March 13, 2020 at 2PM
Dear Northside friends and family,
Like everyone, your Northside leadership has been deeply engaged in monitoring and preparing for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus. Last night, your leaders reviewed and affirmed a whole range of plans, outlining potential precautions and closures that Northside may undertake as this pandemic continues. The situation requires us to be flexible and responsive, and so we wanted to bring you up to date on Northside’s current status, and on the ways you can help.
As of now, we are still currently planning on gathering for worship on Sunday morning here at Northside. The attendance the past few weeks indicates there will be less than 200 people at church each service this Sunday. The government has asked groups larger than 250 are encouraged to refrain from meeting, so if/when we get to that number we will close our front doors. We will do our best to accommodate all of the regular programs of a Northside Sunday. However, we also want to create a space that is as anxiety-free as possible, which means that I want to remind you of a few normal flu season sanitation protocols, as well as introduce some new ones:
1. As a reminder, during normal flu season, we sanitize and disinfect all of the high-touch areas in the church multiple times a week. This includes doorknobs, toilet handles, counters, and the like. We also provide hand sanitizer in the larger general areas.
2. In addition, this Sunday, we will be removing the passing of the giving baskets, and instead have baskets available at the back of the sanctuary for those wishing to leave a contribution. You can also continue to give online at http://northsidechurch.ca/give. We thank you in advance for your continued partnership in the work God is doing here.
3. We will also observe a general “hands to yourself” rule before, during, and after worship, by offering alternative ways of greeting one another (think elbow bumps, waves, and foot taps)
4. As we started last week, we have suspended having doughnuts and snacks available in the lobby until further notice.
5. Finally, following BC Health Authority and other guidelines, we will encourage one another to maintain an appropriate social distance — which you can do by spreading yourselves through the sanctuary and other church spaces.
6. If you have traveled outside of the country, and/or exhibit any symptoms of the virus in the past few weeks, we ask that you stay home as has been the request from our local authorities.
7. We will continue to live-stream Sunday morning services until further notice, and will put more resources into connecting with one another through our Facebook Page and Groups these coming weeks.
These precautions are designed to alleviate our anxieties, but of course they cannot entirely guarantee a safe environment.
In the days and weeks that come, this is precisely what I want us to remember: that we are Northside Foursquare Church, and that the work of the church continues, no matter what our gatherings look like. It may be that we have to cancel some of our upcoming gatherings, or move our worship to some online format, but we will still be the church. It may be that we have to severely reduce the ways we can use our building, but we will still be the church. It will almost certainly be the case that this Lenten season will look drastically different than any of us expected, but we will still be the church.
And as the church, one of the most important things you can do right now is to love one another. We know that one of the likely consequences of “Social Distancing” is a profound epidemic of loneliness. So, who are the people who sit near you in Sunday worship? Who are the folks that you know from this family who might just need to hear a friendly voice? Your pastors and ministry leaders will be at work trying to help us stay connected, but you don’t have to wait for them. You can pick up the phone, right now, and call your Northside neighbor, and say: “I know these are anxious times. I just wanted to call and say I was thinking of you.” It won’t hurt to get more than one call. It will keep us more reminded of who we are and whose we are, just when we need it the most.
The other critical thing you can do is to help us communicate effectively about any necessary changes to our church programming. Read this notice thoroughly. This week’s EBulletin will be in your inbox this afternoon, with additional programmatic information. Check the church Facebook group. If you know of folks who might not quickly get news through either of these channels, give them a call. As this season unfolds, we will be constantly evaluating the appropriateness of our regular programming and ministries, and if we need to make changes, we will communicate them as soon as we possibly can; what you can do is keep a watchful eye, and help our whole family stay informed.
None of us has done this before, and I know we all need a little grace and a little wisdom as we try to understand something entirely uncertain. But I also know that we were created by a God who is bigger than this moment. And I know that same God will be with us every step of the way as we move through it, together, as one church family. Love one another. Pray for one another. Pray for the church. And wash your hands.
Yours in Christ,
Pastors Barry Buzza and Joel Conti