Plans for Public Worship

The pastors have also been in prayer and conversation about how to lead the church when it
comes to public worship and fellowship. We have settled on the following phased approach.

Thinking in Phases
We settled on a three-phrase plan for public worship going forward:
• Phase 1: Now until March 31st
• Phase 2: April 1 until May 15th
• Phase 3: May 16th onward

These three phases correspond to the three time periods used in social distancing guidance issued
by D.C. Government, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health
Organization (WHO). The initial recommendation from DC Government that informed school
closings was a two-week period through March 31st (hence Phase 1). Subsequent to that initial
guidance, it’s been suggested that efforts to flatten the curve and distance ourselves socially
could last eight weeks (hence Phase 2). We cannot know for certain, but we also think it prudent
to prepare for an even longer situation (hence Phase 3).

Our plans for services and meetings will take into account these three time periods or phases.

Gathering in Phases
Meeting together is at the heart of what a church is. The word “church” literally means assembly
or gathering. In addition, meeting together regularly is commanded in the New Testament (Heb.
10:24-25). Recently, the pastors have emphasized the importance of gathering with the saints
(audio link).

But the New Testament also teaches the church to submit to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7;
1 Peter 2:17). Government actions like the ban on mass meetings and guidance on social
distancing are meant to be a blessing by God’s grace (Rom. 13:3-4).

So, we’re trying to balance these two things: obedience to the Bible’s requirement that we gather
for worship and obedience to the Bible’s requirement that we submit to governing authority. In
both, we are seeking in faith to submit to our God and Savior.

Here’s what we hope to do during each phase, assuming there are not significant changes from
what we now know:

Phase 1 (until March 31st): Avoid in-person meetings
The aim in this phase is to do our part to love our neighbors by practicing stricter social
distancing and, with God’s blessing, flattening the curve on the virus’ spread.
• As announced earlier, we will not have in-person Sunday services, Sunday school, the
March 19th members’ meeting, or Thursday Bible study.
• In our earlier announcement, we left whether to meet in small groups to the discretion of
the group leader and members. However, with the revised guidance from the CDC, we
think it prudent to now discourage in-person meetings for small groups as well.
Instead of physical meetings, we plan to make better use of video conferencing and online
streaming options. So, Lord willing, we will:
• Provide video teaching on Sunday mornings so that we continue to be shaped by God’s
word and public praise and worship. We will forward more details regarding dial-in
information or links in the coming days.
• Host regular small group meetings via Google hangouts, Zoom, or other conference
call technologies the group leader desires. We will trust group leaders to communicate
this information to their members.
Our fervent hope is that we will not have to use video options beyond the two-week period first
suggested for social distancing.

Phase 2 (April 1-May 15): Optional in-person meetings
If the social distancing and mass meeting measures remain in place beyond March 31st, we hope
to begin adding some appropriate in-person gatherings to our spiritual routines. If we enter Phase
2, then our plan would be to:
• Continue streaming Sunday morning worship and teaching.
• Encourage members to gather in small groups for Sunday morning worship and
teaching. The gatherings would occur in geographic clusters based on where people live
and on relationships people may already have with one another. Using today’s CDC
guidance, these would be groups of 10 or fewer people. We hope the small in-person
Sunday worship gatherings will restore some aspect of fellowship, encouragement and
care. We will select home hosts and issue written guidance for these groups as this phase
approaches.
• Resume Thursday night Bible study via video options like Zoom or Google hangouts.

Phase 3 (Beyond May 16th): Encourage in-person gatherings
We hope we do not get to this point. But if there are still bans on in-person meetings as well as
need for social distancing, we hope to figure out an effective approach for honoring government
authority while also having meaningful in-person gatherings. This could mean, for example,
having multiple gatherings on the Lord’s Day but limiting the size of each gathering to less than
50 people (assuming the current DC ban).
During this third phase, we would likely discontinue the use of streaming and video in order to
restore proper emphasis on the New Testament’s command to gather as a family. We do have
concern for the ways video technology can disembody fellowship and quietly foster an
entertainment ethic in worship. During a pandemic like the one we’re facing, we’re really
grateful for technology that allows us to connect across distance. However, theologically and
practically, such technologies are poor substitutes for the embodied communities God designed
us to enjoy. We look forward to the day when we can again stand a foot or two from one another
praising our God together!

CONCLUSION
As always, should you have any questions, please reach out to us. Now, more than ever in our
five years as a church, it’s important that we communicate, not assume “someone knows,” and
intentionally connect.

We love you all!
The Pastors (Tim, George, Dennis and Thabiti)