Dear Ventura Vineyard Community,
In the wake of the recent uptick in Covid-19 cases across the county and the many and varied opinions and guidelines in the news, we want to provide an update on our perspective and plans. Some of you may assume that we as church leaders would be pressing to simply “open the doors” again as soon as restrictions are lifted. We hope that you can pause with us to step back and see that what lies ahead is not that simple.
Our guiding process involves discerning when the rewards are greater than the risks. As we have noted previously, we have foreseen a season in which there would be a difference between whether we “could” meet in some restricted fashion, and when we “should” meet in person.
We have been assessing the nature of the restrictions involved in the initial stage of potential in-person gatherings. Along with many respected church leaders, we believe that there are many factors that must be considered in discerning when the rewards actually are greater than the risks. The current guidelines include limiting gatherings to 25% capacity, likely using a reservation system. The guidelines also call for disinfection protocols, taking temperatures, wearing masks, physical separation, avoiding singing together, exclusion of children’s ministry space, and encouraged exclusion of elderly members. In addition, a system would have to be in place to contact all who attended a gathering in the case of anyone testing positive after they attended who could potentially spread the virus.
In addition, while we would, and eventually will, take many precautions, we also must consider the risks involved in gathering at this time. We understand that the sense of risk is felt very differently by different people. While we know that some have no hesitation to meet in larger gatherings, we know that a majority feel varying degrees of concern. Currently, we have found the majority of our people do not feel ready to join in such larger public gatherings.
As we step back, some of the main issues we see, include the following:
Worship – Singing, which is central to our communal experience, is also the most contagious of communal practices.
Personal Connection – “Social distancing” remains a bit of a contradiction in terms. There are limitations to connecting when it involves exercising and enforcing 6 feet of distance.
Children & Families – The nature of children is not served by the requirements of social distancing. Like many other churches, the opportunity to provide children’s ministry is a major factor in determining when to begin communal gatherings.
Our Multi-Generational Value – God has blessed our church with a multi-generational congregation. As such, we want to consider the significance of maintaining inclusion of those whose age would limit their participation.
Resources – As many churches are now discovering, it will require a significant level of time, energy, and financial cost to provide in-person gatherings at this time. The requirements include identifying and training volunteers to fill specified roles to cover various area of responsibility, the provision of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), the means of providing a thorough disinfecting process between every use, and more. At the present time, we neither have the personnel or the financial resources to meet these requirements.
God-given Patience, Wisdom and Leading – We recognize that there are plenty of issues at hand which we find ourselves simply reacting to. We want to allow enough time and space to truly discern God’s wisdom and leading.
So what are our plans?
Our Sunday Online Services. We continue to meet together Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. online. Normal elements of our service remain: worship, announcements, monthly communion, and thought-provoking sermons presented by our teaching team. Plus, meeting online has offered an additional feature – the ability to make comments and ask questions in real time, which is proving to be an enjoyable element of our service. Be sure to check in with us on the vide’s Live Chat so we know you are there!
Care Team. Our Care Team is available to provide prayer, conversation, and more tangible items if you have needs. Some of our members have contributed to a Covid Relief Fund, and we have some resources available to help you if you are struggling financially. Applications can be found here. Or, if you just need someone to talk to, let us know and someone will give you a call.
We will continue to offer small groups. All of our small groups continue to meet via Zoom (or similar internet platforms). Current small groups are: Fermentation & Faith (Men’s Group); Circle of Women; All You Need is Love; Interactive Bible Study; and Lectio Ladies. Dates and times of meetings can be found on the App or on our website.
Sunday Enrichment Groups: We hope to continue our practice of offering classes on Sunday mornings. Currently, Wayne Randolph is working on a re-boot of his most recent Enneagram class, and it will be open to not only the people who were in that class previously, but also open to anyone else who wishes to join. Stay tuned for information regarding starting date and time.
Alpha: Richard Sochel will be leading a series of sessions designed to explore the Christian faith. Each session looks at a different aspect of faith and is designed to create conversation. The Alpha ministry is open to anyone, and is designed to be a safe place to explore questions about your faith. Alpha is scheduled to begin in September.
We will continue to offer other online community-building activities. Trivia Nights, the recent Fractured Actors event, contemplative prayer walk, and of course, our Ventura Vineyard Community Facebook Group are just some of the opportunities we have had to connect with one another. We will continue to offer more events such as these, and hope you will participate.
We will continue the process of discerning the best time to begin holding weekend in-person gatherings. As you know, infection rates are rising and guidelines seem to change almost daily. That means that we must also constantly reassess any proposed reopening timeline. We continue to work together as a leadership team, as we focus on discerning that point at which we can gather in a way that is both relatively safe and satisfying.
We will emerge in a fresh way with more ways to experience connection with God and one another. We will not simply “reopen” with business as usual. Like many other churches, we are seeking to understand and learn how this season can help us enlarge our vision of what it means to be the church. We are invested in emerging from this season with better ways to connect, both in-person and online. And rest assured, when we do determine it is safe to reopen our physical doors, we’ll mark it with a celebration!
In the meantime, we encourage you to consider some valuable truths:
- We, collectively and individually, are the Body of Christ – the “church.” We are always “open” when it comes to how we live. While we miss the power of sharing in worship and fellowship, we have an opportunity to discover that “being” the church is more essential than “going” to church.
- We are not precluded from personal growth nor are we hindered in reaching out with God’s love to others.
Grateful for you.
The Ventura Vineyard Leadership Team
“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.” ― John Wesley