“Jerusalem shall be inhabited like a community without walls…for I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within it.”
– Zechariah 2:4-5
Grace and peace be upon you. The leadership of FCCGE has recently convened the Resurrection Task Force (RTF) to consider what God is calling us to be in the coming months, as we determine how and when to reopen the Church building. The RTF is composed of moderators, clergy, and appropriate staff. While much remains uncertain, we are working in accordance with guidelines put forth by the United Church of Christ (UCC), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the State of Illinois. We are also in communication with other congregations while discerning the best way forward for our own.
Our decisions will be governed by certain values; foremost among these is the safety of our Congregation, but there are others that we feel are nearly as important. Among these are inclusivity, and the desire to ensure that the entire Congregation has access to the same services; caring, as we consider how our actions impact our neighbors; quality, ensuring that the experience we provide is a meaningful one; and patience, prioritizing wisdom above speed. There are other factors, such as cost and the limitations of space, that will also be considered, as well as the balance of tradition and innovation.
Bearing these values and factors in mind, we do not currently envision being able to gather for communal worship or Church School in the traditional sense until it is safe for us all to participate together. We want to provide a safe and engaging experience for the entire Congregation, while complying with expert guidance and regulations. These values and factors, including consideration for our neighbors, also means that we do not foresee gathering together as a Congregation “outside” of our building, including on Church grounds, for the foreseeable future. As things progress, we may consider smaller gatherings, bearing our guiding principles in mind. As they have been, our staff continues to devise alternate ways to gather and greet one another, including imagining alternative, online opportunities for special events we have traditionally enjoyed in person, unleashing their creativity in exciting new ways.
It is imperative, at this unique moment in time, that we rephrase the question on all of our minds. Rather than ask, “When will things go back to normal?” we ought to be asking, “Who is God calling us to be in this changed world?” While our building is closed, our Church is very much open and active; we are living into the reality of being a Community Without Walls. Our immediate response to the pandemic was to maintain what services we could for our members in order to keep our Congregation connected to the Church and one another. This will continue, but we believe we are called to do more. In accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, we also have to do all we can, as allowed by current conditions, to keep our Church and our Congregation connected to the wider community and its needs. The Church will work to find those opportunities.
Know that we will continue to function in every possible capacity, that our leaders are adapting to unfolding realities, and that the Holy Spirit still moves in the spaces between us, however great they may be. Going forward, we will continue to imagine what a Community Without Walls can be. We will continue to be in regular, periodic communication about these issues, and we are always open to questions and conversation as we navigate this wilderness together.
Rev. Seth Ethan Carey