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Sunday Gathering/Worship Update

Dear siblings in Christ, I hope that you're having a blessed Sunday. Those of you who participated in the weekend gathering of the church earlier today heard my announcement regarding the changes that need to be made for the congregation’s Sunday gatherings (worship services). Last Thursday evening, the COVID-19 Response Team (CRT), met to discern about and consider the new developments related to the increasing number of cases of infections caused by the Delta variant, and the levels of risk at TLCS. The meeting was difficult because it posed several ethical questions which do not have a right answer but have implications in the life and ministry of the congregation: both schools and the worshiping community. After faithful deliberation, extended discussion, and agreement to continue to work in collaboration to provide safe ways for gathering and service, several recommendations were made.

the rationale

The CRT, David Horton, and I discussed the possible options for the Sunday celebration. We came to the conclusion that in order to mitigate any possible infection we would need to limit or eliminate several important parts of the celebration, such as: a) no congregational singing, b) no passing of the peace or instructions to keep distanced when doing so, c) further modifications to communion practices (bread distribution only), d) increase distance of worship team singers from congregation and each other, and e) implement additional physical distancing requirements such as strategically blocking off pews, eliminating "green" section of seating, have folks complete symptom questionnaire upon entry and a number of other ideas. The CRT also considered outdoor gatherings but we felt that there were two main reasons not to go that route 1) there are so many external variables it would be challenging to pull off every week; and 2) during this period we have a special four week worship series planned that leans heavily on multimedia presentations.

indoor worship on hiatus

In light of the recommendation listed above, David and I came to the hard conclusion that it was time to adjust our course of action. We asked: is it worth it to gather in-person with all these restrictions in place? We decided it was not. Therefore, this Sunday's outdoor service was the last in-person Sunday morning service until the next planned outdoor service on September 12. The planned indoor services for August 15, 22, 29 and Sept 5 will all be online-only. Although this may not be the news that we wanted to hear today, I am sure that each one of you knows that this is the safest way to proceed and continue ministering. We believe that regardless of the situation we will continue to be a movement of the Lord Jesus that spreads grace and mercy wherever we are. We will certainly miss seeing each other for a month, but we know that the Lord is all around, and that we live in the unity of the Lord. I encourage you to continue to practice the love and care that the Lord has taught us. Reach out to those who are isolated, give them a call, send a card, or stop by to bring words of encouragement that build one another up. Please keep the council and staff in your prayers as decisions need to be made. It is not easy to go through this, but we have done it before, and we are confident that the Lord is with us. The words of the Psalm assigned for today provide us with words of encouragement, assurance, and hope to walk this journey together:

God met me more than halfway, freed me from my anxious fears. Look at God; give God your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from God. When I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot. Psalm 34: 4-6 (MSG)

Yes, the Lord meets us halfway to free us from our anxious fears, so that we can give God our warmest smile when we smile to others. Let’s love like the Lord has loved us! May you all have a blessed rest of your week. Your sibling in Christ,

Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo

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