person at the church! You can email firstname.lastname@example.org
to put your committee meeting or small group event on the church calendar and learn more about our covenant for in-person gatherings.
Beloveds, the rain has stopped. The waters are receding. Like the passengers on the ark, we are feeling hopeful… and maybe a little bit conflicted. Some of us might also be feeling some urgency to get out of the boat, while others are holding anxiety that the olive leaf couldn’t entirely dispel. The dove flew away and didn’t return… but does that mean the world is habitable for people again?
We know that we have all been living through a sustained time of trauma, each experiencing it in different ways, some more acutely than others. Now more than ever is a time for us to care for our community, and for ourselves, with compassion and grace. Healing from trauma will take time, and intention. Some of us are overjoyed and ready to hug everyone we see. Some of us are exhausted, or wound up with the tension of sustaining hypervigilance. Some of us are all of those things in a single day, or a single hour. The grief of this season will show up in unexpected and unpredictable ways. The best we can do is to give each other love and support, offer patience and give others the benefit of the doubt, and most importantly to cultivate a culture of consent that asks instead of assuming and is respectful of boundaries. If we can offer these gifts to ourselves and to each other, we will emerge from this pandemic time by building God’s kin-dom here on earth.
May it be so,
Here is how to reach us:
Catherine, email@example.com (206) 321-7604
Amy, firstname.lastname@example.org (206) 605-6893
Steve, email@example.com (414) 238-7030