On Sunday, November 15, Washington’s governor announced new statewide restrictions in light of the recent uptick in Coronavirus cases. As has been the case many times throughout 2020, we’re adjusting the way we do church. Throughout the pandemic thus far, the leaders of Van City have approached each decision informed by two significant considerations: The health and safety of others, and our belief that coming together as the church is essential for following Jesus well. 

To date, we have worked to follow every state guideline and COVID-19 protocol at Van City Church. Several people have told us along the way that our Sunday gatherings have the most thorough safety measures of anywhere they’ve been during this whole thing—which is reassuring for some, frustrating for others.

So we understand there’s a spectrum of emotion in our family. For some, following the rules isn’t enough, and for others following the rules is too much. We get it. It’s been a weird season for everyone. We’re doing our best.

In light of the updated restrictions, we will continue to follow all state guidelines, and to demonstrate our value and love for coming together as the church.

Under the updated restrictions, churches are required to operate at either 25% of their building’s capacity or 200 people total (whichever number is lowest). Our Sunday gatherings at Vineyard church allow us to maintain social distancing between households with plenty of room long before we come close to reaching the 25% capacity cutoff. 

Of course, we’re not setting out to see how far we can push things without breaking the rules, so our gatherings at Vineyard allow us to operate well below the line—so to speak—with room to demonstrate additional precaution for the safety of our church, our families, and our communities.

Some aspects of Sunday will remain the same: We’ll wear masks at all times, households will be socially distanced throughout the sanctuary, we’ll take temperatures and do contact tracing at the front door. But our gatherings will change for the time being.

Under the new restrictions, having everyone sing together is out. Instead, we’ll use music for listening, prayer, and meditation. Given that worship, ordinarily, makes up the bulk of our gathering, this means our time together on Sunday will be a bit shorter, and that the tone of the night will be more contemplative than celebratory. We’ll embrace listening to God’s Spirit, prayer, and we’ll continue to open the Scriptures together to study and learn.

A few other things will shift. Garrett won’t man the coffee station, and there won’t be the socializing aspect at the end of the night. Sounds weird, I know. It’ll be less like an ordinary Sunday church gathering and more like a meditative prayer meeting with some music and teaching.

Van City communities won’t be allowed to meet as they have been. Until restrictions are lifted, we’re encouraging each community to meet via Zoom calls or to split up into groups of five or less that meet outdoors, if you’re able.

If you know me, then you know I’m not one to rush toward optimism and forced positivity. More COVID cases and more restrictions—especially during the holiday season—is another trial in a year marked by hardship.

That’s one reason I believe the church embracing the safety and respect of others as well as embracing available means of coming together safely are both so important. We can’t go about business as usual, nor should we. But we can come together—albeit with lots of restrictions and safety protocols—and we occupy the same space for a little while on a Sunday night to pray, and listen, and open our hearts and minds to the voice of God in the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. 

We need that right now.

It won’t be the ordinary Sunday rhythm, but it can be a sacred space. Not everyone will be able to join us, so we will continue to stream the gathering at 5 p.m. every Sunday night for those who are more at-risk than others. 

If you have any questions, you’re welcome to reach out to us. We’re doing our best to resource each of your community leaders as things evolve. 

Love you guys.

Josh and the Elders of Van City Church