The weeks are flying by, even though most of us here at the home office continue to work from home. This past week was no exception, as we accomplished another “first” this past Tuesday when we had an online video meeting with 85 connections, with most all of our pastors in the United States.
It was obvious there was a real spirit of cooperation, unity and respect for one another. The main topic of our meeting was “what do we need to consider before reopening church services throughout the U.S.?”
We spent 90 minutes discussing a document compiled by MMS that listed many considerations. Here are some of the things we discussed:
• Gathering input from local leadership and members and seeking a high level of consensus before deciding to reopen services.
• Being cooperative and sure to follow the mandated guidelines put forth by federal, state and local governments.
• Closely following the good, common-sense guidelines and suggestions that minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 at our church services once we do reopen.
• Realizing that there is no “one size fits all” solution to reopening services, as the configuration of local congregations and their local situations vary greatly.
• Putting the health of our members as the number one consideration (as we are clearly able to assemble together online to worship God) as we wait for the health dangers to our members to become less threatening.
• Communicating to our members that anyone who remains uncomfortable with physically attending services once services reopen in their local area will not be considered “less spiritual” than those who are comfortable attending.
• Handling food service once services reopen.
• Determining whether to conduct Sabbath School for a time.
After our meeting, we revised the document referenced above and incorporated many suggestions we received from our pastors.
It is not the intent of Ministerial and Member Services, or of President Kubik, to dictate when each local congregation will resume physical services. We realize it will be a joint decision of our pastors and their local leadership, with member input. We have scheduled another online conference with our pastors in the U.S. for May 12 to further discuss the situation. It is likely that a few smaller congregations will have met before then, and we are anxious to get a report from those pastors.
It is our hope that the pandemic here in the U.S. and around the world will lessen and that we all may be back to services before too long. At the same time, if there is significant risk in some areas, we will need to be patient until the danger subsides. Of course, the webcast from Cincinnati will continue and many local webcasts will continue until we are all back at services.
This week we are announcing the cancellation of four more summer camps: one teen camp, Hye Sierra, two preteen camps, Camp Ococho in the northwest and Camp Colorado, and the youth camp in Colombia. None of the camp directors wants to cancel a camp but, for many of us, we have little or no choice because of the decisions of the facilities in which we meet. I was forced to cancel Camp Colorado because that particular facility is not allowing any camps similar to ours to take place throughout the entire summer. To help everyone understand better why we might feel the need to cancel other camps where the facility has not yet “pulled the plug”—consider:
• The intimate nature of camp and the closeness required at any camp where children are constantly together for 3-7 days.
• How difficult would it be for our campers, especially in the case of preteens, to keep their hands off one another?
• How difficult would it be to practice physical distancing and proper cleanliness?
• Realize the fact that our campers come from many different parts of the country, and even from outside the U.S.
• What if one asymptomatic child arrived at camp and infected others who developed symptoms while at camp—or took the virus back home with them?
• Given the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, what type of challenges would we face with an outbreak while at camp?
• Realize that it takes much time and effort to plan and prepare for a camp and suitable lead-time for our Camp Directors is required.
• Some of our parents may feel torn about allowing their children to go to camp with the inherent dangers of doing so.
We greatly appreciate your understanding as we strive to consider all things and make the best decisions under the circumstances we are required to face.
Wishing you all a very inspiring Sabbath and a very blessed weekend!